I went to bed early last night for a marathon sleep catch up session. It was an exhausting night. Resting was interspersed with periods of overactive obsessive thinking, examination of past patterns of behaviour, wonderings and occasional inspirations.
I started thinking about my emotional history. Wondering how in hell’s name I ended up in the mental health-care system. Cogitating on whether I really had been that crazy, and thinking thank god I’m okay now while being aware that deep inside me, there is still a very vulnerable and mad aspect that I have somehow learned to manage but still requires vigilance, care and acknowledgement.
When I first moved to Brixton over twenty years ago, I was stunned how many obviously seriously mentally ill people were walking the streets. The system failed them, but I was someone that it eventually worked for.
My last stay in a psych ward was when I was thirty years old. I was in a detox unit in the lock down psychiatric section of a red brick Victorian hospital in Kent. The sleeping cells had doors that locked from the outside, with peepholes so you could be observed by staff.
I spent another year and a half in various rehabs and a dry house but never again in the psych ward of a hospital.
Most of my time spent in psychiatric care in hospitals, was in New Zealand (no Victorian asylums there, though a few old antiquated and brutal attitudes were still in use).
Strange that my memory is so patchy of those times (eating disorders can affect the memory, as does drug use) but I do clearly remember some of the people in the first psych unit that I was in.
Dismissive trainee doctors gathered around my bed, regarding me as they would a piece of meat as I was asked about my menstrual cycle, hospital gown rucked up around my hips as my dehydrated abdomen was prodded.
Lovely nurses, nasty nurses, patients locked in sad worlds and compulsive obsessive behaviours.
Later visits to the psych wards of various hospitals were near yearly, generally coinciding with suicide attempts and overdoses.
I had counselling, group therapies, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy and was medicated. I attended every Twelve Step group going and was near maniacal in following routines to keep me safe and solid.
Eventually things shifted and I learned to start living in mundane reality.
By age 31 I had an institutionalised attitude and was frail, but able to start to live beyond the parametres.
So many coping mechanisms were shown to me, many of which I still use.
There is a luminosity about the past, especially when the walls are white and many of the people that walk the corridors of that time are long dead.
The me that walks through those buildings is fading but I just needed to look at her again, to give myself some strength in my own ability to move forward.