I got ill with mental illness very young and in a way it stole a lot of my childhood and teenage years away from me. I didn’t get the experiences that other young people had. I never went to university and experienced freshers week, I never experienced my first drink on my 18th Birthday or pizza parties, school canteen food, having fun. Instead I experienced self harm, starvation, suicide attempts and binge eating. For all of my secondary school life I was in a very dark place. And whilst I had to grow up very quickly in some ways, in other ways I remain the twelve year old girl I was when this illness really took its grip and that’s hard. It’s hard to be in an adult world still feeling like a child and only with the life experiences of a child.
I have spent all my life being looked after. As a child I was looked after by my mum and dad and as an adult I have been looked after by nurses and support workers. I crumble with the slightest bit of responsibility that is given to me. For the past year I haven’t even showered or gone to the toilet alone. In fact when I was in the secure unit I wasn’t even trusted to hold the toilet paper myself and was handed it one square at a time.
I’ve experienced trauma and pain and my illnesses have been very distressing and quite frankly horrible. In many ways I have been through more than most adults and yet those very things are what have kept me a child in an adults body.
I still long for my mother, for her hugs and kisses and hand holding. My dad manages my finances because I cannot. I kiss and cuddle and coo my dog. I have teddies on my bed and sleep with the light on. I wear children’s clothes because that’s all that will fit me. I have to ask permission to do anything and I am often told ‘no’. The slightest thing upsets me and throws me into complete and utter turmoil. Tears run down my face, sobs escape my mouth and arms and legs flail. Yet I am old enough to be married with children and have a mortgage and that’s hard. I feel like society puts expectations on me that I cannot meet and my illnesses and situation keep me from growing up even when I’m meant to be a grown up. It’s hard and confusing, scary and shameful to admit but whilst I may be in my twenties, mentally I am still twelve.
A month today I will be transferring from the hospital I’m currently in to my new unit, Cygnet in Coventry. I know pretty much nothing about the place which terrifies me. I have no idea about routine, about whether I’ll be allowed my iPad/internet or what the deal is with visitors. I will be going to a place I’ve never been to with people I’ve never met and will be expected to stay there for a long time.
I’m dreading my last night in this hospital, I doubt I’ll sleep knowing what will happen the next day and I will be very sad to say goodbye to the staff here. I’m scared to leave, I’m used to the staff, the routine, everything. I know where I am and what is happening. I don’t want to leave that.
I’m dreading the car journey down there despite it being with staff I’m very close to. Those two hours will be full of anxiety and fear. It’ll be like a very long goodbye and goodbyes are never nice.
I can’t even begin to imagine how alone and scared I’ll feel tucked into my new bed on my first night there, so many miles away from everything and everyone I know.
My only hope is that I win my appeal at my mental health tribunal later this month otherwise a month today this will be the reality I face.
A couple of years ago I made a short video with Fixers about what it’s like to be sectioned for an eating disorder. This came about after I saw a comment online saying, “I wish I could be sectioned so that I could have a hug” I was utterly shocked by this. Being sectioned is not something I have ever wanted to happen to me and hugs are very rare when you are in hospital. After reading the shocking comment, I made ‘sectioned’ which can be watched here.
My life has changed a lot since then, a lot has happened and when I watch the video now I wish I could update it so I thought I’d do it in a blog post. In the video I had only experienced being sectioned under section 2 of the mental health act. I have now been detained under section 3 of the mental health act since 2015 and this is still on going.
In the video I talk briefly about the two weeks I spent on level 3 which is where a member of staff remains with you at all times, this includes in the shower/bath, on the toilet and whilst sleeping. I have now been on level 4 2:1 for 2 months and this is also ongoing. This means two members of staff are within arms length of me at all times. So now it’s not one pair of eyes on me while I sleep, go to the toilet, shower etc but two pairs of eyes on me. I haven’t gone to the toilet unsupervised since May 2016.
My ‘choice’ remains the same. I have to drink sickly, gloopy supplements or they go down the tube I have up my nose. The difference is that now I can’t bare to let it touch my lips and so everything goes down the NG tube. I say ‘choice’ because I don’t really get a choice, I have to have the supplement drink one way or another. Some days I am restrained whilst they pump the feed down my tube.
I still feel my skin crawling with calories, itching, bubbling. Maybe this sensation will always remain with me around food, maybe it will never go away and that scares me.
In the video, I say “The final section, I hope it was” and I am gutted to say it wasn’t, I have a few more to add to this list. I wish my update was that I was living a normal life and the facts of the video had not changed. I wish I could say I was well rather than wishing I could remake the video to fit with my current circumstances.
My message remains the same: Mental illnesses are not fashion accessories, eating disorders are not glamorous and being detained under the mental health act is not something to strive for. This is still my life and I would not wish it upon anyone.
I’m on 2:1 level 4 observations which means I have two members of staff (one qualified nurse and one nursing assistant) within arms reach of me at all times. It has been like this for nearly 2 months. I am never on my own. They are with me when I’m using the toilet, shower/bath, when I’m sleeping, when I’m changing clothes, washing my hands, blogging and tweeting. They are always there and I get no privacy.
Right now I just want to be on my own, in a silent room to let out the tears I’ve been holding back for so long. I want to be able to tweet, blog, Facebook, instagram without staff watching over my shoulder.
Alone time was always so sacred and important to me. I enjoy silence too. It’s nice to be in a field with no one in sight and the silence is only broken by the sound of your own footsteps. I used to sit on my sofa with no TV on, just total silence and I enjoyed it. It calmed me.
It will be this way until I go to the new unit in May. I will then have done nearly 6 months with two people either side of me at all times. I don’t think I can do it, but then again I don’t have a choice. This is how it has to be.
Okay so it’s been a while, I spent 8 months in a secure unit with my weight dropping and my mental health declining, then in December an eating disorder nurse from my home team came to see me at 8am in the morning. I remember being woken at 7am and having a shower on a chair because my legs would not stand and then being whisked off to the relaxation room to see her.
The nurse wanted to admit me to a general hospital for refeeding but I refused as it was so close to Christmas and I just wanted to be where I felt settled for the festive period. That night I was driven back to my home county and admitted to a general ward. I felt like I was living in a nightmare. I had an NG tube inserted and was started on a feed straight away, drips were in my arms and blood tests taken.
A month later, here I am, still in the same bed, still being fed through a tube and struggling enormously. I feel fatter with each day, the sips of ensure are getting harder and not easier. The plan from here is to go to an eating disorder unit in London which I’m super scared about. I don’t know any more. This battle is hard.
I’m sitting on the end of my bed in hospital. Numb but in pain. I don’t understand anymore. Utter confusion. Dreaming of a future like a child, imagining I’ll be a vet or a teacher but seeing reality like an adult…I am just a psychiatric ward patient….I probably don’t even deserve the word ‘just’ in front of that. I’m a nothing, a no one. Three months locked away has completely detached me from the world around me. I belong nowhere and with no one. The world outside the window doesn’t feel like mine. It’s like I don’t remember what the rolling hills look like, nor the supermarket aisles or petrol stations. My ballet shoes disintegrated when my life turned into compost. Maybe new flowers will grow out of the soil but I doubt it. It feels like I’ll never feel the sun on my skin again and that my heart will never vibrate with the bass of loud music. Will I always be gone? Will I ever find me again?
This morning I spoke on BBC Breakfast with Matthew Ellis, Staffordshire’s police and crime commissioner to talk about the use of cells as a place of safety for people suffering from mental illness.
A home affairs committee report has called for a change in the law so that cells are no longer deemed a ‘place of safety’ under the Mental Health Act. I spoke out about my experience of the night I spent in a cell due to a mental health crisis. I was not violent, I had not done anything wrong, I was unwell. You would not leave a physically ill person in a cell and in the care of police officers so why would you leave someone with a mental health problem in this situation? Mental illnesses are health problems requiring health care.
I hope by continually speaking out and raising awareness then change will happen. If we are to end the use of cells then we need to improve care. More beds are needed, there’s a lack of funding, a lack of staffing. We need changes not only in crisis care but in the little bit before crisis care when people are saying “Look I’m really not okay, I need some help” and are often brushed off or sent home and told to have a cup of tea. If we are to succeed in ending the use of cells, we need major improvements in our failing health care system.