After 12 exhausting hours of trying to get out of the hospital, I knew that it was going to take a Herculean effort for me to get through those doors and into the car that was patiently waiting to take me to a place of safety. I'd renamed my destination as the "Hackney Holiday Home", so that I could tell myself it was a friendly place rather than a horrifying mental institution. Even my husband, who had seen me run the last few hundred yards of the marathon just months before, didn't think I would be leaving the hospital conscious. Such was the magnitude of what he was seeing happen to me.
I demand a KFC and I'm not leaving until I've had one. We are all exhausted and hungry and I am not taking my 7 day old son on a 3 hour car journey until I have at least had a hot meal. To my intense surprise a KFC soon arrived on the ward. It was yet another meal I would just look at and let go cold, but that wasn't the point. My husband had eaten. My mother-in-law had eaten and I could only get out if my team was strong and, to my psychosis-addled brain, KFC was the answer.
At 2am I will walk out of this hospital and you will all be with me. Do you believe I can do it? Yes. That's not strong enough, do you believe I can do it? YES. That's better. Do you believe? Do You? Do YOU? I needed their responses to fit exactly into my jigsaw. I saw their puzzled faces and demanded they try a new piece, but what I didn't realise was, I was the only one that could see the lid. My team was 5 and a tiny one strong. Two members of the crisis team (Shadow and Hero - they all had special names) my husband, my mother-in-law, my minuscule son and Me. The Me that I had unflinching belief in, the Me that had birthed my son naturally just a few days ago, the Me that ran marathons and did Edinburgh shows, the Me I was terrified I had lost forever.
I coached the team for well over an hour on the minutiae of how we would leave the hospital. It was my walk to freedom and it needed to be exactly right or The Thing would be there to trip me up. I was psyching myself up. I knew that I had something very powerful deep within that could do this and there couldn't be a scrap of doubt from anyone around me that it was absolutely possible.
When the moment came I had the wall of white light taken down from the ward and placed around me. I took pictures of the room and the clock as mementoes of when I took my first stand against this demon I was doing battle with. I had the team ready. I flung the hospital curtain open, shouted "I'm not afraid of you" at The Thing and took the first step of a much longer journey to come.
Out of my pocket blasted Imelda May's "Pulling the Rug From Under Me" and as its powerful rockabilly beats filled my heart, I marched out of that ward. My team just one step behind. This was the biggest feat of imagination over mental tyranny I'd ever attempted, as I insisted that everyone walked out behind me as if we were all in Reservoir Dogs. I even had to stop half way to let Hero know that he was walking all wrong and needed to get his groove on. Not only that, but the 2nd track on the album had started to play and as it was called "Psycho" I thought it was best to replay the first one. It definitely did not look like a group of people that had been struggling for hours to make it out of a door. Well, in my head anyway, we looked like superheroes.
I remember walking past a receptionist and breezily saying "We're just leaving, bye". It was such a monumental step towards safety. Hell had had locked gates up until this point, but it looked like I may have seen an opening and I was running for it. I was doing this of my own free will. The first step I took into the night air was the most exhilarating and powerful breath I have ever taken. The coldness shocked the deepest point of my lungs and I felt alive. More alive than I knew a human being could feel. As the full moon shone down on me I let out a howl of euphoria. We had done it. I had done it. The psychic energy that was now coursing through my veins meant that I had to dance, dance, dance and not stop. The charleston was my dance of choice.
I had shut three of the four car doors with everyone going on the journey seated inside, and it only remained for me to say goodbye to my mother-in-law and get in that car. I'm crying as I write this because I can remember how that moment of saying goodbye felt to me; like all things in the history of the universe: hope and fear, love and deep gratitude, pain and loss, elation and guilt, frustration and connection. I was safe, and yet so far from safety I feared that after that goodbye I may never make it to hello again.
As my car door slammed shut with me ensconced in the car, I laughed at The Thing. I laughed that this time it had picked the wrong person to mess with. We headed out of the car park and onto the road. Unfortunately, outside the car The Thing was laughing harder. What I thought was my door shutting was actually him slamming the gates of Hell, and I was still very much inside.
Love and chicken fillet burgers,
Mutha Courage X