On (Not) Being Believed, Louisa J Harvey

TW: suicide, mental distress.

I still remember the feel of the cold steel in my palms. My hands blue from the November chill, my heartbeat thrumming in my ears, the bile rising in my throat. I remember the final cigarette stale on my breath; a futile smoke signal rising and disappearing into the concrete-grey drizzly day. I had resigned.

Rewind six months. I’m just back from a holiday, a friend calls to tell me our mutual friend, Lyn, has died. She has hanged herself whilst in the psychiatric ward on one-to-one observations. The staff had been watching the wrong person. A mistake. I am rage. Days later I throw away my medication — I am on a wholesale rejection of all things psychiatry. I am hot-blooded, distraught, impotent. Weeks go by, my mood becomes erratic. I am in a maelstrom of grief and drug withdrawal; the middle ground is somewhere I swing past on the way up or down. Electric-shock sensations reverberate through my brain whenever I move.

I am on self-destruct. A danger to myself. I am admitted to the ward in which I met Lyn. The staff are unremorseful. I am rage. I am also an attention-seeking hysteric with no sense of responsibility. I am playing games, there is nothing wrong with me, they say. I become increasingly mad, convinced I am possessed by a child who can only be free if I die. My mind is splintering. I climb the high roofs of the looming Victorian hospital building and sit. I watch. It’s the only place I feel safe, and I can’t explain why.

I run. I am on trains, I am off of trains, I am here and there and nowhere. I want to be wherever I am not. I discharge myself from hospital, I return, I go to a different hospital. I am manic. I teach myself grades one to five in ballet. From a book. I leave the hospital only to go to the dance shop. I must have everything; I am a dancer now. They medicate me with a mood stabiliser that makes me catatonic. I come off of the drug and reacquaint myself with mania. I have messages for the world, which I write on big sheets of paper and stick all over my bedroom walls with toothpaste. Top to bottom. I crash. I am in the wardrobe, heaving with grief and despair.

In and out, round and around, I am dizzy and demented. I return to the original hospital because I am not getting any better. My parents are visiting, I am listening to Tori Amos ‘I don’t like Mondays’ on repeat. “You know I can’t live, don’t you?”, I say. Their faces are grey and they look defeated. My father has to leave the room. I am destroying them. Another day something inside of me snaps. I am hanging out of a broken window with glass at my throat. I can’t remember which side my jugular is on. The riot police are here, they speak softly-softly, I am not convinced. A kind nurse talks me back in. My sanity is threadbare.

Another day and I hear my mother shout. She never shouts. I come to; I have picked up a table and am going for the window. A nurse comes in, says “I know you. This isn’t you. I see you. I see it now. You’re not okay, you’re not yourself, something is very, very wrong”. The ice fortress inside of me melts; I am human again. I am scared and terrified and guilty for the pain I’m causing.

The nurse in charge says, “this isn’t you”. I am relief. Someone can see I am possessed by a madness I cannot control. They are going to help me. For the first time in six months I feel like I am being taken seriously and that an end to this distress may be in sight. The next morning, a new nurse in charge, I can call him Chris because that’s his name and he is no longer alive, so let’s call him by his name, okay? Chris says I have been smoking drugs on the ward. Everyone who knows me knows I do not take drugs. He says everyone knows there is nothing wrong with me, that I need to simply take responsibility, that he’s in charge now, and no one believes me.

I understand the statement ‘my heart sank’. I understand it in the breath that leaves my body, the way my shoulders drop, the anaesthetised feeling that descends. I say I am going for a walk to clear my head and think things through. “We won’t chase you”, he says. I know, I say. I am long gone. I am in a taxi, I am home, I am in my car, I am driving away from the madness as fast as I can. If I keep on the move, then the crazy will wear itself out and I will emerge, in time, from this chaos. This is what I tell myself.

I am not convinced. As I doubt myself I look up and there is a road bridge, to my left: a car park, and a pub. I pull in, I am done. It is a concrete-grey drizzly day and I am smoking my last cigarette. I write a note and leave it on the passenger seat. It’s cold; I can see my breath. I am crossing the road and I am waiting and watching. I am waiting for a gap in the stream of cars, a long gap. Here’s one. I run up the steps two at a time, I am running up the steps, I am at the top. I can still feel the cold steel in my palms. I climb over the rail and I hold on. “NO NO NO”, a voice shouts. The voice is in my head. “YES YES YES”, I reply, and I fall head first.

I am at the bottom of the bridge. I have landed almost perfectly on two feet, facing the other direction. The sky is grey, the underside of the bridge is grey, I am probably grey. I am on my back and I am broken. I have never felt so alone. I know nothing will ever be the same again. I have crossed a line that feels inhuman. A betrayal of the sanctity of life. A violent goodbye.

My heels were shattered and my back broken in three places, but I healed. Only I did not. I am haunted by the violence that overtook me that day. There is no day without the bridge now. There is no freedom from the terror of a mind that twisted on itself. I live. I carry on. This is how it is. And also, I am still under that bridge, alone.

View at Medium.com

Not so NICE Guidelines to BPD

Thanks to Erik and Lara Quinn for the Not so NICE Guidelines to Borderline Personality Disorder!

The actual NICE guidelines are on the left with our version of what actually happens on the right. The guidelines may exist but we all know services don’t actually look like the guidelines say they should. This is basically a p*ss take of the NICE guidelines, sorry I mean satirical overview… (mustn’t swear!) to raise awareness of the abysmal services we receive and the stigma and judgement we have to contend with.”

Download Not So NICE Guidelines for BPD