My brain’s playing up again.
I would love to say that I was having a Sheldon Cooper-esque experience but sadly I have not woken up a genius.
I’ve found myself being very depressed the last few months, and when I’ve not been depressed I’ve been extremely anxious, with those nasty little OCD intrusive thoughts creeping in. At times like this, getting out of that chair and walking down the street feels like a day of work.
So thank heavens for good GPs. Thank heavens for these kind souls who, it’s taken me so long to realise, do not think I am a time waster. Who are happy to speak to the psychiatrist, use their influence, try to hurry forward an appointment. I won’t name the GP who was so kind to me this afternoon – she might not like it – but she helped, she really did. In the unlikely event that she might be reading – if I say the words ‘six minutes’ you’ll know who you are! This lovely soul listened to my woes, explained how the prescription she was giving me would work, reassured me, offered to find out about getting me a CPN, and said that she would contact my psychiatrist to organise an appointment asap,instead of waiting for the 3 monthly one.
It makes me wonder how my experiences of ‘care in the community’ contrast with my forebearers, so I’ve decided that I’m going to finally do the thing that I’ve been putting off. As I’ve wandered through my family history, I’ve avoided one part of it. My grandmother was in an asylum for the last twenty years of her life. Now I don’t want to write about her- that’s private. But I do want to reach out and touch her. In the past I’ve dreaded discovering that she suffered barbaric or debasing treatments but I don’t want to hide from that now. I want to get to know my grandmother, I want a picture of her life.
For so many years, the truth about her was hidden from me. Even when I was a child in the eighties there was still a stigma around mental health. I remember hearing jokes at school about ‘getting on the yellow bus’ – the hospital transport that took people to the mental health hospital.
I’ve no real excuse. The University only a few miles up the road holds the records. I will find out (I hope) about my gran’s treatments, and her condition. Who knows, I might find out a little bit about the person behind the diagnosis.
But it makes me wonder. What is it about delving into history that helps me? Is it purely a project, to provide some stimulation? Is it an avoidance technique- no need to look at your own problems, when faced with someone else’s? Is there part of me that thinks that somehow life was easier or ‘better’ in the past? I’ll be honest, sometimes when I’m really struggling, the thought of an asylum, a place where all decisions were made for the patients, where they literally became children again, sounds very appealing. Or does it help me to keep things in perspective? To remind me that people have struggled in the past, they will do in the future, and that I’m a small grain of sand in all of that?
To be frank though, I think there’s even part of me that just likes the costumes and lovely buildings. And perhaps there’s part of me that wants to give thanks. Because we stand on the shoulders of those who challenged the conventions and fought for better things – whether it was schooling, inventions, political rights, pay, health. Our lives are a little bit pleasanter by those who left us beautiful things. We’re reminded that however hard life can get, there’s always humour, beauty, good times and good people. Ah well, time to hit the history books.
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