I got lucky, but not everyone will


I first came into contact with psychiatric services when I was twenty-five. I actually went in as a voluntary patient as I had no idea what the services were like. I had read a few psychology books and I honestly expected the professionals would be empathetic and interested in finding out about my experiences and feelings. I thought there would be lots of therapy and the drugs would be optional.

I had become increasingly anxious and frightened. I understand now that the problems were around my own identity. I didn't feel comfortable being who I was. I was a postgraduate student at a prestigious London arts college, having grown up on a council estate in the country. I was worried that the tutors would discover that I was not the sort of person they wanted on the course and would throw me out. I thought all the other students hated me. I couldn't talk about this with anyone.

The doctor at the hospital just kept asking me if I heard voices. I didn't even know what she meant by this. Was she trying to check my hearing or my awareness? Was she using a metaphor? I didn't know. I said yes, because I could hear the voices of nurses and patients on the ward down the corridor. That sealed my fate.

I have been in hospital many times since then, against my will. I have taken many different antipsychotic drugs, mostly against my will. I am one of the lucky ones in that I have still been able to build a life for myself in spite of my diagnosis and treatment. I finished my degree, I worked in a job I enjoyed and I have a beautiful daughter who was not taken into care. I am very much aware that many people out there are not so lucky.