By Rebecca Morgan
Key Themes: autobiography, poetry, diaries, psychosis, ECT, breakdowns
ALSO AVAILABLE IN PAPERBACK
Rebecca describes her struggle with the depths of depression and the confusion of psychotic episodes vividly and honestly. This story has been written using diaries, which Rebecca has written every day since she was thirteen. This account is accompanied by evocative poetry, including poems written while she was experiencing psychotic illness.
She emerges at the end of the book with renewed confidence and clarity about her periods of illness. This book aims to show what it is like in the sufferer’s mind and to give real hope to fellow sufferers that recovery is possible with help and support.
About the Author
Rebecca Morgan was born in Hertfordshire in 1951. She obtained a degree in Modern History and Politics from Sheffield University in 1973, followed by a Post-Graduate Diploma in Librarianship from Birmingham Polytechnic in 1975. In 1978 she became a Chartered Librarian and has worked for 20 years for Sheffield Libraries, Archives and Information Service.
She has experienced severe depression, postnatal depression and psychotic illness during her life.
Rebecca is married with one son and lives in Sheffield.
This is her first book, although she has had poetry and a few articles published in magazines and anthologies.
Rebecca Morgan is a pseudonym.
The taxi dropped me in front of the stone-fronted terraced houses. I walked up the five steps, along the brick passage and to the door. Tentatively, I put the key in the lock and turned it. There was a fresh smell to the hall, not like the musty aroma which usually hits you after leaving the house empty awhile. No doubt my mother had been cleaning. A gurgled murmur from the sling around my neck reminded me that the baby’s feed was about due. For the first time I was home with my baby boy for good. Not quite a new-born baby, for he was over 4 months old.
As I unlaced the baby-sling and placed Steven carefully in his bouncing cradle, I marvelled at what a lovely baby he was. Contented and smiling even though he was hungry. I began to prepare the bottle, looking back over the first few months of Steven’s life.
I could remember certain things, but much that had happened was just blankness in my mind. For I had spent three months in Middlewood, the local Psychiatric hospital and the Electro Convulsive Therapy* (ECT) had caused a period of amnesia – a sort of blanking out of the worst experiences. This failure of my memory was a weird and disturbing feature of the illness – at times I would panic if I could not recall an incident, face, name, any little thing. Frightening! But I knew from experience that the memories would eventually revive and invade my mind in patchy outbursts. Suddenly, in the midst of normal everyday sequential thoughts, I would picture myself, say, hysterical, being calmed by a nurse after having ripped down the curtains of the hospital room. I would stop stock still, amazed, unbelieving that the incident had been real; then I would feel shock and horror and perhaps a hint of shame and I would store that fractional memory away with the rest: eating the yellow head of a daffodil; running away into the snowy street wearing only a nightdress; smashing a full dish of muesli and milk against my bedroom wall; sitting with my arms clasped around my knees, head bent, rocking back and forward humming to myself; believing I was communicating with my dead father by tapping on the hospital walls and fingering hot radiators. I knew the memories would return as they had before. For, the breakdown following my baby’s birth was preceded by two others from which I made a full recovery.
*Electro Convulsive Therapy is a controversial Psychiatric treatment in which seizures are induced with electricity for therapeutic effect. ECT is most often used as a treatment for severe major depression which has not responded to other treatment and is also used for treatment for schizophrenia and other related disorders.
Steven’s birth I could remember fairly well. I awoke at 3.30 a.m. on the very day the baby was due in January, 1980. I had diarrhoea and had to run to the toilet. I continued to go for about 40 minutes, back and forth, and finally realised with some panic that the periodic cramp-like pains in my lower abdomen were labour pains.
After much effort I woke Ralph, my husband, and we packed a bag and got organised. The contractions were then coming every two to three minutes. The ambulance got us to the maternity hospital by about six o’clock and only one and a half hours later Steven was born. I suffered much pain, but was greatly helped by the breathing exercises and song-reciting which natural childbirth classes had taught me. I only once completely lost control when being told not to push whilst having an overbearing urge to do so.
After some worry that forceps might be needed to ease the baby’s head out, a small episiotomy was done, I was able to push with tremendous effort and Steven was born screaming loudly. Ralph held my hand, comforted, encouraged and supported throughout. We were deliriously happy and excited and I wanted immediately to impart the news to all our close relatives, so Ralph rushed off with two pence pieces and phone numbers.
Immediately after the delivery, I felt very tired but elated. Indeed, at some points through the labour I had imagined I was above the bed watching down on myself. This may have been the effect of too much gas and air or perhaps a sign of things to come. The baby was healthy and weighed six pounds. He fitted exactly in the palms of Ralph’s two hands. Steven, as we had decided to call him, wanted nothing but to sleep for twenty-four hours and I wonder, if I could have done the same, perhaps I would have fared better. My blood pressure was high and consequently I was not taken up to a ward for a few hours. I found the wards extremely hot which prevented me from sleeping. (It was 100 degrees Fahrenheit on the wall thermometer). My appetite was poor and little worries about the care of such a small human being all resulted in outbursts of tears. The nurses assured me this was natural: ‘We all have the baby blues at first, dear’. I struggled on with feeds and nappy changes. I became extremely sore as baby Steven did not show any interest in feeding, but was regularly woken from his postnatal slumbers and ‘hooked’ onto my tender breasts. The nights were gruelling, with four babies in each bay taking turns at screaming. I got little chance to rest, and anyway, I was so uncomfortably hot and so mentally on edge that I could not go to sleep.
This product was added to our catalog on Thursday 10 April, 2008.