Here was my new psychiatrist. The normal guy – a little Jewish bloke – was on holiday, possibly extended due to workload stress, and his replacement wasn’t taking any shit.
“So……tell me…….these thoughts you are having……..they are how real?”
“Pretty real. I mean, they are pretty intense and I’m having to work hard to dismiss them. You know how it is.”
“No, I don’t.” He scribbled on the casenotes. “It boils down to this Benjamin: I’m going to ask you a question and if you answer anything but ‘no’ I will have you forcibly sectioned right here, right now.” What could I say? There was no way I was going to be carted off to that hell-hole – there’s a lot to be said for being a voluntary patient when the impending loss of freedom is dangling in front of your eyes.
“Do you feel like killing yourself?”
I thought about the answer for maybe ten seconds. There was really only one answer. Perhaps giving it would prove to him I wasn’t insane, maybe it was what he wanted to hear in more ways than one. Let him know that I had understood the gravity of telling him the truth. “No” I lied.
He laughed a little under his breath and wrote in big capitals in his clichéd bad doctors scrawl so even I could read it from ten feet away upside down – “DECLARES NO SUICIDAL IDIATION”.
“Good,” he said “now perhaps you’ll consider the therapy Doctor Rubenstein has suggested to you.” He had me where he wanted me; threatened, scared, compliant.
“Good. You may go.”
I went to the chemist and got my new prescription on the way back home. Olanzapine. I hadn’t taken it before but I knew it wasn’t termed a “Tablet cosh” for nothing. In the kitchen I thought I’d be able to split the tablets in half just in case I got wiped out by them, but they were so tiny every time I tried to cut one with a big carving knife on the worktop they either shot across the room or disappeared in small white puffs leaving nothing but powder. Maybe he wasn’t selling me a curveball. Maybe they would help stop my thoughts racing? So I took one, as prescribed….
The next day I was still on the sofa. My partner (now ex) had half covered me up with a small thin blanket. I was cold and couldn’t understand how I’d fallen asleep. I sat up but fell back down like a ragdoll with my head spinning. What the fuck were these things? Is this how the insane are treated? True, they worked in a sense – I can’t remember thinking at all for about 20 hours, but I was thinking now alright, and I didn’t like it.
I was due a visit that afternoon from my boss. He was coming out to tell me some bad news, I guessed it was to fire me, so I had to get my head straight, regain some dignity. If he was going to fire me I wanted to at least be conscious enough to look him in the eye and tell him what a motherfucker he was. My partner had apparently gone to work. What was the time anyway? Eleven. Right, sit up, breath, check I hadn’t puked anywhere or pissed myself. I was OK. “Get a grip”. I wasn’t going to take those fucking tablets again! NO chance, no way. I would become a bloated zombie within a month.
He turned up on time, all efficiency and lack of empathy, refusing a drink. “Right….erm….I’ll cut straight to it. I’m going to take the role of Team Leader from you when you return to work.”
“Errr…..because I think you’ll need some time to recover.” It was a lie, but he thought I was fucked up enough to believe him. I didn’t think I had a choice in the matter. He left after about five minutes. Job done. I watched him climb into his Ford Focus, look at himself in the mirror for a few seconds, then screech off up the road.
Two months later, when my psychiatrist thought I was well enough, I went back to work. I was looking forward to completing a full recovery, to getting rehabilitated back in the real world. And, god knows, it was better than being at home. My boss sat me down in his office on the morning of my return and the first words out of his mouth were – “Now you’re bonkers I’ve lost my trust in you. I want you around this office all the time, under my nose. You’re a loose cannon.” Ordinarily, talk like that aimed at me would have got an equal or, more likely, more intense and inappropriate response, but I just sat there in total disbelief. He went on and on about how being diagnosed with what I had was going to follow me around now and even said I wasn’t ever going to “get better”. If it had been a warehouse job I could have understood his ignorance, but I worked for an NHS Mental Health Trust (albeit in the Drug Team) and he was a senior manager. It would have been laughable if it hadn’t been so hurtful. For about half an hour I sat and listened to this moron in silence wanting to cry on one hand, and smash him and his office to bits on the other. But when he’d finished I just stood up, shrugged, sighed, and left the room a different man. I knew then I was fucked. Career over. Everything I’d worked for and built up had gone.
At home that night in the early hours I crept downstairs and emptied my pill drawer, taking those I knew to be the most toxic out of their packets, and headed out into the summer air with the intention of shutting up my boss, girlfriend, and every thought, for good. There were no stars.
As I sat on the bench placed to mark the spot of the old pit top and stared out across the depressing Doncaster skyline I thought “Is this it? Is this all I’ve got, a job with a bunch of fucking morons, a partner from hell, and a future of mediocrity? There’s a whole world out there, love, people, and a future away from the dirty hole of drugs and insanity but I can’t get out.” A good life felt a million miles away.
I took out the tablets and wondered if there was a god. I even prayed randomly to anything that might be listening. Nothing answered, not that I was expecting it to. I couldn’t contain my thoughts, time sped up, and feelings merged into the deep, confusing pit of it all. I sat with the tablets in one hand and can of drink in the other.
When the sun started to light up the eastern edges of the foul Doncaster skyline I simply dropped the pills down the storm grate next to the bench, stood up, hurled the can into the trees and walked home. She was in bed and woke up as I tried to tip-toe across the bedroom and back into bed. “You fucking prick, you’ve woken me up,” she said, without even turning around.