“The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some form of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you”. Rita Mae Brown
It was us, and it could easily be you, or her, or them (you know, the ones that live in that house or work in an office up the road...). So common, and yet so taboo. Which means that people don’t get help early enough and, as a result, become more ill for much longer and with less chance of a full recovery. Obviously a brilliant (and extremely expensive - for all meanings of the word “expensive”) social strategy....
The book is a mixture of our story in hindsight and as written at the time, all interwoven with Ross’ writings both then and now. A plethora of views of the same events that are often traumatic, sometimes surreal and shot through with songs, videos, poems, pictures - and even comedy...
The parts of the story published here will be hyper-linked (“hyper” being peculiarly apt in some cases) to the multi-media elements.
When things really started to go pineapple shaped, I found it disconcerting to discover just how much comfort and reassurance I got simply from hearing about some of the experiences of others (“old hands”) at a support group. As when you read a line of poetry that expresses exactly what you’ve felt, but couldn’t put into words; just for a moment you feel that you’re not alone - there’s another one out there... I’ve had a similar reaction from other people when I’ve talked about our experiences in public. This, I hope, is more of that.
I’ve learnt a few things about coping with psychosis - both well and really badly - and I’ve since been on a course and everything. The things are few, and they can be very difficult to put into practice. However, I wish I’d known then what I know now (it was all so different before everything changed...), some of which could be useful to others - or not. Ross’ insights, his ability to articulate what psychosis is like from the inside and the things he’s learned about relapse prevention are potentially even more relevant.
So: walk a while in our (nearly wrote “shoes”, but it was more like water wading in flip-flops that dragged your feet at every step) galoshes....
Hugging Barbed Wire - Draft Index of the Book
1 Just a family
2 Thin end of the wedge - marijuana lottery; burning bright; university
3 Stupid cult - making money from madness; the bell Tolles for Ross
4 Early intervention - not clucking enough; everyone but me is mad; bridge balustrade balancing
5 Disastrous dustbin diplomacy - attempted first sectioning; no-one expects...; a friend in need
6 Down and out in the USA - destitute in NY; arrested; lost; not visa waivering, but drowning...
7 *Full blown - break-downs; wall painting; energy vampires; killing his guitar; mission to Stansted
8 Forcibly detained - sectioned, captured; ignored; great escape; parkour roof jumping
9 AWOL - a month on the run; pedaling after policemen; railway riches; good Samaritans
10 Just a second - banging the drum; banging the dad; successful, but forcible sectioning
11 Binned - hospitalisation; NHS inflicts more pain; BBC radio interview; drugs; guilt
12 Going home - is there a life still there for me?
13 Let me be nothing - depression; suicidal thoughts; obsessive thoughts; long, long heart-to-hearts
14 A life less weird - recovery process, anti-stigma shows, conferences
15 If we had to do it all over again... - what would we do different?
* Published here may 2011