Totally Mental: My World, Gone Mad

************Please note that there may be swear words in the following Piece.*********

As my head hit the gently yielding turf, I thanked God – not for the first time – that the keeper of the churchyard lawn had done their job well. The force of being taken to ground by four well-built officers of the law was cushioned beautifully by surprisingly soft greenery.
It is a fact universally … oh no I feel a cliche coming on. It is necessary to fill on the backstory to this event a little. I trust you will have patience with me while I do so.

It is no secret that the police, as a profession are not my preferred cup of tea. Have a policeman come into your home, saying they have a search warrant (it turns out they do not) looking for stolen items from the shop where you work, having them search out and ogle photos of your bikini-clad partner, then telling you that ‘…you don’t love your partner, you are only fucking her to get her money..’ – whatever that might mean – and then continuing to look through your photo album, despite your protestations … And you may start to feel what I felt, and now feel.
Having them then take you to the station for questioning, telling you they are ‘arresting’ you, and keeping you there for a few hours without offering a lawyer, or access to drink or food, while saying things like ‘We haven’t beaten you up have we? YET?’ And your feelings may then be even more anxious.
(I wasn’t innocent, completely. I had taken a car radio cassette, an iron, and another item I cannot remember. I didn’t tell them at that interview. Their tactics didn’t work. Apparently 40,000£ worth of stock was missing, including some chest freezers.)
This was, if I recall correctly 1978-9. I paid my fine and my debt to society.
I haven’t been off their radar since. I’m apparently capable of much more evil things. I won’t go into detail. I haven’t had so much as a caution since the first episode. When I was assaulted by a neighbour, they came into my house demanding to know why. Had spoken to someone about the incident, as it was sub judice. I had been assaulted, I was the victim, but I was the one in the wrong.
This may help you understand why I have a fear of and a mistrust of the police. To the extent of PTSD. I have lived with this fear for well over thirty years.

My other bête noir is being sectioned.
When I was in my early twenties, a girlfriend dumped me! It happens. I then saw her in her parents’ car an hour later, complete with ex-boyfriend ( hers not mine! ). I stood on the pavement, and hyperventilated with a panic attack. Of course, I passed out. For a moment.
Someone saw me and called an ambulance. I told the ambulance crew I did not want to go to A&E, as I was a student nurse, and it would be too embarrassing. They insisted, and took me.
Once there, it was apparent I was quite anxious! I was given – without consent – ‘some Valium’ (so they said) in an IM injection. I went, quite quickly, to sleep.
I was awoken by a man in a suit asking me how I felt.
I remember my slurred words. “If I go to sleep and never wake up, I won’t be too disappointed.”

He made some notes and said he thought I should come to the local mental hospital. I told him I had no intention of going, but he said that it wasn’t an invitation. He had got a social worker ( who had never even seen me, not awake at least!) to countersign a Section 28 of the Mental Health Act. I never saw him again. I was duly transported to the mental hospital, stripped, given hospital pyjamas, and told if I absconded, I would be brought back by the police, and placed in a locked ward.
I spent, if I recall, 3 days there. I then had a board before a large number of ‘health professionals’ – daunting in the extreme. I managed to act my way out of the hospital. At no time was I offered any therapy, counselling, never told my rights (my parents said they would take care of me at their home, but they would not release me), never offered an advocate.
It was, as I recall, 1977.
You may see why I mistrusted psychiatrists, and mental health professionals after that.

And so to the day in question. Thank you for your patience.

I parked in the small principal town, expecting to get my medication, buy some meat, and go home.
In the pharmacy – I know the people there personally – they said they had not had any prescription back, even though it had been submitted 22 days earlier! Things were not looking good, I began to get nervous.
It had been a tough week. My CPN of 10 years was being sidelined, she had to cancel our meeting that Friday. I had had an ominous call from a band 7 manager at the CMHT, telling me to come to a meeting ‘to discuss my future with CMHT’ on 1st November. My wife, a sister, had been working 9, 10, 11 hours days because of staff shortages and management idiocy. I was battling with the DWP and ATOS and they had declared me ‘fit for work with a year’ . The money was tight in the budget.
I was at the end of my tether, really.
They passed me the phone in the pharmacy – the surgery ‘wanted to speak with me’. They told me a lie (you have never been prescribed that while at this surgery), became sulky and informed me I would have to ‘see a doctor’ to get some of the meds I had been asking for 5 years or more.
I shouted rather loudly down the phone in extremely forthright language. Told them to get someone who had authority on the phone. Shouted again.
I suddenly realised where I was, and, embarrassed, fled the shop, expression my apologies for my shouting as I did so.

I didn’t reach my car before agoraphobia set in – I sat on a bench in the square, and curled up into a ball, trying to shut the bigness of the world out.

I rocked for comfort. I batted my head a few times with my hand. I remained curled up.
I realised people were staring. Embarrassed, I realised the was no easy way to get out of the situation. I became more anxious.
Someone must have phoned the police. A few minutes later the was a tap on my shoulder, and I looked up into the eyes of a Community Support Officer.
I fled. The police! I was visible again.
I curled up in the churchyard up the road., just inside the Lychgate.
I heard someone shout ‘there he is!’, looked up, and saw two policemen wheel round to face me.
They had there arms outstretched , calling me to ‘come here’. I shouted for them to go away. To fuck off.
I looked for an escape, saw two others blocking my way, shouting for me to get down, calm down.
‘Get on the floor!’
I went to run, and failed. Four policemen on top of me, one with his knee on my back after they turned me face down, and his weight causing me difficulty in breathing. I shouted for him to get off, I was old to ‘calm down’ as they wrenched my arms behind my back, and handcuffed me. I shouted again that I could not breathe, and for him to get the fuck off me. I was panicking and gulping for air. They eventually bundled me into a police car. I actually felt better as I was in a smaller space!

They then took me to a waiting ambulance, two nice ladies who took my obs and blood sugar, asked me questions. I was still handcuffed. One of the policemen said ‘what did I expect, I had put my fists up to him’. I had done no such thing. I never offered any violent action toward them or anyone else.
The police told me I might get a bit better from them if I stopped ‘being rude toward them’.
I was told the options. Either A&E under escort, or they would take me to the police station under section 136 of the Mental Health Act, up to 72 hours.
I wanted neither. But no other option was given. I elected to go to A&E, but I insisted they took the handcuffs off before I went. After a few minutes discussion outside, they did so, but I sat in the ambulance with a police officer and two police behind in a police escort. They offered to take my car to casualty. I had to find £2 for the parking.

I arrived in casualty to be assessed by the mental health ‘crisis team’. The ambulance girl brought me water. She was very kind, as was her partner. I was taken into a side room at A&E, and sat there with the police constable.
My wife came down from her ward, a little angry. he cares me at times! The police left, leaving only one of their number behind in the room with me. I was then left alone, bizarrely, with a trolley full of needles and scalpel blades in the room!
The ordinary A&E doctor came in. Not the crisis team, they were hours away. She asked me questions to find out if I had capacity (I did), and whether I was likely to harm myself. After approx 10 minutes she was satisfied. I was ‘free to go’.

My wife and I negotiated my ‘release’ – we would go have a cuppa for me to ‘get straight’ and then I would drive us home.

We went home after the tea. I’m not sure I can come to terms with how an intelligent , articulate person, with an ILLNESS can be treated so. It seems to have become a crime to be ill – mentally ill – in the street, without hurting or in any way intruding on others’ lives.

My two worst nightmares – injustice and threatened sectioning – had come true on one day.

It has put me back 10 years. 20 years. But I bet CMHT will still want to sign me off their books on 1st November. I’ll pay odds on it, but they’ll be pretty short. Odds-on.

G-d help me.
I feel sick now I have written this out.
I’ll get hate mail, no doubt.
But that is the true account as I saw it.
E&OE

I had to write.
I couldn’t not write.
I can only write.

They may yet return, says my brain. They may wait for darkness. They may wait for sleep.
I no longer feel safe.
I no longer sleep.
I am.
Just am.

Roger, 27th Oct 2012

Totally Mental II: One Weak, In Pain. Final Day, Sunday

11.30
A quick entry now, as we are having to get ready to drive to my daughter Hannah’s flat in Reading. And put a few hooks up on the door. And pack (I generally leave that to Belinda who has a more organised mind).

I’m suffering from an adrenaline hangover this morning. Yesterday it coursed freely through my bloodstream, today it stays at home, and my system craves it. I’m not very able, but I’ll have to screw myself up and get going. I’ll let Belinda direct me.

I wish I was in church. I always felt a curious stillness and capability in church. Until I started becoming really ill, then I had to withdraw, as people where I went weren’t too understanding. One thought I was possessed by demons.

I have friends who are not coping too well, and feel useless to help. It’s depressing; frustration at not being able to help is very negative.

Yesterday was a good effort. I’m chuffed for myself.

Now I have to run. More introspection for your delight later.

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It seems like I wasn’t destined to write a lot today.
20.45

I’m finishing this week drained. It has been a hell of a week, even for someone on the normal spectrum of mental capability.
I’m not sure I really know what to say right now. I’m feeling more hopeful, but more warily unhopeful than I have for many a long day; feeling more able, and more unable to access that ability than before.
Success and health seems only a paper-thin wall away, but that wall is out of my reach. I need to build myself an arm to reach the wall and punch through it. I only know how to do that by achieving what I am able to achieve, and have so far failed to reach.
I’m neutral and quiet, I have no panic or anxiety right now. But unsure of what the future can possibly hold for someone like me; I have many of the appearances and attributes that look like tools to build, but do not seem to have the hands to grasp them. I am frustrated by this, because I know others who have less, have done more.

I’m ambivalent as to the future. Can I really go on and improve my mind to make me well? The fact that each of us with a mental illness have an unique difference of illness; thus, we have no common remedy. This is not something that has a similar pill to make better in different cases. The is no universal panacea.

So tonight I am undecided.
I hope, but have no hope of that hope being fulfilled.
I try, but have no idea about the result of that trying.
I look, with no understanding of what I see.

But I will hope, try, and look.

And thank you, reader, for increasing my chances of success.

Fin

Totally Mental II: One Weak, In Pain.Day 6

0950 hrs
I’m sitting drinking the first cup of tea of the day, in a flat in Wembley. I’m starting to realise the enormity of what I have signed up to. It puts a trip to Liverpool Tate, a day at an Oxford museum, driving to London so far into the shade that you’d need a long train journey to get back to the sunshine.

I’m going to march outdoors (anxiety trigger) with a huge number of people ( anxiety trigger ), in the presence of loads of police (terror trigger), with helicopters (fear trigger) flubb-flubbing overhead, in a strange place (anxiety trigger). I’m starting to wonder if this is not a bridge too far, a mountain to high, a river too wide.

Everybody is chatting randomly. I so want to have a day like that, where what is about to happen doesn’t affect ones ability to function. I’m acting away like Gielgud on speed. All seems to be fine with me, I’ve even made a joke about helicopters and police. I’m even trying to kid myself with affected bonhomie.

The present is reasonably pleasant; a flat I have been to before, daughter and her partner who I know, a cup of comforting tea. I’m trying to live in it. The reality is that even when not considering this afternoon, it hangs like a pall over me; it is the cause of the tight diaphragm, the small but persistent hamster trying out a plethora of wheels in my head. I’m having small narratives about consequent actions. All the things that might happen.

I’m going to have some muesli.
Or weetabix.
I’ll update before I go. That’ll be fun.
Happy weekend, people!

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11.30 hrs

I’m getting kind of jumpy now, unable to settle, wondering what I am doing, finding it difficult to settle. It’s disconcerting to think I haven’t even been outside yet today; even the thought of that is beginning to be more and more scary. I can vaguely see loads of people in the Asda car park opposite, and realise it is relatively empty compared to where I am going soon.

Can we talk about something else for a while ? Wine, music, postage stamps? Something to take my mind off it.

I’m so cloudy even these words are taking a Herculean effort to pass out; it’s constipation of the worst sort. I’m doing breathing exercises. I’m starting at one and doubling figures in my head. I feel like going to sleep. I want to escape. I don’t want the police to kettle me. I don’t want to hear the helicopter.

But I need to stand shoulder to shoulder with my comrades in arms.

We will leave soon.
If you do, please pray.
If you don’t, please send cash.

I’ll write later.

**********************************************
1800 hrs

Safely back to my daughters flat in Wembley.

I’m a little shell-shocked, but otherwise ok. I feel like a punchbag loaned to one of the more burly pugilists for training.
Noise, police, helicopters, people, lively chaos, strange city, tube, train, Oyster cards.
But we were there

20121020-180021.jpg

In amongst a hurumphing, happy crowd that just wanted to show their feelings. More left wing/anarchist factions you could shake a stick at, more causes and protests than you could accommodate in a linear week. And my head buzzed with the vibrancy of it all, nerves jangled at its raucous vitality that threatened to – but never did – burst out in to song; no jostling, but people being overtaken, and I, in my turn, being passed by those impatient to hear the speakers in Hyde Park.

Police lined the route, surreptitiously muttering into their radios, eyeing me with complete disinterest. Above a helicopter flummmppped it way over my head, causing the usual desire to run, and hide, to swear at it to ‘go away’. But I was in company – included within many children and a wire haired terrier that seemed to get into almost every picture I took – and that required control.

At that point it was too overwhelming, and I sought salvation in the company of a morning star seller, who was also selling ‘atos kills’ badges. Money changed hands, the din receded, and I moved on, thanking them for they knew not what.

Queuing for the toilet in Hyde park was not too difficult, unlike actually micturating with all the sounds of festival only a thin sliver of fibreglass away. I concentrated by reciting numbers.
The crowd started to swell, and we moved nearer the stage. I managed to clap and shout at the right places. People were reading my tee shirt and I felt very exposed and vulnerable. Any one of these people could have been following me. The helicopter frimmframmed overhead. I was alert and very very nervous all of a sudden.

Still, we sat by a fence, and ate out luncheon – a nice brown BAP with meat filling, and a muesli bar. I had forgotten to drink, something I continued to forget for the rest of the day.

The tube home was easier that the outward journey, even though I was now sporting the obligatory placard.

20121020-182318.jpg

I’m ready for sleep, ready for peace, ready for quiet. But I survived. No one knew I was in difficulties, and no-one knew I was winging it as I went along.
It was, for me, a triumph.

I’m going to lie down now.
Well, recede into the background and be quiet.

And return anon.

Totally Mental II: One Weak, In Pain. Day 5 Friday

13.00 hrs

It was a difficult return yesterday – and busy.

This morning I have been getting the t-shirts printed for Belinda and I to march tomorrow in London. I’m hyped up to the eyeballs, and the emotions are difficult to control. They threaten to overwhelm, but there is the car to do yet – oil, water, tyres, etc – and I have to rein them in somehow. There is normal excitement at a time like this of course – and natural anxiety – but, as a clever thinking friend said recently, it seemed to them that mental illness was normal emotions magnified out of normal proportion. I thinkk this is right. It’s like a light tap with a glass hammer on the thumb magnified to a mallet crashing down on it repeatedly. The first is unpleasant, but quite manageable, the second, a constant immobiliser.

So I have to try and hold back the mallet for a while. Then I have to drive to London. I think a good supply of mints in the car is essential. And music.

The thoughts bounce again. The issue of remaining in the moment – which is non-threatening – is a difficult one to address, but I am going to try it now, and make it stick. It sounds easy. In practice I’m not so sure, but one has to try.

I shall update this blog when we arrive at Wembley – at my daughter’s flat, where we are crashing for a couple of nights. And I shall try to blog from the march, though that may be difficult due to wi-fi considerations. So we may have a catch up post tomorrow.

For those who read this blog, thank you so much. This week has been a real help writing it. A busy week, and a challenging one, is made better by those who care enough.

And, meanwhile, here is a picture of Belinda with our shirts for tomorrow (front and back):

ImageDay 5 Friday

Totally Mental II: One Weak, In Pain. Day 4 Thursday

09.45 hrs
So I’m sitting on a minibus heading down the M54
With me are nine of my colleagues from our Wellbeing Through Art group, Towers Above. I’m sounding like the jolly, confident Roger they all know, joking and laughing with the best of them.
You know what is coming next.
The pretence is complete and seamless. Even though I say it myself, I am damn’ good at it; oh to be a thespian, and hide myself away for money. That’s one of the jobs I could truly do.

We had a helicopter go overhead while we were waiting for the minibus. It’s sound marred the excited chatter of the others. I hid behind two friends. Even though I knew it was the air ambulance – it was a gaudy, hi-vis red – it didn’t settle me.

I don’t have my car with me now, so I have lost control. It feels achingly alien. I always drive, I have the control over whether I stay where I am, or the ability to scurry home like a disturbed rat. Now I have to go, stay the allotted time, and return when told. The feeling of helplessness grows.

A lot of the people have gone quiet now, I wonder how many of them feel as I do.

The motorway passes by, a river of souls encased in metal. The thought that one in four of them will develop some sort of mental illness is frightening. These are the people with whom I shall have to fight for resources with the ever shrinking NHS.

My head says stay alert, watch out for Them. My body says relax and enjoy. How many differing voices can a chap have? I lost one recently. I have been having a dialogue with God for the past 45 years or so. Now I’m realising that voices just are that. But I am missing the comfort, the understanding, the stability of that voice; I have to look deeper into myself, for it was me I was listening to.

I need sleep, really.

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11.25 hrs
Not all that long to go. I have slept for a considerable portion of the journey. Defence. I’m a little nervous now of how I will be at our destination. No control and no idea what the place looks like.

A thought goes through my mind that people reading this might think “well, he’s not so ill”. My ’peers’ might be contrasting their difficulties with mine, and putting me way down the scale. Those who do not suffer from a mental illness may wonder if I am ’ill’ at all. After all, I can go on a minibus with other people to a museum far away – plenty of job ideas there.
Sometimes I wonder myself – as a lot of the mentally ill do. Self doubt extends to the illness too.
I have no answer to this.

We are nearing Oxford.
I will prepare my head.

As Monday, these missives will only be posted when wifi available.

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1340 hrs
I am sitting in the cafe in the Pitt Rivers Museum. 40 minutes have passed since I came, but no sign of the Oxford contingent, so I will have to assume they are held up or otherwise engaged. It happens.
My stomach knots left me after about ten minutes of scanning the gallery, but anxiety levels remained high. I’m sitting on a high barstool, very visible and very exposed. The others in my party have left to see more of the museum. I am alone.

I’m surprised at how well I am coping. And rather pleased. I have stress, to be sure, but nothing like I expected. Though its does rise when I spot a new person at the till …

The problem is, I know I am coping. I need to unknow that, and just web in the moment. Of course, the writing of this blog reminds me of it from time to time, so I have to factor that in.

I’m doing rather well, though aware of people watching me.
I’ll take a bronze star.
And wait another 10 minutes, until 1400 hrs.

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Totally Mental II: One Weak, In Pain Day 3 Wednesday

0720 hrs
The morning couldn’t be more different from yesterday. It’s raining, and dull, heavy clouds threaten joy, and seek to blot out all memory of bluesky.

It mirrors the morning of the soul. I am suddenly living in a different world, one where even emotion is difficult; no anger, no light, no life. I live in a world where few care that cotton kills 10,000 people a year, where some people think a bullet in the skull of a 14-year old’s skull is the way God intervenes, where corporations who contribute nothing have the greatest say in economics.

Reality is so difficult to come to terms with, I wonder that I try at all. Why would I want to be a part of it, why would I want to straighten out my convoluted brain to be a part of it. Surely better than being an unabled side liner, is to let go and embrace the chaos with a slide into catatonia, shutting out all that is such a gross offence to the sensibilities?

It’s a comforting thought. Peace at last. An inability of the outside madness to affect the inner. Not even electrical shock being able to pierce the gloom and silence. It’s not even suicide, it has no stigma, no shame, at last, the perfect mental illness that none could deny.

It’s a comforting thought, but an empty one. I need more than google maps to show me the way to Catatonia. It’s something that happens, not something you can engineer. It’s not voluntary, it’s always compulsory. Bugger.

So, live with the morning that threatens to engulf me – but never does – I must. Live with the blanket of liquid tar that weighs down effort I have to. So, I’ll take Monday’s visit to Tate Liverpool and go paint what I could not yesterday. I’ll do it today because I have four hours in Towers Above, our art group for unquiet minds. I shall do it while wearing a mask so thick, everyone will think I’m a jolly sort. I’ll join in with the grateful socialising. *

I don’t doubt most will think me a little madder – a colourist pun, unintended – at the end than at the start. The result I doubt will inspire, or uplift; it will probably bring on an attack of morbid puzzlement.

I’m not feeling myself. That’s a double entendre, too.
It’s the best quip you’ll get.

Until we meet again.

*I may not.

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13.00 hrs
In the fun factory, the art emporium, the creative corner; I am in the corner with the dunce’s hat, with my finger in just one pie, pulling out a typewriter with the ink slightly smudged on the letter ‘y’. They’ll find me for sure once the list of demands hits No.10’s doormat (aka Clegg) unless that is a lot of machines have that, give me strength my mind’s alive they think I’m mad, well I am but not bad I can sit still or stand up and groove it, my friends I know I’m mad, and I’ve got the ‘scrip to prove it.

I just wanted to write something poetic. I failed, but not SOS you would notice.
I’ve thirteen feral rats scurrying around in a place the size of a shoebox, and they’ve had a good dose of speed before starting their mad dash for freedom. They’re bouncing off the walls now, and I’m completely and utterly … Erm … Beggared.

The art group is making up boxes and peanuts. I am doing a piece that is making people avoid eye contact with me. Nearly. But they know me by now. I think they might be a bit annoyed with me not joining in with the nuts. But they might be envious. No they aren’t. They’re my friends and they think the best of me. Whatever crap I produce. But it’s not crap.

I’m not looking forward to leaving. In an hour. I just want to stay and put things on my canvas.

I’m not sure if I feel good or bad.
All I know is I feel.
Photo of artwork to follow.

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He And Me.

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Well, I managed to find a few minutes where I can sit and scribble.
20.30 hrs
I’m mightily stressed out thinking about tomorrow – a visit to Oxford and the Pitt Rivers museum. I need to get things together, but the manic episode you probably guessed I was going thru in my last update has left me a bit stunned. I’ve had to buy – horror of horrors – a ready meal, and stuff it in the oven.
I just can’t organise anything. It just isn’t going to happen. I’ve got to get shirts ready for the march in London. It will have to wait until I get back from tomorrow’s trip.
A party in a brewery. Not possible.

How can I hope to work, when I don’t know what is going to happen in the next few hours?

I’m instructed to find a way to sit in the present, not go into the future. I think it’s a good idea. So I’m going to have a real go over the next few days to work at it. At present, the future looms dark and foreboding.

I’ll go get the ready meal out. I’m feeling shamed over that already.
It is a cop out.

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