An 18 Month Diary, One Day At A Time, In The Life Of A Mental Health Service User
By Yvonne Stewart Williams
Key Themes: diary, mental health, memoirs
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Altered Perception is an eighteen month daily journey from an acute psychiatric hospital admission prior to my 2009 acute psychiatric admission via HMP Holloway Women’s Prison.
This diary explores my lesbian sexuality, the parenting role of James, my young biological son in looked after foster care, and my support of a loved one with prostate cancer.
In this diary I reveal that for me it is not so much whether mental illness can be cured, but what one does in life in between each acute psychiatric episode. A kind of walking between the raindrops, until you get wet experience.
About the Author
Yvonne Stewart-Williams[Butler] was born in 1961 and is a black English European lesbian single mother with a history of mental illness. She is employed and has spent a short time in HMP Holloway Women’s Prison and several admissions in a locked women only ward, in a psychiatric hospital.
Monday 28th November 2005
This morning, I did not text C the love of my life or my sponsor although I read my 'Just for today' text and my 'basic book' and prayed before setting off to see my son's social worker (CQSW) with some toy's, footware and clothing for him, stopping off briefly on the way to speak to my Community Psychiatric Nurse (C.P.N). The meeting with my son's CQSW was an important meeting. It was to arrange a contract between me and the local authority which, once was agreed to by me, was typed and signed by me to indicate my agreement with the CQSW as to the mutual code of conduct for my behaviour with my son when I next see him. Which is to be the day after tomorrow, at lunchtime, when his school day ends. I last saw the same CQSW in June 2005, just some nearly six months previously when I was telling her that I had accepted an invitation from the cabinet minister, the Rt Hon Tessa Jowell, minister for Culture, Sport, Media and Women's issues to attend a celebratory function at the House of Commons on the 30th June 2005. I had told her that I was going to take my son with me, and I did. After leaving the meeting I got on two buses to make my way from Streatham Hill to Denmark Hill to attend an hour weekly group psychotherapy session. The traffic was slow and I was late getting to the session which had started some fifteen minutes prior to when I got there. By the time I arrived I was feeling emotionally down, doubting my competence as a mother, struggling to think of what positive contributions I could enhance my six year old son's life with. After getting feedback from the group I decided that I would write. A member of the group mentioned that Cooltan Arts, ran a writing workshop, for mental health service users, but when I went there I found out that it was poetry so if there is a fusion of poetry you will know why. After returning home from Cooltan I set to work on writing my first step. I started it yesterday the day after my sponsor gave me the task of answering six questions. But me being me managed to confuse the issue and amalgamated four of the questions into two. Before I knew where I was with question one it was time for me to grab a bite to eat and set off to a twelve step meeting, where I met my sponsor outside. I knew he would be there and I wanted to be near him because I felt a bit vulnerable and I hadn't made contact with him all day. It was the first time that this had happened since he became my sponsor ten days ago. I cried in the meeting and received a lot of warmth from the other people that were around. My sponsor texted me tonight and after I responded I sent a text to C to tell her I love her.
Tuesday 29th November 2005
As I recall 7.30am this morning and my sluggish start to the day, even though I had eight and an half hours of peaceful sleep last night in my bed on my own as usual. I am listening to the 'Simplified' Simply Red CD on volume three of my music system, as it is the one CD that reminds me of Pandora Wrightman, my son's parent and toddler teacher. Pandora was the first teacher at my son's school that I came out to as a lesbian. Later, when my son entered the kindergarten and I was inappropriate with one of the parent's I wrote letters to the schools management committee and other parties clarifying the kindergarten's position on homophobia, the school's college of teachers of which Pandora was a member, responded to my letter. The letter stated that over the years, they have had several same sex parents and that a parent's sexuality had never been an issue and they would certainly never stigmatise a child because of either parent's sexuality. I came to believe them due to the way teachers such as Pandora worked with me and my son.
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