Sunday, 18 January 2015

Watching - Scene 7 (Finale)

Observations of a psychotic mind
- there and back again

Scene Seven

Stage Directions: General lighting

Friend: You coming out for footie?

Saul: Maybe, I don’t know.

Friend: Shutting yourself off again isn’t going to do you any good. You’ve got to try.

Saul: I know it’s just...

Friend: Just what? Come on, you’re better now. All that stuff is in the past. Nothing’s changed, life is just as it was. And you’re OK about your Dad now too aren’t you? You said you were. Remember? Remember how you enjoyed football and gigs? Well you can again. It’s still there. You just need to try. Your Dad wouldn’t have wanted you to give up, I know.

Saul: I know but really, it’s not that easy. And things have changed. Everything feels so hostile. Sinister. The world is a hostile, sinister place for me now. Populated by alien beings who are not what I thought they were. They don’t stop and think about others they trundle on regardless. They clutter up their lives with all sorts of crap that doesn’t mean anything. Don’t you see? It’s only people that matter but people don’t care about each other, don’t look after each other.

Friend: Look I’m sorry I wasn’t about OK? I had my own shit and you weren’t making it easy. Jees I thought we’d got past this. I’m trying to help here, Saul but you’ve gotta put the effort in 'cos I can’t do it for you. I did try but it was just bad timing is all.

Saul: I didn’t mean you.

Friend: You’re talking crazy again and I’m no shrink. Aliens? Sinister? Hostile? You know what, fine. Be ill again if that’s what you want and go back to madville and your precious shrink 'cos I’m outta here.

Stage Directions: Cyc lighting and tight but dim centre spot on Saul. Chorus point and jeer at Saul in typical bullying fashion.

Chorus: Nutter! Fruitcake! Weirdo! One slice short of a sandwich that one. Cracked! Crazy! Mad! Should be locked up. Shouldn’t be allowed out. Psycho! Need to watch out for that one. Headcase! Freak! They’re sort go on the rampage and commit murders. He’s bonkers. Cuckoo, cuckoo! Nutjob. A real odd one that. He’s a crank. Who knows when he might suddenly flip?  Nutcase! Loon! Crackpot! Whacko! He’s a screwball kook! A dumbass idiot! (etc)

Stage Directions: DSL area. Saul runs and then sits down with his CPN

Saul: (To audience) The easy part was to knock the psychosis on the head... plenty of sleep, regular food and exercise and a few drugs will do that. The hard part was about to follow. Thank goodness they allocated me a whole team of people to get me back to functioning.

I had a Social Worker to help me with finances and practical things like getting a job. I was allocated my first counsellor to help me with the loss of my Dad. I discovered why I’d been so angry with the world – it hadn’t stopped going about its business even for a two minute silence when he died because it can’t. I discovered that he must have been proud of me, loved me and that I was proud of him and loved him too. I discovered too that it isn’t always that way with people when they lose someone.

I  was allocated a CPN (Community Psychiatric Nurse) too to help me adjust to normal life and keep an eye on my meds

Stage Directions: Lights cross fade to CPN and Saul joins them

CPN: So how has it been since our last appointment?

Saul: Oh just great... everyone one’s been real nice, and real honest with me. Can’t fault that now can we? I had no idea there was such a prejudice or how hurtful it could be. I feel so angry; everything is so vile now I’m out of hospital. Everyone’s so cruel.

CPN: Not everyone Saul. I know it’s hard but there are nice people about. You just have to find them. And you’re going to be very sensitive to these things now, whereas before you would have thought nothing of it. You’re not only a survivor but you’re a fighter too, so keep fighting. How’s the job hunt going?

Stage Directions: Three toplight spots on interview panel only.

Saul goes to sit in a chair DSC with his back to the audience. The Chorus gather as a panel of employers. Snap fade spotlight for each line.

Employer: We really think, given your recent illness that the job would risk your health and we none of us want to do that.

Employer: Off the record... We won’t have the time to support you with your condition, much as we’d like to.

Employer: Perhaps you should aim for something less pressurised.

Employer: Looking at your CV I think you’d get bored as a cleaner. It’s not rocket science and given your intelligence I think you’d do better aiming a bit higher.

Employer: We’re a business not a nuthouse.

Employer: I’m afraid your condition would unsettle the rest of the team.

Employer: I see from your application there’s a gap over the last two years. Can you explain what you’ve been doing in that time?

Employer: Quite simply, you wouldn’t fit in here.

Employer: The other candidates don’t have this history, so tell me why should we employ you?

Employer: What assurances can you give me that you’re not going to be ill like that again?

Employer: Congratulations Saul. I’m please to say you’ve got the job.

Stage Directions: General lighting.

Boss’s voice: Welcome on board to Saul. Everyone. This is Saul and he’s been through a rough patch so make sure you look after him.

Stage Directions: Extracts of experiences at work complete with mimes of tasks and sounds to indicate machinery, beeps, bleeps and phones rining. Lighting stays the same as cast exit and enter. Saul moves DSR and gazes at the audience as he recalls these moments.

Staff: Send the fruitcake out for a sandwich, maybe he’ll find the slice he’s missing!

Staff: I’ll tell you what he said to me, he said he was a banker once. Definitely ga-ga!

Staff: Delusional. (They Exit)

Staff: He gets away with murder with his ‘health condition’.

Staff: Yeah, a clever bugger isn’t he? Wish I’d thought of it!

Boss: Nothing wrong with your work Saul when you’re here but according to our records you’ve had six weeks off already this year for meds changes. How many more are can we expect? Because, to be brutal, we can’t afford it.

Staff: Yeah, he’s upset about his shifts or wages or something. Reckons he’s been diddled somehow. Just ignore him. It’s one of his moods.

Stage Directions: Saul crosses the stage to meet his CPN. DSL area lighting

Saul: I’m feeling really guilty about things.

CPN: What things?

Saul: About the people I met in hospital, the other patients. I haven’t kept in touch because... well because I don’t want their shit on my plate.

CPN: But that’s good. That’s normal and healthy. You need to concentrate on you.

Saul: But don’t you see, that’s the point. I’ve been complaining about the prejudice and stigma of others and I’m doing it now. If that’s normal then it sucks. If people had been about for me then maybe... well maybe I wouldn’t have become ill. All I needed was someone to talk to. And the world doesn’t do that. I’ve been talking to friends of mine from before. Trying to tell them what it’s been like and they’re not interested. They know I’ve been ill but they won’t let me talk about it. I feel like I’m in a world of aliens. I know I’m not but that’s how it feels and it’s empty, lonely, pointless. Hostile.

CPN: You mustn’t wear your illness on your sleeve. People who haven’t been there find it hard to listen to all that’s happened to you. It’s all new to them and a shock for them to hear about it. The way you’ve been bombarding them is frightening to them.

Saul: But if I can’t tell them then how can they understand? And if they can’t understand how can they possibly help? I’m not going to be accepted for who I am this way am I? Look... if it was a divorce, or a car accident, or an operation or any other type of major life event the most natural thing to do would be to talk about it, yes? It’s part of the recovery process. But that’s the bit I’m barred from doing other than talking to medics. How is that going to lead me to living a normal life again when in my personal relationships the biggest events of my life are the ones I can’t share? How can I fully recover unless I do? Is it that much to ask or expect just to have people listen as I do when they’ve been through stuff? I know one thing... from here on in I’m going to let other mentally ill people rant as much as they like. All of a sudden they seem where I belong.

CPN: I know what you’re saying here. Don’t think I don’t. It’s not fair is it? Sadly life isn’t. All I can suggest is that you concentrate sorting your life out for now. Give it time to decide what relationships you want to keep and form in the future. You’re rushing at putting everything straight again but it’s actually putting you at risk again.
Look, when you first meet someone do they immediately tell you their life history or their worst moments? No. They don’t. Trust is built over time. Let people get to know the well you. You are not an illness. Your illness is one tiny part of you. It’s a fact, like the colour of your skin, but it’s not the whole you is it?

(Getting diary out) Keep going Saul, you’re doing really well. Next week I’ve a training course in the morning, so how’s the afternoon for you?
Saul crosses to centre stage.

Stage Directions: During speech lights ‘close in from general area to tight centre spot on Saul for the repeat of the ‘watching’ chorus at the end.

Saul: So that’s what I did. I lost most of my old friends. Formed new ones, stayed clear of fellow nutters for a long time but eventually found some decent friends among both camps who accepted me as I am, why I am, and the things I’ve been through. I never turn anyone distressed away, and don’t fear madness or the crazies like I used to. But I have learnt my limits on what I can do for others. When it gets too much I point them to sources of help that have helped me.

I’ve been to hell, seen hell and lived there and come back again, so now there’s nothing to fear about living in normal-ville.

I’m beginning to train as a counsellor now. Not sure what Dad would make of that, but so long as I’m happy.

Most of all, as never before, I embrace life, I consume it, I devour it and demolish it when it’s stimulating and walk away and dismiss it when it’s not. I’ve returned and I’m back to watching. The difference is that now I’m watching with a purpose. I watch out for things of meaning, like words such as please, thank you and sorry, and get angry when they’re not used. I’ve developed a new paranoia (or meaning to life) whichever you prefer for I am ever vigilant now; watchful for my own symptoms showing signs of recurring and I watch out for yours too. Watching you to prevent you getting ill. Watching. Ever watching. Watching out for which one of you may be next.

Stage Directions: Tight spot on Saul begins here. Breaking the word ‘watching’ up before they join Saul to resume the tableaux at the beginning.  Overlapping syllables (wa, t, ch, ing, chi, ng, etc) The cast appear and sit as if watching a performance or film, facing the audience. Long silence and slow fade to blackout. Lights up for curtain call with ‘Saul’s song’ as Dream One.

PLEASE NOTE: Currently in the UK no mental health professional 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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