Back from the brink

On 31 May it was one year since I moved into my new flat. Little did I know then that by 12 September 2005 I’d be discharged from a psychiatric unit.

For the first week in my flat I slept undisturbed. Unfortunately, I had brought with me some psychological baggage about living on an estate in a deprived part of London. It was the night of 6 July that anxiety began to swamp me and what happened the next day exacerbated my condition.

I thought I would be murdered. I could not face work. I thought I was being tracked wherever I went by people using mobile phones. When reporting my fears to the police for the second time I suspected I may be ill. My GP practice urgently became my safety net. I was living a nightmare.

At a minute passed midnight on 3 August – my 55th birthday – I lay awake, writing by candlelight that “they” were coming for me. I expected them to kick down my front door. I went back to work for two days but in the evening when colleagues were saying “see you tomorrow”, I felt uncertain. It was like I had a hole in myself; it was different from anything else I had encountered in my life. I knew I needed help and four days later I went to accident and emergency and pleaded to be admitted.

I was interviewed by the on-call consultant psychiatrist and a person from the community team. At first both felt I did not need to be in hospital. I desperately told them the last place I wanted to be treated was in my home. By chance, my mother phoned the reception to check how I was and the doctor then informed me there was a bed for me. I felt so relieved.

I asked for accommodation in a women’s safe house. Every housing option explored by the staff was impossible. I needed this to sustain my life which seemed to be slowly slipping from me. Within a week I was using anti-anxiety medication. I did not know at night whether I was asleep or awake; I craved silence and relief from the head pain caused from all my thoughts. I became deeply depressed.

I was on a locked ward and the door to my room I locked too. It seemed what was happening at home was now being mirrored here. I feared stepping back into my life and, the day before I was due to be discharged, I considered suicide. I bought some razors from a chemist and at 2.30 the next morning I placed them on my bed, played with them and stared at themthinking.

My head pain had gone so I guessed that, were I to use one of the razors, I would feel it and in any case it may not be successful. My mind was made up: I did not really want to kill myself.

In retrospect I feel fortunate to have experienced hospital care. I was a terrible patient. The core staff were excellent and professional at all times. I felt they were trying to let me know I was safe. For me, the system worked. It allowed me to act out my fears and my inner dramas.

Angelica Perry has used mental health services.

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