Where are we? Something isn’t right. I can see you walking through the door of the ward, holding my first ever classical guitar within its battered 15 year old case. The case is dripping in scraps of shoelace, red, yellow and green bits of string, badges, stickers and pins, all held together with gaffa tape. You smile at me, trying to hide the hurt you feel as you look upon the one you love who is not well enough to love you back. I feel your warmth as you walk in and reach out to embrace my malnourished body. But wait. I’m not in that body. I look down and there is a swollen belly, strong legs, meaty arms and large breasts under the sheets. Something isn’t right. Where are we?
You spoke to me that morning. Just the usual chit chat about what was coming that day, your plans and when you would be home for supper. I remember nothing of that. I was back on the ward, watching your beautiful face fight back the tears as you brought music back to me while I attempted to recover.
Complex PTSD is not always there, attacking and warping my reality each morning, but that day I was back on the psychiatric ward, reliving my time in hospital under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. It was frightening. My time in hospital was traumatic. I didn’t eat or sleep for three days because the psychosis that had gripped me meant I couldn’t retain the information they told me on where I was meant to sleep, so I didn’t think I was allowed to. I was the watcher. There to keep an eye on things. To protect the others from the forces of evil that were trying to permeate through the very walls and kill us in our beds. I couldn’t risk sleeping. I was the watcher. As long as I stayed awake they couldn’t attack, for these forces couldn’t be seen by human eyes, if they did they would cease to exist and their mission would fail.
I didn’t eat for three days. I looked at the board with our meal times and saw a name similar to mine but not my name, so thought I wasn’t allowed to eat. They spelled my name incorrectly for those first few days and it was only when I was seen by a doctor on day three that someone fetched me a sandwich and they corrected my name. It took another day for me to notice and go down to the refectory. I remember when I did eat it filled not only my empty belly but my soul, warming me from the inside out. Phew, I needed that. I was tiny. I had lost two stone in as many weeks.
I started a mutiny while I was in hospital. I drew a circle of runes on the ground and had a number of the patients enter the circle “in perfect love and perfect trust” with me. We were protected within it. We refused to leave or take our medication. They wouldn’t control us anymore. As I watched my comrades dragged inside, kicking and screaming, one by one, and they were forcibly injected with sedatives and the medication that, as I look back, I realise they probably needed, I was filled with a deeper sense of determination. I would not give in and the display of violence was their doing, not mine. Since then I can’t help but harbour a deep sadness and guilt. What had I done with my power that day? To cause so much distress and torture to my comrades. The circle, drawn to protect and give love, had absolutely failed. They had won. At this point, when there were just three of us left, my mother phoned me and told me to give up, that I was causing harm and that I needed to listen to the doctors and nurses. I don’t remember what I said but her fierce tone broke me. I was done. I did not get dragged in against my will that night and I did not get injected. Nor did the two last men standing. We walked inside, hand in hand, and accepted our fate. Enough was enough. The violence hurt and I wouldn’t be the cause of anymore of it. Even if it meant being controlled and our minds warped by their mind altering medications. We took our medication and went to bed. The others were alright the next day and thanked me for the security they had felt for the few hours the circle contained us. I smiled back at their incredible strength and we embraced each other in a group, reminiscing. Forever connected by our time in the circle. I’ve never seen any of them since I came out of hospital.
There are more memories from my five days in hospital but I think that will do for now.
Yesterday marks 13 years to the day since I was detained under the Mental Health Act, which followed a suicide attempt. Yesterday I awoke back in hospital. Yesterday I saw my beautiful husband’s eyes filled with fear, regret and pain. Yesterday was supposed to be a normal Thursday.
Complex PTSD is exactly that; complex. Usually mine manifests as psychotic nightmares; yesterday it was flashbacks. I was forced to relive some traumatic experiences. I took care of myself for the rest of the day. I went out and enjoyed the beauty of my new habitat, spent time in nature, swam in the cool sea, soaked in the sun and I talked to some of my heroes. I barely worked. Only essential tasks were done. And that’s ok. It turned out to be a good day.