It Begins

It's New Year's Eve and while people across the country look out their favourite outfits and pour the first of many drinks, I find myself in a glass room with two police officers, waiting for a man I haven't yet met to decide my fate.

This is my third visit to this hospital in a week. I know how this goes. I've learned the script by heart. 

We'll wait here until a stranger with notepads for arms sits down in the opposite chair and looks me over with eyes full of expectation. I'll recite the words they want to hear - crisp, sterile words cloaked in bubble wrap and cotton wool - until they respond with silent applause and permission to exit stage left. The police will escort me home (despite my desperate pleas to do anything but) and hand over the baton marked 'Duty of Care' to friends who will carry it sleepily to their beds, wondering when they auditioned for this part.

I know how the scene plays out. I've rehearsed it well.

I've been with the police for more than four hours now. The day shift - with their kind promises and fatherly offers of vending machine treats -  have been replaced with two bundles of pent-up energy built for noisy New Year streets and not this echoing silence punctured only by the taunt of the clock.

Tick ..tock.

Tick ..tock.

I'm sat on the floor when the man shows up. It's cold outside, I haven't eaten all day and I left the house without a coat. I'm leaning in keenly, hoping for some warmth, but the radiator isn't on. 

"Wouldn't you be more comfortable in a chair?" he asks.

I prefer the floor, actually, but my role propels me upwards to a seat. We face each other across a dusty table, an ocean of difference waiting to be bridged. He glances briefly at his notepad and begins.

He recites a dramatic soliloquy filled with exaggerated pauses and magnified truths: a speech designed to instil hope that immerses me only in fear. He talks to me about health and sadness; about broken bodies and bleeding limbs; about darkness and light and everyday things. He puts my BMI 4 figures below what it is and I feel fat instead of flattered, but he perceives the heaviness that hides beneath my skin. He pokes and prods at unhealed wounds with words that burn and sting, but he sees where they hit and he understands - he 'gets it'.  He is harsh and he is kind and I am disarmed by both these things.

I try my best to say the right words back to him - my final piece before he points me to the exit - but I fluff my lines and suddenly there is a change in the lighting, a scenery shift, and we have entered into an unfamiliar script. The room is a cage now and I the creature held within.

They hold me here unwillingly while tears flow fearfully down my face. And we wait.

There are new characters in this unexpected play - two women who take their time but arrive with jackets still on, clearly not planning to stay. They offer me an opening to say my lines again and they are better this time - closer to the comforting words their ears expect - but my delivery is all wrong and they stare back at me with eyes weighed down by disbelief.

I have failed somehow and it comes at a cost.

They aren't going to let me leave. They have a piece of paper that says this is how it has to be. I try to walk out, but I am caught - reined back in - and I feel like a vulnerable animal, powerless and afraid. 

They walk me down a marathon of corridors and up stairs kaleidoscoped by eyes that prickle and gleam. They ring the doorbell and abandon me to the mercy of that which lies within. The familiar face that answers provides a split second of reassurance, but I am so very frightened and unsure.

She leads me to a tiny room stacked high with bandages and pills. She pricks my finger; continues the questioning; sets my feet on scales that count out my shame. There is a TV mumbling in the distance and somewhere loud music plays - a blast of normality that seems somehow out of place. I am paced back down the corridor, paraded before a blur of faces until we reach the place where she will leave and I must remain. 

I am curled up on the bed weeping when the fireworks first spark, buried beneath blankets and borrowed pyjamas three sizes too big. While a multitude of windows observe the fiery display, I am watched by a stranger from behind a glass pane. I feel burst and broken; tethered and caged; empty and fading away. 

"This is not how it was meant to end," I think.

But as explosions dance across the sky and the air is filled with 'Auld Lang Synes', this is really how it all begins: Now. Here. Sectioned.

I've thought long and hard about posting this. It's taken me about seven sittings to write because I have such poor concentration at the minute and then I must have spent even longer deliberating over whether to hit 'publish'.

I've been quite reserved in what I've shared about my struggles on here; the lack of control over who might see making me cautious and concerned about repercussions and vulnerability. But I really miss blogging and these kind of things, unfortunately, are my present reality. I want my blog to be a true representation of me ..and my life, it's fair to say, isn't always a series of playlists and road-trips and visits to pretty cafes.

It's also occurred to me that our shyness about discussing these things does nothing to challenge false beliefs and only allows stigma and shame to grow. Our silence, in effect, keeps other people silenced where our openness might empower others to open up, to listen and explore.

So, I'm going to write a little more about these things. Not in so much detail that it makes us all cringe, but enough that I'm not afraid of ever posting. I might write more about my church and my faith too, because those are also significant life things. And in between that, I'm hoping I might find myself more freed up to keep posting about coffee and photos and day trips.

It's entirely okay to unsubscribe or unfollow if you're uncomfortable or bored by any of these things.

For the record, I've been home from the hospital for a while now. Though things are still difficult, I'm working towards restoring some sense of normality (whatever that means) and pressing on with 2015. Let's see what the rest of the year has to bring..

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  1. "It's also occurred to me that our shyness about discussing these things does nothing to challenge false beliefs and only allows stigma and shame to grow. Our silence, in effect, keeps other people silenced where our openness might empower others to open up, to listen and explore." ~ Words of courage and heart. Thank you.

  2. Dear Laura, You have been often in my thoughts and I was wondering how things were going for you. On the one hand, I'm so sorry to read how tough things have been; on the other, I am happy to read whatever you feel like sharing. The internet is a strange place - it can feel so intimate, but is ultimately not at all, so I understand your reluctance. I also agree that surely there must be a greater good served when we can be a bit more open about things which are still considered taboo. I was recently saying to my daughter how often I notice that people with ME have said to me, "But don't tell anyone". Why? Would we not be better off having a clearer idea how prevalent this illness is, and what a toll it takes on people's lives? At the same time, the prejudice and stigma against ME, mental illness - you name it - is very real. I was telling her that when I was a child, no-one talked about cancer, it was so taboo. People whispered about Tumors, and I knew the words Benign and Malignant. Now there are masses of women in pink bras running through the park at midnight... So I for one will not be uncomfortable or bored by what you choose to share of your experience.

    As for faith - well that is perhaps a little bit less taboo in some quarters! I will be very interested to read your thoughts on faith as well.

    I very much value your comments on my blog, and your perspective over the years on my daughter's illness has been very helpful and encouraging to me. I do hope that you can find kindness, rest, understanding - whatever helps, and whatever you need. And happy times, coffee breaks, day trips, etc.!

    Take good care, Laura. x

    1. Hi Christine,
      Thank you so much for thinking of me and for taking the time to pop by. It's really appreciated.

      It's sad to think that in the "progressive", "liberal" world we live in in 2015 there are health conditions that are still concealed beneath such whispers. i'm thankful for people like you who are willing to talk about their realities in such a sensitive way. i think it helps.

      i hope you and your family are all doing well xo