I wasn’t missing. Technically. At least in my manic mind I wasn’t. I was on the run, like the heroine in a sci-fi film. I had escaped the confines of the home where nurses and doctors were trying to bring me down from my high; had caught a maxi-taxi and headed straight to my oasis, my home away from home, the Hilton. There I checked in and texted my anxious family that I was ok but I refused to tell them where. There I proceeded to live for a week or maybe two, as I wanted to: anonymous, incognito. The good life: breakfast at dawn, then pots of coffee throughout the day, delivered with steaks and fries and pitchers and boxes of pineapple juice. That and all brands of cigarettes, actually only the best.
There I booked a flight to Tel Aviv that I would never catch. There I reserved a hotel room in downtown Jerusalem that I would never occupy. Why Israel? Well I always wanted to visit and I also believed I was some sort of Messiah, certainly a cut above Jesus, in whose role as Redeemer and Saviour I do not buy, manic or not manic. There I would be taken advantage of by so-called friends, the ones I let know where I was. They stole from me money, on top of the money I had spent and expended like there was no tomorrow. There I lived my manic high. I did not believe I was ill enough to go into hospital although my family, neighbours and true friend, Maria, knew that I did. But I was terrified, no, mortified by the idea of confinement. No St Ann’s for me, not that medieval hell hole where I had been interned the last time I was entering psychosis.
Voluntary I had knocked on the door and let myself into inhumane not living conditions, just pure unadulterated in your face barbarity. Bathroom tiles in pieces, showers, no drips really, no activities for the patients, nothing but bars. Sub-par food and cages, yes cages, for those who were supposed to be a danger to themselves and others. Where I had seen before a woman prostrate on the dank concrete floor naked, naked, naked. “We don’t put people in cages!” a social worker rebuked. So I was seeing things? And though I was, things such as green spaceships, this unsightly sore was not a confection. It was openly oozing, there for all patients to see. At home, before fleeing, I had begun posting the most bizarre treatise on Facebook and let it all hang out, sparing no detail of my tortured existence. Truth hyperbolised and true linguistics, for that part is as true as any Van Gogh or Pollock is, the mind capable of unimaginable speed and insight and creativity in a state of mania.
How could I write about my life, about being bipolar without recognising that I was in a manic state? Because I did not want to believe that once more this awful chronic illness had got me, particularly when this time I had not stopped taking my meds. But ever since the prior year’s lumbar surgery with the accompanying layers upon layers of pain killers, my medication needed tweaking and tweaking, to achieve the right formula to keep me stable. It’s all about chemistry-my brain’s chemistry. I HATE BIPOLAR, I HATE BIPOLAR, I HATE BIPOLAR. Not the stigma. I’m open about my illness, but I feel as if I am its prisoner. It is chronic and I have to fight and fight it, but sometimes I lose the battle. No, the war.
Over and over there is mental death and then mental rebirth, when you open your stabilised eyes and view the carnage the bout of unreality has left behind. The stigma I can handle because I know just what I want to say to the people who call me mad: at least I have a diagnosis. Or those who feel superior yet whose lives are bereft of the ethics I hold so dear. I send them all to the devil. I came back home and continued to post and to drink saccharine coffee and searched high and low for pineapple juice.
No other would suffice. I was now entering psychosis, I only wanted a particular type of cigarette and when I couldn’t get these thought the world was conspiring against me. I had sliced off my locks with a kitchen knife and would only settle for a particular shade of blonde. When unavailable I was convinced that there was a major conspiracy at hand. I was self-medicating too. Not “recreational” drugs, but with valium and Rivotril to keep me as calm as possible, for as long as possible.
My family was as tortured. They could not get me to grasp that I needed hospitalisation. I was flying high, driving like the wind and it felt glorious. Until I hit a car from behind, luckily causing no damage. And then as I spent money or gave it away to vultures who knew I was sick, sick parasites themselves, I began to crash, not into cars, but into myself. My brain felt as if it were on fire and I was becoming depressed. Sobbing, I finally picked up the phone and reached out. Come and get me, but please no St Ann’s, no cruel treatment. I could not bear it. They took me to Mount Hope, to the Inpatients Unit (IPU) and there after two weeks, I was more or less back to normal. During the last week, there was a day most unreal when word reached the ward of people being held in cages and treated with tasers. The ward was upside down since the morning, the doctors were late, called out we imagined to treat with that nightmare.
There but for the grace of God, whoever that God might or might not be, go I, or we, the bipolars, schizophrenics, the major depressive disorder patients, now termed clients. A word I find incongruous. I don’t feel like a client: I feel like a patient. Someone who has to spend periods on a ward, in a dormitory. But there for the first time I could face my disease, thanks to the caring and well informed staff, thanks to a humane environment. The unit is less than a decade old, but it is outperforming St Ann’s, a virtual hell hole. No, a real hell.
St Ann’s: paradise on the outside, inferno within. I have to forgive myself, but I cannot and will not forgive those who took advantage of me when I was ill. I refuse to. This is the ill fate of the mentally ill. You are scammed by predators, your word is not believed, because who believes you? Except your dear ones. Those who came to visit me while I was at Mount Hope. Today, Saturday, I went out by myself for the first time. I drove with caution. To the police station where I reported all ID missing. I had obliterated myself somehow during the last days before I entered the hospital. Lost or tossed my passports and driver’s permit. I also have no bank cards and must get them all back. Somehow I managed to undo my access to online banking, and my house, though not the storm I expected it to be is certainly in disarray. Once more I have to rebuild. Once more I have to battle. Once more I have to apologise to those I have hurt. Unintentionally but nevertheless the guilt is there. Can I say I will never be warded again? No, I cannot.
But I must be optimistic. Coping: medication, therapy, diet, exercise and sleep. Lots of sleep and rest. That I can write again is a miracle to me. I plan to seek monetary help from social services: my back is shot and my brain is shot and un-shot and then shot again. Who will hire me? For I will not lie, dissemble or what have you. I will not deny that I suffer from this illness that I loathe. Like any other chronic condition I pray: find a cure, find a cure. Turn off the light switch. Will I miss the highs? Likely.
They are fun, but you can end up dead. You are more a threat to yourself than to others: indeed they are a threat to you. As we have seen this week. There is no oversight of private facilities, of any kind. There is no oversight of public ones. If there were St Ann’s would not be the medieval outfit it is. Like a scene from the dungeon of the Tower of London.
How staff manage there is unfathomable, but I