While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks


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153 in stock


By Annemarie Bojko

ISBN: 978-1-84747-068-3
Published: 2007
Pages: 171
Key Themes: manic depression, bi-polar disorder, sectioning, mental health services, breakdown



“A book where the author leads the reader by the hand through their worst nightmare.”

“An accurate but enjoyable account of life in a late twentieth century psychiatric hospital.”


‘While Shepherds Watched Their Flocks’ is based upon the author’s own real life experience of mental breakdown, hospitalisation and subsequent detention under Section 5(2) and Section 2 of the Mental Health Act 1983, beginning in the Spring of 1989 and lasting for the duration of seven months.

The story is presented as a fictionalised account. The author assumes the role of Alex, the female patient in the 1980s at Blackwood Psychiatric Hospital, housed within the precincts of an Old Victorian asylum.

‘While Shepherds Watched their Flocks’ has been written over a period of years and, while the basic story remains unaltered, its presentation has changed to reflect the author’s growing awareness of the events that surrounded her breakdown. Knowledge gained whilst concurrently studying psychology at the University of London has greatly assisted in enabling the author to make thorough appraisal of her own illness. The book comes to a positive climax as Alex leaves the unit to re-enter life in the community.

This is a touching, though-provoking, human interest story which has at its heart the basic human struggle for survival against insurmountable odds. It is in turn a love story, a tragedy and a real life drama as well as being interspersed with a measure of black comedy and feeling of suspense that keeps the reader with a real sense of “what happen next?” ‘While Shepherds Watched their Flocks’ is a book that should appeal to a wide audience.

About The Author

Born on 14th May 1966 and privately educated in a convent school until the age of sixteen, I rebelled and left against my parent’s wishes. In 1989 I had my first psychiatric hospital admission. During follow-up I was diagnosed with manic-depression. My happiest and most productive years followed until, like the Sword of Damocles, manic-depression struck again in 2002, this time with much greater severity.

I would currently describe myself as in the latter stages of recovery. Leading a quiet life in my West London home I’d say my passion for animals together with buying and selling on eBay is helping to keep me sane!

Book Extract

Here I was in the Secure Unit. It was only a small unit but I knew that it housed the criminally insane, and the knowledge of that added to the nervous state I was in. It was again a blisteringly hot day. I was wearing my usual attire of shorts and a T-shirt but for today’s meeting I insisted on donning my thick black jacket.

As I nervously paced the floor in the foyer area I fingered the jagged piece of glass nestled reassuringly at the depths of my pocket. My rich pickings from Mel’s latest fist through the ‘f**king window’ exploits of the previous night. I glanced from time to time at Dr Morris, who was seated near the artificial plants. She kept a close eye on me.

I continued pacing up and down, painfully aware that Cath was already in the special Consultation Room, discussing our relationship with Dr Aziz. My eyes narrowed jealously.

Now it was my turn to be ushered in. The madman enters the scene. A quick look around revealed a room devoid of comfort. There was a low black table where two shiny black microphones and a tape recorder stood. Surrounding the table were several office chairs. The lighting was harsh and reflected back from the black glass wall at the end of the room, from the top of which a CCTV camera pointed inwards.

As I entered nervously I could see the back of Dr Aziz, standing with his face towards the wall. He turned as I entered. He was a tall, bearded man with slightly dark skin. He gestured for me to sit in one of the seats and began flicking the switches on the microphones. Once everything was set he sat opposite me and began the interview.

I answered in a low tone. ‘Stupid man’ I thought as he spent most of the time talking about my childhood, my relationship with my parents, particularly the one with my mother. Couldn’t he see this was about Cath? Cath and me. Tension, fuelled by anger, began welling inside me. I continued to answer in a low tone, barely audible, for I suddenly became aware of the camera over my head and the tape recorder on the table. I strained my eyes at the black glass, hoping to be reassured by the sight of Dr Morris’s outline. I met with an eerie blackness. All at once my emotions crossed the thin line into fear and paranoia. I could speak only of what I knew. Cath. The pure, obsessional love I felt for this woman. Silently I willed this strange doctor to understand what I was going through.

The time allotted for my own individual interview passed quickly and the time had come. Cath re-entered the room. I smiled for the first time on that miserable day. She looked away. Something was going wrong. It was over. All over. The double life I’d lived for the past year, juggling my public persona with my private life had been all in vain. Only a few seconds had passed but I had heard enough to know that I would never see Cath again. The anguish and misery of the relationship was both over and about to begin?

The tensions inside me snapped and I began to scream. I leapt from the seat and brandishing the piece of glass, lunged forward. The microphone stood between Dr Aziz and me and I punched it, sending it crashing to the ground. I wanted to kill the man who had finally destroyed the very thing I lived for. Before I could even get close to him I felt strong, restraining arms around me.

Dr Pam Morris appeared with a security guard and was dragging me, kicking and screaming from the room. Why? I wanted to go back to Cath. She mustn’t separate us. We were one. Maybe it had something to do with the cameras? They were sending out negative rays. They were poisoning Cath’s mind. Pam had put them there. She was part of it. They were all plotting against me. I must remove the film, it would be used against me. I struggled. Pam called for more assistance and I was held back by alien forces for now. Even Pam had gone.

“Cath!” I screamed towards the room. “I loved you, I really loved you!” Suddenly I didn’t need to be restrained anymore. I sank down onto a seat, the same seat Pam had occupied earlier. Deflated, dejected and utterly distraught I could only weep.

“Are you ready to go back with us?” Pam gently asked, holding my chin in her hand. I looked up at her as she stood stooped in front of me. Her face appeared horribly distorted. Her hair, that wonderful hair, cascaded down the sides of her face. Where golden locks once were I now saw evil serpents lashing towards me. In an instant Dr Morris had become the ‘bad mother’. I shrank back in fear.

I was propelled towards Gladstone Ward by Dr Morris and a male member of staff from the Secure Unit. As we drew level with the church I broke away, intending to run through the arch and out onto the Clayhill Arterial Road. I can only assume that my ensuing behaviour was well anticipated for they dealt with my intended escape promptly. I was physically attached to them for the remainder of the journey back to Gladstone Ward.

Once on the ward I was taken straight to the rear of the Nurse’s Office. My Section papers had been prepared. Nicole was the executor of my charges.

“You are being held in this hospital/mental nursing home on the advice of a doctor, so the doctors can find out what is wrong and how they can help you. You can be kept here for 72 hours (3 full days) so that two doctors can see you. You must not leave during this time unless a doctor tells you that you can. If you try to leave before then a member of staff can stop you, and if you do leave you can be brought back. You can be held in this way because of Section 5(2) of the Mental Health Act 1983,” she paused and handed me a sheet of paper. “These are your rights, read them carefully.”



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