Tomorrow I’m doing my first interview for my book on what it’s like to have ‘A nervous breakdown’. I’ve got so carried away with writing my blogs that I had almost forgotten that the reason for writing a blog began with my book proposal way back in ‘Birthpangs’. Well, the book proposal is now with the agent’s favourite editors; but it’s August and agent and editors are all on summer hols. If I don’t make a beginning with the interviews now I shan’t have these swathes of time once my ‘patients’ return from their summer haunts. Anyway, a part of me is tempted to self-publish as I did, at least to begin with, with my last book, and now I know almost everything there is to know about publishing a book and more and more people, since my first attempt, are doing so, including the Under Cover Economist from the Financial Times, which must mean that he knows a penny or two. One thing that I found out was that even on my small print run of 2000 paperback books with decent paper and matt covers, one copy costs me less than it costs to buy an attractive birthday card, to produce.
I still find it strange that with my first book, Who Is It That Can Tell Me Who I am? (and it’s Shakespeare’s grammar not mine, which people can’t resist correcting), that it was rejected by almost every publisher in London until much later it was shortlisted for a prize when I was re- published by Constable Robinson, since when it’s been selling well.
Tomorrow, I’m going to interview one of the senior consultant psychiatrists at the Capio Hospital in Lisson Grove, London which is less media well known than the Priory but somewhere I should far rather be if I ever needed to be admitted. (They have the most amazing and wise psychiatric nurses there who are at the heart of its ‘therapy’.)Sadly, I don’t have the insurance cover to make my admission possible, but then not many people do, as not even private insurance, except at its highest and corporate levels, covers psychiatric in-care. However, it is not that uncommon, when somebody finds that they are in a state of acute and immobilizing emotional crisis, for them, or family members, or good friends to raise money on their mortgage to avoid an admission to an acute NHS ward. At least in London.
There is nothing I dread more than having a ‘patient’ tell me that they are suicidal or fear they are breaking down, and for both of us to know that they have no ‘sanctuary’: be it medical or familial, to which they can retreat and hope and wait for the crisis to subside. It is inhuman that London has no such refuge. At one time the Maudsley Hospital’s psychiatric emergency department kept its humane doors open to anybody in the city but now bureaucracy demands that they only admit southern Londoners and everybody else is at worst risk in the NHS acute psychiatric admissions wards. The performance artist Bobby Baker, whose recent exhibition of her illustrated account of her nine year breakdown was at the Wellcome Museum, records how it was only after she developed breast cancer, almost at the end of her depressive illness, that she was treated as if she was entitled to concerned care.
Anyway, and Anyway, along with it are amongst, if not the two most pregnant words in English…Anyway, tomorrow I am doing my first interview and I cannot decide whether to structure it, or to go with the flow. By temperament I go with the flow, but then I worry that that may be an indication of lazyiness and I should challenge the flow with some structure. I’ve decided that I don’t want nameless contributions to the book, either from the professionals or the patients, there is still so much stigma loitering around mental illness that I think we should all put up our hands and be counted. After all, it’s almost impossible to explore one family generation anywhere without a case of suicide popping up out of the hawthorn, a bi-polar diagnosis, or a psychotic episode, if not a schizophrenia, or a breakdown. Do you know anybody who has not suffered from serious depression at one time or another? According to the latest statistics, but the facts haven’t changed for some years now, from the World Health Organization, depression is the leading cause of disability for those from the ages of 15 to 44 worldwide.
Anyway, I have to decide what, if any questions, I am going to use in my interview tomorrow. If I can think of any I might post them, or if anybody reading this blog has any thoughts about definitions of a nervous breakdown then please forward your suggestions.
A picture of our ‘sanctuary’, but in France there are others like it for ‘patients’ to retreat to and find themselves. More on that later, maybe.
John Haynes, Cornillon, C2009
In fact, just in case I don’t get around to doing a full blog here are two pictures of The Chartreuse de Valbonne, situated in our local forest, which was the last leper colony in France but which is now used as a retreat for psychologically distressed or recovering people. The flowers are a field of cosmos which was planted by the residents as ‘therapy’. To everything there is a season and a time under the heaven.
Copyright John Haynes 2008