A Phonecall From Illinois

Tuesday 21st March 2017

Very quickly a hospital can become a very comforting place. I’m here in a state of total distress but I can hide in my bay by closing the curtain to shut the world out. It’s not easy as there are obviously people in here with their own problems. A woman across from me was obviously in a worse state than me as she was speaking to herself about how Jesus had put her there.  It can be hard to shut yourself away completely but with my headphones on and the curtains closed I can almost be totally alone.

Our local Hospital, Royal Cornwall Hospital Treliske is always in the news for being bottom of tables and one of the worst hospitals in the country. So the press would have you believe. Yet here I am, being looked after and watching the staff run around to make sure everybody is receiving the best of care with smiles on their faces. Though some people need more care than others, they are still making time to come and check on me, ask me how I am and ensure I am ok. I can’t fault the staff, the care or anything from where I am laying. These really are some of the most amazing people on this planet doing everything they can to make everyone’s unfortunate stays a little more bearable than they would be otherwise.

You’ll be surprised at how some people who barely know you will try to help. Let them, even if it’s only a quick email or message. Don’t shut the door as this will help you far more than you realise at this current time.

I am snowed under by more wonderful messages of support from people online I’ve never even met. It is mind blowing but it’s also helping me immensely to begin to self heal after one almighty OD.

I was listening to Ginger Wildheart (Ginger you’ll never really know how much you’ve helped me with your songs and words) when my phone went and a number came up on it saying Illinois. Now, I only know one person who lives in Illinois so I answered the phone to hear the familiar voice of my childhood hero, Al Doughty.

A bit of a backstory here to explain how much this call meant to me. Al plays bass for a band called Jesus Jones. I first heard their music in February 1991 when I heard their top 40 single, “Who? Where? Why?” This started a major fandom for me and because of Al, I started to learn to play the bass myself. I followed them for years and met them a couple in ’96/97 when I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to get myself some roadying work with them.

Who? Where? Why?

Fast forward the band leaving their heyday behind them of chart topping hits and albums and I always have loved their music. In 2015, the band asked Rachel and I (as I have had facebook contact with them) if would mind having a shot at using some of the footage we’d shot of them at a gig in Southend for a track off their new EP called “Fall”. They’d seen some gig footage we’d done before that had been put up on YouTube and liking what they saw, they thought we would do a good job.

Since then we went on tour with them as their Merch Monkeys and filmed a lot of stuff on the road. I’ve always wanted to use whatever skills I have to help them promote themselves as they re-launch their careers after a very unofficial hiatus, as they’d never officially split up, they just stopped recording new songs. This experience has brought Rachel and I a lot closer to the band, yet still what was happening blew me away as never in a million years did I think that Al from Jesus Jones would be phoning to speak to me.

So here I am with my childhood hero asking me how I am and taking the time to thank me for all the work I’ve done for the band. He told me that he has good international connection rates and if I ever need a chat I can call him and he’ll ring me right back. That hit me emotionally that my hero truly cares about me, personally!!!

Rachel came to see me in the afternoon to bring in all the stuff I’d need to be discharged elsewhere when the time came. This was really upsetting as we both love each other so much but I understand that she has to put her 2 children first and for the time being at least, this means I won’t be going home.

Psychiatric Assessment

This is going to open up a lot of hurt and you need to be honest. This is make or break time as getting Psychiatric Treatment in this day in age is like chasing the holy grail. Don’t hold back or make anything sound better than it really is. The more open, honest and dare I say brutal you are, the better your chances of getting help.

After the initial introductions from the psychiatrist who’s name has long since popped out of my messed up brain, the first question I was asked was have I suffered any trauma in the past?

I guess the reason she asked this was due to the information given to her from the Nurse Amy who spoke to Rachel in depth about me and had taken notes.

My response was quite literally, where the hell do I start. It was said I should start from what got me here. So that’s where I started, in the middle and we I summed up that my meds aren’t seeming to work, the stresses we’d been under, the anniversary of my grandfather’s suicide, etc. I’m not going to bore you with it all as I mentioned what put me in hospital before but we meandered from the now back to my childhood and this opened up the lid to the Pandora’s Box that is my underlying trauma.

I’ll briefly outline it here because it’s really difficult to explain without going on for hours and let’s face it, that will more than likely bore the shit out of you. So please forgive me if I’d tell you to go and watch a painted wall dry if you want to be bored as I don’t have it in my heart to put you through an experience equally as boring and bloody depressing too!.

Ok, here goes. My parents were never what you would call, emotionally warm and loving. My Dad was a very cold, harsh disciplinarian who had on occasions smacked me around for the most insignificant things like dropping a pasty on the floor whilst out (as witnessed by other family members). On top of this, my Mum wasn’t the person I could talk to about anything. She seemed to want to play the victim all the time by bursting into hysterics and telling me how she was such a bad parent instead of giving me the emotional, physical or psychological support she should have given me. She just wasn’t there in that way for anyone. If there were any problems that I confided in her, I was made to feel that it was my fault for bringing it to her attention and therefore upsetting her!!! Just what you need as a child, guilt at being a child who needs love and support.

I was really, really close to my grandparents (my mum’s parents) and at the age of 8 I tried running away to their place to live (it was about a mile away). I was given more love and attention by my grandparents than I ever received from my own parents so it’s no wonder I wanted to not be at home.

At the age of 11, and only 6 weeks from completing my primary school education in Swindon, we moved to Plymouth. This had been on the cards for months and I know that at the time the move had to happen then, it couldn’t wait 6 weeks. However I pleaded for them to let me stay with my grandparents so I could complete my primary school time with my friends in Swindon. To this was told “NO”. I didn’t want to move in the first place, and I knew I would be leaving my grandparents who were my support network behind in Swindon. Nowadays things such as the distance don’t seem so much with the internet and Skype but to an 11 year old in 1989, this was like the end of the world.

I explained to the psychiatrist that on moving date I was the last person to shut the door on the only home I’d known to that point and the one where I wanted to stay. I also told her that doing this quite simply broke me.

We used to go back to visit family every 6 weeks, and every 6 weeks, when it came time to return to Plymouth I used to relive the trauma of the unwanted move and the separation from my Grandparents time and time again.

We also discussed my Grandfather’s suicide, how that affected me and how I blamed myself as I felt that I could have stopped it and that I knew he was going to do it as by this time I was already suffering from Mental Health issues myself and could recognise the troubles he was going through due to my own feelings.

I spoke about being sexually abused and groomed not long after my Grandfather’s death, my relationship problems as I entered adulthood, got married, had kids and eventually ended up divorced.

We discussed my being transgender and how that has affected my entire life as it stopped the contact I was having with my youngest daughter and left me disowned by my parents, my sister and my Dad’s entire family. With family like this, who needs enemies? I’d simply much rather be an orphan, which is exactly what I feel like now.

For 2 hours I went to some really dark places that I had kept hidden away since my childhood and spent most of the time in floods of tears as I relived some of the most traumatic and painful parts of my life.

At the end of this I was told that I am going to get a new referral/assessment as an outpatient with a Consultant Psychiatrist. They will relook at all my medication and start everything again from ground up. I am also being put on to an emotional coping course as they feel that I never learnt the skills in childhood to cope due to the traumas I experienced and my parents behaviour towards me.

You are going to feel totally drained and exhausted at the end of this. It will start a chain reaction that probably won’t really hit you for a few days. If you have been totally open and honest with them then you should get the help you need. You’ll feel some relief but to be honest it’s going to be too hard to process any of this right now.

Nobody ever said that any of this was going to be easy, but be proud, you deserve a huge pat on the back for making it this far. This is a huge step into commencing your recovery.