I don't know if I have the mind I was born with, but I know my mind got hurt along the way.
I have had psychotic experiences for over 30 years now. I am more able to function than say 20 years ago, yet the ghosts of it continue to haunt me. When I first heard voices and saw visions, it was thought psychosis was a brain disease with a genetic basis.
More recently that has become a very weak hypothesis. More and more studies acknowledge childhood trauma as a major influence in developing psychosis. You can read more about some of the studies at Intervoice.
My father heard his own voices that probably told him the same things he said to me. He didn't pass on faulty genes, he passed on a crushed heart.
These recent studies are not news to me. Not now and not when I was on the ward hearing the common denominator of horrific life stories that people knew was the reason they were there.
I currently am working through why my voices say what they say. They are the words of my abuse and abusers. They may not write my life story now but they scream at every thought with their song. I know logically my voices are telling me lies. But my heart thinks it is the truth. And my very patient psychologist and partner are trying to stop me believing those lies.
I made this film to juxtapose my childhood photos with the voices I hear to see if I can see myself as a child.
Let's hope so.
I have recently given up my occupational therapy course. I wasn’t the right mind shape for the role. So I am at a bit of a loss as to what to do next. I asked the question to some facebook friends: what other career options I should consider? Stand-up comedian came up more than once.
I would love to be one, but I am also a paranoid who will be wondering why people are laughing at me – you can see the dilemma I have.
Not only that, anyone who read my first memoir ‘The World is Full of Laughter’ will remember that my abusive, controlling, narcissistic dad wanted to be a comedian. The best he could do was appear on the Michael Barrymore Show and get laughed off for being so bad. It broke his heart but mine too.
My dad would physically or emotionally abuse me if I didn’t laugh at his jokes. Ironically, it is my humour that has saved my soul many a time when dealing with my past. Being human is a ridiculous and absurd career.
Can you see the difficulty in pursuing that career path? I would need a very understanding mentor to support me. In the meantime, let me make you laugh in separate rooms.
Yesterday I attended a creative meeting looking at creating art around the theme of hysteria, and the invitees were asked to talk a few minutes about their take on hysteria. This was my talk:
I look at hysteria two ways.
Firstly, I see hysteria as performance, applauded by psychiatry and society. Make your madness entertaining for sanity, make it a separate, strange phenomena for us. The body and mind might be at war with each other, but although we may sympathise, we will support that war and revel in our voyeurism.
Both my mind and body don’t feel they belong to me, I feel the solidity of neither. What I do feel is the fight between them. My body looks the way it does because of my mind.
Trauma was inflicted on my body, taught my brain to hate myself for it, which in turn taught my body to hate the mind.
My mind feels under constant threat. My body is a burden to me. The only time they can work together is through art.
Dualism is a stand off, when it should be a dance.
I use creativity to explore that conflict, and be the first footsteps of that dance.
The second way I look at it is as an angry woman.
The female body is not allowed to get angry, not allowed to protest, not allowed to be different, not allowed to be free from external control. Hysteria is easier to deal with than rage. If you say this woman is justifiably angry, what can you do, if you are part of a system that solicits that anger? You have to demean and pathologise, to make the person inferior, manageable, disempowered, so you can help her feel empowered, and less inferior. What are we going to do about psychiatry as social control? Blame it on the patriarchy; don’t put the blame on my pussy.
When I was on the ward once, I had an epiphany. Here were people screaming at the world that hurt them, but they were not allowed to. The aspiration was to be silent and passive whilst being fucked over. That is recovery.
It is about enforced silence so maybe it’s time to make some noise. Or give rage a camera, so it can shoot and shoot and shoot. Or dance and dance and dance.
I made connectiions at the meeting and look forward to the dance.
The final part of my ladybird book of the menopause series
I remember 7/7 very well. I was an inpatient on a psych ward at St Thomas Hospital, and out of nowhere there were convoys of ambulances streaming in the A&E dept of the hospital. There were no more red double decker buses going over the bridge.
My mum texted me that there were a series of bombs on london transport. I went into a ward round and maintained the belief the world was too painful to live in. It was an inappropriate response apparently.
They didn't show me humanity. That came later that day when a woman most of the staff thought was a lost cause with no life behind her eyes (I knew differently) made every staff member who couldn't go home a cup of tea or coffee and gave them a reassuring pat on their backs. Her kindness saved me that day.
The world outside the ward had the most screams that day. We didn't seem so mad. New madnesses were created by the trauma of that day. A new bloom of nightmares and pain.
I was locked away. What could I do but seek light on the ward.