Revolt from Recovery (Radical Recovery) by Jeremy Gluck

Victim Of Dreams by Jeremy Gluck

A friend who has written extensively on mental illness sent me the following piece of writing, and I felt I wanted to share it here. I’m very interested in finding other examples of pieces of writing others might feel appropriate to publish here – as I think it’s the individual voices of those who endure and suffer that should be heard – not politicians who do not value our lives and cause immeasurable further harm and suffering, and not those who work in the field necessarily, who perhaps haven’t experienced severe mental distress first-hand. I care about hearing the diverse, intuitive, intelligent, often radical and often acutely insightful pieces of writing the mad and the ‘mentally ill’ write, collate and construct though perhaps don’t share. In my own life, it is my writing which has found its way largely into a public arena, that has saved me from a premature death or a life of madness and reliance on a mental health system unequipped for my needs and disinterested in my unique experience. I imagine the immense power of what this clamouring of voices could sound like – those people locked up on PICU units and sat in endless appointments where they are told to think differently, that their experience is not normative, and their approach to solving their own problems is problematic for a world in which productivity and functionality are the two qualities that we are told are paramount to our belonging in the world. Often, those who don’t fit the neat diagnoses and discourses, and who resist treatments they know will cause them harm or who are unable to live in a world as a functioning machine with a uniform set of ideas, values and needs are maltreated, bullied, abused and supressed. To me, the question of care has nothing to do with the idea of a functioning system, either in the individual or the larger and rapidly deteriorating mental health system and the government who choose to bolster or destroy it. It’s about the individual, and how we can all make every person feel valued, and not based on our own ideas of normativity. That inevitably means listening to individual people. There is no common understanding amongst the mentally ill and never will be – no coherent message that each and every person would be happy to endorse – it’s completely unique from person to person, what they want and need, how they view the world and their treatment. There’s immense power in this, so it’s essential that every single person in mental health care throws away entirely the idea of a base-line normativity the mad have to get back to in order to fulfil the wants of larger society. Some will opt for medication and drug treatment, others will resist and refuse (as I have) and many will never be able to access or afford to access any kind of therapy or any kind of adequate support – so what do we have, each one of us? We can endeavour to vocalise our experience until we are heard. Writing it down is so vital. Reading others’ experiences is also vital, and powerful. Sometimes writing can give us permission to be who we are and permission to allow ourselves to voice our own concerns. If anyone would like to contribute to this blog in any way please let me know.

But for now, I welcome to the stage, Jeremy Gluck…

“Outside of society, that’s where I want to be.” Rock’n’Roll Nigger, Patti Smith

Revolt from Recovery (Radical Recovery)

To solve the problems of mind, and therefore mental health, we must go beyond the mind. No matter how well-intentioned or in some ways and cases effective, conventional – even at its margins, as in the current mantras of more adventurous “recovery” – ideas will be futile. Everything developed and delivered in terms of the mind – “mental”, therefore – will ultimately prove pointless. There must be freedom, not halfway houses and compromises and hypocrisy and inverted, converted self-pity and skewed self-regard. Everything now standing to do with “recovery” must be demolished and nothing put in its place and the unknown given freedom to manifest.

I don’t care how much better or more helpful the “recovery” movement and practice in services and for service users has proven. The radical is required. Something literally unthinkable because to go beyond mental illness we must go beyond the mind. Ideas, identities, all of it; in the sale of the soul everything must go. It is possible to be rid of mental illness: by having no mind. This is the absolute position. This is literally the unthinkable, the perspective without comparison or convention to moor and ground and pollute it. It is the pure and peerless place. Why don’t I want to be involved anymore and identified anymore with mental health and mental illness, even to help? I am in direct and radical revolt against it all. Against being “mentally ill”; against “recovering”; against it all. I am…sick of it…from it. The tame tyranny of drugs, the kindly and hopeless concern and sympathy of others, even of empathy and fellow-feeling. I don’t want to be human, a person, an idea, in your mind or my own; I want to not know mind. I want to destroy “me”; the idea of me, who is this person, who has and suffers and thinks and understands, who feeds their own ideas with more ideas and is sick and makes themselves sick and seeks freedom and escape from sickness. I am supposed to be grateful for my recovery. Why do I feel grateful for being more of who and what made and makes me sick? The entire being that is recovering is sick with itself, with what it is, which is a lie, sick or not, mentally ill or not, recovering or not.

I want nothing more to do with myself as “sick”, “mentally ill”, “recovering” and I radically reject and revolt from all such descriptions and self-descriptions. I am breaking with it all. I am not being held by it. Yes, there are drugs in my body that poison my brain, but my body and brain are not what I am. Yes, I am diagnosed and medicated, but the being to which those things happen is not created or recreated by them. I radically reject, destroy and transcend all these restrictions upon being. I factually don’t care any more for them. I am so much greater and more exalted than such descriptions. I have allowed myself to be enmeshed in it, and fed it, and made sick and somehow satiated with it, but it is ending. There is no more mental illness; no more recovery. There is nobody to which they happen.

I do not “accept myself”: there is no self to accept.

I do not “recover”: there is no recovery required; no being was sick.

I do not “heal”: all is instant and spontaneous.

I do not “reflect”: there is nobody there.

I do not “support”: all is free and empty; windows, no walls.

I do not want wellness: there is no sickness.

I do not regret anger: under the great sky the wind blows.

I do not seek help: Nobody wants it.

I do not reject or accept descriptions of me: Nobody here to receive.

I do not fear madness: Fear is madness.


You can read more of his work here:



Parenting and Bipolar

Yesterday I gave an interview to a trainee clinical psychologist for her thesis on parenting and bipolar disorder. I had been very nervous about it as I didn’t know what she would ask and what it might bring up for me, but it was a positive experience and it made me do a lot of thinking.

I thought I would write a little bit about what it’s like to have bipolar I diagnosis and be a parent. I have two children, one is thirteen and one is six, nearly seven. Both my children are doing very well at school, exceeding or matching grades in all subjects. They’re described as happy, kind, outgoing, capable and talented, at school. They are generally very well behaved and thoughtful, they have empathy and they’re creative in their own ways. Obviously, I am very proud, but I’m not trying to boast. When I said these things to the psychologist, I realized that despite this enormous issue: bipolar, we have all managed to get through it, and carry on.

The psychologist asked me about any difficulties parents with bipolar may face. There are endless difficulties. I said I thought being a parent with bipolar was almost like another form of bipolar in itself, as it has a whole other dimension. I’ve been a parent since I was seventeen, that’s thirteen years, and my eldest child has been through a great deal with me. When she was born I was very ill, depression mainly, and agitation. I also had racing thoughts and I self harmed regularly and habitually. I was suicidal. Basically I was going through a severe mixed episode. I fed her, cared for her in every way I could, but inside I felt so bad there aren’t words for it. This carried on for three years, then I was hospitalized and properly medicated, though I couldn’t say I had ever ‘recovered.’ At this time, I should have already been in services but had received a letter two years previous from my care co-ordinator to say she simply had too many people on her list and would have to pass me onto someone else, though she couldn’t say when this would happen. It never happened. This was gross negligence. The way I suffered during those years is not something I could wish on anyone.

When I was in hospital, my mum had to take care of my daughter. I was in for long periods of time, and when I would see her she would often go blank, and it was painful for both of us. She resented me for leaving her. I was ill constantly for all the years up to 2010, medications not working, and having my second child. After he was born in 2006 it was a downward spiral, and I felt it had no end. In 2010 I made a decision to commit suicide.  I had an elaborate plan, and it would have been devastating, but I was in so much pain I felt I was being tortured and I wasn’t rational, and I couldn’t think clearly about anything other than going through with it. My psychiatrist had been writing up a referral to a specialist bipolar unit and having tried all the medications they had to offer I felt completely defeated.  I wanted to give medication one last try, for my children, and thankfully, Depixol injections worked. They completely flattened my mania, my hallucinations, my agitation. Lithium has helped me to stop self harming, very effectively, and has stabilized my mood alongside lamotrigine which I believe has helped with depressive symptoms. I tell people I’m ‘stable’ but in reality it is a daily challenge and I have had to limit myself in so many ways to stay well enough to be a good parent. This past three years has been about building on all our strengths as a family, supporting each other and for me, keeping a routine and being focused on writing as my work and therapy. My psychiatrist asked me recently, do you think you’re a good mother, doing everything you can for your children? I could categorically say YES.

When I was manic my thoughts would race, colours and senses would be more intense, I would have a pressure to talk and talk, I would want to do lots of things and have lots of energy. My thoughts would be grandiose, and I would do anything for more stimulation, which for a lot of people would involve drink, drugs, sex or spending money, but in the case of a parent who has to stay and look after  children, I would ring people on the phone incessantly to talk, about anything, I would pace around the house feeling insane; I would need diazepam, and at one point, I was taking so much of it I was completely hooked .My body would be restless, I would need to move, I would shake, and not be able to lie down or sleep, and I would self harm because I couldn’t cope with the intensity of it. I would feel as though I was crazy; I remember a psychiatrist asking me what I wanted them to do and I told him I wanted them to take the top of my head off. When you’re with a toddler, or a teenager, it is the same: they are so over-stimulating, especially when you’re stuck in a house with them (and to be honest taking them anywhere in this state isn’t a good idea), it is overwhelming. My husband has had to take lots of time off work in the past to help me cope. A lot of people don’t want to be around you when you’re ill so you find a lot of your support is cut off. In hindsight, it can be understandable, because you’re irritable, you say things you wouldn’t normally say, you become enraged easily, you snap, you can’t hide your emotions.

When I was low the problems seemed endless: being so tired and sad, not having any motivation, crying, sleeping too much or too little, ruminating, self-persecutory thoughts and voices, hallucinations (when very high also), feeling a void inside nothing will ever fill. Pure despair. You have to cook, clean, get them to school/nursery, sort finances, sort shopping, go to parent’s evenings, after school events, wash them, clothe them, play with them, give them affection; and you think of nothing else all day but your own death and how you might accomplish it, how everyone would just be better off without you, how your husband will meet someone nicer who will make a nicer mother for your children (yes, this is how irrational you’ve become), but you’re too lost and exhausted to try. Either high or low, agitation and psychosis is something that would cripple me, and often, my husband would have to medicate me on chlorpromazine, which is a very old anti-psychotic but the only thing that ever worked, and lorazepam or diazepam, and put me in bed. When I’d wake it would begin again, the tension mounting, the anxiety, the agitation, the breaking down.

These episodes don’t last days, and even when I was ultra rapid cycling and very ill (mood-swings lasting hours and changing very erratically) it would go on for months. You’re probably wondering how the children coped. I tried hard to be there for them, talk to them, be open with them, and not let them down. But I have an acute sense of failure and every time I so much as had to go to bed to lie down, I woke up feeling like I had failed them and I couldn’t stand it and it fed into my bad feelings about myself. I believe very firmly that children are entitled to know what’s going on and should be allowed to be upset as it is a normal human reaction, to a parent going into hospital, or mummy getting upset, or being drowsy, or not being able to play, or being irritable. I found that others tried to pretend everything was alright, and gloss over things or sugar-coat them, to protect them. This, I have always thought, is damaging. Of course, you don’t want to devastate your children or upset them, but their natural emotions and reactions are an important part of their wellbeing, and shouldn’t be stifled. There are ways to comfort children, and be open and honest at the same time.

I believe that there needs to be centres for parents with severe enduring mental health problems, where they can take their children, receive treatment, and be around others in the same position. We need this provision, it is sadly lacking, adult mental health services have a huge chasm because they don’t make provisions for families. They make provisions for families whose children are suffering from mental health problems, as they did for me when I was a child, but not families in general, families who may feel very isolated and alone. I think that every family who goes through a parent suffering from mental illness should be offered family therapy as a matter of course. I also think that specialist personal assistants should be used in mental health services, especially for families. Practical support given for people who maybe haven’t got the support they need and need help doing practical things, while they are unwell. I think this could be even more beneficial that therapy in the long run, keeping families together and parents at home. It could save a lot of money on lengthy hospital stays, children having to go into care temporarily. Not once can I think of an instance when being a parent with bipolar was catered for or treated as an important thing, for me.  Even simple things like providing books and toys for waiting rooms in mental health clinics would make a difference, to people having to bring their children in with them. Otherwise, these places are blank, clinical and unfriendly. It’s almost as though professionals pretend your kids aren’t part of the picture, until they feel a need to involve child social services, which often isn’t necessary.

I recently took part in a computer-based bipolar support package, where I was filmed answering questions about parenting which would be made into a film which could be accessed online, to help other parents going through the same thing. I think this is marvellous, based at the Spectrum centre at Lancaster university. If anyone wants to know more they are on facebook. There are people out there trying to listen and make a difference, but as we all know, it all comes down to funding essentially, and I think we all know the situation there.

The psychologist asked me if there were any positives in being a parent with bipolar. Children are the best distraction the world has to offer. If I am agitated and I go walking with my son, who will talk to me about Spiderman and maths and Harry Potter, I feel ok, I get rid of some energy. We play scrabble, and although it is hard to stay focused, it keeps me focusing on something. We cook, we bake, we read books, we draw, we listen to music, we just get along. I have to stress that when it is severe none of these things are possible, but on a daily basis the children keep me in a good place with these distractions. My daughter and I have great conversations, about everything. I get so much joy from them, from seeing them happy, it is the biggest motivation I could ever have in my life. I write because I love them and want to do well at something in my life, and I stay reasonably stable, not just because of the medication, though it has helped enormously, but because I have them in my life and they are my purpose. The psychologist said she’s finding that a lot of people like me, as parents, are telling her similar things, that their children are flourishing, being labelled, ‘gifted and talented’ and are sensitive, kind and mature for their ages. I feel like I must have been doing something right, though obviously, these children have not been without their fair share of heartache over this. But I believe that children need experiences, and the emotional support and backing of their parent (s) or carers so that when they get older and things happen in their lives, they are prepared in part, and will learn quickly how to adapt and cope.

My daughter went to school one day and told the students and teacher in her Personal, Social and Health Education class that her mum has a mental illness. Later on, one girl sneered, oooh, your mum’s mentally ill! To which my daughter replied, ‘some people are. And?’

All My Dreams Alive While All The Rest Were Screaming

I’m listening to Radiohead in the car on the way to Liverpool…has the light gone out for you/ because the light’s gone out for me…I think of people I knew when I was ill and shaking and broken. I think they wouldn’t recognise me. I think of things I said or did five, ten, fifteen years ago and I cringe. I think of the work that I’m doing and how, if I edited it properly I would be left with 10 per cent of mediocre mumblings. I think of how often I have thought this. I think of how I wasn’t so anxious off anti-psychotics. I think of telling my husband who will tell me, again, that this started when our son was born, not because of pills and injections. I think of how he might be wrong. I think of how our son looked like he was turning blue even though he was really fine and just fast asleep. I think of all the women who made me feel inadequate because I couldn’t breastfeed anymore because they put me on the pills. I think of how my breasts are much smaller now, how they are redundant. I think of all the really real sad dreams I have about my brother-in-law and how even though I know he is very happy they trouble me all morning. I wonder who these dreams are really about. I think of my facebook friends and how I’d like to meet some of them in real life and how awkward it would be, for them. I think of how I’m too shy to post much on facebook because I have a neurotic fear of being exposed. I think this couldn’t be any more of a contradiction. I think of Shane because Radiohead is playing and the synchronicity of each of their album releases was insane. I think of the spectrum of emotions and experiences I had as a twenty-something and how different things feel now, how I’m insular and steeped in conscious and unconscious foreboding. I think of how I get on with people less and less, and how I smile more. I think about Carol at the clinic and how she saved my life and how I didn’t want her to, and how I’m grateful now. I think of songs I most associate with suicide. I think of Fresh Tendrils in my head and how that is my favourite song. I think of how Hell for me would be a closed room full to capacity of patterns and textures. I think of how this fear makes me visualize decay. I think of how the house might burn down because I’m not there to witness it. I think of things I’ll never be able to talk about. I think of how my husband knows these things exist. I think of our lad going around the house this morning with a pair of tweezers and a magnifying glass looking for stray bugs. I think of how Elizabeth worries I will get ill and have to go away again. I think of how I couldn’t promise her that will never happen. I think of how I know some truly beautiful people and how I am in awe of them. I think of how I never say the things I most want to in person. I think of the man who collapsed in Asda while I was singing The Perfect Needle to myself, how his teeth were all rotten and how we’re all going to die. I think of all the ways I might die. I think of executions. I wonder how my brain got so fucked. I think of Anne who is dying and the closest thing to a grandmother I have ever had and how I haven’t seen her in years for reasons that don’t really matter or make sense. I think of how she is sick and how I’ve missed her, and how I’m sorry. I think of how the dreams I have about my brother-in-law are really about me. I think of how this is the happiest and most stable I’ve ever been in my life. I think of how I’m glad the agitation is reasonable this morning. I think of how I’m nervous about the way I look today. I think of how I feel hideous most days and how this is pathetic in a world where disfigured people walk around regardless and get on with their lives. I think of how I feel disfigured inside, somehow. I think of how I don’t want to come across as self-indulgent. I think of how venomous a thought that is inside others. I think about how strange it is to go to Malaysia, blindfolded, and visually experience none of it, take lots of pictures and come home to see what you’ve missed, like the artist Pak Sheung Chuen did in 2008. I think of how a friend told me they’d rather lose an eye or a limb than have a mental illness. I think of how I’m sat in a French cafe with my husband. I think of how feelings of inadequacy permeate my day. I think of my too-small filter coffee and how good it tastes and how I’m drowsy and still wearing my coat and scarf. I think of Simryn Gill’s photographs of interiors and how I looked and looked for traces of anything warm or human, an empty cot for instance held my interest but how I as a viewer, felt abandoned, and how they seemed like a completely fathomless and cold apocalypse. I think of how I’ve lost the ability to play full albums in my head like I did on long journeys when I was fifteen. I think of how I’m sure all the pills have contributed to this decline in mental capability. I think of how ashamed I’ll feel if any of the parents from school read this, how there’s no reason I should, how I feel like a victim of societal repression, stigma, and my own self-consciousness. I think of how alienated I feel. I think of plunging my naked body into the sea, of freezing alive. I think of how remembering my dreams feels like clutching at vapour. I think of how unreal and unrealistic it is to accept advances in technology other people have created with themselves in mind, with money in mind, without knowing how they work or where their components came from. I think of all the people who don’t miss me. I think of all the people who are more valid than me. I think of all the people who are not more valid than me. I think about how my concept of validation is only reasonable in my head for a few minutes at a time and involves the occasional looks of people who don’t love me. I think of how my husband never wants to listen to what I want to listen to in the car. I think of the song Heaven by The Walkmen and how it makes him think of me, and how that makes me smile. I think about the plagiarist, Christian Ward and how I’d like to sit in a cold room with him for an hour and I don’t know why. I think of how I don’t feel sorry for him but how his audacity fascinates me. I think of how I’m amazed I’m thinking about it because I don’t really care. I think about my husband falling through the clouds. I think about him with perfectly formed, white wings. I think of myself as a harpy in the forests of the outskirts of my hometown. I think of how codeine helps. I think of how my brain feels like melting ice that freezes over without warning. I think of how that’s not very original. I think of how there’s not more to life than poems. I think of what a cold-hearted bitch I must be not to have cried for three years. I think about men on Death Row in Texas getting a glimpse of the sky on their way the their execution. I think of how maybe it is a primer for the afterlife, of Heaven and Redemption. I think of how insane this is. I think of how my husband and my daughter are committed in their atheism and how our six year old son believes in Heaven and how I don’t want him to be afraid. I think of how I used to dance in clubs and how I have a whole other body and sense of rhythm now. I think of how diazepam helps. I think of how I barely talk to anyone so it doesn’t matter what I think or what I need to say. I think of how The Pixies song I Bleed used to make me want to cut myself. I think of how before I took lithium lots of things made me think of self-mutilation. I think of how lithium dulls everything, reinforces apathy and inertia, dampens all the feelings that make you you. I think of how I wouldn’t dare not take it again. I think of how being overweight and having bad skin and no emotions is better than being dead or permanently in the agony of despair. I think of how many people have told me they don’t take medication because of the side effects, and I think of what it’s like to have a choice. I think about when I took that photograph that lit up the room and nobody wanted me to take it and I felt like an insult thrown back. I think about the swimming pool and the very hairy man who is always striding up and down and occasionally diving in and showing off all his hairy male-ness and how he must be giving someone a rash. I think about my boy tumbling in that time. I think about falling in sideways, a hundred times, hitting and hitting the pale blue surface of the water fully clothed, my mouth open. I hear the other mothers applauding. I think about how I’m empty inside and so nothing that anyone says to me can penetrate and I slump down in the deck chair and I feel my heart slow down. I feel my heart slow, slow. I think of how anyone reading this far must want more than I’ve got to give and will possibly see me in a worse light than ever. I think of how my father and I used to dream we were painting all the town’s houses primary colours in the night, how we both had the same dreams. I think of how my husband sometimes kisses me, like someone he hasn’t seen for a long while. I think of how he won’t understand why I’m writing this. I think I’m not sure either. I think of the girl stabbed and set alight in Blackpool. I think of all the screaming ones. I think of all the sad ones. I think of myself in wide, midnight dreams of nothing.

Guest Post: Sheila Hamilton – Response from The Cassel Hospital

I’d just like to share a few thoughts about this letter from Dr Skogstad, who is the consultant psychiatrist at the Cassel Hospital. (NB. He wasn’t the man in charge when I was there all those years ago; I have never met Dr Skogstad.)

 One of my feelings when I read and then re-read this letter was: this isn’t really a proper response to what I have written. Another feeling was: the tone is ostensibly polite but actually rather patronizing.

The most troubling aspect of it is: there is no acknowledgement that what I experienced at home was abuse. This is where I get the impression that the Cassel (and by extension, a lot of psychoanalytical psychotherapy) is actually lagging behind societal attitudes. I haven’t shown this letter to anyone except Melissa and the readers of this blog but my hunch would be, most people nowadays would recognize what I describe as abusive.

Linked up with this is the doctor’s failure to recognize that health professionals themselves can contribute to someone’s difficulties. By labelling very distressed teenagers in his care as having “personality disorder” while not giving that description to the parents who have abused them, he is basically saying that responses to abuse such as depression, anxiety, low self-esteem are pathological (i.e. abnormal) but that abuse itself is not pathological or abnormal. He is still operating a hospital where parents of teenagers are given a forum, as they were in my day, a forum that the more disturbed parents used in order to justify themselves and to manipulate the hospital staff. In short, the focus is still on Keeping the Family Together. (A family where the teenagers are this distressed, have attempted suicide often more than once, etc. is a family that has already fallen apart. If it was ever, in any real sense, “together”.)

His suggestion that the term “personality disorder” is not denigratory or pejorative in any way also marks this man  and his hospital as out of touch. He should speak to a few more GPs if he thinks it’s seen as just another diagnostic term, and while he’s at it he should check what social workers, probation officers, the police think when they hear the term. The way the term is generally used it is taken to mean “untreatable” and, in many cases, “not to be trusted” and also “violent.” I don’t care for the insinuation in this part of the letter that I have somehow got this wrong: I have known plenty of people who are burdened with this often very unhelpful label. (And why is it unhelpful? Crucially, because it locates someone’s difficulties within them, as if that person is somehow fatally flawed; it pays no heed to the external factors involved. And abuse is a very important external factor.)

Freud famously decided that all the accounts of abuse he was hearing couldn’t possibly be true, that they were fantasies.  It seems that some of his heirs are still swayed by him.

  I have decided not to respond to the doctor’s letter personally.


23rd January 2013

 Dear Ms Hamilton,

Thank you for your letter to my secretary and my sincere apologies again for responding only so late and only after your prompting. It seems that the Cassel has made a lasting impression on you, as you are thinking about it and making contact with us after such a long time. I hope that your time here helped you and gave you capacities and strengths that you could use in your life since. I also hope the reason you are thinking so much of the Cassel again now is a good one rather than another particularly difficult period in your life.

Since the early 1980s, when you were here, there have been numerous changes to the Cassel to respond to our research and to adapt to changes in the NHS and its increasingly harsher financial realities. However, the hospital is still there to help people with severe emotional difficulties and has retained many of its old principles. We are now much smaller than when you were here, but we do still treat adolescents, as long as they are over 16, together with (mostly young) adults. Structures have also changed and so we don’t have the particular meeting anymore that you describe, but we do regular family work with adolescents or young adults as part of their treatment and sometimes offer forums for parents or carers.

Like you describe about yourself, all our patients had a troubled and often very traumatic upbringing, which has formed them and has often made it difficult for them to get on with themselves and their own lives. When we call what our patients suffer from “personality disorder”, we are not using this in any denigrating way, as it is sometimes perceived and you seem to hear it. For me and my colleagues, it is a way of describing as a short hand deep rooted emotional difficulties that need understanding and appropriate treatment, usually through psychotherapy and other support. In fact, the term has in recent years also helped to instigate developments in different parts of the country to establish services for such people.

Thank you for your good wishes to the Cassel.

 With best wishes,

                          Dr. W. Skogstad

Guest Post- Sheila Hamilton: It All Boils Down to Who You Believe

I have decided to share this because I suspect such experiences are far from rare. We probably don’t talk about these things enough.


 Dear Sir/Madam,

I was an in-patient in your adolescent unit in the early 1980s. I have been thinking quite a lot recently about my stay in the Cassel, and about my adolescence generally.

I don’t know how many adolescents are at the Cassel now at any one time, how long they tend to stay, etc. Do they still have a meeting every Tuesday evening which parents are expected to attend? In my day, there was such a meeting: the adolescents themselves, the parents, and the two mental health nurses who specialized in adolescent mental health. The stated aim of these meetings was for adolescents and parents to raise any difficulties that had been encountered at the weekends (when we had to go home) and to discuss such difficulties within the group. In actuality, this meeting was really an opportunity for parents, many of whom were demonstrably disturbed themselves, to let rip about their children and to “play the victim.” My parents always came, driving all the way from Stevenage.

My father was the world’s best at putting on an act (in this case “Concerned Father”), and my mother was (and still is) extremely passive, would never challenge him even when he was lying outright about what went on at home. She’d look sheepish, that’s about it. What was going on at home (and what had been going on at home for quite some years) was that Dad was a shouter, verbally and emotionally abusing his wife and his three children (I have 2 brothers.) He was very manipulative, very infantile, a chaotic person, a “mummy’s boy” who had never cut the apron strings. This was a great source of conflict in my parents’ marriage from the off; my mother even then was confiding in me about this and looking to me for support. My father had been exempted from National Service on psychiatric grounds (but was always vague about the details); he had later had what appeared to be several “nervous breakdowns” prior to meeting my mother. On several occasions he had turned down treatment, and he and my mother never sought any professional help about their problems as a couple. My father clearly had great issues with women, and his hostility towards me increased exponentially when I hit puberty; I remember him sneering at me for having my period, he hated any mention of sex or reproductive biology, and was extraordinarily prudish. My brothers and I certainly did not have an environment in which we could ask questions or receive any reassurance about sex and sexuality! My dad was also very contemptuous of the fact I wore glasses, and would sneer in my face about this. (My mother just let it drop in the few days before his death that he considered people who wore glasses to be “defective.”) My mother saw and heard most of this behaviour on a frequent basis but did not intervene. If I mentioned any of it at the Cassel meetings, she would shift uncomfortably in her chair but would say nothing; I can’t remember her once challenging my dad’s hostility or his neurotic attitudes. (Perhaps she shared them?)

I broke down when I was 15. Is it surprising? I had been getting more and more depressed for some time, demoralized, cried a lot. (Years later, I found out that an educational psychologist suggested to Mum when I was 13 that I was severely depressed and offered to make a referral for help; this offer was turned down, I wasn’t even asked.) I was in an adolescent unit in Exeter for a short while about a year before I came to the Cassel. I don’t know the whole story but I do remember the consultant psychiatrist saying to my parents, in front of me, “I’m not really interested in depression. I’m much more interested in juvenile delinquency.” The day I was discharged from that place, one of the staff announced to the whole group of teenagers that I was going to be discharged (this hadn’t even been mentioned to me). I know that the Cassel prides itself (and did then too, in my time) as taking on people whose problems have “exhausted” other avenues. It wasn’t that my problems exhausted anybody; I had not been given proper help. The provision at Exe Vale was shabby. A month after I had been discharged my parents and younger brother and I had an appointment there. . .and the consultant seemed genuinely surprised that I was no longer an in-patient. .. how could that happen, I wonder, when he was meant to be the one in charge?  It was arranged for me to see one of the registrars on an out-patient basis. This woman’s oft-repeated phrase to me was, “I don’t know why you’re so angry.” Once she asked me (in a corridor) “Were you ever a Daddy’s girl?” and when I said “No,” she simply said “I don’t believe you.” I was on several occasions asked “Do you consider yourself to be an honest person?”

Yes, I came to the Cassel very angry. Who wouldn’t be angry? My big question to you is, if you had been living as a teenager with one parent who was constantly abusing you verbally and emotionally, eroding any sense of confidence you might have had, sneering at your gender while the other parent looked on, making excuses and actually expecting you to be “forgiving”, how would you have reacted? I got depressed and I got angry, perfectly predictable responses to the situation that I was in. I felt there was nowhere to go; I was sure that any approach to a teacher, say, or to our GP would have gone straight back to my parents. I find it very disturbing that you are still labelling this kind of situation with your patients as “Personality Disorder.” I broke down in circumstances that were intolerable (much as did the shell-shocked soldiers for whom the Cassel was originally set up, I may add): were they “personality-disordered” as well? This term, by the way, was never used to my face but it is in my medical records. (The fact that I was on the receiving end of abuse is not in my medical records. There is virtually no sense of context in those records at all, and there are a lot of presumptions.) And I note that the adolescent unit at the Cassel today is actually called “The Emerging Personality Disorders Clinic.” What hope does that offer to those patients? You might as well say “You are untreatable”. .. but there you are, trying to treat them. I don’t understand this. Do you recognize that they are, in many cases if not all, people who have been abused? That is a heavy legacy to carry, and someone with that legacy needs help to carry it, but to be handed a label like “Personality Disorder” is to be given a further burden. My father was really rather pleased, I suspect, that I’d been pathologised; it enabled him to carry on believing that there was nothing wrong with his own behaviour.

I’ve read quite a lot about personality disorders. I am not of the opinion that there is no such thing. There certainly are clusters of behaviours that could fall under various headings. I’ve come to understand that my father was very likely a Narcissist; the behaviour of other narcissists which I have read about tally almost uncannily with the behaviours that he showed throughout my childhood, adolescence and beyond. When all of his children were grown up and damaged, he finally sought out a psychotherapist. .. who was the very same person who had supported me for 18 months after I left the Cassel! He somehow prevailed upon this therapist to take him on; I was abroad working at the time and not in a good position to challenge this. She shouldn’t have taken him on, end of, but he was infinitely charming and manipulative. I suspect she had no real idea of the extent of his problems; he would have done a PR job on her of course, and there was no-one present to provide another narrative. So yes, personality disorder exists. He convinced so many people that he was Concerned Father, Good Neighbour, Supportive Colleague, but these were all masks to be shuffled and worn as and when it suited. The people at his funeral who spoke of him as having been a supportive colleague had never heard what he said about them to us behind their backs! Snide, unkind, condemning things, especially if they were female and/or more intelligent than he was. I’m afraid that such a person would have no problem at all in convincing some psychiatrists and psychotherapists that his daughter was unhinged, dishonest, etc. .. and I strongly suspect that’s exactly what he did. He managed to perpetuate more abuse, with the unintended co-operation of mental health professionals. With my mother’s compliance, of course; I don’t let her off the hook. My relationship with her has been difficult throughout my adult life for precisely this reason; nowadays, I have minimal contact with her because I have chosen to have minimal contact, for my own wellbeing.

Maybe my experiences are not “typical” of teenagers who come to the Cassel. I don’t know how “typical” they were back then. But I do think we still live in a society where children and young people are not being sufficiently listened to. If their narrative deviates significantly from that of their parents or older relations, too many doctors/social workers, etc. seem to prefer the narrative of the parents. This, too, is an abuse. Just as the many victims of Jimmy Saville, Cyril Smith, etc. have been finding out, lots of people want to turn a blind eye, or to trivialize what happened, or to say that reports of abuse are malicious, etc. But if professionals involved in mental health seem uncertain of where they stand over such matters, it’s hardly surprising that lay-people don’t know either.

I wish the Cassel well. It provides an environment which can benefit some troubled people. But I feel it could do so much better, just as mental health services in general and society in general could do so much better. We have a long way to go.

Yours sincerely,

(Ms) Sheila Hamilton

Sheila’s letter has been sent to the Cassel’s ‘Emerging Personality Disorders Clinic.’ She is awaiting a response. If there is a response I will publish it here.

Sheila’s poetry collection Corridors of Babel is published by Poetry Salzburg. She has also written two pamphlet collections, one by Flarestack entitled The Monster in The Rose Garden and one by Original Plus entitled One Match


I’ve let the blog slide for some time now, without wanting to but feeling increasingly like I’m exposed. I write openly, but I’m not always comfortable with it. I do it because it feels important to have a voice, and knowing people read this, I want to say things which I think are important and which I hope might be of some comfort to others.

I’ve found myself with an extensive body of work, three years in the making, and a smaller collection which came about in the last six months, maybe less. I’ve entered countless competitions, never expecting to win but enjoying the deadlines and themes and having something to work for. I work every day, more or less, I take it very seriously. The difficulty is that my writing is so tied up with how I feel, how I feel about myself specifically, that I bruise easily. And when I am low and I can’t write, this becomes unbearable.

Routine is the most essential part of my writing life, and domestic life. That’s how I keep my moods together. Often I find it very difficult to change things, and anything out of the ordinary shakes me up. I think this is just part of how I’ve managed the past few years. I often think I’d love to live a different way, full of social events and people and writing late into the night and things I used to do; but stability is the most important thing in my house, if I am well it all runs like clockwork. Recently my moods have become more erratic, and I have had to turn things down, hibernate and concentrate on my work. It all falls in with the routine of pills and the routine of the school run and football practice, swimming lessons and mealtimes and although my life isn’t exciting I seem to have a lot to write about, a lot to say in my poems even if I don’t have the rest of the time. When I become depressed it happens very quickly. If I slow down I come to a stop. I’ve learned that I can get through it in a matter of days if I force myself out, walking the dog, to the shops, even if I walk so slow it’s ridiculous. Even if I don’t feel like buying anything when I get there.

I have to shower. This sounds stupid, but I find it very hard to look after myself when I’m low and so I just drag myself through a routine that I can manage and usually if I push myself like this, I start to feel brighter. If I gave into it I would sink. It would consume me, weeks, months. And it’s so easy to ignore warning signs and let it take me.

I’ve also been becoming agitated and high. This is worse in many respects. When I can’t sit still and I feel like I can’t cope with being alive I have to distract myself. This isn’t always easy. I recently went to a Walkmen gig and my thoughts were racing while I was watching and I was struggling to even recognise any familiar songs. Even though it was so loud I couldn’t block those thoughts out, but I became fixated on the lights, and the way the guitarist moved, and the way the crowd rocked and shouted the lyrics and I sipped my cider and slowly began to sink into the music. It has taken a lot of years to teach myself how to distract. And when the agitation kicks in it’s the hardest thing to do anything but walk on the spot and talk and want to scream.

I’m wearing a dress with hummingbirds on. I got it for £4. I always wanted a dress with hummingbirds on, in fact I think I designed one when I was about nine. I’ve been listening to the soundtrack to the film Drive which I am in love with. I’ve been reading the literary magazine The Dark Horse which I think is magnificent; the articles are fabulous. I am looking forward to seeing my husband, Steven’s psychedelic/shoegaze band Unalaska at band night at The King’s Arms in Salford on 17th November from 7.00pm. They’re amazing, though I’m obviously biased.  I’ve been writing about lions’ dens, suicides, sexual abuse, dead mothers, thieving hotel maids, poems inspired by Scott Walker and 90’s grunge bands, execution…all the most accessible stuff. I don’t want to be censored. I feel like I’ve been holding back something vital recently, and in the last two months it has just exploded. I’m sure that it’s not easy to read, but why should I write anything that’s easy to read? I don’t want to repress my instincts. When I have these things on my mind and they won’t go unless I put them down. I wonder if anyone would find they couldn’t handle it or that my poems upset them.

I want there to be no denial, no censorship. It is important that we have a voice. A feminine voice. All these fucking men groping and all these women afraid to say anything because they wouldn’t be believed. I want it all out, things that people don’t want to hear are often the most vital things we need to say. I don’t want it to be sensationalist, I just want it to be true. Haven’t I got a duty as someone whose voice can be heard when others have been silenced, to write about the issues which affect, not just me but countless other men and women and children? My story is not unique, but my poetry is, and I think that it is the biggest part of who I am aside from being a mother and a wife. It’s just about all I have to offer the world.

I am going to open up the blog to guest posts; I’d particularly be interested in anything on a mental health theme or something specific to poetry. Please do get in touch if you would like to take over the blog.

Thank you for reading.


On Enjoyment

I lived a good deal of my life in a pressured way. It’s very hard to put into words, but because of manic and mixed and psychotic depressive episodes my brain trained itself to never enjoy anything. I have spent a couple of years trying to counteract this. When I was high, everything was fast, pressured, I had no time for anything, everything irritated me. Even if I was euphoric, it wasn’t as though I had the time to enjoy it; I wanted the next thing and the next thing and the next thing. Chronic agitation made it hard for me to do a lot of things, including just sitting and watching a film. I couldn’t enjoy just sitting and just being. I couldn’t enjoy having a conversation with someone because my speech was pressured and I needed to say more than the other person. I couldn’t enjoy my food because I just wanted eating to be over, so I could get on with something more important, though that something more important rarely materialised.

I found though, that I could write. I could use the pressure of language and speech and tune into something acute, something real and structured and permanent, and I enjoyed it. That was what I had. That was my pleasure and even though I felt I rarely got it right, I could use it at times as a process, working through the feelings that were so hard to contain, so hard to do anything with.

Now I have to try to remind myself to enjoy things, and keep talking to myself in my head, talking myself through the senses and my experience of things. The medication doesn’t help. I feel distant. I can’t describe what it makes me feel like, in fact. I have to take it. It stills the pressure and the despair and the agony of it all. A junior doctor who took one of my appointments on my doctor’s behalf told me recently that I’d have to come off the medication (that I was told I would have indefinitely), because of cost, and that I could try one of any number of oral medications (all of which I’ve tried to no avail). I have an appointment coming up, in which I am sure they will break it to me, that I have to stop the medication which has finally given me a life. But it’s difficult really because as much as I need it, I also hate it. I hate the way I am and the way my writing has changed. I would say on a good day that it has ‘developed.’ But sometimes I question that.

When I see people cheering for their life during a football match, I envy that. I don’t live in the moment, I experience things as though on the other side of a sheet of glass. I wonder if they stop the medication, would I feel any different, better? Would I be able to cope? I went a day over on my weekly medication recently and immediately my thoughts began to race. I think that what I’m heading for is very frightening, because in reality I know that it’ll be the hospital trail again if I come off this drug.

Now I enjoy things better, after training myself to. I love a good cup of coffee. I can enjoy every last sip. I can enjoy talking and playing with the children without my thoughts racing and preoccupying me. I like to be outside walking, though I still find if I don’t listen to music on a long walk that my thoughts become unbearable. But I can cope, and these are the best years of my life.

Is Mental Illness Ever A Gift?


4OD are showing a series of five minute films this week
posing the question Is mental illness ever a gift?, and it has prompted me to
answer the question for myself.

I’ve been asked this question before, very recently, by
someone who doesn’t have bipolar and said they found it hard to imagine what
bipolar is like. I think it is almost impossible for a person to imagine what
bipolar is like by explanation; I always feel like words are simply not enough,
you can run through the symptoms verbally but it doesn’t mean anything and if
you have never been slightly depressed or slightly high you could never imagine
how much worse being a manic depressive is.

So. I am a writer. I write virtually every day and have done
for the majority of my life. I’ve accumulated a lot of garbage and got rid of
most of it. I am happy with a percentage of my work, mainly my book A Body Made
of You which I wrote while experiencing a debilitating and life-threatening mixed
bipolar episode. Sometimes I try to pretend to myself that I was fine when I
wrote the book, that I just didn’t sleep because I didn’t need any sleep, and I
went into hospital because I was exhausted, not ill. But the reality is I was
off the scale and while most of the time this made it impossible to concentrate
enough to write, there were flashes of divine inspiration which I can read in
my words. Sometimes I feel that I
would do anything to have that back again, so I could write with that same
spark, but in reality without the medication that grounds me and keeps me
stable I might not even be alive never mind able to write good poems.

I am very proud of my book. I am proud that I have survived
and have written a book. I am proud of writing it under the conditions that I
did and it not just be a jumble and a mess, and I feel that it is the best
thing I have achieved.

But if you were to ask me if it was all worth it, for my
little first collection, I would have to firmly say no. And this is why:

When Dr. Prince at the child and adolescent psychiatric
outpatients unit told me I have bipolar I don’t remember at any point
understanding what he was saying. It meant nothing to me. I had been seeing
psychiatrists for a couple of years, hospital stays and being out of school
attending a child and family psychiatric unit. I was suffering, but I didn’t
know what it was. I thought it was all my fault, I thought I was being punished
for something or that I just wasn’t normal like everyone around me seemed to
be. Dr. Prince told me a few things. He told me that if I used class A drugs it
would take 48 hours for me to become addicted to them. He told me that I should
always swot up on science and maths lessons and be one step ahead of the
teacher and that I should become a doctor because it was the best profession
there is. He told me to always give a firm handshake. What he didn’t tell me
was that I’d end up pregnant at sixteen and in and out of hospitals until I was
28, losing people around me like flies and barely managing to stay alive
through it.

He didn’t tell me that I would get myself into situations
out of my control.

He didn’t tell me that I would have ideas that I simply
couldn’t realistically follow through.

He didn’t tell me that suicide attempts would do nothing but
hurt the people that love me.

He didn’t tell me that making it this far meant that I had a
far stronger survival instinct than I had imagined.

He didn’t tell me I’d waste a few of years of my life inside

I have a weak handshake, I’m not addicted to class A drugs
and I’m crap at maths, so nothing he told me really was of any use to me at

How can I say how bad it really is/was/might be? How can I
even say. I remember being drugged up to the eyeballs on a women’s ward for
weeks just sat shaking in the lounge room my thoughts and hallucinations just
humming around my head constantly, painfully, and me occasionally getting up to
smoke, and to cry and heave with agony in my room, and to take my pills. And one
day I just had a lucid moment, and I stood up, and it was raining outside and I
felt like someone punctured a hole in my heart and the bleeding wouldn’t stop.

I am struggling to find examples of the worst times because
mostly they’re too horrible for words and you really wouldn’t want to read
about them.

I’ve seen people devastated by mental illness. It’s more
pain than a person can imagine. I understand that for some people, the
creativity and the ideas and the passion and the motivation and the
intelligence and the daring can mean the world to them. I know that there are a
lot of people who wouldn’t come back without their illness.

But I would give anything not to have these regrets, these
memories, these scars. I regret my youth, I don’t have many good memories about
my past, moodswings were so profound in me that I struggled to cope with
everyday living. I feel like I have literally dragged myself through my life to
be here, where I can say that I am no longer manic, and I am no longer
depressed. I miss that tiny window of opportunity when I was high but not over
the edge and I could write, and boy could I write. Every week I wonder what it
will be like if I don’t go for my injection. I imagine myself full of life and
wit and inspiration and writing a new book. But in reality I would be
hallucinating, sleep deprived and suicidal.

So they can take my mental illness and shove it up their
arses, just for the record.

I know people who would argue that for the highs alone it’s
worth all the misery and the depression. But I don’t buy it. Even when euphoric
I wouldn’t give anything for a life of euphoria and elation. The highs damage people, if
not yourself then the people around you. You can’t function like that, you
become out of step with the world. I suppose with me the highs used to come on
so fast and when mania hit it wouldn’t be long before I spilled over the edge,
and my symptoms became mixed, which is worse than mania or depression because
the world can’t keep up with you but you’re in agony, not happy, not productive
just wild and suicidal.

If only we could take the parts that we like and if only our
medication would only medicate to a point and still allow for glimpses of
brilliance. But life’s not like that. Now I have to suck it up and take the
medication so that I can give me and my children a calm, structured and
wonderful life. I never want to be ill again. My triggers are stress and sleep
deprivation, so I take sleeping pills every night and I build my world around
the strong foundations of my family and dig my heels in. I’m a lucky girl, and
a stubborn one and I would not go down without a fight. But that’s what it has
been; a fight. I’ve won for now.

I used to say, I just want to be left alone, be ill and just
have people accept that that’s who I am, but you’re not allowed to be crazy,
even if you’re not hurting anyone. I was young, and I didn’t realise how much I
had hurt people. I often stopped my medication and I often became too depressed
to do anything at all. I thought that I was myself, that there was nothing
wrong with me it was all them. That
it was unreasonable for people to want to medicate me. I felt like this for
years and the price I’ve paid for it has been severe.

I know people and have seen people with their lives
completely ruined. So many people. I would hate to think that a message should
go out to people that people with mental illness have somehow more creativity
and amazing experiences and would want
not to change. To celebrate madness as though it were desirable, exotic in some
way. Because I believe that only a minority of cases would want to celebrate it.
Maybe I am wrong, I would love to know what other people think; not just about
bipolar. I’ve had this whirlwind life, full of drama and pain, and I wouldn’t
wish it on anybody. If I had to do it again without the illness I feel I would
have achieved more. Now there’s a deep dark well inside, which I’ve climbed,
and it has taken me years. But it’s still there, and I know if I slip I’ll fall
back in. All those years I’ve been fighting I could have done so much more. To
even imagine that at some point in the future I might have to go through it all
again is unbearable to me. It’s horrifying.

I don’t think it’s a part of who I am, it’s a separate
entity, a ghost, a shadow, it tags along sometimes, it trips me up. Who I am
remains more or less intact when you take it away. I’m sensitive, I care about
people, I love, I have compassion and empathy, I can express myself through
writing…I’ll celebrate that instead. I’m not a genius, or a high-flier or a
great success in life, but I’m here. Part of me still plays devil’s advocate: maybe
it has made me stronger, maybe it has made me more mature, more empathic, maybe
it’s given me the ability to write at all. When I look in the mirror I see how
the stress has aged me. I feel how the stress has aged me. What I wouldn’t give
to be young again without moodswings, able to enjoy my life. I’m an intelligent
person, I could have done a lot more with myself. It makes me sad.

I’d love to hear your story,

Thanks for stopping by x



Only The Tip Of The Iceberg…

This morning I attended the depot clinic where I get my depixol antipsychotic injection every Wednesday. The nurse I see there has been making me feel bad. One week she ‘forgot’ to close the blinds so people could see me outside. One week she was telling a student nurse that sometimes thin people come to the clinic and she’d need to judge for herself how deep the needle should go, but that she didn’t need to worry about that with me. Last week when she asked how I was feeling and I said I felt low she said, what’s up with you is it the anti-climax after Christmas or are you just not keeping busy enough? This week I told her I was better because I couldn’t be bothered and she said, there, you see, everyone has their ups and downs, that’s life. The most condescending thing you can ever say to a manic depressive.

It’s not just at the depot clinic. I was referred to the Community Restart team a while ago for someone to come and see me to help me get access to local community etc. I said I’d do it but I really didn’t need them to come round. When one of the women got here she immediately started to comment on what a nice house I had, how big it is and what nice possessions and ooh you have a piano and it’s better than my piano and ooh a nice telly. Each time she came round it was the same thing, with a frowning kind of, how can you afford to live like this… as though I should have nothing, I should be living in an untidy house in disrepair, my house should be full of rubbish, I should be swimming around in my own filth. I really should empty the bins out all over the floor before they arrive. I felt as though I had to justify myself, we won the telly in a fantasy football competition etc. Of course, I’m mentally ill, mentally ill people should have nothing, should not have better than what anyone else has got, should fail, should be bullied into attending inappropriate community events and should be suspected and should be the underclass. Should be phoned up and checked up on to make them feel completely useless.


I feel degraded. I feel like the system has swallowed me up and had its fill of me and is about to spit me back out. There’s a pyramid system of allocating care now, the more stable you are the further up the pyramid you go until you go back to being under GP care. This is wrong, people with bipolar can go from being stable to manic in days, not weeks, can dip and keep dipping to the point of suicidal thoughts and those with a history of them will experience them very early on in onset of a depressive or mixed episode. This isn’t something you can go to your gp about. My care-coordinator must have hundreds of people in her care and admits that a great many are scheming their way to benefits and aren’t ill, and a lot don’t really warrant a care coordinator. So people are getting pushed out of the system. At the moment I am prone to thinking, well I don’t really need their input at the moment. But the nature of my illness is that it is unpredictable at times, erratic and  severe. I don’t want to have to work my way back through the system the next time I need its support, which is to be honest, almost a certainty. And people who don’t know will say if you expect something to happen then it will. People with bipolar know that you don’t get off scot free just because you take a load of pills and drugs that paralyse your system and do things to your brain that no-one’s really sure of. Some people are lucky, but most aren’t. Even medicated, moods break through and stress and life events can set the rollercoaster rolling again at the drop of a hat. It is almost impossible to drug someone and ‘level them out,’ most people end up having to function below ‘normal’ in a mild depression. There are people more vulnerable than me that won’t get the right help, because they don’t realise when they’re ill, because they come off and on medication and don’t access treatment because there is no-one there to help them do it or tell them when their behaviour becomes a problem. There is no easy solution. Continuity of care is a must. It is possible to get on the right track but it has taken me fifteen years to reach a period of reasonable stability. A lot of people don’t survive that long. People with mental health problems are stigmatised and are degraded and let down and I’m sure it is easier to get away with than most other branches of medicine.

 But I have to be grateful for the time being and suck it up and put up with this stuff. I have been feeling low, and it has been hard for me, but I’m not edging toward any extreme at the moment. I can feel it when it’s really hitting, and it normally collapses in a matter of days when I’m heading for a major depression. I know a lot of people in the profession desperately want to help, but there’s so many government targets that have to be met and real care is becoming so scarce. There aren’t enough hospital beds when people really need them, that is unequivocally true. The Crisis Team was an attempt at saving money but in my experience and from what I hear of other peoples’ experience, it can’t replace hospital admission and in too many cases lets the patient down. I can’t count how many times I felt let down by them. People not turning up, people not wanting to get involved after a self discharge, the phone ringing and ringing and no-one there to pick up, or someone at five in the morning when you’re high as a kite telling you that anyone can live off two hours sleep a night or to just go back to bed. They can’t intervene successfully.

I have had good, positive social workers/CPNs and I have had appalling ones. I have had care and support and I have been left reeling from bad experiences. I have so many things to complain about that I barely have the will to even start. Unfortunately for professionals who are doing their job, these bad experiences often far outweigh the positives. When I think about complaining, or voicing my opinion like this, it is like coming up against a giant in a boxing ring…


There’s tedium in a life like mine, and banality and the everyday, but I have grown to work with that at times. This is not the life I always hoped for, but it is the life I want and deserve. No matter what happens, I came to this point naturally and without kicking and screaming. This is also wellness, or what that means to me. I understand that I am a sensitive and private creature, I seek out isolation and I feel lonely even when I’m with others. I used to wonder how on earth I was going to survive in this world when I absorb so much of what is around me and I suffer sensitivity so acutely. I often feel quite fatalistically that here is where I must be, and this is the life I was meant for. I only think that casually of course.

The sun is beaming. The house is cold. The kids are at school, I’ve been writing a new poem which I can’t seem to inject any life into. I get asked what I do for a living. I say I’m unemployed, and then a hosuewife, and occasionally I tell people I write. It’s always the same reaction, as though I’ve said something terrible, like I am inferring that I am more intellectually adept than the other person. It’s very odd. Some lovely people yesterday said some positive things to me, that I should be proud of my writing. I wish I was getting more into the magazines, I seem to be having a difficult period with my work. I keep writing anyway, everyday, in a disciplined way. Most of what I write is awful and I generally just discard it, but sometimes, I write something I feel is authentic and interesting. This is the best feeling in the world to me.

Round here, life goes on in a very humdrum way. I’m a long way away from the city. People here dress differently, they walk slowly, they talk slowly, there’s time to spare. I walk to re-stock the well, I stargaze, I overhear conversations, I imagine, most of all, I have room to imagine. Really I feel like a failure most days, because I don’t write anything successful and nobody’s been in touch to tell me they’re interested in my work and I haven’t managed to draw on my resources very convincingly. There’s the endless pile of washing and cleaning and I take good care of the kids, like I said, I can feel alone even when the house is full.

 I think that it is easy for people to see me as a melancholic, someone who listens to too many sad songs and watches sad films and reads sad books. I like the sadness, I can relate to it more than anything else, I have the lived experience to be able to connect with sadness and grief and despair. I find it life affirming at times, to be presented with something someone has had to live through. Or something with magnitude, I find strength in being confronted with things I can’t imagine and I love the way music and art tempts your emotions, makes you feel alive. Even when it’s dark, sad, strange, troubled. I know people who only listen to ‘happy’ music and will say that they are easily brought down by anything else. I imagine it’s helpful to be able to block out unwanted emotion and stay up and ‘happy.’ I can say now that I am happy for the first time in my life, that’s been the case for the last six months, but I can’t imagine what it’s like to not have been depressed and manic and ill for the majority of my life, to be able to make simple choices that steady emotions, like what not to read and listen to and watch. Or what not to confront as the case may be. I take it all on, head on, because I have always been this way, a hunger for truth perhaps, and nothing like any of my relatives, I appear to have decided to be this way all by myself, or if I haven’t decided, I wasn’t influenced. And there is no telling why I am a manic depressive either. It’s simply the case, I can’t change this.

Would I want to change anything, that it the question. I was asked recently if I would change being a manic depressive and I answered yes. All that pain, all the terrible terrible hours and days turning into months and years, the pain you can’t express at all. I said I’d change it. But not just to be someone who couldn’t face the truth. I would still want to be attuned to the world and all its intricacies. Is it the mental illness that makes me the way I am or is it just something that exists alongside my personality?

On a lighter note, Steven and I actually got out the other night, drove to Liverpool, which I love, has a fantastic atmosphere, and watched Siddharta Bose’s one man play Kalagora, a performance of poetry with real soul and charisma. I love the book, his debut poetry collection available form Penned in the Margins or Inpress books online. Siddharta was brillantly energetic and vibrant, the audience giving little ripples of laughter here and there, and he really took you somewhere, incredible storytelling and a captivating performance. I thought now here is a man with real experience, with real creative intuition and invention!

His show is playing at different venues around the country until April 16th so book your tickets now! Don’t miss out!

Much love to all and thankyou for taking the time to read,

M x