Friday, 16 January 2015

Watching - Scene 6

Observations of a psychotic mind
- there and back again

Scene Six

Stage Directions: Lights cross fade as Saul steps forward to face the audience centre stage.

Saul: Life is full of miracles and make no mistake it was a miracle that I got better. It was a miracle because of where I was sent to get better; a mental health unit where I met others who were also ill.

They came from all walks of life, from doctors to clergy to businessmen to parents, OAPs, teenagers; rich and poor, intelligent and stupid, the well read, the illiterate – you name them – they were there. There were as many people burnt out with other people’s woes as much as they were with their own. Even medics worn out with the amount of suffering they saw pitted against the timewasters who got in the way of those they could’ve helped instead; business types exhausted with the pressures of some target driven career; the poor stripped of all reason to fight to survive – their self-esteem being non-existent; the bereaved, the oppressed, the neglected, the tortured, the abused.

There’s quite a few self-harmers there. Plenty of them – one was rushed to A&E for slashing their stomach open, I never found out why. I know they didn’t hear voices though – oh yeah. They were there too. And some weren’t just talking voices, there was that one who constantly heard a furious Brian Blessed screaming at them to go and throw themselves under a train. Imagine living with that if you can. The eating disorders were there, schizoids, addicts, neurotics, obsessives, compulsives, bi-polars and psychotics like myself. Some I met I knew would never be free of their demon illness and had to learn ways to live with it but for some – and thank goodness I’m one of them, it’s a temporary blip.

Yes, life in a mental health unit can be a melodrama a minute, but surprisingly it wasn’t like that al the time for there were quiet days too. Long and tedious with nothing happening at all and nothing to do past 5pm on a weekday when all laid on activities stopped; and no way out. And in the tea room, late at night you’d have the most interesting discussions. People comparing drug regimes, suicide attempts along with trying to fathom who would get better and who wouldn’t as well as the deepest of philosophical debates on what a mess world leaders had got us into, religion, politics, holidays, travel, family, work, sport, art, food and fashion just like normal people do.

I have been in many tea rooms and cafes since but in none of them have I come across anything which compares to those conversations and nothing in comparison to the understanding, compassion and tolerance of those people who, like me were so very very sick in the head simply because they were sick of the life they were living.

I have often wondered if therein lies the connection. Too much compassion and you risk going mad. How often have I been told that I was too sensitive - a neat way of saying I don’t want to listen to you, I want you to listen to me instead. How often it silenced me too.

But no, I’ve learned that I was ill because it happened to be my brain that malfunctioned – it could just as easily have been my appendix, but there’s no stigma attached to appendicitis is there?

When all is said and done a brain is just another organ in the body – why wouldn’t it be susceptible to illness? Silly to think it wouldn’t, let alone couldn’t be. What fools we are to think otherwise. I was so naive, so complacent, blasé before; so ignorant, arrogant and stupid to think I or anyone could be immune to mental illness. It comes down to the luck of the draw as to what life throws at you. It’s a lottery from what you were born into or who you bump into as you just do your best to make the best of things. Yes. Yes. I was very naive.

PLEASE NOTE: Currently in the UK no mental health professional ever wears white coats and seldom wear uniforms of any kind unless they are nursing staff. CPN is the abbreviation for Community Psychiatric Nurse and they do not wear uniforms. Sectioning in other countries is the term that used to known as committed i.e. placed in hospital by decree from a medical team. 

In the UK it takes a committee of medical staff trained in mental health to agree that you are too ill to be left to cope on your own and it is very common for a member of public not related to you to ensure that medical staff are not in breach of the law. 

All people in the UK can appeal against being placed in hospital under the Mental Health Act.

By kind permission of Mel Dixon, the Mindwalking team is proud to publish a joint venture in the form of a play. Copyright and performance rights remains with Mel Dixon who we would like to thank for writing this piece with us and for all of us. 

We hope this will enable every to understand what both isolation and loss can lead to if people are left unsupported. No one should suffer alone, but sadly all too many still do.

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