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Every Mind Matters (Hearing Voices)

Good morning from Arundel Eccentrics

Bit of a change from light-hearted chit-chat this morning.

We've heard a lot about mental illness just recently.

The NHS have just launched their
Every Mind Matters Campaign

With that in mind and
with Christmas looming, the time when
 loved ones supposedly get together,

 I thought I would repost this from earlier in the year.

Hearing Voices

I went to visit someone close to me yesterday.

The path of her life
 changed forever
 at 22 years old.

 One week away from completing her nurse training she was beautiful.
A vivacious, funny, gregarious young woman, with a promising career and life ahead.

She dressed stylishly.
 Always wore at least a dab of makeup.
Dated footballers.
 Went clubbing.
 Had a large circle of friends who adored her.

In short...led a normal life.

But... something wasn't right.
 And she just 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 said she 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 daughter's every move.

They told her to walk into the sea in Brighton and just keep walking.
How she didn't drown we don't know.
It happened twice.

Her mother knew she couldn't keep her safe.

A succession of psychiatric wards followed.

She became involved with an alcoholic schizophrenic man.

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 Majesty's Pleasure on the Isle of Wight.
The one good thing to come out of the day.

Chunks of family history were erased
  after ECT treatment.

In those days much of the treatment was enforced.
She was considered too ill to make the decision herself.

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 inviting her.

Visitors slowly stopped arriving.
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 will play me up," she said.

They 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 are the other residents
 most of whom are also 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"

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 people forget or are too nervous to face it.

On the way home I
pulled into a layby,
put my head in my hands and sobbed.

When I drove home,
I gave thanks for my
 life with all its chaotic ups and downs.

And it's relative normality.