The Cell

The Cell

TRIGGER WARNING: Hypomania, schizoaffective disorder, dissociation disorder, trauma

That light is so bright, the crack in the wall is illuminated perfectly, giving it a foreboding appearance as if the darkness of the crack is a tunnel to another world. Deep as the blackest ocean.

At this point the DVLA Doctor had just said:

“Kathryn has a long history of severe psychiatric illness, drug and alcohol dependency and has clearly been lying to her psychiatrist.”

My psychiatrist had gone at this point. He booked out an afternoon, free of charge, to represent my medical history and current diagnosis in court but because the hearing was delayed by two hours he’d had to say his bit and go. 

He wasn’t there to defend neither me nor himself against the full force of the DVLA as they attempted and triumphed in dragging my entire mental health history through the mud and even questioning his authority and professional opinion. By the way he’s one of the most respected psychiatrists in the UK…

A doctor had made a mistake. She had written in my medical notes that I saw ACORN Drug and Alcohol services in 2019, the same year I applied to get my driving license back. In fact I hadn’t used that service since 2009 so I suspect this mistake was a typo. 

The plot thickens. I requested my full notes to see what was stopping the DVLA giving me back my driving license. Apparently I’m epileptic (not true, never have been), have Unstable Personality Disorder (not true, never have been) and hilariously smoke five cigars a day (oh the finest Cuban of course). 

Whether this doctor simply got the wrong idea from what I admit is a messy medical history, confused me with another patient or simply made these things up I will probably never know.  

That crack in the ceiling is looking menacing again. 

After two hours of questioning and being called a liar, I was dissociating toward the end of our afternoon in court. As they read out the verdict, I had lost, I couldn’t look at the magistrates, I couldn’t look at the doctors, solicitors or even my husband in the gallery, I simply wasn’t there.

It was too stressful and even though the doctor in question who had stated I was alcohol dependent (not true, never have been) had actually retracted her many errors in a letter, this was not accepted as strong enough and I was deemed too “disabled” to drive. It was a shock after a confident solicitor had told me it was pretty open and closed. I wasn’t alcohol dependent therefore they had no reason to stop me driving. He was wrong but got paid anyway. 

I should probably explain at this point that 6.5 years ago I made a terrible decision. I drank and drove home. I actually parked the car outside my flat before the blue lights went on. They had followed me home for the 20 minute journey home from the pub. 

I got out of the car and offered my wrists together, anticipating the hand cuffs. 

“Have you been drinking?” The Policewoman said. 

“Yes. I’m very sorry, I’m in big trouble aren’t I?” 

Snap, the cuffs clicked together and I was guided into the back of the Police car to be taken back to the town I had just driven home from. 

Weeping and shouting hysterically I thumped on the bare, plastic, dentist glove coloured walls, kicking and screaming, but no one came. 

As the hours passed I went from indignant, to hysterical, to calmer than a cucumber, practising my yoga up the walls in that grubby place, being told to sleep as every half hour they banged on the door yet again, lights blazing through at me.  

I had told them I needed my medication for bipolar disorder, that I was three hours late taking it and if I didn’t have it I could have a hypomanic, depressive or psychotic episode… Being completely honest, I knew one night wouldn’t make much of a difference, and unfortunately that’s also what the doctor, who looked suspiciously like the doctor I would end up seeing just a few months later as my latest episode really took hold, also said. And, after all, on the occasions that I go out and get thoroughly off my rocker I purposefully don’t take it as too much alcohol mixed with Quetiapine is at best the worst hangover you can imagine and at worst, lethal. Three hours after the scraggly, greased back black haired Policewomen with the missing teeth demanded what I wanted this time, I was taken to see the duty doctor. After my 30-second interview I was taken back to my cell and told I’d be fine. 

I had been caught drink driving in June 2015, just days after getting engaged. I admit I had driven my car drunk many times in the past, now I look back it was always during a hypomanic episode; not that that’s an excuse. The hypomania I suffer (I say suffer, it’s actually loads of fun) causes me to be reckless, spontaneous and manically elated leading to all kinds of terrible decisions. Spending money, drink driving and signing up to expensive subscriptions because they seem like the very thing I need for success, are all results of the hypomania I have experienced for as long as I can remember.

I was breathalysed at the side of the road and blew 117 and 121 – over three times the legal limit. That night I was locked up and spent my first and hopefully last night in a cell. It was horrific. I didn’t know it but I had been unstable for some time by then, my interchangeable highs and lows beginning to mess with my life again, and that night I went through a similar array of emotions that I had done during a previous brush with the law years before that led to my being sectioned. Feeling invincible and like I was there for a grand and holy purpose to weeping like a distraught child and punching the walls like an angry teenager. 

The doctor I saw should have noticed and looking back I don’t think I should have been locked up for those 11 hours of internal torture. My moods changed so intensely that every half an hour I called the police woman on guard to say I needed to get out, see the doctor, needed a cigarette, a wash, loo paper, anything just to get some human contact and hopefully be taken out of the cell for a few moments. I missed my medication that night but I can’t blame my mental state on that. These medicines often work by building up in your system over time, which means if you miss one it doesn’t make a huge difference to the levels in your blood.

When a person has a history of mental health issues it can be very difficult to break away from the stigma, judgement and fear permeating from others and perhaps particularly from governing bodies and corporations. Once crazy does NOT mean always crazy. I admit I’ve had periods of serious ill health in the past and I’ve behaved recklessly, dangerously and sometimes I’m not sure how I’m alive, but I’ll be damned if that’s going to stop me living a normal future. 

I have been on my current medication and living a healthy lifestyle for a number of years now. I excel at work and I do a lot of charity work in mental health. I am stable, happy and excited for the future.

I first applied to get my license back in October 2019, four years after my DUI conviction and two years after the ban was over, in October 2021 I got it back!