************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.
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.
Roger, 27th Oct 2012