I vaguely remember my eyes flickering open as they responded to a sudden burst of light. It took a few moments for my eyes and my brain to act in synchronisation but an even longer moment to remind my heart to reignite for breath. When they eventually came together my stomach hit the floor realising the bright light was that of a flashlight and the delay was not dissimilar to the moment when you wake in the night to the relief that you have awoken from a dream. That moment when you are caught between the line of your subconscious and the line of reality. The problem was that I wasn’t awakening from a dream. I was in the midst of a nightmare and the most terrifying part was that I was fully awake. I had been admitted to the Psychiatric Ward….again!
I spent many nights lying in the room, often awake for consecutive nights listening to other patients breathe peacefully as their medication brought about the sedation each of us longed for. I could hear staff congregated at the Nurses Station which was strategically placed at the top of the corridor so that on one side they could monitor the male patients and the other side the female ones. I often heard Nurses talking and always found their laughter somehow intensified the distress I found myself in. Almost as if it were adding an air of cruelty to the fact they were on one side of the desk and I was on the other. In hindsight I’m quite certain this theory was unrealistic but with certain staff I never always had the reassurance that I was mistaken. Paranoia on my part perhaps more than an intentional desire to cause hurt but nevertheless, it was present.
I hadn’t meant things to get this out of control. I spent so much of my time gripping on for dear life and sometimes the only thing that kept me holding on was that millisecond where you let go entirely in an attempt to attain a better, stronger grasp. The problem was this millisecond of free-fall versus the majority of stability had become confused. Somewhere along the road the equilibrium had been upset and the exhaustion I felt for the energy it took to maintain my grasp often engulfed my being. I found my comfort in self-harm which in that moment helped….further down the road it almost cost me my limbs.
I’ve met many kinds of people in my life but I can confidently say there is one category that had the ability to crush my heart and damage my soul more than any other. The Medical Profession.
Writing has become my most powerful, healing tool and through my words I am able to connect the dots between my head and my heart. I promised myself that I was going to take every thought and every feeling I’d ever had and offer it to the people who need to understand them more than any – one. Medical Professionals….other patients and their loved ones…but above all, the person who needs to understand more than any other is quite simply myself. It’s my heart, my soul, my story.
I may not have the medical knowledge that Doctors do but surely I have one thing they don’t? Experience.
Can you hear me now?
Life wasn’t always this way for me. Infact, I had a life that many people have often said they admired and even wished was theirs. I was a Professional singer. It was meant in a complimentary way but I also knew deep inside just what it took for me to be that person to step out on stage with that air of confidence and charisma the audience anticipated. Anxiety was my problem. Anxiety was my biggest trigger to self harm so to this day I’ll never understand why I chose to go into a business that probably provoked more anxiety than any other. Showbusiness!! My main choice of harm was to burn. Cutting was over in a second, burning could go on and on which meant by the time the pain stated to subside, I was halfway through my gig and my anxiety had subsided too. The part I hadn’t realised was that the reason I couldn’t feel the pain anymore was because the substance I’d used had actually, literally burned through the nerves on my arm, So while I had been up there on stage, hearing cheering and applause (which I never thought I deserved by the way), responding to song requests to keep everyone happy…..behind all that there were parts of my body burning away in the process. In hindsight absolute madness, or at the very least it was time to think of a change of career. The problem was that doing this job was like being a different person…..put me in a different job and I may have felt the need to harm myself from the moment Ieft the house until the moment I got home again. Insanity?….damage limitation…or just desperate? I was too afraid to to find out.
I also had some fabulous times at shows and memories that I wouldn’t change for the world. Stories I’m quite sure that nobody would believe except other people in the business. One that will always make me laugh is remembering a gentleman buying some drinks. He had to pass me to get back to his seat and as he looked at me to say “excuse me” he tripped over the little step and in saving the drinks his false teeth fell out and landed in front of me. What do you do in a situation like that other than be aware that it would be very unprofessional to laugh hysterically to the point you can’t breathe. It’s not like you can carry on as if you haven’t noticed so all I could do was lighten the mood as I started to sing “All I want for Xmas is my two front teeth, my two front teeth…” It lightened the mood and the gentleman delivered his drinks then sheepishly returned to the dance floor to retrieve his teeth with a smile on his face…..albeit a rather gummy one!
I will also always be grateful for the friends who came with me to gigs…..the ones who were ordered to be first on the dance floor because it always took just one before the rest of the audience followed. I suffered, and still do suffer crippling social anxiety and because I was at work in an “official” capacity I felt like having my friends there was a happy thing as it seemed to reduce the anxiety that would be there if meeting outside of my work.
I often felt that Health Professionals seemed to overlook the fact that I had a successful career, instead choosing only to see a diagnosis or when coming into contact in a crisis. It seemed as if they didn’t grasp that there was a huge difference between my ability to control my mental health when I was “well” compared to the unwell person they seen in front of them. Such a source or frustration but a frustration that I didn’t have the courage or energy to voice in any other way than through my tears.