Good morning from Arundel Eccentrics
Bit of a change from light-hearted chit-chat this morning.
I went to visit someone close to me yesterday.
The path of her life
at 22 years old.
She was one week away from completing her nurse training.
A beautiful, vivacious, funny, gregarious young
woman who dressed stylishly
and always wore at least a dab of makeup.
Had a circle of friends who adored her.
In short, led a normal life.
But...she felt something wasn't right.
Didn't know what it was.
Went into doctors surgeries and
A and E departments begging for help.
Was found in the middle of Brighton
wearing pyjamas on a bitter winters day.
Then she stole something from a large department store.
The police officer who arrested her recognised the cry for help.
The young constable had been called
to the cliffs of Beachy Head the day before.
A Sussex beauty spot renowned for suicides.
"I wasn't going to let that happen on my watch again," she said.
After weeks of psychiatric appointments came the diagnosis.
Her widowed mother tried to keep her at home but
it was just too much for the old lady to cope with.
The voices dictated her daughters every move.
They told her to walk into the sea in Brighton and just keep walking.
How she didn't drown we just don't know
It happened twice.
Her mother knew she couldn't keep her safe.
Then came a succession of psychiatric wards.
And the people you met therein.
She became involved with an alcoholic schizophrenic.
Luckily she had her wits about her the day
he tried to coerce her into going with him.
To rob the local Building Society.
Holding them up with a cricket bat.
He wound up at Her Majestys Pleasure on the Isle of Wight.
The one good thing to come out of the day.
Chunks of family history were erased
from her brain after ECT treatment.
Family events were lost too as people became
unsure of how she would be at weddings, parties, funerals, dinners.
Nervous their event would be spoiled they stopped asking her.
Visitors slowly stopped coming.
Her mother passed away.
Thirty years on, her face has aged well beyond its 55 years.
Home, a hostel, for the past 22.
Visitors are rare.
People are nervous about psychiatric illness.
Sometimes I go and am turned away from her bedroom door.
Her pale face contorted in mental anguish.
The voicing driving her under the duvet for days on end.
She doesn't leave the safety of her room and the staff knock
at meal and drug rounds, but she stays hidden, living on hoarded tins of food.
Yesterday, was a better day than most
and we went out for coffee.
I took her gifts of toiletries that a friend
who works for a high-end company gets cheaper.
Bath gels and creams that she glanced at
and said her voices wouldn't let her have.
They seem to prefer her to go to Wilkinsons, the cheap shop on the corner.
For the first time in years, we were able to discuss her illness.
" How would life have been without it?"
She thought for a moment.
" I think I would have had a job and a car.
A flat or house and a boyfriend or husband.
Maybe children. I wanted children.
Friends to go out with."
She was quiet for a moment and sighed,
" It changed my whole life."
Instead, she lives in a hostel with staff who clearly
care, but who go home every night.
Her family the other residents
who also are in their own private world.
The only high spots are the cigarettes
she constantly smokes and the
scratch cards she's become addicted to.
I told her she needs to get them both under control.
"What else have I got?" She said.
And I thought, but didn't say,
" Yes, you're right. F all."
She has few visitors.
Maybe one every few months.
That seems to be the way with mental illness.
No flowers or cards or visits.
After 30 years of it....people just forget.
On the way home I
pulled in and cried.
And gave thanks for my
life with all its ups and downs.
And it's normality.