I never thought I would be sectioned. I always thought I would have the insight to know when I needed hospital, that I would never get that unwell. That I knew myself better.
I was wrong.
5 months ago on Monday I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act.
That day started like any normal day. I didn’t wake up feeling suddenly out of touch with reality or a danger to myself. In fact I had a job interview that day. I travelled out to Watford and attended my interview. I bought a coffee from AMT on my way home and tried to ignore how fat I felt, how the feeling of my thighs rubbing together made my skin crawl.
As had become my every day, I found myself stuck in a binge purge spiral as soon as I got home. Desperately wandering the local supermarkets, dodging from shop to shop spending £5 here and £5 there, scouring the reduced aisle. Then going back to my living room and stuffing it all in whilst hating myself more and more each mouthful but being unable to stop myself. Standing over the toilet clawing my own throat and stomach in an attempt to get rid of the calories. Head spinning and ears ringing, smelling of my own vomit but being compelled to keep going. The crisis team were visiting me daily and they would be at my flat in an hour but the thought of the calories I’d consumed and the fact that in about 8 weeks I’d gained 15kg and gone from anorexic to bulimic tormented me and I reacted in the only way I knew how. I self harmed. Badly. But I didn’t feel I deserved to look after it so I simply changed cardigans and left it.
When the crisis team arrived it was the same lady, S, who had taken me to A&E a week earlier after an overdose and another man. I was skittish and nervous around them, never sure how much I should say and usually desperate for the visit to be over.
This visit didn’t go as usual. Whilst talking to them my cut bled through my sleeve and I was told I needed to go to hospital. At which point I immediately refused. They were kind and talked to me about why not but insisted that if I didn’t go with them then they would have to call an ambulance. I remember sitting sobbing with my head in my hands curled up in the arm chair that I always staked claim to. I remember not really understanding why I was reacting as I was, just that I knew I could not go to hospital. At this point they told me they’d have to ring for an ambulance and I ran. I didn’t make it out the house though and was stopped at the front door by the male crisis team member assuring me that they wouldn’t phone 999 if I came back in. I was bare foot and for some reason I trusted him. I agreed to go and sit back in the lounge and talk to them. I remember being so concious tht my stash of 200 paracetamol was sat on the desk next to me and wondering how I could hide it from them without them seeing. I was sobbing and shaking and unable to take anything in so didn’t think twice when the man went outside to put money on their car. I lived in Fulham and parking was expensive and they’d already been with me an hour, I assumed they honestly did need to top it up. I don’t remember much more until I was sitting in the lounge with the two of them again and suddenly there were sirens outside- but I lived on a main road and there were always sirens. Then our doorbell went off, again and again and someone was hammering on the door trying to get in. But our neighbours were always having noisy house guests so I went down to answer the door and tell them they’d got the wrong flat. I should have known when the man came with me, but I didn’t.
Next thing I new there were four police officers coming into the flat and a paramedic. I turned around screaming and sobbing trying to get to my room, the living room, the bathroom, anywhere I could barricade myself but S had blocked my way. She said ‘It’s for the best, we’re trying to help you.’ But by that point I was too upset and desperate. I bolted into the kitchen but there were now 7 people in the flat trying to stop me from running. I remember standing by the oven sobbing and saying over and over to leave me alone, to please leave me alone and go away. That I was fine. The female police officer tried to talk to me and eventually got me to sit on a chair whilst the paramedic took my vitals and said I needed to go to hospital. I refused again and a police officer asked the crisis team if I was under section, ”not yet”, By this point my flatmate had come out of his room to find the flat full of police and medical professionals. The crisis team were talking to him, explaining the situation as finally I realised I had no choice but to go.
I was followed round the house whilst I got my stuff together but could only think to put flipflops on and grab my bag and phone. I didn’t think I’d be there much longer than a few hours. Outside there were two police cars and a rapid response paramedic car parked up with their lights flashing and people watching as I was taken sobbing and shaking to one of the police cars, accompanied by two police officers and S and driven away. With the exception of one half hour visit a month later that was the last time I was in my flat.
At A&E I was taken straight through to the little room where mental health patients are treated and then left with S and hospital security stood outside the door. No way out. My phone battery was dying and I hadn’t brought my charger and I needed to stop mum worrying when I didn’t send my usual email. My wounds were seen by the doctor but I was too stressed to really notice and then three mental health professionals entered. I’d been assessed under the MHA a month earlier but had last minute decided to go in voluntarily, so I knew what this was even though no one told me. But I wasn’t able to agree that I needed to be in hospital. My suicide date was set for the 6th June, that day was the 2nd June. I had everything I needed to carry it out and I was determined noone would stop me. As it turns out they did- the assessment didn’t take very long and then I was left on my own again, for the first time that evening. I texted my mum telling her I was in hospital but not why or how and remember wanting desperately to pace the room, I’d been sat down too long and wasn’t burning enough calories off. It seemed like ages but thinking back it can’t of been until the approved social worker came back in and told me very matter of factly that I had been deemed a risk to myself and detained under Section 2 of the Mental Health Act. It was about midnight at this point and I’d completely shut down, I didn’t fight as the social worker and four security officers took me through A&E and over to the Mental Health Unit. I was met by staff who I’d met only a month previously and searched, then shown my room whilst the social worker rang my mum.
I’ll write more about my time on the unit another time, but that night was one of the most frightening and traumatic of my life. I’ve only spoken to that flatmate once since and am too embarrassed to try to change that. I remember just standing in my room on the unit once everyone had left and sobbing whilst thinking ‘what the fuck?’ I hadn’t realised at that point that I would not be able to carry out my intended suicide on the 6th June, or that I’d spend much of my two month admission on arms length 1:1 observation. I shut down completely.