By Julie M Hughes
Key Themes: Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, phobias, mental health, empowerment
One woman’s battle to conquer phobia upon phobia. Born in 1944 and brought up on
a council estate was sent to a mental institution in the 1960’s to correct fainting
attacks. The experiences left her so traumatised she turned in on herself.
Starving and seemingly without hope clung to her faith and was not abandoned by
God. Shafts of light would filter through to direct her course to achieve more than she
dared to hope.
About the Author
This is not a story of a miracle cure but a frank account of how I have tried to conquer or
live with the manifold fears and phobias which engulfed my life.
School phobia turned to agoraphobia and later OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder)
until every waking hour was governed by fear and phobia.
I was in my 40’s when I began to sit on chairs on a regular basis having spent many years
Sitting on the floor isolated and rocking in long spasms.
I still have problems and life will always be a challenge however; I have made much
Progress without medication but by prayer, perseverance and kind helping hands.
This book tells of my experiences in a mental hospital in the country in the 1960’s
and the vast difference of treatment and approach in modern times in a local psychiatric
hospital after the refreshing wind of change blew through the corridors of time and
I emerged from being written off as unemployable to doing voluntary work with animals
Then dispensing and reception work at a vet practice before eventually securing a part
Time job for an optician.
This book is a tribute to all who have helped me by word or deed, no matter how small a
part they have played in my life, mentioned in this book or not and I dedicate this book to
all of them.
The sun was beating down on the hottest day for five years in August 1981. There had been a considerable amount of cloud to make the air humid and heavy but by 1pm the sun reigned supreme as I walked down the track of the riding school.
“Ready girls…walk on.” The girls led or rode their ponies down the track to the field of a riding school in Warwickshire to take part in a fancy dress parade. I was walking beside them to check there were no problems.
I had been going to the stables one day a week and had eventually learned to ride. It had taken me time to learn, for first I’d had to learn to cope with being amongst people again. I was twenty-nine when I first went riding but I had been housebound for some time and did not want them to know. I wanted to live a normal life and be like other people, but the truth will always out, as one ride disastrously proved. I was trying to grapple with being in society as well as with a headstrong animal that had a mind of his own, supporting my diminutive frame. I went to pieces and was forced to tell them that I had not been able to lead a normal life since I was thirteen and the reason why.
Well, there’s no fool like a young fool, for when I spilled the beans the help was uplifting. I was given a smaller pony and opted to ride with the kids and for once found my small frame an asset. I found it easier to fit in with them than the more competitive adults.
Although every moment I spent at the stables was a challenge, it eventually proved rewarding and the day came when I was asked to help a family of three, two of whom were extremely nervous riders (we paranoid Pandoras have our uses at times).
I knew I was lucky to be there, and luck was the name of the game as my hospital volunteer, Vikky, had opened the door for me. That friendship had sprung out of adversity.
I had been due at the hospital for my weekly session of therapy with the psychologist and could not go alone or unaided at the precise time and, as the usual ambulance crew were on strike, Vikki had been sent to take me instead. We got on well so she was allowed to take me each week from then on. It proved victorious as I was in the grip of another major setback with my never-ending maladies and neuroses when Vikki and I were thrown into each other’s paths…a path I was destined to take.
So now in 1981 it was pony camp week and I had been invited to help with the kids. I loved the country scene, for was I not just a simple country girl at heart, living in a frustrating setting, surrounded on all sides by walls? I was crying out to be ME.
That evening the camp had an open day for parents. The family I had been helping took me along. We arrived early to look round the dormitories and, feeling very tense, I was wondering if I had done the right thing. As the parents started to arrive, I stiffened up immensely. It was beginning to tell on me, this new world of having people around me. I stifled the tension to the best of my ability and hoped it did not show. Head up and shoulders back, I carried on down the track to the field with the crowd.
Then the races, parents and children together. We formed two lines and as I battled with myself about whether or not to take part, the alarm bells were ringing... I knew I was in trouble. I had reached the crossroads again. That point when I could not decide whether to carry on and try to fight it off or to accept the warning as a defence signal and back down whilst I was still on top.
I decided I would not let myself or the side down, and lined up with the rest. The relay race began and the shouting, bawling and yelling for their respective teams. Kids and parents ran against each other.
When it was my turn I ran like the wind, surprising myself and the crowd, but I felt as if my legs did not belong to me; somewhere along the line my body was not coordinating properly. I ran again, then the final cry went up, “We’ll go once more.” I did not know if I could make it, but by hook or by crook I was going in with all I had. I raced toward the post and realised I was racing a young child. The child accelerated so I did, too. What did it matter if I was thirty-seven? I could compete with the rest. Faster and faster we went until wham! My legs gave way and I went forward on my face, gasping. So this was it, the dreaded ‘fall’ had caught up with me again. I lay there panting, aware of voices in the background. I tried to distinguish one from another but it got too confusing so I gave up and let it roll over me.
I heard the proprietor’s voice. “All right then, love?” she asked. Eventually things came into focus. As I was escorted to the Portakabin, I lowered my eyes away from the staring crowd, feeling every bit the naughty dog with his tail between his legs. I leaned heavily on my supporter, the mother of one of the staff. I was burning with humiliation.
I felt numb with disbelief. How could fate sock it to me this way again? Miserably I realised that the dreaded faint had finally caught up with me again, the thing I dreaded most. Was this not the thing I had been fighting for years to overcome? To be able to go out and remain upstanding? It had come crashing down on me like a sudden storm because of my own stupidity. My mind was in utter confusion. Back to square one again were we? Had the dummy hand returned to me yet again? I challenged God sarcastically, but there was no flood of tears, no utter panic, nothing really except a splitting headache.
I sat on the chair in the kitchen of the Portakabin and held my breath, for the crowds were coming in for refreshments. I sat rigidly as if in a vice. I knew what this usually meant, the influx of people... it usually sent me into a faint and falling off the chair. I held my breath once again as they lined up in the kitchen. However, I sat there talking to the proprietor’s parents and to my utter disbelief, managed to keep my derriere on the chair.
I was worried. Would they want me now? And how could I fit in now that they had seen my juvenile performance? How would this? How would that? I mithered to myself all the way back up the track to go home.
“See you next week, love,” called Jen, the proprietor. “No problem, no bother. Just one of those things.”
“Yes, Jen,” I sighed. Just one of those dreadful things...
I went to bed with a splitting headache and lay awake for most of the night. My head was thumping and I just could not think straight. One thing I noted was my lack of emotion. The last time I had fallen into a fainting fit I was in tears at my backsliding after being upstanding for some time. But this time it seemed different, so perhaps all the fighting and struggling had left me with something to build on? We would see. The days that followed were a nightmare. It was like walking a tightrope again. The situation was very tense. Fainting, to me, spelt isolation and solitude and it frightened me.
This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 15 December, 2010.