INTERVIEW | BATTLING MENTAL HEALTH WITH KATE TAYLOR “A LIFE WITHOUT HOPE IS NOT A LIFE”

Kate Taylor is a Lon­don based writer whose Interests are based primar­ily on music and art and also the philo­sophies and polit­ics that accom­pany them. In addi­tion, she has an MSc in psy­cho­logy, has worked as a ther­ap­ist, and paints abstract art pieces”. I start this Q&A with Kate’s bio for a reas­on as this is part of who Kate is. Recently Kate wrote an amaz­ing art­icle about our Queen (inside joke) Rishma’s jour­ney and the cel­eb­ra­tion of IAHH’s 8th year. How­ever, what has inspired me to do this Q&A was Kate’s deep, insight­ful, fright­en­ing, uplift­ing and heart wrench­ing art­icle. Kate opened her soul to  us and the rest of world for Men­tal health Aware­ness Week. In the art­icle she high­lights her jour­ney through men­tal health and this inspired me to want to do this Q&A. Per­son­ally I think she deserves it but more so I wanted to know a bit more about Kate. So, I want to first and fore­most I want to thank Kate for her time, and appre­ci­ate that des­pite everything she is happy to do this.

Who was Kate before this part of your jour­ney? What was it like for you grow­ing up?

There is no real ‘before’ as such, I believe that everything I have done, seen, and been through is inter­twined, lead­ing up to this point. I was born a triplet, in North Lon­don. Unfor­tu­nately my broth­er died early on so I am now a twin. Even when I was young, I found life dif­fi­cult. I always felt dif­fer­ent. School was hard. I was mis­in­ter­preted and mis­un­der­stood, so I was placed in classes for learn­ing dif­fi­culties. I mis­be­haved. I traunted. I was bul­lied. It turned out that I was in fact quite gif­ted, but I had been wrongly labelled. It taught me a valu­able les­son, that there are many people out there on the scrapheap who could have been very suc­cess­ful, but who were not giv­en the right oppor­tun­it­ies in life. I’m lucky I was able to push through the bar­ri­ers aca­dem­ic­ally, but it was not an easy road. I did not fit in. I was dif­fer­ent. I don’t miss school. Not at all!

My child­hood was not always easy. I come from a lov­ing Jew­ish fam­ily but many mem­bers of my fam­ily have had men­tal health prob­lems. My Mum, who I adore, had some of the same issues that I went on to have. I was angry at her for many years for her beha­viour when we were young. But I real­ise now that she was unwell. One of the most mov­ing things ever said to me was from my mum: “Kate, I wasn’t always there for you as a child but I am now”. And she has been. Bey­ond the call of duty. She has sup­por­ted me through everything.

My Dad had a massive per­son­al­ity. His nick­name was Del Boy, as in the char­ac­ter from Only Fools and Horses. He worked on a mar­ket stall selling women’s under­wear. He died two years ago. But we had many laughs grow­ing up.

What sparked your pas­sion for music and art?

Music has always been, not just a pas­sion, but an obses­sion with me. I truly believe that at cer­tain stages in my devel­op­ment it saved my life. I loved it as a child but it was in my teens that it really took on a massive thera­peut­ic effect. It was the mid 90s and grunge was my big love. My Dad had been a tick­et tout at one point (he was a duck­er and diver!), and his work part­ner went on to run the biggest tick­et agency in the coun­try. Hence myself and my twin were privy to all the tick­ets to gigs that oth­ers would kill for, such as Nir­vana and so on. But my tastes were eclect­ic and I loved hip hop and oth­er genres too. If music had depth and mean­ing then I was sold. I had big bouts of depres­sion and music was my medi­cine.

What made you then explore the philo­sophies and polit­ics behind them?

Explor­ing those things in music were partly instinct­ive and innate. As I’ve touched on, I am very sens­it­ive to the power of music to move me, to make me feel, and reflect. Emo­tion­ally I love being taken to the depths of my soul by music. But that also extra­pol­ates to philo­sophy and polit­ics. I have stud­ied both, but more than that I have always been aware of the world around me and social injustices. I worked for a while at a left wing anti-racist magazine in my early twen­ties. For me, where music is used as a tool or anchor for change, it can be the best cata­lyst because it reaches an audi­ence who may oth­er­wise not be reached. It really can be that voice for the voice­less

You have an MSc (Mas­ter of Sci­ence) in psy­cho­logy what was the inspir­a­tion to this?

It actu­ally came about as a res­ult of my own exper­i­ences of men­tal health issues and addic­tion. These had effected me for years, and as a res­ult of my own treat­ment I became more and more intrigued with the work­ings of the human mind. Along with my own fas­cin­a­tion, and my con­stant quest for know­ledge, came an urge to learn to help oth­ers as I had been helped. I got a job in the field of ther­apy and I was giv­en the oppor­tun­ity to study while I worked. I received a dis­tinc­tion and four awards dur­ing this time. I love to learn no mat­ter the sub­ject, though for per­son­al reas­ons it was a top­ic close to my heart.

What was it like work­ing as a Ther­ap­ist and the pro’s and con’s?

Well as I said I partly got the job because I had per­son­al exper­i­ence with both men­tal ill­ness and addic­tion. It meant that I had a spe­cial insight into the patients inner world. It made me a great ther­ap­ist and I loved what I did. I have always had a great sens­it­iv­ity and intu­ition to oth­er people’s feel­ings. I wanted to help people with emo­tion­al dif­fi­culties and dis­tress and I believe I did. How­ever that asset was also a con. I took too much on board and car­ried the feel­ings of oth­ers with­in me without real­ising. It is a high pres­sure job with great respons­ib­il­ity. I loved the work so much but it was hard and some­times dark. Some of what you hear can haunt you.

So, the last ques­tion was a bridge to my next ques­tion which taps into your art­icle. Work­ing as a Ther­ap­ist when did you start to notice the signs of your Men­tal Health declin­ing?

 As above, I already had a men­tal health con­di­tion but was stable at the time I star­ted work­ing. How­ever every so often I would have an epis­ode of my bipolar, and would have to go off sick. Every epis­ode got a bit big­ger and a bit longer until I could no longer carry on. I was told to sign off work and this time was it. I was off for a year, and went back but it was clear that I could no longer func­tion in that world. I was dev­ast­ated. I was hos­pit­al­ised because my con­di­tion was so bad. I have nev­er been in full time work since. That was over a dec­ade ago.

Dur­ing this pan­dem­ic a lot of us struggled with quar­ant­ine, but you have been in this pos­i­tion for some time now. As you men­tioned you have not even been able to go out on your own. What has that been like and how have you dealt with it? Not being inde­pend­ent must be dif­fi­cult?

As I write this I have just got back from my leave. Sec­tion 17 is where you are allowed out for short peri­ods. This makes so much dif­fer­ence to my life here. For nearly 2 years I had not walked down the street alone or gone to a shop alone. Con­fine­ment is so hard for that long. It made me frus­trated and some­times I would explode on the ward because of that, which made them keep me inside even more. I think they got the bal­ance wrong because going out has changed me for the bet­ter.

Being held under the sec­tion 3 Men­tal Health Act I could not begin to ima­gine what that is like. How has this effected your view of the world?

 When that hap­pens gen­er­ally you are very unwell. With this epis­ode I have been resec­tioned three times in a row. It is fright­en­ing because you feel that you lose any power and rights once that hap­pens. Quite lit­er­ally treat­ment can be imposed on you against your wishes. You have to take med­ic­a­tion that you may not want, you can­not leave the build­ing, you can­not go home. Only with the per­mis­sion of the con­sult­ant can this hap­pen. I have felt stripped of human rights at some stages. Now I am doing very well I see that I was a danger to myself and needed treat­ment that I wouldn’t neces­sar­ily have con­sen­ted to. But you do feel angry. You feel like an anim­al caged in a zoo.

 I love the fact that des­pite all that have been through you still see a bright side or as you put it gifts. What gifts were they?

You meet some incred­ible people. Some of the most intel­li­gent, sens­it­ive, amaz­ing people I have ever met have been in hos­pit­al. They are beau­ti­ful. Also, I am a bet­ter ver­sion of myself because of my exper­i­ences. I have seen sor­row, des­pair, dis­tress, and hor­ror and I have found an inner strength I didn’t know I had. I have also seen joy, hap­pi­ness, and bravery. I have gained wis­dom and matur­ity.

 You suffered ter­rible epis­ode of psy­chos­is. When you recovered how did you pro­cess all of this?

 With dif­fi­culty. The reas­on being that I couldn’t remem­ber most of the epis­ode. I remem­ber some things, but much of what I know, I know by being told by oth­er people. It’s fright­en­ing real­ising how bad it got, yet at the time I didn’t real­ise how unwell I was at all.

Bipolar is noth­ing to scoff at but you have Rap­id Cyc­ling Bipolar. What is like hav­ing these extreme ups and downs as you put it?

 It’s both awful and amaz­ing. The lows are hor­rendous. They can mani­fest them­selves in severe depres­sions that are so hard to treat. But I’d be lying if I said I hated the highs, because they can be amaz­ing. It’s like being on the best euphor­ic drug in the world for free. You feel exhil­ar­ated, buzz­ing, no inhib­i­tions. That part can be dan­ger­ous because you put your­self in dan­ger­ous situ­ations. Also, inev­it­ably, you crash down­wards. I’m hav­ing to learn not to push the highs fur­ther, even though I want to, because the con­sequences are not good. The med­ic­a­tion sta­bil­ises the mood, but I miss the up peri­ods.

Being under the Sec­tion 3 Men­tal Health Act was the ECT (Elec­tric Con­vul­sion Ther­apy) vol­un­tary? You described that it helped your unmov­able depres­sion which is amaz­ing. How­ever, as you men­tioned it was very trau­mat­ic, but was it admin­istered by your choice?

 The ECT was admin­istered on a pre­vi­ous stay in hos­pit­al a few years ago. I was not under sec­tion then, I had gone into hos­pit­al vol­un­tar­ily suf­fer­ing from a crip­pling depres­sion. I thought I was being pun­ished by the dev­il. It was fright­en­ing and no treat­ment was work­ing. I couldn’t go on any­more and they sug­ges­ted it as a last resort. I wasn’t scared to have it, I was scared not to. I had run out of options. It required going under gen­er­al anaes­thet­ic twice a week for 12 ses­sions while they stim­u­lated a con­vul­sion. Yes it was trau­mat­ic. But it worked. I lost a lot of memory as a side effect, but that is OK now. It was a mira­cu­lous trans­form­a­tion.

You have built friend­ships with fel­low patients, have these friend­ships been hard to main­tain? How has your exper­i­ences changed the way you see people?

As I said earli­er, I have met some amaz­ing people. I have fostered many close friend­ships. Some of my best friends today are from hos­pit­al stays or sup­port groups. I find we have a level of under­stand­ing with each oth­er that is unspoken. We can be so hon­est with each oth­er with no judge­ment that I find dif­fi­cult to obtain with oth­er friends. How­ever I’ve learnt that you need to be care­ful. I do not routinely give my num­ber out. Some people are not as they seemed to be once out of hos­pit­al. I’ve learnt the hard way!

Hope. It is such a power­ful word and means a lot. To have hope is to have faith. How did you find your hope and hold on to it? Even at your low­est points, where does this strength come from?

A life without hope is not a life. It is ter­ri­fy­ing when you feel trapped in a state of dis­tress. I have not always had hope and it brings with it thoughts of not car­ry­ing on. But some­how I have found the strength to get through. I’m not sure where the resi­li­ence comes from but for a reas­on unbe­known to me, I’m still here.

 As you put it this ill­ness has ruined your life. Soci­et­al ‘norms’ like “No stable rela­tion­ship, no chil­dren, no job or career” to quote your art­icle. Are these still things that you hope for in the future or have your goals and desires change?

 I wouldn’t say it has entirely ruined my life, as I’ve answered in oth­er ques­tions it has giv­en me gifts, and made me a bet­ter per­son in many ways. But there are things I feel that I’ve missed out on and that makes me sad and angry about my ill­ness some­times. I don’t have what my friends and some mem­bers of my have. My life can, at times, be quite lonely and empty. It has also been enriched so I’m not sure if I would change my past if I had the choice. I have no desire to be entrenched in the ‘norms’ of soci­ety as you put it. But I would love to have close rela­tion­ships with people and also devel­op my skills of writ­ing and art to con­trib­ute to the world. Just in my own way.

 Your paint­ing again which is fant­ast­ic. What are your cur­rently paint­ing and what style of art are you focus­ing on?

I’ve got about 15 big canvases that I have painted sit­ting in my room here. I don’t know how I will even get them home! They are mainly abstract pic­tures. I don’t use real­ism. I feel that, if I wanted to rep­lic­ate some­thing, I might as well take a photo. I prefer to depict my inner world, not my out­er world.

 You said that you hate the sys­tem and not the staff, what is that you hate about the sys­tem? What improve­ments or changes would you imple­ment or like to see hap­pen?

 I am cur­rently in a private hos­pit­al ward, but we are all NHS patients. I find, in my own opin­ion, that where private com­pan­ies are involved in health care, then the aim is to make profit out of ill­ness. That means corners are cut. There are not enough staff, and the ones here are stretched to break­ing point. But indi­vidu­ally there are some great nurses, health care assist­ants, doc­tors, and occu­pa­tion­al ther­ap­ists.

 This year you pos­ted a beau­ti­ful poem on the IAHH website’s poetry sec­tion. A ded­ic­a­tion to your late fath­er which is a beau­ti­fully writ­ten piece. How has your father’s death impacted you? Have you any oth­er poems or is this some­thing that you are work­ing on?

 I still miss my Dad so much. He was such a big char­ac­ter. He was funny and loved being with fam­ily and friends. But he was suf­fer­ing towards the end of his life and so I hope he is rest­ing in peace. There is a line in a song I once heard: “They say you can’t take it with you, I think that they’re wrong. Because all I know is I woke up this morn­ing and some­thing big was gone”. That’s pretty much how I feel some­times. I do have oth­er poems as I love writ­ing but they are more occa­sion­al at the moment. I go through flur­ries of cre­ativ­ity and then some­times get blocked.

Through all of this as you men­tioned that being raw and open about all this helps. Where dd you find the cour­age to be this open about your exper­i­ence? I think that is needed as it gives a much big­ger insight to the import­ance of Men­tal Health. What was it that made you more com­fort­able about speak­ing about your jour­ney?

 Talk­ing is such a relief. For years I hid my emo­tions, and my feel­ings, and my men­tal health issues, and the fact I was on med­ic­a­tion, and my addic­tions. That was a big load. It only made things worse. Shame is a killer. When I finally let go, my recov­ery began. Most people did not react how I feared they would. Some people did judge, espe­cially around drug use, but then they were not real friends. I still feel hurt but I have to try and focus on the people who were sup­port­ive. It is amaz­ing to feel free and hon­est.

Finally, what would you like for the future of Kate Taylor?

 As an out­sider look­ing in I would love her to feel bet­ter about her­self – improve her self esteem and acknow­ledge her tal­ents. She has plenty to give oth­ers and the world. She can help many people, and also con­tin­ue writ­ing. Mainly I would love her to find peace.

I want to once again thank Kate for tak­ing the time out for this Q&A. I am sure there is much more com­ing our way from her. Not sure about you but I am defi­antly look­ing for­ward to see­ing her art, read­ing more art­icles, and whatever cre­at­ive endeav­ours she pur­sues. If you can take any­thing from Kate’s story is that it is ok to open up about your Men­tal Health. If you find you are strug­gling then seek help and know that it is ok.

LIV­ING UNDER SEC­TION 3 OF THE MEN­TAL HEALTH ACT – MY CUR­RENT REAL­ITY

INTER­VIEW | THE WOMAN BEHIND I AM HIP-HOP MAGAZINE ‘RISHMA DHALI­W­AL’

‘THE CRUELEST LIE’ (A DED­IC­A­TION TO MY LATE FATH­ER) BY KATE TAYLOR

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Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul AKA JuJu Man Dee Jay / Graph­ic Design­er / Pod­caster / Radio Presenter James is a West Lon­don based Dee Jay, self taught Graph­ic Design­er, Radio Host, Pod­caster and Writer. Avid fan of animé, manga, com­ics, music (Hip-Hop, RnB, Soul – new and old, Funk, Jazz, House, Chill­hop, Soca, Chill Out & Liquid D&B), gam­ing & movies. A long term Spir­itu­al­ist and people sci­ent­ist, with a pas­sion to help people con­nect to a deep­er part with­in them­selves.

About Jay St Paul

Jay St Paul
Jay St Paul AKA JuJu Man Dee Jay / Graphic Designer / Podcaster / Radio Presenter James is a West London based Dee Jay, self taught Graphic Designer, Radio Host, Podcaster and Writer. Avid fan of anime, manga, comics, music (Hip-Hop, RnB, Soul – new and old, Funk, Jazz, House, Chillhop, Soca, Chill Out & Liquid D&B), gaming & movies. A long term Spiritualist and people scientist, with a passion to help people connect to a deeper part within themselves.