This week I will celebrate four years of freedom, freedom from Hospital, from the chaos that comes from being on a acute ward or worse. This milestone is more than just an achievement, it is a place I never dared to imagine was possible.
In 2004 I began a cycle of acute admissions that seemed impossible to break, I was to be blunt, on the spiral of self-destruction which involved much anguish not just for me but for my family too.
This cycle lasted for five years and was relentless, in a period of 260 weeks I had my freedom for just 60 weeks. These breaks would often be for a month or so and then I would hit another bout of flashbacks and nightmares and I would end up back on yet another acute ward wondering why my life was in such turmoil.
This had all seemed so detached from the person that I was, a hard working wife and mum of three, involved in community life in the small rural hamlet where we then lived.
I had very little knowledge of psychiatric in-patient care so an acute ward was alien and frightening. I had a plethora of different psychiatrists, community nurses and the like and my fair share of different diagnoses. All I knew was my head was full of absolute terror as I recalled trauma from my past, I kept losing time, felt detached from the world around me and so confused. Yet at the time I couldn’t explain much of this, nor how much I hurt and why I could see no way out but to die.
The nightmare journey to diagnosis took me from the relative comfort of mainstream psychiatry, to the more restrictive environment of secure services and back. When I was in the community it wasn’t easy, there would be regular appointments with the psychiatrist, the CMHT, and the nurses dealing with my wounds. I faced lots of restrictions which invaded my private life and dictated where and with whom I resided. In my darker moments I would meet lots of different crisis teams and when it all started to fall apart a number of police officers who were tasked in keeping me safe.
My old self had gone and I was now a walking drugs cabinet, with a body full of scars, finally after what felt like an eternity I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I was finally aware of why I felt the way I did, and that with the right help and understanding, there was a way forward.
In November 2009 I was discharged from hospital; for what I hope will be the last time, I still have moments of crisis, feel suicidal, want to harm, I still suffer sleepless nights as I am plagued by flashbacks. I have to weave my way around the minefield of triggers and I lose time regularly. I still need support each day with daily living, and I am still in the process of dealing with my past.
But in the past four years I have achieved far more than I ever thought humanly possible, I realise that I am a survivor not just a victim. My main physical scars have faded somewhat and I no longer rattle as I walk, deciding to reduce the drugs with help; so I could get some of my life back on track.
In 2004 I never thought I would be able to say thank you to anyone who had saved me from suicide, and In 2009 I felt glad I was still here, but I worried if it would last.
Four years on and I can honestly say that I am grateful to each and every individual who stopped and helped me when I was at my lowest ebb. I am especially grateful to the individual police officers from a wide range of forces across the UK; who apart from the odd exception, treated me with the utmost respect and dignity.
But most of all I am and will always be, eternally grateful to my children and family for their continuing love and support, when I gave up on me, thankfully they didn’t. I know that my nightmare journey was theirs too, they endured the sleepless nights worrying about me, saw me self harm and deal with the consequences afterwards, they became accustomed to filing the missing person reports and they endured the long journeys to see me in hospital; sometimes hundreds of miles from our home. They have shared in my tears, my pain and yes my suffering.
I am truly blessed to have such an amazing family, my children have now become adults and I am one immensely proud mum. I know that they are the most caring, selfless and dedicated children, they have made these last four years so worthwhile. They encourage me, motivate me, they have given me back my smile, and we all share in the laughter that now fills my brightest days.
If you have a dissociative disorder, or have been a victim of abuse, believe me there is hope.
If you are in and out of hospital, feel like life just cannot get any worse, and certainly can’t get better, believe me, but it can get better.
If you love someone who is in the midst of an inpatient admission, this nightmare time will end.
For as the last four years demonstrate people can and do turn corners, they can survive out of hospital, and they can; taking teeny, tiny steps, move forward in their life. It isn’t a panacea, we still have difficult times I won’t lie, but I am no longer on mission self-destruct and that in itself is one huge achievement.
Dare to dream the impossible, because the impossible can come true.