It was a journey that should take two and a half hours. Even less, given that we were travelling in the early hours of the morning. Five hours in, and we were still very far from a place of safety. The three adults in that car with me were becoming increasingly hounded and verbally battered. They were effectively my hostages, while I was convinced they were my captors. My tiny newborn baby slept. He couldn't have done anything else that I needed more.
After countless stops already, I see a petrol station. "Pull over. Pull over. I need some soothers for my throat, it's red raw." It was true. It was. I did need them, but this was yet another stalling device that psychosis was cultivating to put me closer and closer to danger and trouble.
It was at this stage that I started developing the frequent habit of threatening people with all kinds of legal action for disregard of my human rights and of treating me improperly. This petrol station was just a few miles away from my Mum's house and I was desperately trying to bargain with Hero and Shadow from the crisis team that if I could just stop off there and have a shower and some sleep, that everything would be so much better and so much more pleasant for all of us. They had kept saying that it was their duty to get me to a "place of safety" and, as far as I was concerned, places didn't come safer than my Mum's house. Even weeks into my recovery I still couldn't see why we couldn't have done that.
The truth was that every minute that I prolonged the process of getting to a psychiatric ward I was making things much much worse for myself. This is not an illness with patience or understanding. It is rampant and destructive, flattening anything in its path, including its victim, like a bulldozer over a field of poppies. If I had gone to my Mum's I wouldn't have slept; I hadn't really slept in 11 days and being there wouldn't have changed that. I wouldn't have washed. I had had countless opportunities to do both for the last 36 hours, but couldn't do it. The Thing didn't want to just destroy my sanity and normality it wanted to degrade me and shame me, so that I would never be able to stand up to it.
It was at that petrol station in the early hours after Valentine's Day, that love saved me once again.
I'm in the back of the car with my husband in the middle seat and our son in his car seat next to him. I am getting more and more upset, angry, agitated, confused, guilty, ashamed. I'm getting louder and louder, my body is spasming and contorting, I'm feeling out of control; the car is a cage and I am a wild animal, too big for this claustrophobic and confined space. My limbs are thrashing, my hands are claw-like, I'm squawking and shaking and I lash out. I'm crying and shouting and threatening and warning my husband that I am going to hit him, punch him in the face if he doesn't get out of the car. The tears I am crying are coming deep from within. Why am I saying this to the man I love? To the man I shared vows of deep connection and joy with? The man who has been by my side through everything; the birth of our son just days ago and all of this. He is removed from the car. I see him through the glass of the petrol station. This fine, tall figure of a man looks broken. His head is no longer proudly perched on his strong shoulders: he has sunk. I continue to talk feverishly to Shadow, the woman of the team, who says little in return, while Hero goes in to see my husband.
Little did I know that my husband was doing far more than buying me some soothers. He was fighting for my life. He was fighting to stop the police being called, to stop me being sectioned and placed in an acute psychiatric ward and more than all that he was fighting to keep me with my son. The crisis team were running out of options and one more distraction or stop from me on the journey and I would give them no choice but to call the police and have me sectioned. My condition was escalating and I was becoming a danger to myself and the people around me.
I can't remember the words my husband said to me when he got back in that car, but I remember that he whispered them straight into my heart. He said them with an intensity and love that The Thing couldn't hear, but that the Me cowering inside me absolutely did. I knew I was in a very very precarious position. I knew that I was running out of chances, and I knew that the alternatives of me walking into the 'Hackney Holiday Home' of my own free will as an informal patient looked desperately different from what I wanted.
My husband held me and we whispered to each other for the rest of the journey. I didn't trust anyone but him right now, not even myself, but I knew that in this moment my only real place of safety was him and I was going to fight with every part of my being to keep me with my son, and to avoid the atrocities that I could see in my mind's eye if I lost this intense and terrifying battle.
We arrived at the unit in the early morning. I was escorted out of the car by three psychiatric nurses that I called my "Three Graces". They were angelic to me. I had become a small, bird-like woman. Fragile and weak, making my way into my new nest. I felt peace. I had made it. I asked if they would look after me and give me food and sleep and a bath. They spoke with a reassurance and compassion the like of which I may never know again. I knew I had walked through hell, but this was no time to take off my shoes. The Thing did not take kindly to my defiance.
Love and throat sweets,
Mutha Courage x