‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond’ interrogates the original ideal that the asylum represented – a place of refuge, sanctuary and care – and asks whether and how it could be reclaimed. This blog series intends to showcase as many different voices and perspectives from people with lived experience of mental ill health and explore their ideas of personal asylum.
This post is from Suzanne Morris, a writer involved in Core Arts.
Hi, my name is Suzanne and I am someone who suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder, anxiety and other delightful things. I am in therapy at the moment pretending to be “normal”. I also go to Core Arts.
I was diagnosed with clinical depression back in the eighties after a break down. I did a stint at the Junction at Homerton Hospital when it was part of the old Hackney Hospital; afterwards I was put on a waiting list to have psychotherapy. There was a terrible lack of therapists and, sadly, you just had to wait your turn. This often meant you waited years!
Meanwhile, I learned how to “cope” with my illness by isolating myself and avoiding places, people and situations. I convinced myself that I was OK, managing things and being normal. I even moved house, which meant I never received that letter for psychotherapy…
Fast forward 23 years and there I was, another breakdown under my belt and another round of therapy. I always knew that I had more than depression; something I couldn’t explain or understand. Something that consumed me, every waking moment. I was becoming more and more fearful of the world and everything in it. I couldn’t go anywhere without one of my children; I didn’t want to leave the house.
I couldn’t control my emotions and often felt so many things at once that I would shut down and go numb so I could not feel anything. I eventually got to see a psychiatrist in 2012 who diagnosed me with Borderline Personality Disorder. I cannot tell you the relief I felt: I had something! I had always known it and now it was being confirmed. I was told I had probably had it since adolescence which made perfect sense to me.
I waited a long time but eventually had therapy in a therapeutic community which lasted 16 months. It did absolutely nothing for me and may have even made me feel worse. The only good thing to come out of it was that I discovered I could write poetry during our creative writing sessions.
After that, I was referred to Core Arts, a place that nurtures the creative talents of people with mental health issues through music, art, writing, etc. where I was encouraged to let people see my work. I started my own blog showing my poems and wrote about BPD and how it affects my life. During May 2015 (BPD awareness month) I posted on Facebook every day, sharing 31 different aspects about the illness. I am in the process of compiling that into a book as I am desperate for people to know about it and understand what a complex and terrible illness it is. I have also published my own book of poetry with the help of my amazing tutor.
I am currently receiving group therapy which will last 3 years and I am about 5 months in. I find it unbelievably hard as trust is everything and I trust no-one! I am struggling with sharing things that I have been through and hope one day to start feeling even a little better.
My tutor at Core Arts gave me the confidence to put my poems out into the world. Here’s one I wrote for this blog series.
I’m not locked in an asylum..
Not the actual place
Instead I’m locked in my own head..
Just behind my face!
There is no place of refuge
Where I can stop to rest
Instead my heart keeps racing..
Just behind my vest!
No hope of finding safety
So no-one thinks I’m odd
Instead I’m really hurting..
Right inside my bod!
I’m locked inside a prison
That I have built myself
Instead of just explaining
About my mental health
Suzanne is involved with Core Arts and publishes poems and thoughts about Borderline Personality Disorder on her blog.
‘Bedlam: the asylum and beyond‘ is on until 15 January 2017.