As a mental health writer, activist and campaigner I have found that it's vital to know your worth so as to withstand the attacks by others upon your character, behaviour and motives. The attempts to make you feel worth less/worthless. It's a matter of survival.
31 July 2015 I had a near death experience which was physical, mental and spiritual, resulting in a bladder prolapse, which I thought at the time was a tumour (diagnosed March 2016), and a reactive psychosis. I'd run out of steam after the years of campaigning and no justice. It felt like I was having a stroke at one point, brain clenching, that my throat was closing up, choking. Had to force myself to eat, couldn't drive for a week or so, eyesight wasn't good, couldn't focus. My son cared for me.
This time around I managed to avoid psychiatric treatment, was given some Lorazepam by an out-of-hours doctor at Glenrothes A&E, took one pill on 2 different nights to regulate sleep pattern, that was enough. I don't like neuroleptics, the benzo made me feel hungover. Very glad to have avoided any coercive drugging with antipsychotics. I managed the altered mind states and environmental sensitivities, they enhanced my life and I feel the better for coming through another psychosis. It strengthened me, increased confidence and resilience.
During the psychosis, from September 2015, I continued to engage with clinical friends by Email, sharing experiences, and providing therapy, helping others. After my 2002 menopausal psychosis I'd returned to voluntary work, helping others, so as to help myself recover from psychosis/psychiatry. It's something that has always worked for me, helping others. It's automatic.
Sometimes it's only looking back that you can make sense of something, when at the time you just do it. History Beyond Trauma by authors Davoine and Gaudilliere made a big impression on me when I read the book in 2011 (borrowed from St Andrews Uni library), visiting Goldsmiths London to view Mere Folle launch and hear, meet the authors in person.
In my life experience psychosis is, or should be, a journey, a necessary transition, from one place to another, an escape of sorts, going through the maze, preferably with a companion. Coercive psychiatric drug treatment (1978, 1984, 2002) led me deeper into the maze, flattened my emotions, took away my sense of humour, it was like being in a tunnel with no light at the end. It wasn't enjoyable and required great determination to resist the darkness and work towards the light, tapering the drugs.
I want to be involved in developing Safe Houses for Psychosis in Scotland, alternative respite care to psychiatric inpatient treatment with a range and choice of therapies and activities on offer.
"In the course of nearly thirty years of work with patients in psychiatric hospitals and private practice, Francoise Davoine and Jean-Max Gaudilliere have uncovered the ways in which transference and counter transference are affected by the experience of social catastrophe. Handed down from one generation to the next, the unspoken horrors of war, betrayal, dissociation, and disaster in the families of patient and analyst alike are not only revived in the therapeutic relationship but, when understood, actually provide the keys to the healing process. The authors present vivid examples of clinical work with severely traumatized patients, reaching inward to their own intimate family histories as shaped by the Second World War and outward toward an exceptionally broad range of cultural references to literature, philosophy, political theory, and anthropology. ..." Amazon
Another text I'll be using during my continued research into safe haven crisis houses and alternatives to psychiatric inpatient treatment for people experiencing psychosis, altered mind states, emotional distress.
avoiding ECT when hospitalised in 1978 after first postpartum psychosis; then Krypton Factor 1980
"Remembering my first psychiatric hospitalisation, 13 weeks after the birth of my second son. A painful experience, induced with chemicals to bring about the birth when the day staff were on duty. Little pain relief, it was a cottage hospital, and like 'bite on a bullet' time. I was living with in-laws and this brought its own pressures. And ended up going voluntarily into Hartwoodhill Hospital, Lanarkshire, with my first puerperal (postpartum) psychosis. It was September 1978, I was 25 with a birthday at the end of the month.
The psychiatric acute ward environment wasn't what I'd expected and the regime required taking psychiatric drugs which I didn't want to do. But I had no choice and these were forcibly given until taken orally with no resistance. I'd been breastfeeding and had to be bound, to stop the milk coming. This was very painful, more so mentally than physically, for I enjoyed feeding my son and didn't want to stop doing it. But I had no choice for my baby was back home and I was hospitalised. Also the drugs meant I couldn't have fed him myself anyway. ..."
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memories of peer support in the psychiatric system circa 1984
"Looking back to my psychiatric hospitalisations in 1978, 1984 and 2002 it was peer support that got me through the traumatic experience of forced treatment and disempowerment. And continued on after discharge, helping me on the recovery journey and back to real life. The experiences of fellow travellers, mostly women, who knew what it felt like to be incarcerated and to be limited by the psychiatric drugs or mental illness label.
I remember in particular the 1984 episode, only one day out of the maternity hospital, after the birth of my third son, and being in another place mentally. It wasn't a negative experience for me, on the contrary, but for others it was alarming as I wasn't myself. The fact that I'd had a previous puerperal psychosis would have alerted the doctors and no doubt they were looking out for it. So, in very quick time, I found myself a voluntary mental patient in Hartwoodhill Hospital, Lanarkshire. Separated from my baby who I'd been breastfeeding.
I was in an acute psychiatric ward, female sleeping accommodation and mixed gender dining/living spaces. My clothes locked away in a cupboard and having to wear pyjamas, a few layers of them, for it was late November, winter time, 'Do they know it's Christmas?' by Band Aid on the radio. Strangers wanting to give me drugs, which I refused then being grabbed and jagged with them. Then when they thought me compliant gave me liquid Largactyl, found out later it was Chlorpromazine, and finally pills when I could be trusted. ..."
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from events I organised voluntarily under the banner of Peer Support Fife 2008-2012