By Mike Pearson
Key Themes: psychiatric social worker working in mental health, personal experience, depression, humour, acceptance
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The story follows a humorous and occasionally harrowing account of one persons journey through depression from inside the world of a psychiatric social worker who is also becoming unwell. It places mental illness firmly in the realm of personal experience and should offer hope to both sufferers and carers. The book is informed by a belief that individuals and the services treating them can get better and that we can inhabit a world where it's all right to be not all right.
About the Author
Mike Pearson was born in Darlington in 1956 and lives in Lincoln. He is employed as a social worker in a community mental health team in the east midlands. He is also a writer and photographer whose previous books include 'City Go Nap As Quakers Halt Slump' and 'Conversations In British Jazz'. 'Ask Me Now' is his first work of fiction. As an occasional sufferer from depression and a professional in the mental health field he has a particular interest in the issues and is well placed to give a personal as well as occupational view.
Alan looked through the window as another cadaver passed by and reflected that the dead really did go on before you if your office overlooked the hospital mortuary. Further on, pale October sun surprised the last leaves of fed up trees stuck in the car park as an off grey Fiesta came to a stop and a storm tossed vision in purple work boots and ankle length coat came out backwards struggling to supervise a pile of unruly buff folders. At least one official looking piece of paper managed to discharge itself from the pile to drift gracefully down to a loose group of leaves. There could have been more but Alan thought they were more likely to be stray sheets of Kleenex from the random selection scattered on her dashboard.
The woman’s hennaed hair caught the same gust of strong wind which took the leaves and paper off to a distant corner of the car park, she pushed it away from her face with one hand, dumped the files back into the car then let the breeze buoy her in a north-easterly direction. With the hood lifting from the back of her coat she resembled somebody out of an advert for Scottish financial services. He watched with a kind of muted concern as the purple Doc Martens disappeared into the bushes where lovers tarried and dogs went for heroic bowel movements. When she hadn’t re-emerged after about five minutes he felt he should go out and offer to help, however, a silent presence off to his left proffered a mug with a picture of Count Basie on it. As the grinning bandleader was full of warm tea and as Alan hadn’t had any since he left home half an hour ago, he stayed where he was. The matter was settled by the two porters returning from the mortuary with their trolley. He could tell it was empty because the drab curtain material lay flat on the barrow where before there had been signs of former life in the lumps and valleys beneath the material. Everyone knew this went on but did they have to see it? He was beginning to accept that what you didn’t know couldn’t bother you, so why go on looking?
Was this what the Staff Development Unit meant by critical reflection and evaluation? Perhaps he should ask Mandy, who had been known to crack a joke - something to do with the area director, an emergency admission and a drug rep. He couldn’t recall structure, outcome, what it was about or anything beyond it being funny. He did recall noticing that she was fanciable too, so what on Earth was she doing at SDU with Ivor, Ross and Bimmy? They tended to treat jokes as symptoms of a deeper problem which the teller might want to discuss and, while he knew what they meant, Alan, on reflection, thought them a set of tossers. And what that said about him, he’d rather not know.
The bushes were showing signs of new life, the Scottish Widow was reversing from darkness into the light, her boots looked unsmeared but her hands were empty. Pulling her coat about her and shaking her hair into the weather she turned back towards the building and meandered carwards where she slid into the passengers seat to relight a three-quarters smoked roll up. After a couple of industrial strength lung fulls she flicked it out into the car park, lumbered through and out of the drivers side with the pile of files clamped to her breast and came towards reception with her head down. The Consultant Psychiatrist had arrived for work.
‘What’s so interesting out there this morning Dickie?’
‘I was just watching Dr. Wallace arrive, it’s incredible really.’
‘Oh, you know, she seems so disorganized but the clinics seem to run all the same.’
‘A lot of that is down to the med secs.’
‘Yes but they don’t do the clinical work. Lucy told me she saw twenty-five outpatients last week - and that’s on top of three assessments, a ward round and that bloody faff on with Benny The Ball down the cop shop. They reckoned to have him on a 136 but when we got down there he’d been arrested for a breach of the peace. Of course he’d started to come out with all sorts of stuff - the microchip in his penis, the penis in his brain, the asteroid in his underpants. He tried to offend her but she just kept asking him to tell her more so he clammed up. Apparently he’s known as Dick Head down there.’
‘No imagination, at least we acknowledge his uniqueness and respect his individuality by using his proper surname.’
‘What was he christened though?’
‘No, his Dad was a footie fan and Benny came along in 1966.’
He’s getting on a bit now, what do they think's wrong with him? He’s been in enough times.’
‘Wallace reckons he’s a borderline personality disorder who has learned how to reproduce pseudo-psychotic symptoms under stress.’
‘Hmm, sounds about right. Didn’t they used to think he was schizophrenic?’
‘God, that was old Dr. Patel. You won’t remember him - he was that one they effed off back to the Punjab before Woodbine Winnie came. I’m not being racist but he was useless, used to get the medications mixed up and forget patient’s names. There was another one - Singh or Bindi or something, she was another one who didn’t know where her ...’
‘But he’d been assessed a good few times though.’
‘Oh not much, it was funny how his diagnosis began to change. Bally came in once, he’d been on the ward a couple of days and went missing for a few hours. Guess where they found him?’
‘On the Geriatric ward. He’d gone there with a white coat he’d got hold of on the sly, told one of the nursing auxiliaries he was ‘the new doctor’ and managed to get one of the patients to undress so’s he could examine her before anyone cottoned on. After that he was seen to be suffering from the kind of enduring personality disorder that was best treated in the community. I believe that nurse is now a sister; she was from India or Pakistan, or somewhere. Huddersfield probably.’
Alan objected to Graham Dixon’s racism and felt he should say so. He had done once and been advised to spend less time ‘with those wankers in Training’ and didn’t he recognize a joke? After all he would never talk to ‘them’ like that, it was just that they got ‘affirmativeness’ stuffed down their throats all the time in this job. The Dixon view was that people would get along much better if they were left alone, that you couldn’t force these things. Alan knew he wasn’t daft, not by a long way, and he had been really impressed by Grahams approach to an old Pakistani they’d assessed together once. He just seemed to carry this chip, being told what to do generally set things off, then it seemed to bring out the Norman Tebbit in him.
This product was added to our catalog on Wednesday 06 February, 2008.