By Peter G Mackie
Key Themes: depression, empowerment, homeless, psychiatry
Written at the age of 17, “The Madhouse of Love” is the story of a 12-year-old who is kept in a psychiatric unit for 2½ years in Scotland in the late 1960s due to a misunderstanding.
During his stay in the hospital, he falls in love with a girl who is also a patient, but their relationship is put a stop to by the authorities, leading them both to contemplate suicide.
Eventually, Tony manages to discharge himself by using a great deal of tact and persuasion but ends up homeless in London at the age of 16.
About the Author
Peter G. Mackie was born in Perth, Scotland in 1957 and, as a teenager, spent 2½ years in an Adolescent Unit, causing him to lapse into depression.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, he spent several years living and working abroad, which helped him see a more positive side of life.
However, in recent years, his depression has returned, along with panic attacks.
He is currently attending Redhall Walled Garden, a project in Edinburgh run by the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH), where he is doing a computer course.
Ann organised us all to go out for a walk. On the way down the road, she talked about her ex-boyfriends and how she couldn’t see the modern sculptures at the Camperdown Park, Dundee, because of this daft boy. She’d apparently been at art college there. We went past the swings and ate some sweets. It was a beautiful summer’s day.
I, Tony, the 12-year-old phenomenon would often sit on a bench in one of the two sitting rooms during the summer’s days, looking towards my distant future which lay in the parts of the sky which shone yellow with the sun and at which I would arrive if I could only manage to discharge myself.
It was on one fine summer’s night that a pale figure – a mirror image of myself – was seen wandering around the hospital unit. This was that other phenomenon, 13-year-old Dave Chambers, who questioned all the boys: “Are you interested in homosexuality?” and would keep informing everyone: “I don’t like poofs.” That same Dave Chambers, on the beautiful night of his arrival, whispered, “I like Tony,” on seeing myself, and talked about how he liked to express his feelings in painting.
In the mornings, there was the assembly: this consisted of a group discussion where everyone said what he or she felt or didn’t say what he or she didn’t feel. At this particular time, it was fairly intellectual and Dr. Martin, the psychiatrist, was able to preach his religion about it. Every morning, Duncan with the red hair played the signature tune of Dr. Kildare to Dr. Martin, while I would sit at the front hall, waiting for him, looking at the cars flashing their lights of Freud, God, sex and insanity through the hospital grounds.
Then, the old character himself would walk in with his hat and wide-lapelled suit.
The conversations would be something like this:
“I’d like to complain about the baking rota.”
“You want to complain about the baking rota? But that’s the feminine arts, isn’t it?”
“But not all girls like baking, Dr. Martin.”
“Do many of you feel disappointed with your sex?”
“What a funny question, Dr. Martin!”
Of course, at nights were the real times. Dave would sit on his bed, saying that interplanetary space travel would be common in twenty years’ time while Alan Oldham, the night charge, would tell him that he was talking nonsense.
Dave was one for watching science fiction programmes on the television. There was one particular one about ESP.
I would often have appointments with Dr. Martin at 9 o’clock in the morning. There was one night, before my appointment, when I was talking to Mary Parsons, one of the girls, about it and whether I was insane or not. She said, “Of course, you’re not insane!” Boo hoo, it makes me want to sob to think of it. And Duncan would have to come in and play Dr. Kildare in the middle of it. Plink, plonk.