The person I mentioned last time I wrote (for the sake of privacy, let’s call them Person) is still in hospital. Having taken the huge, brave step to self-admit into the dark and lonely place that is their local mental health unit, Person got steadily worse and was sectioned just over a week later. Sectioning is where a medical assessment by two independent parties deems that you are a danger to either yourself or others (or both) to such an extent that you must a. go to a mental hospital and b. not be allowed to leave. Ironically, Person was on the list of people for whom I was running the London Marathon (raising money for Mind). I was looking forward to Person cheering me on on the day, but they couldn’t come because they weren’t allowed out of hospital. I wanted to call when I crossed the finish line, to say how the thought of them kept me going when I wasn’t enjoying it at all, but my courage failed me and I haven’t spoken to Person since. Someone else passed on a ‘well done’ from them.
I am not dealing with this well at all. The hospital stay was supposed to be a blip, a sensible precaution whilst medication was changed, something we (Person’s close friends and family) wouldn’t have to think too hard about and could just move on from. There is no measurable progress, there are no metrics, there’s no data I have access to about how Person is doing other than second- or third-hand via others on the phone. And I’m angry. It took me a while to realise it, but I’m really angry. When I found out how serious the situation was, I couldn’t process it – I was exhausted from the marathon training, and now this. It wasn’t fair. I was supposed to be the centre of attention here, the marathon was my moment. And, worse, I would have given (and still would give) anything for it to be me instead.
I cannot bear to think of Person alone in their horrible, bare, suicide-proof room, day after day, with most of their company comprising health professionals whom Person views as captors, or other fellow captives who are in just as bad a state. I can understand now why hospital staff suffer abuse – I want to go and scream at them until they explain what is happening and when Person will be better and why it’s taking so long. I want to scream at them for letting Person get worse, for labelling Person as ‘aggressive’ and ‘paranoid’ and ‘delusional’ and ‘psychotic’ when Person has never been any of these things before. I want to scream at them extra for not providing anything beyond the bare bones of keeping Person washed and fed, for not offering therapy, for the fact that without family and friends to provide a Kindle and a radio and puzzle books and art materials, Person would just be stuck in this hole with no distractions for the vast majority of 24/7.
I also want to scream at God, for not answering my prayers to make Person better. And I want to scream at the other people who also care for Person, for being so stoic and British about the whole thing when it’s a crisis and there should be melodrama because how else can you express the amount of anguish and confusion we’re all being subjected to? And for not telling me everything, immediately, because how can I feel in control and okay if I don’t even know how much I don’t know? Person threw a table at a wall, Person actually left the mental health bit of the building (under escort) for a couple of hours and it was okay, Person snapped their mobile phone in half, all of these are things I found out hours or days after the fact.
Like Person, I know I need help. I’m going to the doctor, to ask for counselling or maybe just permission to take more of my drugs. I should have done this weeks ago when sh*t not only got real but also went down and hit the fan, but I was too busy wading through it, trying to see a way out. But there isn’t one, for now. I just have to start looking after myself again, which is particularly difficult when all I want to do is call down unnumbered curses on myself in the hope that it will somehow deflect the suffering from Person. And there will be an end, Person is safe where they are if not exactly well, and the doctors say things should change for the better soon. Things for me aren’t exactly looking bright but I’m slowly (and resentfully) coming to terms with the fact that depression is a chronic condition I just have to manage, like diabetes, rather than a thing with an end where one day I’ll have an inspirational story of my epic journey to recovery.
It was last time I had counselling that I realised anger could be a mental health issue, and it definitely is for me now. Is it better than the numb emptiness that’s cost me several hours of work over the last few weeks because I just couldn’t drag myself out of bed? I don’t know. What I do know is that mental health isn’t all about nice fluffy success stories. It’s not a thing we should only talk about when the worst is past. It can be horrible and violent and scary and sad (I have family members who don’t read this blog because they find it too upsetting), but it’s reality for lots of people and it won’t get any less scary until it’s brought out into the open and discussed and understood and accepted. For Person, and maybe for myself, I want to help make that happen.