Support from family and friends makes all the difference when you experience mental illness. For me, illness came quickly, seemingly out of the blue, when I was twenty-six.
I was taken to hospital and placed under a 72 hour section, spending a month in hospital in total.
I couldn’t have got through the experience without family and friends. My brother, who was unwell himself, took me home to my parents when he saw I was getting ill. We shared a very surreal tube journey home during which I told him the people at work were witches and that I needed to be exorcised. He generously nodded and said, ‘ok Jen’.
My parents took me to hospital after a psychotic episode
My parents took me to the local GP and then to hospital, they were there when I raced, terrified, around the hospital ward, and when I came round some three days later and said to my mum, ‘I think I’ve been acting a bit strangely.’ She sat by my bed and hugged me.
My boyfriend sat with me holding my hand while my head was spinning with ridiculous notions and ideas. And my brother came to visit in a wooly hat and scarves to ward off ME and after I’d come round he brought craft materials with him to make a card for his girlfriend. We didn’t talk about where we were or what had happened, we talked about cutting up photos to make the card. I helped him a bit with the photos of sky. Well, maybe ‘helped’ is too generous a word! But discussed it with him none the less.
Hospital was strange but having visitors helped me
Hospital was a strange, unknown place with its own rules and a crowded smoking room. Having visitors helped me keep my spirits up and believe I was going to go home soon. It gave me the strength to engage in some of the groups in the hospital, like the yoga class and the art group, and going to those classes helped me find motivation.
Friends came to visit bringing postcards for me to put on the wall and one friend brought her Fuzzy Bear to cheer me up and remind me of teenage days listening to the Muppets and Fraggle Rock sound tracks on her Walkman while in our GCSE art exam.
Relationships and connections helped me build resilience
It must have been hard for them to come to a strange concrete building and make a visit they didn’t think they’d have to make. For me it meant the world. It meant normal life flowing into a place that was not normal at all. It meant relationships and connections that helped me build resilience.
I found, when I was experiencing a psychotic episode, that I sensed connections between all things, permeating us all. Afterwards, it was the connections between my loved ones that meant so much.
I was in hospital on Valentine’s Day and my boyfriend took me to the hospital canteen…. We had a romantic meal of macaroni cheese and I gave him a card I’d made from old bits of material and a picture I’d drawn of a tree of hearts. I was in a psychiatric ward, but we were continuing with our lives, determined to still share time together.
The support of my loved one's helped me through the experience
I will forever be grateful to all my loved ones who showed me such warmth, generosity and friendship through that time, and have continued to through the times to come.
If a loved one of yours has had to go into hospital, please do go and visit them. Your being there will make all the difference. Don’t be scared of what to say. Say anything. Say nothing. Ask them how they are. Talk about a film you’ve seen recently, or your cats, or the fact that your boiler’s on the blink. It doesn’t matter, just sharing your solidarity at a difficult time: it breathes life into any situation, no matter how hard it seems.