Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Step One

June 25th 2014

It's a Wednesday afternoon. I'm over six weeks sober. I cry all the way through a meeting and have I have a fight after with the person I love.

It's Wednesday night. Warm water dribbles on my skin. I want the water hotter. I want the water to burn my skin. I want to wash the day off me. Every inch of it. Every last memory. It's not working. I'm pressing shampoo out of a sachet. I'm trying to wash my body with it. I'm naked and the bathroom door is open. I close my eyes and tell myself it's a bad dream. Each time I open them I'm in the same place. I close and open my eyes. Nothing changes.

At some point during that afternoon I brought to the hospital under police escort. Minutes earlier two police men had been on top of me. Pinned to the floor I'm screaming at the top of my lungs. They won't move and as they drag me to the side of the road I dig my Docs into the ground as firmly as possibly. They scrape all the way to the car. I'm fighting with all that's in me and I'm being yelled at. They want me to just surrender. To just stop fighting. I don't know how to.

Some time passes, I'm determined to walk away from this little incident  unscaved and although nothing ever happened. A regular Wednesday argument with the woman you are in love with, it's perfectly normal to be so distressed and want to throw yourself under a train. I've convinced myself that. I apologise for over reacting and tell them can we just all forgot about this and carry on with our day.

I want to leave. I'm not allowed. Each time I wriggle from the grip of the policeman I am abruptly forced back down. I hear the other police man "call it in!" I'm on a psychiatric hold. I still try to convince them I'm fine. They keep asking me if I'm drunk. No I keep screaming. I hope by telling them I'm sober they'll magically tell me I'm perfectly sane and can go off and meet whichever friend I was due to have coffee with. They still won't let me leave. It would seem, whichever way you look at it, I'm not getting myself out of this predicament I so skilfully have gotten myself in. Jesus I'm saying to myself. What the fuck have you done.

I'm being driven to the hospital. I'm given the choice of the cage in the back of police van or an ambulance. I surrender. 'I'll go in the ambulance!'

There's people outside the hospital. They're all watching me. My black tights are ripped to shreds. My dress is half off me. I'm so hot my hair has formed an Afro and all my make-up is in tear tracks down my face. I'm just saying to myself, it's okay just don't look at anyone! There's a door immediately as you walk in the main doors. I'm hustled in. Then another room. 'She'll be assessed in there.'
'Can you tell me anything about you, is it Rachel?'
I don't say anything.
'History of mental health issues?'
I share a few words reluctantly.
Another door opens and I'm led into another room. I would stay in that room for the rest of the afternoon. The heat in the room exhausts me but my body keeps me moving.

Hours later I'm still pacing up and down the room. I sit on the floor and have conversations with the wall. I discuss how idiotic I've been and yet how justified I am in needing to do what I did this afternoon. But it's all okay now.
That lovely woman with the baby and the school boy were over reacting. Everyone is just panicking over nothing. I'm fine. I'm just fine.

I am demanding. Demanding I want to leave. I use the softness sweetest most sane voice. I am repeating myself. I am bored out of my mind. I need to pee. I ask if I can pee. Someone comes into the room, making sure the door shuts behind him, or her. I can't remember who. The toilet door opens. There is a plastic toilet. Nothing else. No loo roll. Nothing. The toilet is this strange design, which is apparently so I cannot attempt to drown myself by putting my head in it. I pee with no privacy. I am led out, and again I am alone in the room.
I keep knocking on the door, I keep talking to, or should I say, at, the policeman. I am allowed some tea. Not great but in a paper cup, some warm tea. Each time I get a cup, I rip the cardboard. I decide to be creative. I make a picture on the floor using the cardboard. I form faces, animals, scenery. It distracts me.

I don't know the time, or how much passes. I have no belongings, nothing. Thankfully my only commitment that afternoon was meeting someone for a coffee. My family know how busy I am. The world will assume all is well.

I speak to a social worker and a psychiatrist. I just keep telling them 'there's a meeting, an AA one, just round the corner. If you let me go it will probably be enough and I will be fine. I can then go home, see my cat, and sleep in my bed without worrying about sleeping all the next day. I'm just over tired,' I say. 'I'm just tired.'
I remember some of their questions. I know from endless assessments in the past, lying is a way out of this. Even not disclosing the full truth, I am not getting anywhere. This is all being taken too seriously.
'You could have died, Rachel. You know that, right.'
'Oh, I was just having a moment. It happens. It's fine.'
I must use the word 'fine' in such excessive amounts, it is no wonder they see I am clearly not 'fine.'

I am being told where I was found. Middle of a bridge, legs hanging over the tracks. Even a slip and I could have hit the tracks and been killed. 'How long were you there? Did you have a plan to do this? Could anything have stopped you?'
The kind boy, and mother with a baby, they helped. They talked to me.
I couldn't say how long I'd been there.
Here's what I know. I am pressed for this information and what I answered is what informed whether I'd be kept there at the hospital.
It isn't, 'I would do it again!' At that moment I had absolutely no desire to kill myself. I just wanted to go home and hug my cat and sleep.
'The cat won't keep you from attempting suicide again!'
'Oh he will. I will be just, yep, just fine.'
It wasn't because I was depressed. I wasn't depressed or manic. I was just sad. Isn't this what people do when they are sad?
It was because of numbers. Yep. That is how quickly, not the psychiatrist, but the social worker, figured me out.
At the count of seeing 5 people I was going to jump.

Sat on that bridge, I watched the world go past me. The road, someone driving round the corner. Someone walking down the road. Maybe say another car. I told myself that the 5th person who 'walked past' would show me, no one actually gave a shit. I had convinced myself that much in the short time I had been sat there. Terrified and yet pumped with adrenalin at how this 'could' happen, if I only 'allowed' it. I still to this day don't know what would have happened. A switch had gone in my brain. Any ounce of sanity had lost me. For months after this I lived in fear. I wanted to carry a rape alarm with me. Not in case I got raped. But in case I was again a danger to myself. The idea being, there is a milliesecond of control. I always say that day, was like boom. And then I did what I did. If I had something that screamed a noise, and in that moment I had the 'sense' to press the button, others would come running. At least, the hope is they would. And magically I would be safe. I needed to have this on that day in June.

Before the lady with the baby approached me I was convinced of this. I know there was a voice of my family in my head. I know that saved the impulse of what at one time would have killed me. The boy and the lady. I was distracted. Distressed. But it did something. Before I could even look down, I was dragged off the bridge.

When the social worker heard the insanity of my logic, she knew.
I didn't know then. I wasn't sure why that number. Why a switch had gone off in my head. Maybe she didn't. But she knew. She knew I was so unpredictable and vulnerable, I might barely last outside the hospital. Even if I didn't go home alone, there was no guarantee of anything. I just wanted to leave. I didn't want to have to tell anyone this or explain anything. I am being told at least a 72 hour hold. I am trying to convince everyone I am okay. No one is listening. What the hell do I do now? How the hell do I explain a sudden absence and disappearance? I know I should be grateful I would be 'missed,' but damn right now I wish I didn't know anyone. I have gotten myself in such shit. How will I ever explain this and even convince anyone ever again of my sanity?

In the time I was given between being assessed, I kept thinking about AA, what I had learnt so far. I was thinking about surrender and acceptance. I had enough meditation experience behind me to use it, and to admit to myself this was a pretty fucked up idea. Even though I was calm now, when would the next storm come? I didn't have an answer. I didn't have an ounce of energy left in me.

'So, we're going to admit you Rachel.'
I cry. No no please just let me go home. I'd rather not stay here.
Then choice is taken from me. There is no way out that door other than when I am escorted to the ward.
'It will be at least a week, and then you will be re-assessed.'
I don't even know what to say. In all my years of being totally fucked up, and the hospitalisations, I had never been arrested and never been sectioned. I could die right there. After all this time, all this recovery, all this balance and stability, I do one stupid thing, and I am deeper in the ground than I ever have been in my life. I am not underweight and malnourished. I am not covered in cuts and burns. I have showered today. I have dressed. I have been a functional human being. I am 'normal.' I wear nice clothes, and make-up. I smile. I am well. I am sane.

In a number of minutes that sanity slipped from me. Even today writing this I don't know what happened or why. Even on discharge there is no understanding. No reasoning. Talking to my psychiatrist who has known me over 5 years. Nothing. Not endless talks with family. It never made sense and I don't think it ever will.

What I know is that, the moment I surrendered, agreed to go without a fuss with the social worker, I broke. I felt surrendering was the weakness. Hospital was the weakness. In all truth, in that moment I was stronger than I ever have been. I got to the ward, used a pay phone to call my parents, and did what ever the hell I was told. I am terrified, but relieved. I don't need to do anything. I am wrapped in a bubble, literally. The ward is locked, I am constantly with a nurse, and I am safe.

I would never choose this. I would never choose the single bed, with a blanket, and caged windows which let no light in. I was stripped of everything, and given what were essentially scrubs from the hospital as it is all they had. I am medicated. I sleep.
I slept more that week than I ever had. I didn't get dressed, as I wasn't even allowed outside. Save there being a tiny space surrounded by windows to catch some of the sun. I did not fight one single person. I did exactly as I was told. For a week, I was directed and controlled by a ward and I did everything.
The release that gave me. The sanity it restored in me in a week was epic.
Surrendering to a situation where I had no choice anyway, was courage. It was acceptance. It was acknowledgement. It was furthest opposite from being strong.
I spent my days writing, colouring, in silence. I played on a Wii with a staff member because I was the only one not too depressed, medicated or manic, to be able to. I made cards. I watched crappy television, and at a push ate shitty food. I drank tea from polystyrene cups. I talked to others who at one moment were themselves and the next their mothers. I was nursed by patients too sick to know where they were and yet with enough empathy to hold me when the world hurt too much. I made friends. I hung out and hugged and I allowed.

I was contained within four walls, under constant observation, each move watched, with no choice, and yet, I was freer than I ever had been in my life. I was free. I had given up fighting. I surrendered. I accepted.

Step One asserts: “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol— that our lives had become unmanageable.”
Who cares to admit complete defeat? Practically no one, of course. Every natural instinct cries out against the idea of personal powerlessness...

I admitted defeat. I stopped fighting all those instincts screaming at me to kick doors down and demand to be released. I was powerless. I had no control over my life; certainly for the next however many days, and I clearly was powerless over my life if this is the outcome of me being in charge.

I surrendered.


  1. I love your post!!!

    Keep up with the writing. Sometimes it's so hard to get motivated.

    I have faith in us :)

    1. Thank you beautiful girl. Anxiety provoking oddly enough, considering how easy this used to be. I am glad to be here and grateful to your support and to be reading your words again also <3 I believe in us too <3

  2. Excellent post. I see a memoir coming on. Keep at it.

    1. Oh Mike, thank you, truly. So humbled by your support <3

  3. This is extraordinary, compelling writing.....searing honesty, almost too painful to read. A tour de force Rachel

    1. Scott, you are so beautiful to always love and support me. I am blessed, humbled and so grateful <3 And I am finally reading your memoir as it stands. About half way through and despite its sadness in part, I do smile a lot too <3