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

“One must still have chaos in one­self to give birth to a dan­cing star” (Niet­zche)

I’m tired. So very tired. Let me take you back to last night. It’s 3am and I am lying in bed. But I am also wide awake. My neigh­bour is scream­ing and kick­ing my door viol­ently. I don’t know if they will get in. But I am hyper-vigil­ant. I am scared. I feel alone. Back to the morn­ing and it’s my first full day in a Cygnet hos­pit­al, this time a rehab hos­pit­al for men­tal health. I’ve been trans­ferred from an acute ward in anoth­er hos­pit­al after six months there. Pri­or to that I was in an East Lon­don hos­pit­al for four months because my bor­ough had no beds. I am now close to hav­ing been in a hos­pit­al set­ting for nearly two years. That weighs heav­ily on my con­scious mind. For almost two years I have not walked down the street on my own. I have not been to a shop on my own. I have not seen my friends. Arriv­ing at cygnet, it’s that same famil­i­ar daunt­ing feel­ing to have to start again. New faces, new struc­ture, new rules. I know no one.

As I sit on my bed, writ­ing this, 12 months have passed. I am still in hos­pit­al. So much has changed. So much has not. I am still here under sec­tion 3 of the Men­tal health Act. What that means is that I can be held against my will and be for­cibly giv­en treat­ment if need be. This sec­tion has been renewed 3 times. That means that while I am here I have been through every sea­son in the past year: winter, spring, sum­mer, autumn. For the most part, the out­er world, the weath­er, nature, and people going about their lives, have been seen through a win­dow. Today the weath­er is boil­ing, but to me it is a fur­nace. The win­dows in my room do not open, except for one which opens a frac­tion.

It is men­tal health aware­ness week. What bet­ter time to share my per­spect­ive, when I am cur­rently on sec­tion in hos­pit­al to treat my men­tal health. This is my real­ity, my story, and mine alone. There is sad­ness, there is hurt, there are bless­ings, some things cursed. This is raw­ness, this is my truth, but along with the pain, the hos­pit­al has also giv­en me gifts, and these go unmen­tioned much of the time, due to the stress of my free­dom being so cur­tailed. The coun­try is on lock down. Well I have spent the past year in a lock down of sorts.

I still wake up won­der­ing where I am, because I have been in so many hos­pit­als, and I still wake up won­der­ing just how I got here, into a long term rehab hos­pit­al. The day I received my sec­tion 2, after wak­ing up in a med­ic­al hos­pit­al fol­low­ing a large over­dose, the con­sult­ant on the acute ward who has known me for years, said “Kate, you have had so many admis­sions that this time I’m think­ing you need rehab”. The idea of rehab is that you learn to cut down the fre­quency of your men­tal health epis­odes. But my fel­low peers, and myself, nev­er real­ised what a dif­fi­cult admis­sion it would be. It is so hard to live here in a stand alone women’s ward, in a big house. There may be 14 oth­ers here. But I still feel so lonely.

Before I came here I had under­gone a ter­rible epis­ode of psy­chos­is in Edg­ware hos­pit­al, my usu­al acute ward. I thought I was tramp­ling on the dead bod­ies of snakes and mice wherever I walked, I thought I had been brought in at gun­point and ordered to kill my mum’s dog. I thought the staff were attack­ing me and stop­ping me from going to the toi­let so I urin­ated in bins. I drank sham­poo because I thought it was my meth­adone. I thought my phone was bugged so I put it in the wash­ing machine. It came out dead but very clean.

The most ser­i­ous issue though was that I planned my sui­cide, and I did not want my mum to be dis­tressed so I plot­ted to murder her. Most of these things, among oth­ers, I barely remem­ber, I was told what I had done. I was act­ing so bizar­rely that I had an emer­gency CT scan incase my beha­viour was organ­ic and I had a bleed on the brain. Slowly, I recovered and was sent to rehab in cygnet. My 15 hos­pit­al admis­sions over the years had taken its toll, stolen my life, and it was last chance saloon. In Newham, pri­or to Edg­ware, I was in an extreme man­ic state. I thought I was from Texas, and had moved to LA and had become a celebrity. I spoke in a Tex­an accent for 6 months. Appar­ently every­one was deeply irrit­ated but me. I was so high I thought I could fly.

I have rap­id cyc­ling bipolar, along with oth­er labels and that means I have extreme ups and extreme downs. I have had every med­ic­a­tion avail­able, along with the side effects such as weight gain. That is dev­ast­at­ing for a young per­son and their self esteem. I have even had ECT (Elec­tro con­vul­sion Ther­apy). That required two gen­er­al anes­thet­ics a week, with elec­trodes on your head, and a con­vul­sion stim­u­lated while you are uncon­scious. Trau­mat­ic. But it worked for my unmov­able depres­sion.

So back to now. May 2020, Cygnet Kenton. I sobbed every day for months when I arrived because I hated it so much. I con­nec­ted with nobody for some time. The sense of sep­ar­a­tion was pro­found. Speak­ing today, I have found friends, some here, some gone. I’ve learnt that hav­ing good fel­low patients is the key to a hav­ing a more ful­filling stay. I have seen people of every extreme, every ill­ness, and moreover, I have met incred­ible human beings. I have seen people at their best, people at their worst. Primar­ily, I have seen people – not labels, just human beings

That applies to the staff too. I hated their abrupt­ness, what seemed to be rude­ness, less than com­fort­ing beha­viour. Now I have come to see just how hard they have to work. How they may be intern­ally exper­i­en­cing what we are. We all suf­fer at points of our lives. The staff are not the total sep­ar­ate entit­ies I believed them to be. Some of them have gone out of their way to help me, and I will always be grate­ful for that.

On my jour­ney of numer­ous hos­pit­al I have met such char­ac­ters. I have met some of the most intel­li­gent, cre­at­ive, sens­it­ive people. I have seen and felt so much pain and so much beauty, so many gifts and so many curses, so many bless­ings and such hurt. I’ve seen joy, I’ve seen sor­row, I’ve seen tragedy. I’ve laughed, I’ve cried, I’ve lost people, and I’ve gained friends. And while I’ve seen sui­cide and death, I’ve seen hope. Only a glim­mer some­times. But non­ethe­less, that is enough to keep going. Hope.

That hope had left me for a time, and in the last few years I took 3 delib­er­ate over­doses. This admis­sion shames me, but where I stand today I believe, for myself, that raw hon­esty helps dimin­ish that shame. It also helps oth­ers in the same place who can­not speak up. I’ve injec­ted heroin, smoked crack, all for self med­ic­a­tion, not for fun or soci­ab­il­ity. In cygnet hos­pit­al I’ve come off meth­adone and that I have to feel proud of. I’ve been high, I’ve been low, I’m on a lot of med­ic­a­tion but I’m work­ing towards sta­bil­ity. More than any­thing I just want peace. Not the grand things in life. Just inner peace. Some­times I feel like I have lost everything. I have no stable rela­tion­ship, no chil­dren, no job or career, liv­ing on bene­fits with little money. This ill­ness has ruined my life. But I have also gained. I can now paint again, I’m writ­ing again after years of a debil­it­at­ing tremor in my hands. I am grate­ful for this. I believe that I have been giv­en gifts and seen things in life that oth­ers haven’t and it has giv­en me a big heart and wis­dom. I’m not sure I would turn the clock back on all of it.

I have tried to run away from cygnet a few times because I couldn’t bear it here earli­er in my stay. I was so low. But it didn’t help, I just got pain­fully restrained and had my leave to go out sus­pen­ded. I don’t hate it here any­more. Its the sys­tem I hate. The staff tend to give only the best, but the bur­eau­cracy is aston­ish­ing. There are not enough work­ers. Some, like any­where, I find dif­fi­cult to work with. But the vast major­ity are angels.

In hos­pit­al there are moments of beauty, flashes of love. Moments that move my soul, a hug, or a hello from someone who nev­er speaks. People you see who go from dis­tress you can­not hide, anim­al­ist­ic cries, to the joy when they rise. Some don’t. I see the scars, lit­er­al and intern­al. They hurt my heart, but they are beau­ti­ful. They tell a story, a hard life lived, a his­tory, they are only part of a per­son. Do not be ashamed.

The theme of men­tal health aware­ness week is Kind­ness. The defin­i­tion of kind­ness is, :”the qual­ity of being friendly, gen­er­ous, and con­sid­er­ate”.

So be kind. The per­son stand­ing in front of you has their own story, their own issues, their own jour­neys. You don’t know what they are going through. Small ges­tures go a long way. A greet­ing, a good morn­ing, may mean a lot to someone who is suf­fer­ing. Indeed to every­one. So once again, Be kind.

“A single act of kind­ness throws out roots in all dir­ec­tions, and the roots spring up and make new trees” (Amelia Ear­hart)

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Kate Taylor

Kate Taylor

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.
Kate Taylor

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About Kate Taylor

Kate Taylor
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.