A Diary of Despair
By Rosamund McCullain
Key Themes: anti-psychiatry, mental health services, treatments, medication, suicide, self-harm
“It is lucky for service users in Powys and others around the world that McCullain is brave enough to survive and choose life” – Jason Pegler, author and founder of ChipmunkaPublishing
This book tells Rosamund’s story as she journeys through experiences of mental distress and bad treatment at the hands of the mental health system. The book ends on a note of hope and survivor solidarity. A whole range of issues are covered, from conditions in inpatient facilities, drug treatment, stigma and discrimination, the impact of suicide and self-harm, the quality of community mental healthcare to the eventual partial recovery of the Rosamund’s condition and how she has managed to achieve this. An important and triumphant piece of work, ‘The Dispossessed’ is a must read for mental health service users and professionals alike.
About the Author
Rosamund McCullain was born and grew up in Bradford, West Yorkshire. Upon leaving school she moved to the Mid-Wales area to study English at Aberystwyth University, she currently lives in Newtown, Powys. When she first became a mental health service user, Rosamund was appalled at the state of the system and the treatment she received, and felt the public should be told what was being done with their money and in their name. To achieve this, she started writing ‘The Dispossessed’ in 1993, and finally completed it in 2002. Rosamund has a keen interest in creative writing, for her it has been a lifelong survival mechanism. She is an animal lover, and has two dogs, two cats and a horse. She works as a self-employed mental health trainer and consultant, writer and creative writing tutor. She is also involved in voluntary work as a survivor activist.
They have released me from the bowels of the Machine into “Care in the Community”. They said they could do nothing to help me, having virtually forced me into the bowels of the Machine in the first place. I did have some choice in the matter. I could enter the bowels of my own free will, or I could enter the bowels under a Section of the Mental Health Act, but either way it was the bowels for me. So I chose to go “voluntarily”.
Having been so certain that the bowels of the Machine were the right place for me, having decided that I needed to be made vomit or voided out into non-existence, and neither of these things having happened, They have now come to the conclusion that being in the bowels is not the place for me so I am now being “cared” for in “the Community”.
Well, “the Community” in my case is either the drunken drugged-up students who share the house wherein my dingy bed-sit is situated, or the people in the wider community who couldn’t give a shit, they just want to go about their business (lawful or otherwise) unhindered by NUTTERS.
The only support They have given me is an ample supply of FORGETFULNESS OF TRUTH. “Don’t forget your TTO” They said. My Tablets to Take Out, how could I ever forget that? Especially as I was discharged at 10.30a.m. and had to wait around in limbo all day until 4.30p.m. for the damned things to arrive. No longer a patient yet not quite a free woman I hovered like a ghost ‘twixt corridor and smoking room, wondering if I was going to make to the shops in time to buy myself some food with the £1.73 I had to my name. Thank heavens for late night Thursday shopping and Batchelor’s Super Noodles.
It’s not as if They are doing nothing, though. Oh no, quite the contrary. They have sent me for an E.E.G. In my mental state (barely able to dress and feed myself) I travelled today some 80 miles there and back by bus, total journey time five hours and ten minutes, to a far-off hospital so that They could have some pretty little graphs of my dysfunctional brain’s activity. It would seem that I have become a psychiatrist’s plaything. They cannot provide any constructive help, They cannot even keep me safe from harm in the bowels of the Machine, but They expect me in my mental dishevelment to wander back and forth around Britain to brighten up their sad dull lives.
Dear Diary, you live in blissful ignorance of these matters, so let me tell you what an E.E.G. entails, and explain to you what they do that has freaked me out so much that all I want to do is die and be free of the most haunting memories.
(Flash – a living room somewhere, lights, a fat bald man with a moustache who looks like Cannon on TV).
To have an E.E.G. you go into a room with various machines in it. Mini-machines that help keep the Machine machining. There is the printing machine for recording the spikes produced by the brain’s activity. This is connected up to a computer terminal which receives the messages from one end of the electrodes in a box behind you. The other end of the electrodes are attached to your head.
The first part of the process is a little like a cross between going to the dentist and the hairdresser, on the scale of unpleasantness. The nurse begins by measuring your head and marking on it in blue crayon the places where she (or he, but in my case it was a she) is going to attach the electrodes. Then she puts glue on your head, attaches the electrodes, and dries the glue with a nozzle blowing out cold air. Then gel is squeezed through holes in the electrodes so that it is in-between them and your scalp. The gel is cold; this part is not dissimilar to the feeling of perming lotion being applied. Then she goes to sit by the printing machine and computer terminal, the printing needles skitter eagerly, the nurse removes the lens of the cinecamera, presses her buttons and everything is ready for the off.
(They film you. My God, They film you. Flash – a living room somewhere, lights, a fat bald man with a moustache who looks like Cannon on TV).
So it begins. Open your eyes, close your eyes. Open your eyes, close your eyes. Printing needles chatter, paper feeds through at an alarming rate, covered in ink spikes. The nurse marks the paper with a pencil, presses more buttons. Breathe deeply, open your eyes, close your eyes. Stop breathing deeply, open your eyes, close your eyes. A flashing light is placed in front of you, it flickers at changing speeds. Open your eyes, close your eyes.
It’s over. Some thirty minutes later it’s over. Now the lengthy process of removing the electrodes begins. The nurse applies a lotion that feels and smells like concentrated nail varnish remover to unstuck the glue, rubbing it into your scalp. The fumes are heavy, they drop towards your face, suffocating, stinging the eyes.
All electrodes removed, she combs your hair. “The glue that’s left will come out with a shampoo.” Like hell it will, I washed my hair four times and still there was glue coloured by crayon left in it. I was picking it out for days, blue sticky clumps of glue-dandruff. Unless by shampoo she meant industrial cleaner or caustic soda.
And that was it. Out into the street, back to the cross-country trek, complete with glue-blue rinse hairdo.
So, what’s so freaky about that? Nothing, I don’t suppose, nothing too bad there if your childhood experiences were rosy and light and as they should have been. Not a pleasant way to spend a day, a cross between going to the dentist and the hairdresser, not nice, not nasty, a bit out of the ordinary, that’s all.