From Padded Cell…………to Living Well!! A Personal Account of Recovery.

If anybody had told me that at the ripe old age of 53 I would have a chronic mental health condition – namely Bipolar Disorder, and have been sectioned 8 times I wouldn’t have believed it.

I was ambitious and driven and thought I’d be working in a professional job, doing well for myself with 2.5 children and a lovely husband to boot.  Too much to expect, well probably – in reality how many of us have lives that turn out exactly as we had planned?

However some of my experiences have been frankly so bizarre and surreal I hardly can believe they have happened to me.

Take the time I was locked in a padded cell.  That was in 1986, my first ‘psychotic episode’ as it was described then.  I was completely insane, driven to it in part I think by various difficulties and a violent relationship.  I thought there had been a military coup and I was one of the dissidents being targeted by the Government.

So it made sense, in a completely nonsensical way that I was dragged off the street of Surbiton, Surrey by the police and taken in a police van to LongGrove Psychiatric Hospital in Surrey.  Whilst there I was locked up for my own protection, beaten up by one of the other ‘patients’ and managed to jump out of the window twice to avoid the said other ‘patient’ from attacking me further.

I landed in a tree the first time, wasn’t so lucky the second and spent the next few hours in hospital with broken bones, resisting all the way and refusing to let them treat me.  Hence the padded cell, at least that way I couldn’t do any more harm to myself!

I was hospitalised many more times in differing hospitals across the North West.  The staff did their best under very difficult conditions.  Patients with various psychiatric illnesses, crammed together in totally unsatisfactory living conditions, sexes mixed together, no privacy whatsoever.

One time I shared a ward in Clatterbridge with a woman who self-harmed.  No surface was safe from her and my memory of that time is just lots of blood as she managed to cut herself in a variety of ways.

Then there was the gentleman who liked to defecate in different places, one place that stands out is the television cabinet where the videos were kept, the smell took days to go!

The worst time for me probably was when I was pregnant with my only child.  I spent 4 months locked up, had hot tea thrown over me and thought I’d never get out.  When I did, 5 months into my pregnancy I went into a depression so severe that my memories of my pregnancy, a time that is supposed to be so special to a woman, were just horrendous.

One thing that did stand out was the decency of the other patients.  Despite how poorly they were, other patients would share cigarettes, buy you bars of chocolate – acts of random kindness that helped you get through.

My family too were always there for me.  Despite my rantings and aggressive outbursts punctuated by tears and distress, they showed me nothing but patience and love, despite them finding the situation totally frustrating and unable to understand why I didn’t get well faster.

However get well I did, every time, and after suffering from crippling depression upon being discharged and eating everything in sight, I gradually learnt that life could be worth living again.

I’ve been well now for over three and a half years.  Every day I stay well and out of hospital is a bonus.  It seems like I’ve been on practically every anti-psychotic and mood-stabilising drug available with all the attendant side–effects.  However I know I need to take my medication without fail; this works for me, although it’s been a hard lesson to learn, and taken a long time to find the right combination of drugs with minimal side-effects.

Part of my Recovery is knowing that I need to live a healthy lifestyle.  I don’t smoke and I drink very rarely.  I exercise everyday and get out into the fresh air and countryside as often as I can.  Again that works for me, without preaching – I think we all need to find a balance in life, to stick with the things that help us and avoid those that don’t.

My life has been a roller-coaster ride of differing experiences, many of them completely surreal.  I’m still here to tell the tale though, and for that I’m truly grateful and intend to be around, sane or insane, for some time to come.

Greenhouse Girl.

November 2011

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