I have recently been officially diagnosed with bipolar ii, which means my mood fluctuates and in the extreme, I experience psychosis. One of my more serious episodes happened two years ago in hospital.
Athough I had been confined to a psychiatric ward for two months, my mood was continuing to deteriorate. I had been taking my anti-depressants, but they seemed to be doing little to improve my state of mind.
With ample spare time on the ward, I was able to curb the boredom through reading, something I usually don’t have a lot of time to do. One book that I was particularly absorbed by, was ‘Shrine’ by James Herbert. For those of you who have not read this, the book involves a little girl who becomes possessed by an evil spirit.
As I sat in my little hospital room, consumed with depression and plagued by intrusive thoughts, I began to become increasingly agitated and I couldn’t help thinking about that little girl in the book.
I felt like something was crawling under my skin, like my body wasn’t my own. I stopped sleeping and spent most of my time studying the book and pacing through the ward. After a few days, my behaviour roused the attention of the staff, which lead one nurse to eventually approach me in my room and ask what was wrong.
“I want to see a priest.” was my nervous reply.
I think this took her by surprise, but she humoured me.
“The occupational therapist will be here tomorrow, maybe she can take you to the chapel?”
This response seemed to settle me and I curled up under a blanket as the concerned nurse left my room.
In the morning, I waited outside the office for the OT to arrive, but she never did. She was sick and there was no one available to take me to the hospital chapel. The absence of the OT only fuelled my paranoid psychosis. I was now convinced that I was possessed by some evil entity that had made this innocent member of staff unwell, making it impossible for me to seek help from a priest.
I lay on my bed, wrought with fear. My thoughts were spiralling out of control and I needed help. I called my Mum, a devout christian, who I knew would be able to comfort me. Although my story seemed to confuse her (as it was well known that I did not believe in God or anything spiritual) she actually sounded relived that I had confided in her.
What my Mum didn’t understand was that I was unwell, not merely seeking absolution. She told me to pray and seek forgiveness, which further encouraged my irrationality. I demanded to be let out of the ward so I could see a priest and pray with my Mum. My demands were not met and by the end of the afternoon, I was placed on a section.
I felt as though my life was over, I ran to the nearest bathroom and unscrewed a light fitting. I smashed the interior lightbulb and hid a piece of glass in my slipper. Later that evening, I took the glass shard and pierced my arm, severing an artery.
This desperate act saw the beginning of my high level observation and a cocktail of anti-psychotic medication. Facing your demons never felt so literal.