Thursday, 16 January 2014

Some things that may have contributed to the making of 'The Eradication of Schizophrenia in Western Lapland'


Reading R. D. Laing as an ontologically insecure undergraduate and finding the idea of madness quite attractive

Flicking through The DSM IV and noticing I've got most of the disorders

A psychiatrist asking me if I agree that I'm a danger to myself and others and when I say ‘No’ telling me ‘In that case I’ve no option but to detain you under Section 3 of the Mental Health Act’

Spending 6 months in the Maudsley Hospital and finding madness wasn’t so attractive after all

Having my clothes taken away from me and being accompanied to the toilet every time I wanted to go

Being told that I wanted to get out but I didn’t want to get better

Agreeing, for a fee of ten pounds, to be the subject of a psychiatric presentation

Imagining it would be a bit like appearing on the Parkinson show

Discovering it entailed sitting on stage, answering questions from an audience of psychiatrists and breaking down in tears

Listening every morning to someone chanting from the ward below ‘Help me someone I’m dying’

Being ashamed to have a mental illness and not wanting anyone to know

My family trying to understand

Seeing a Pelican book on my condition on the bookshelves at home

Being told that I sometimes seemed quite normal

The book stating ‘It’s all about a desire for control.’ This wasn’t my experience. I felt out of control, actually possessed

Living near a mental hospital in Shrewsbury when I was a boy and ending up in it in my twenties

A nurse in hospital taking my temperature every 30 minutes and saying to me ‘I don’t know if this is what you want but if you carry on like this you’ll very soon be dead’ and my thinking ‘Good’

A patient called Roy Christy telling me how John Fowles the novelist stole his first wife from him on a Greek island. I was never sure if this was true, but years later I picked up a copy of Fowles’s Journals and discovered that it was

A man in the Maudsley sitting next to me and telling me he was Jesus and I was John the Baptist

A bearded lady in the Maudsley asking me if I thought she should kill herself or just put up with it

Seeing a night nurse throw a patient against a wall, reporting it to the hospital board, nothing being done and wondering if I’d imagined it

A nurse supervising the eating disorder patients’ mealtimes while slowly consuming a pot of very low fat cottage cheese

A manic patient called Liz who I found attractive and who told me I was an angel

As I got better beginning to fancy some of the patients, particularly a thickset suicidal boy called Darren

My psychologist telling me that she’d seen me looking longingly at a patient called Douglas who’d been experiencing hallucinations. It wasn’t true. Was she projecting onto me?

Going to the ward round. The eminent consultant (Professor Gerald Russell, whose hobbies include art galleries, photography and music) asking me how I felt and my saying ‘I am terrified about my imminent confrontation with the outside world’ and him saying ‘That’s a very philosophical statement. What exactly do you mean by it?’

After the ward round the nurse who had escorted me there saying to me ‘You did very well. What a wonderful opportunity for an actor’

Being allowed home for a weekend, scoring some dope at the Prince John in Peckham and walking out straight into the arms of the Metropolitan Police

Being taken to the police station and locked in a detention room. Explaining I was a mental patient and being let off

Making friends with a schizophrenic who told me he taught the Foreign Secretary’s children to play the cello.

Coming out of hospital and a relative saying to me on the phone ‘What are you going to do? You have to do something, you know’

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