Mental Health Friday #20

Mental Health Friday #20

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How I made it to eleven years clean despite having a nervous breakdown and thinking terrorists had poisoned all the blueberries in my local supermarket.

When I went into rehab at the beginning of 2005, my seriousness and dedication to my treatment can be deduced from the essential items I packed:
12 pairs of Agent Provocateur lingerie (in case I got lucky)
A vibrator (in case I didn’t)
Enough benzos and diet pills to get me through the first week.
17 pairs of designer shoes (later smuggled up to 70)
36 handbags.

My therapist said I looked like I’d escaped from the set of TV Sitcom “Absolutely Fabulous.” I sincerely believed this was a compliment. I had chosen St Chillin’s, Britain’s most exclusive rehab, as I felt it would look best on my C.V. and hoped to bump into a celebrity. Despite having been arrested at Heathrow airport, as sundry dogs, passengers and tea ladies detected that my passport and all my possessions were heavily (and visibly) coated in cocaine, I considered myself to be a party girl who had simply partied a bit hard. Quite what party I was attending when I was scoring drugs in a Jamaican ghetto at midnight, thinking I was likely to be gang raped and have my throat cut, is still a mystery. Other adventures I’d got up to included being seduced by a (female) teenage stripper in Jamaica, who’d killed someone the week before (and then stole my car). And deciding that the best medication for a cocaine induced heart attack, was (naturally) to take more cocaine.

Only a few days after the benzos I’d taken into rehab ran out, (which caused major panic attacks as well as a serious problem with imaginary insects that kept on biting me) I was forced to do “Step 1” of the AA 12 Step programme “We admitted we were powerless over our addiction, that our lives had become unmanageable.” The reaction from my therapy group to what I’d been getting up to in Jamaica was, instead of the laughter and applause I’d been expecting, shocked silence and a recommendation “to write it all down as a public leaflet to warn people not to take drugs.” That Step 1 changed my life, reducing my denial from the size of the Titanic to a one person canoe. Instead of just having a break from my using, I now decided I was going to get clean.

After relating a catalogue of disasters with my mental health, the psychiatrist at St Chillin’s diagnosed me with borderline personality disorder and said I had “too many problems” to be treated in the private sector as I would “bankrupt my family.” This diagnosis came after previous diagnoses of clinical depression and bulimia in my early twenties. The psychiatrist said I needed to move to a state rehab. I decided I’d better listen, as my decisions had ended me up in rehab, totally broke. The only place my local council would fund that had a bed, was a tough rehab in South London, bristling with ex-cons, where I met the “love of my life” an ex-armed robber, pimp and drug dealer who’d forgotten how long he’d spent in jail. Naturally, when I left residential rehab at the end of 2005, he moved straight in with me. But I’m not sure I would have got through that first Christmas out of rehab clean if he hadn’t been around.

I was going to 12 Step meetings, which I had always primarily viewed as places you went to pick up men, arriving at the end of the meeting, with my telephone number tattooed on an exposed breast. I had chosen a sponsor in NA because her handbag collection was much much bigger than mine. My local council decided I was too deranged to be left in society on my own, so my GP referred me to the Waterview Psychiatric Unit where they had a programme to treat people with Personality Disorders. I immediately renamed it the “Prison View Psychiatric Unit” as water was as absent as lakes in the Sahara, it was actually overlooking a juvenile detention centre. Read more

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