|'... I can own up to a silly fantasy.' ... 'That's what jazz musicians try to do all the time. When you hit a good night, and start blowing from the roots of your being, your imagination, your soul ... whatever you want to call it and whatever you believe in ... when you do that, in the trade we call it owning up.' Alan Plater (Misterioso, 1988)|
|§ 1||I was born in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire in September 1954, to both parents and a sister nearly five years old. I was, and am, the oldest and youngest son. I was born healthy with a good weight but with a hare lip and cleft palate. I had several surgical operations at Stoke Mandeville hospital during my early childhood and a few in my later pre-adult years to improve my mouth and nasal chambers & improve my looks. I had a happy enough childhood despite some bullying because of my appearance (especially in my early school years). We moved home several times before 1966 due to my dad's work, but settled in the town where I now live at the beginning of my secondary schooling. I was a happy child. A quiet, introspective boy, happier at home with my pencils and crayons. Disliking sport but liking roaming around the countryside (we were country folk).|
|§ 2||I did well in my new school, gaining six CSEs, four of them at 'O' Level standard. I wanted to become an architect (not with those quals!!) and later fancied a job with the Ordnance Survey as I liked maps so much. Also developed an interest in music, teaching myself to play 'rock' guitar. |
Puberty! Did my introspection turn to a five year low? I can't say I remember now but I emerged into adulthood discontent with it all. I was being treated for depression in 1973, while doing a succession of jobs I didn't like, relationships failing left and right (when I could find them). By July 1974, however, I was working as a care assistant in a children's home in Hackney, London.
|§ 3||Seven months later CRASH, BANG, WALLOP and into my first 'mental breakdown'. I was referred to a psychiatrist - Dr Crause - back in the home county telling him, amongst a torrent of other stuff, I had a "total awareness of what was going on around [me] but not being able to turn a blind eye to it". A month later Dr Crause wrote to my GP "It is not possible to be sure ... how much he has been suffering from an incipient schizophrenic illness, perhaps for some years". He arranged for me to attend a newly-opened day hospital's weekly group. After I'd moved on the Nursing Officer wrote to Dr Crause:
During the initial phase of his attendance he tended to speak in riddles, appeared to be out of touch with reality at times and generally gave the impression of being a "stranger" in the Group's activities. As time passed, however, he became an active and constructive group member, applying group interaction and observations to himself, often in a critical manner.
|§ 4||I soon bounced back. During 1976 and 1977 I managed to convert my interest in archaeology into a job and went to work for the Museum of London as a site assistant. My health was OK through this, despite dropping out of a frustrating year at university in Cardiff. I chucked my job late in 79 (why? 'down, down, the rabbit hole') and was broke up by my then girlfriend, who found my deepening depression hard to bear and a threat to her post graduate (MA) studies. At this time I lived in south London (SW9) and would walk past St Thomas' (South Western) Hospital on my doley travels. Little did I know....|
|§ 5||Nineteen-eighty progressed and by the late spring I had started a long walk1 towards mania and the nearby looney bin. My corner of the world became faster and lighter and invincible, while being hard and anxious and leery. By June I was completely hyper and I was persuaded to agree to go into the local psychie unit (St Thomas' South Western) under section 29 of the old act2.|
|§ 6||Life on and off the ward. How was I crazy? Let me count the ways. One: after a couple of days I was so drugged up I wasn't crazy for/to/at anyone. Was 'given' the potent mix of the liquid cosh, and some other stuff, that cooled me right down and kept me down.
My experiences on the ward were much like those you see in the movies and shite documentaries. Actually, I had quite a good time and made some very temporary friends, most of them a lot more screwed up than me, as it turned out.
I was turfed out of [discharged from] the hospital after about three weeks to the tender mercies of the local Social Services and no home to go to. Social Services were no use at all so I found me a patch of floor in a house at the rough end of Villa Road. As squats go this didn't for me. I stayed there for a few weeks and, after wandering the streets of south London in despondency and near-lunacy, returned to the family (except that the parents were in Canada at the time). Ho hum.
|§ 7||Later. Three episodes whilst I was manic.|
1975. A pub in Tring with my dum and dad, sister and brother-in-law. I went over to drink (big fella by all accounts) and took his pint off him and walk away. Brother-in-law went over and pacified him with another pint.
Spring 1980. Cafe in the city of London with a work friend. Left without paying saying I don't need to here. Friend returned later and settled the bill.
October 1986. On M5 motorway on way back to Burton from Swansea, repeatedly tried to get out of the car at 60 mph. Dad had to put the kiddie locks on. How appropriate.
Small beer you might say but worrying none the less.
|§ 8||Ach, that bit in the middle. Like the difficult second album but not really. The following years:|
|Most of the stuff above was written in June 2014 at a time when my 'troubles' appeared to be behind me. We had moved into a new home, away from the abusive neighbours in the 'hood. Work was going well and we were looking forward to retirement - Mrs W in 2017, and me in 2020.3 Meanwhile, number one son had been fairly well for about two decades, give or take the occasional long period of low level depression. I was admitted to Royal Derby Hospital in August 2014 with lithium toxicity, and subsequently diagnosed with Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), a result of long tern Lithium use.|
|§ 9||My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009. At 80 years old it slowed him down a bit - no more double digging the garden - but otherwise he was well. In 2011 he was told he had heart failure. He had various treatments, but by the beginning of 2015 the conditions had taken a grip on him. Mum, dad and I were to attend my cousin's wedding in the September followed by a week's holiday in Oswestry. Dad was too ill, so I went to the wedding and holiday alone. By late September I started to crumble towards another hypomania. Fortunately my GP was able to get my Lithium sorted out and I avoided another hospital admission.4. My dad deteriorated and was taken into a home. He died the following January.|
|§10||Two years on from losing Dad there followed the grief; mine, mum's and the whole family. I decided to get a grip and ask for a referral to the local Mental Heath Team. In May I gained an appointment with Dr. Srinivasan. On my second appointment the following month I started the migration from Lithium to Quetiapine5. Since then, in December, I've been an altogether happier bunny.|
So where does that leave now? I share my thoughts occasionally on my Arsebook page. I guess my loony tunes can be divided up into approximate decades:
1. 'Johnny Walker' was my nickname at the time. I walked for miles and miles across London from Clapham to the West End, from there to Hornsey (guess how glad my friends were to see me at 4am!), from Hackney to Holland Park, and round and round the West End and City. Never sleeping - like me.↰
2. This refers to a section of the 1958 Mental Health Act which enabled an individual to be forcibly admitted to hospital for (usually drug) treatment for up to 28 days. This section was used on people who had declined to be admitted voluntarily. There is a current MH Act that deals with this in a similar way - see here.↰
3. Due to unfolding events she retired in August 2015 and I followed in October 2016.↰
4. This is breakdown no. 5, a 'crackup lite'.↰
5. See here.↰
3. "The greatest brewery [and hotels company] in the world".↰
The author - Leslie (Lez) V Watson - has asserted his right under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988, to be identified as the author of this work.
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v20 :: January / February 2020