The Taxi-driver obligingly packed all the boxes into the boot of the car, and a few extra bits and bobs as I scurried around for more. He followed my directions, to the Christian Healing Centre, where I told him I was staging an art exhibition. If successful, it would transfer to the Arts Centre down on the Quay I enthused. Worryingly, I had no fare for the taxi, which was paid by a caring friend on my arrival. As we unloaded all my boxes- which actually constituted almost the entire contents of my kitchen- I did not receive the response I was hoping. Angrily I shouted at the Chaplain, and stormed off home along a footpath. Unbeknown to me, if I had not arrived fairly shortly, the Police were about to be called.
My bizarre behavior rang alarm bells for family and friends alike, and threatened my safety.
Another worrying characteristic was the amount I was spending, mostly on a credit card previously used for emergencies. When I reached my credit limit, the Company informed me that as my account was so “well-managed” they would increase the limit!”. However, true to form, this one time accounts clerk did manage to keep every single receipt.
The family Doctor arrived, and asked me the day of the week, to which I replied “Ireland”. Later that day a tall grey-haired lady, with a shocking-pink mobile phone, came to tell me that I needed to go to hospital, and I agreed to travel there with my husband. I observed the distress on my Mother-in-law's face as she left the room.
I remember occupying myself with playing cards, drawing, and doing sums – all of which I enjoyed in my early life- but this time they were on walls and windows. It was as if the contents of my mind had spilled out, and I was unable to stuff them all back in. Ultimately, I was sedated and placed in a room with just a mattress and sheets, having had a substantial injection in my bottom. I spent several weeks in a high-dependency ward, and even there I remember setting off the fire alarm.
This was the awful reality of a mind that had finally snapped.
Three weeks earlier, I had suffered the miscarriage of a very much wanted baby. I recall the Consultant who knew of my broken first marriage, and the twenty-year wait to become pregnant, saying to his junior colleagues, “All babies are special, but this one is extra special”. So I believed.
But a few short weeks later, I was in great pain, and the baby was delivered at just fourteen weeks. I was discharged, only to return forty-eight hours later having haemorrhaged at home. Readmission and an operation followed.
For the next seventeen days I barely slept, such was my mental distress. This, coupled with the pain of the earlier divorce, set the scene for a complete mental breakdown. It was several months before
I was fully discharged. I was aware of many prayers on my behalf, from family and friends. One wrote regularly but briefly, “you will get better”. Visits were few, as I found them distressing, but a local Church Minister came each Friday, and would sit with me for a few minutes. I knew he was there, and would look forward to him coming, though I wasn't communicative.
Psychiatric Wards are great levelers, and I firmly believe that given enough mental anguish anyone can suffer a breakdown, and it is not merely a sign of weakness. Turning down the suggested quick route of Electro-Convulsive Treatment, I persisted with medication and occupational therapies to get well. I made a good recovery over a long period of time with all the support I received, coupled with my faith in God whose presence I never doubted.
I still regularly support the Christian Healing Centre. In the early days I asked for prayer for my own healing, prefaced with the usual “It's me again!”. Now thirteen years on, I am a listening ear for many who experience mental illness and distress. I hope that my story encourages others that there is hope, as I am now in my final year training as a lay minister in the Church of England.
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