My name is Priscilla Silcock but following my bipolar episode 19 years ago I chose a new name for myself which is Sapphira.
My experience of bipolar was severe and frightening. It revolved around misusing drugs and self-loathing that built over many years because I was confused about sensuality and sex being raised in a strict Christian household.
I was always involved in the music industry, my songs were very precious to me. When I gave a track to a DJ I admired, I could not have imagined his negative reaction would hurt me so deeply. This was exacerbated because I was anxious about redundancies taking place where I was working full time.
The distress set in slowly with sleepless nights but they eventually spiralled out of control.
The world I knew turned against me.
Headlights of cars slowing down in the streets became double agents and spies hunting me down. The red lights on electronic devices around my home glowed ominously.
I was being watched.
I was being recorded.
The street signs became part of an evil test. At the toilets, did I choose the male or female symbol? It was a game and my life depended on making the right choices.
Finally I was taken to see a psychiatric doctor. Even then I thought it was part of an elaborate hoax. I believed my family were using code language and I was secretly being flown to London to meet the Australian singer, Kylie and to sign a recording deal.
My mother had tears in her eyes as she took me to the psychiatric facility.
It was not until they took me into a room a stuck a needle in my arm that I realised I was not going to be flying anywhere.
I began screaming hysterically and was given strong medication to calm me. In fact, the medication was so strong it blurred my vision and rendered me in a zombie like state. My sister would visit and leave crying to see my listless form, hair matted and uncombed, my pupils the size of pinholes because of the chemicals keeping me under sedation.
I spent many hazed days in the high dependency unit at the hospital, behind a think window with other very unwell patients. We were all locked in their for our safety but I did not feel safe.
Patients would howl tormented with delusions throughout the long sleepless nights. Other women in my ward had bandages around their wrists and I could only imagine the horrors they had bestowed upon themselves.
I was trying to find a shred of normality. I did not know when this hell would end. In the morning, some patients had electric shock treatments. Others had severe reactions to their medication, their faces puffed like distorted balloons. On my worst night, I was locked in a room by myself because I would not settle and was a disruption. I remember being forced to urinate in a pillow cover because no one came to help me when I screamed for the toilet.
Eventually the medication began to work and I was moved to the less enforced area of the hospital.
It was a slow recovery but I vowed I would find myself again.
I cut my hair.
I pierced my tongue.
I adopted the butterfly as my symbol on transformation believing if I could transform from this back to a normal life, I could overcome anything.
Now nearly 20 years later, I have a new perspective and I have devoted my life to creating a safe place for women to express their sensuality through my business, Sapphira's Showgirls. It's a burlesque dance academy, because for me, burlesque was the place I found I was reborn, with a new name and new identity. We have taught 15,000 women and everyone receives a butterfly when they join our classes.
I hope you will take courage from my story and stay strong because there is a light at the end of the tunnel. If I can find a way back, you can, too.
Now, nearly 20 years later I have a new perspective.
And I have devoted my life to creating a safe place for women to express their sensuality through my business Sapphira’s Showgirls. It’s a burlesque dance academy because for me, burlesque was the place I found I was reborn, with a new name and a new identity.
My dance school has taught 15,000 women and our students have been on Australia’s Got Talent and appeared alongside me achieving World Records.
Everyone who joins my dance school or works with me on a creative project is given a butterfly. It is my mascot and signature emblem.
Oh, and I married the music producer who has co-written my first album. After all that tragedy, there is a beautiful happy ending. I also joined some personal development groups and qualified as a Soul Voice ® Practitioner to help others overcome trauma. I have used it to become stronger and to help others from my own experiences.
Thank you for reading this far. I hope you will take courage from my story and stay strong because there is a light at the end of tunnel. If I can find a way back, you can, too.”
(Please note, I would like to thank all carers at the psychiatric facility I attended. They were caring and professional, my account is based on seeing things in a very distorted mind that was not interpreting the situation accurately at the time.)