The Crash (Part 1)
Posted by jackmarsden
9th Dec 2017

A woman is at the centre of this. Inevitably.

Or rather, two women. Or maybe three. Perhaps, ultimately, even four.

But that’s a story for later.

Safe to say, my world was crashing down on top of me.

I had been driving home along the motorway on a rare visit to my sister’s home when my emotions began overwhelming me once more, choking me. And I couldn’t breathe.

I felt an impending sense of doom, not for the first time. Cars were racing past me on either side. Too for comfort. They were going to crash into me. My thoughts were all jumbled up. I certainly wasn’t thinking straight, anyway.

The dark clouds were chasing me. Or, mixing my metaphors, wave after wave of horrors kept crashing into me. There was no escape.

Stupidly, I lost my way on a motorway that I knew like the back of my hand and found myself travelling in the opposite direction from home. Stop. Turn around, get back on track. Pull yourself together.

I rang Jean (one of the afore-mentioned women) - to tell her I was in trouble.

She was waiting at my front door when I finally managed, somehow, to find my way home.

I told her all. The doom that was coming. The strange noises I was hearing in the house. Not voices, thank God. But strange noises which I couldn’t account for.

How I imagined spectral figures were standing over my shoulder. And Sandra (woman No 1 and my recent ex) suddenly appearing in my back garden.

These were not common or garden ghosts, but something else, malevolent, hovering over my shoulder about to strike.

And the ground suddenly opening up in front of me as I walked my pet dog, Billy in the local park – like a San Andreas fault-line earthquake here in downtown, homespun Gateshead.

And then something horrible repeatedly swooping down on me from above. No shape, no sound, but silent and black. Wanting to do me harm.

Jean, a mental health worker, persuaded me to go to hospital, much against my better judgement.

"No-one can help me", I moaned. "Nothing can be done". "What are they going to say - 'Oh, that must feel terrible'"???

Just positive regard from them? How was that going to help me?

But I gave in, reluctantly. Jean came with me to try and short-circuit the tangles of NHS bureaucracy that would no doubt face me. I was in no fit state to to make any sense of anything, or even explain what I was feeling.

We arrived at my local hospital’s Urgent Care Centre. It was closing at 8pm. It was already 7.45.

“We’re going to be too late,” I groaned.

“No, there’s a mopping up service,”, said Jean. “I’ll get you signed in and then they will have to do an assessment because you will be in the system then.”

OK then, let's go along with this.

First triaged by nurses.

My heart felt like it was being crushed. Being squeezed tighter and tighter. Stabbing pain. So exhausted.

ECG. All clear.

Blood pressure, temperature, pulse. All normal.

Chest x-ray. No shadows on my chest. Not lung cancer then.

Then it came. The Mental Health Team were not available. They didn’t stay past 8pm. So they couldn’t see me. I would have to go to another hospital with a 24 hour A&E.

So much for 'parity of esteem' - equal treatment for mental and physical health patients.

But I would have to wait here for all the full test results, before they could confirm that there was nothing physically wrong with me.

How long? Who knew?

I said, to no-one in particular: “I knew it was psycho-somatic. It’s all in here,” pointing to my head.

At 10 pm, we got the final results. Nothing wrong with me. Except inside my head. Predictably.

I went home, exhausted and angry. I would try to sleep and perhaps wake in the morning, feeling better.

Not a chance. Worse. I rang Jean, the only person I could think of to help.

I was sobbing, uncontrollably. Exhausted. I told her I was going back to hospital.

The thoughts were back, swirling around in my head, jumbled up, all a terrible mess. I couldn’t think straight. Again. And again. Wave after wave after wave. Pounding in my head. I needed help. Please help me.

The MH unit opened at 8:30, Jean told me. She had been in touch. They would see me very quickly. They would have the records from the previous night. They were expecting me. They were waiting for me.

No chance. I was triaged for the second time. More tests.

“Can I just, please, speak to someone?” I begged.

Finally, a woman came and led me into a consulting room, with four plastic chairs dotted around a small coffee table.

“Sit there”, she ordered, pointing at a specific chair.

I was shocked. I didn’t like this. Being ordered. No control.

It was only later, when I reflected, that I realised that my own sense of powerless, of helplessness, of hopelessness was being reinforced by the very first sentence used by someone who I had come to for help.

Oh God.

“You don’t look very well,” she said. “What seems to be the trouble?”

The trouble? The trouble?

Had you but time enough...

Anger was now rising in my throat, almost choking me.

“Have you not got any records of me?" I blurted out. "I came last night. But no-one could see me.”

“What time was this?”

“Quarter to 8.”

“Oh. We have to do our paper work, then. The day’s paper work. We can’t see anyone, then.”

She went on to explain, acutely defensively and at some length, that there was no ‘mopping up service’, for mental health patients admitted at that time.

It was different for physically ill people.

“We’ve got no notes about you from last night,” she declared.

I just groaned.

“This is not going to work,” I said, now exhausted, tears clouding everything. “No-one’s going to help me.”

So I left. Crushed. Hopeless. Helpless.

I sat in the car outside the unit. Sobbing and jabbering away to myself, over and over again. No one came out.

I drove away, finally, then stopped a mile away, before I could reach the motorway.

Again and again I thought of driving my car onto the motorway and off the huge Bridge straddling the river.

It was the only way out, from all this pain.

At least my Billy wasn’t in the back seat with me. That was the only consolation.

I clawed at my face for the first time since childhood. Punching myself in the face, clawing at my cheeks. Self-harming. Hating myself. Hating what I was thinking about.

The waves kept crashing into me. Quicker now, harder, faster, one after the other, tidal waves, drowning me. I jabbered away like a lunatic, to myself, alone in the car.

I thought of my two grown up children., as I stared at the motorway sign. I couldn’t do this. I knew it was selfish. It was wrong. Other people might get hurt. I really couldn’t do this to them. They would never forgive me. My children.

After an hour, I turned the car round and went back to my local hospital. I parked directly outside the unit.

Please help me this time. The third time.

I rang the bell to the mental health unit. A man in a white coat answered, startled at my appearance. God knows what I looked like at this point.

I was sobbing again. “This is the third time now, I’ve been here,” I stuttered. “I’ve come for help.”

I gave him my name again.

“Oh, you came before, didn’t you?” he offered.

“And last night,” I countered.

“Just wait there,” he instructed. And closed the door in my face.

He closed the door in my face.

I almost fell backwards, in shock. Dizzy.

I waited.

It felt, as the cliché goes, like an eternity.

The door opened again. “I’ll just take you through to the Urgent Care Centre to be triaged.”

No, no, no. Please no.

“I’ve had that three times, already," I stuttered. "I don’t need that again. Fuck this.”

So I left, again. He never came after me, even though I desperately wanted someone, anyone, to rescue me. To try and save me.

Anyroadup. I drove home, collected Billy and went to the local park one last time with him. It was all so overwhelming.

My phone was ringing constantly. My children, my few friends. Please leave me alone, Just leave me. I have to do this now. No one can help me. This is the end.

I spoke to my daughter and she tried to calm me. It was no good. It would be the last time I ever spoke to her. Then I threw away my phone. It will soon all be over.

And then I tried to hang myself. From a tree. With the strap of my man bag. But it kept slipping on the damp branch. I couldn't get any purchase on it.

There was one brief moment of blessed relief when I managed to tighten the strap so tightly around my neck that I lost consciousness for a split second. But the strap slipped again on the branch.

The police, the beautiful police, found me. So understanding, so patient, so kind. Just lovely, lovely men and women in uniform. They took me home. Made me safe. Talked to me.

But that was only the beginning...

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