By William Roberts
Key Themes: novel, autobiography, mental health, recovery, empowerment
A Mental Note is a novel based on the life and times of a man who suffers from a mental illness. Will, who has been diagnosed as a paranoid schizophrenic, tells his story about living with this illness, focusing mainly on specific periods and events relating to this condition, and the reasons for it. He describes life before becoming unwell, the diagnosis and treatment, as well as other incidents. These are all included to show how Will’s life developed during his ordeal. Although most of the book is factual, some areas have been dramatised to bring the story to life. Also, many of the fictional passages have been included to give a sense of the nature of the illness and the thought process that goes with it. For example, a schizophrenic can create his or her own deluded perception of reality that, although it isn’t real, seems perfectly believable to the sufferer.
The book is comical in places, and some of the fun in the book is designed to show that even when suffering from a mental illness, it is still possible to have a good time, and enjoy oneself. I have tried to focus mainly on the good experiences for this reason, but I have also referred to the darker sides of the illness so that people in similar situations can possibly relate to them. Hopefully this may give others a bit of an insight into living with the disease, and its harrowing effects.
I hope this book will be of considerable interest to anyone who either suffers from, or is involved with someone who suffers from, any similar mental health problems. I also think that it makes for a stimulating, insightful and humorous read for a wide range of other people concerned with such issues. Finally, because of some of the geographical locations in the book (especially references to Shrewsbury), I think people from those areas mentioned would enjoy reading this book too.
About the Author
William is a man with a story of courage. He was born in Shrewsbury, Shropshire UK in 1980. He was educated privately in Shrewsbury, and at Adams School, Newport, Shropshire, where he achieved 8 healthy GCSEs. Trouble set in in his mid-teens when he was caught between the Sixth Form College, Shrewsbury, and the Radbrook College, Shrewsbury, where he transferred from an academic to a practical career prospect, studying to be a chef. From Shrewsbury to Croydon near London he pursued his chef career. He had a breakdown, out of which he has pulled himself together, and written ‘A MENTAL NOTE’ – an imaginative and dynamic fictional testimony to what it is to be like to be pained by schizophrenia, but to work one’s way through. He is currently living in Birmingham, and writing his next, imaginative books.
October 5, 2006. It’s a pretty cold day. Not bad for the time of year I suppose – could be warmer though. I bet Mum’s warmer. She’s somewhere across the Med on a cruise ship with her husband. Thirteen floors apparently! Three theatres, Lord knows how many restaurants, and a casino.
Hmmm, a casino. That’s where I’d be, if I had any money. Not Mum though, gambling didn’t appeal to Mum. Apart from being too sensible and knowing that the house always wins, she probably wouldn’t understand how to play anyway.
I do seem to remember playing blackjack with her when I was younger. Only for matchsticks though – you know – for fun.
Yeah, Mum will probably be in one of the restaurants trying out the various cuisines on offer, or catching a show in one of the three theatres (how many theatres does a boat need?) Sounds all very glamorous. Not my idea of a good holiday though: stuck on a ship with nothing to see but water.
Still, each to their own and after all it is her birthday. Oh didn’t I mention, that’s right, today she is sixty-eight and this was Eric’s (that’s her husband) treat for nearly reaching the golden age of seventy. Probably not his idea of a good holiday either, but you know, ‘whatever the lady desires’ and all that. Fair play to him that’s what I say.
I would phone to wish her a happy birthday but their phones don’t work so far from the shore. I’d let her know that everything’s okay and tell her not to worry. I’d tell her to watch Eric and that casino, not that he knows how to play anything there anyway. I’d warn her not to go to crazy on the food in all those restaurants, but most importantly, I’d say to her: “However much Eric winds you up – DON’T throw him overboard!” Oh well, I’m sure she won’t.
“Happy birthday, Mum. Hope you’re okay – I’m fine. Say hi to Eric for me, and I’ll see you soon, okay.”
Yeah, Eric’s a good bloke. We’d had our fallouts in the past but he looked after my mum and for that, I cannot fault him. Right plonker though – into his crown green bowling. In fact, he’s captain of the local club’s B-team. On occasion, Mum and I used to go down to watch him play when there was a home game. Eric thought we were there to support his team: we were really there to take the Mick out of him, and to take advantage of the incredibly cheap bar.
“Good wood sir – jolly good wood indeed,” we would shout from the sideline, trying not to laugh, as I held a pint in my hand, while Mum stood next to me, dipping her ready-salted crisps into her tomato juice.
When it was Eric’s turn to bowl – that was the real highlight. He would line up his shot, take a back swing and release the bowl (just like everyone else really), but if his bowl looked wide, he would perform this hand gesture as if he was stroking an invisible dog. I think it was to somehow try and magically steer the ball back to its target. The wider the bowl – the bigger the dog: it was a joy to watch, had us in tears.
“Another drink, Mum?”
“Jolly good idea, Sir.”
Yeah, Stella (that’s my mum by the way) and Eric had been together for years. Lost count exactly how many, yet I do know they’d been married for four of them. I remember the wedding – it was great. I can picture mum wearing that stunning gold dress; her hair styled beautifully. All of her friends and family were there for her big day - I mean the place was packed.
Then there was Eric. Eric was dressed top to toe in this dark green suit, looking more like a tennis umpire than the groom, but if you think that’s bad, you should have heard his speech. Something along the lines of ‘never wearing ladies underwear,’ I won’t go into that now though.
You know the best thing about mum’s wedding – the best thing, was shaking Marcus’ hand after the service and calling him ‘brother.’ Marcus is Eric’s youngest son and we get on like a house on fire: he’s so funny.
I remember once we went down to Eric’s bowls club and had a bit of a (hmmm) practice on the green. Marcus got banned for life for taking out some poor guys legs with a – shall we say – slightly over the top smash shot. The thing was there were no other balls to smash! Luckily the manager didn’t realize that it was Eric’s son. That would have made for a whole world of messy sugar, but as it happened there was no harm done (apart from the geezer’s legs of course).
Even before mum got married we considered ourselves brothers, but now it was official.
After the wedding service and a few words with some of the guests, we all sat down for the meal: a choice of either pork or fish. Either side of me at the dinner table were Marcus and Chris (that’s my sister-in-law), Christine to be exact. Now trust me when I tell you that, boy, can she can go on, and on, and on:
“Don’t you think you’ve had enough Champagne, William?” and; “I don’t think you should drink any more Champagne, William!” and; “You really should make that your last glass of Champagne, William,” and so on.
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