By Frank Hayward
Key Themes: psychosis, recovery, maintenance of good health, informative, personal strength
This book describes the author’s (to date) 2 periods of psychotic illness, both of which occurred during the 1980’s and, whilst not originally intended as anything more than a personally satisfying way of expressing his vivid memories of these episodes, hopefully serves to evoke such illness in a manner to which sufferers/former sufferers can relate, whilst at the same time rendering this from the outside baffling state a little bit more intelligible to those who have not personally experienced it. (This tale is not in any way fictional, but some names have been changed.)
About the Author
The author was born and grew up in north London where, shortly after turning 25, he was first admitted to hospital with mental health problems. Two years later (in 1987) his illness was diagnosed as schizophrenia. He has he is glad to say now maintained fairly good health for over 15 years.
My present life, so I’m told, and maybe it’s my first? Began in Chase Farm Hospital, London, England. I have a picture in my mind’s eye of sunlight on a wall that seems to attribute itself to my first days in the hospital, but it is probably just a fantasy that I’ve built up since, for I have no other ‘memories’ of the first three or four years of my life. – And it was to Chase Farm that I was ‘recalled’ a quarter of a century later, though at the time I barely recognized it as a hospital, besides which I was sure I’d died, and had moved to some other plane of consciousness.
I have little idea where to begin when speaking of the development of my insanity, partly because I am, even now, pretty much in the dark as to the time of, and reasons for, its inception, and partly since many of the people I had come to know during the twenty five years preceding my admission to the Psychiatric Unit were of the unequivocal opinion that I had ‘always’ been ‘a little touched’. So I’ll not try to trace the evolution of what ‘blossomed’ into a raging disorder of the mind, but instead simply begin at the point at which I myself became aware of a distinct change in my perceptions, or rather, a change in the feel and appearance of the world I perceived as being external to me.
The journey to Utrecht
On about February 10th 1985, my father drove me to my college in his Volkswagen Golf. It was a crisp, clear morning, and I was excited about the field course to Utrecht in the Netherlands upon which myself and my fellow students (on the ‘Town and Country Planning’ specialization of a B.A. Social Science degree) were due to embark that morning, along with members of staff that included my tutor Angela. Having deposited my bag in the corridor in which students and luggage were accumulating prior to boarding the coach, I went and banged on the keys of the piano on the stage in the main hall for a few minutes, and then returned to the corridor, studiously avoiding the voluptuous Amy Franks with my eyes. Once on the coach, I read a long article on the husbandry of Mediterranean tortoises in the herpetological magazine that I’d received in the post that morning, and also read; or reread?, the disaffected letter from my Spanish pen-friend Lola, which had also arrived that day. I was full of ‘eager’ indignation at her suggestion that maybe she should stop writing to me and, full of my ‘great love’, endeavoured to devise a means of telling her off.
We were now well into the journey to Harwich, where we were to board the ferry for the continent, and I was in a fine, ebullient mood. I suppose that the thought of exotic, drunken nights, with the ‘forbidden’ temptation of Amy likely to be only a few yards away, had got me high. It was at this point that the coach windscreen shattered. As far as I can recall, this curious incident, although a talking point for the next few minutes, aroused little reaction, and, as far as I was concerned, merely served as an excuse to try out my Russian style hat on account of the draught.
I don’t recall us changing coach (we may have done); neither do I remember boarding the ferry, but the trip across the water stands out in my mind, primarily for the profound effect that I gauged the film that I spent two hours of the crossing watching, had on me, an effect by no means lessened by the unexpected, but seemingly appropriate, arrival of Amy in the cinema shortly after I’d taken my seat. The film; ‘The Natural’, engaged my imagination in what might on reflection be described as the beginning of a heady descent into a world of delusion, and I proceeded to attach an incredible amount of significance to certain scenes, and somehow wove my own story of absolute good and total evil. Indeed, even the title ‘The Natural’ became imbued with mystical meaning in my eyes and, by the time the film ended, I was quite decided that Robert Redford, who played the central character, was possessed of most extraordinary psychic gifts.
As I left the cinema, I was seriously contemplating asking Amy if I could buy her a drink, but she was with someone and I let her be. – I spent the remainder of the ferry trip in the bar, laughing and joking with some of the other students, including Joseph from Zimbabwe.
Having crossed the channel, there are two things that stick in my mind about the remainder of the journey; namely, being ushered into a building somewhat akin to an aircraft hangar and thinking that maybe we’d be searched, and perhaps even shot!, and standing in a shopping mall, where Amy dared me to try and make myself understood in order to buy a cigarette lighter.
This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 13 August, 2009.