To escape or die

  • Expressing suicidal ideation on ward – 12/5/11
  • Absconded from ward -13/5/11
  • Agitated and violent on ward -15/5/11
  • Punched me! – 15/5/11
  • Police on ward on several occasions

So reads a slide from the presentation delivered by my saviour, Dr N, in the months following my recovery.

The psychiatrist’s notes read –

‘Overnight Sophie had been absconding from the ward. On Saturday night she was very agitated as well. On Sunday she was violent and aggressive and assaulted the Specialist Registrar (Dr N) by punching him in the ribs. Last night she absconded from the ward and was brought back by the Police at 4am having made her way to Dundee Airport’.

It hurts me now to see my violence and aggression written down in black and white. It is so far from how I normally try to conduct myself that I feel ashamed to share it. I know that it wasn’t me behaving in that way, but as I’ve tried to describe, it was tiny little fragment me waging a war of fight or flight in the only way it had left.

I spent my time focused on two things, how to get the hell out of the hospital and how to end my life. I was somewhat more successful with the former, obviously.

I would lie on that hard hospital bed, medicated up to my eyeballs and barely able to function on any level, but my mind and eyes would be searching out potential methods and means by which I could kill myself. My notes record the nursing staff finding me with some sort of tubing from the equipment in the room wrapped around my neck. I told the staff, with absolute certainty, that I was going to kill myself. That is recorded in my notes too, along with how worried they really were for me. I looked longingly at the window of my room which opened no more than a few centimetres, wondering if I could somehow get it open further and jump out.

I watched, the day they took every item they could move out of my little room. To protect me but fragment-me saw yet another loss and indignity.

Hooked up to the IV for 3 weeks, I discovered one day by accident that if I ripped the IV out of my arm a lot of blood would flow out. I discovered it as I stumbled to the toilet in my room, forgetting I was hooked up, and pulled the drip out. Blood spurted all over the floor and I called for the nurses. This gave me a new trick though and one day, in a suicidal frame of mind, I decided to pull out the drip, hide my arm under the covers and try to bleed to death. A doctor was sitting by my bed doing a routine check. As he got up to leave I said to him, dead pan and matter of fact, ‘I’m bleeding to death under here’. The poor man. He pulled back the covers to reveal a pool of blood and once again, the long suffering nurses came to my aid.

I believed I was trapped forever. I really did. I thought it was never going to end and I was never going to leave the hospital. This was not a self-pitying or logical belief, it was deep and terrifying. My paranoia was getting worse.

My absconding tendencies were growing too. I had taken to running for freedom whenever I went for a cigarette to the point where even that was banned. They put me on patches and fragment-me raged. Many times the nurses had to sprint after me across the hospital grounds or through the corridors . Despite my horribly weak state I found an incredible strength and speed when it came to my break-outs. I remember tearing through the main concourse one day, hotly pursued by two nurses, when all of a sudden I came face to face with a friend from way back in my school days. I hadn’t seen him for years and here I was, flying at speed through the crowds in my jammies, hair wild, ghostly thin and screaming, ‘they’re trying to keep me here, they won’t let me go’. I remember the poor guy saying something like ‘I’m sure they have good reasons’. He came to see me some weeks later as he worked in the hospital. That meant a lot.

My first major escape happened on the 13th May. You hopefully have, by now, a picture of the state I was in physically and mentally but somehow I managed to drag my thoughts together enough to plan what I did next. Nova had been in to see me and it was late in the evening. I don’t remember it but I must have been watching and waiting for the moment when the nurses had their backs turned as their station was directly at the end of the corridor which was my only route. Again, in my jammies and bleeding from ripping yet another IV out of my arm, I made it to the front door of the hospital. I went to the taxi rank and, god only knows how, I managed to persuade the second taxi driver I spoke to to take me home. I had no money but told him I would pay him when I got to the house. As much as I am ashamed of how I was at that time a part of me is impressed at how fragment-me pulled this one off. I couldn’t even do my own teeth but the determination was so great that, in a swirling, blurry effort I found myself on the road home.

I now know that Nova had not even got home from visiting me when she got a call from the ward to say I had gone missing. Knowing my suicidal state of mind she instantly panicked that I was heading for the Tay Bridge, something I’d mentioned often. Nova phoned Lucie who came straight over to the house for support.

I arrived shortly afterwards and made my way in, telling Nova I needed £40 for the taxi. I was so happy. I had made it home, my beloved home.

I don’t know how long I was there and I know I kicked up merry hell when Nova insisted I had to go back. I was so very ill that I would die without treatment. Lucie and I were in the garden at one point and I remember spotting that part of the IV was still embedded in my arm, I wanted to get it out. Lucie was begging me not to pull it out, ‘please don’t pull that out of your arm’, but I did it anyway. I ripped that thing out, oblivious to the pain and blood. It must have been awful to watch.

After a long fight Nova finally managed to get me back in the car and on my way back to my prison cell.

On the 19th May I made another bid for freedom. Just like I would plot my demise I would obsess about ways to get home. On this occasion I decided that if I could get to Dundee Airport a friend of ours, who works there, would take me home in her car. Again I managed to escape and in my now-usual attire of jammies and blood I made my way to the airport. I remember walking into the terminal and going up to the desk. I asked if my friend was there and the stunned looking guy on the desk said that no, she wasn’t. I turned and walked out, heading into town but devoid of a further plan. It wasn’t long until a police car pulled up beside me and I didn’t resist as they put me in the vehicle and took me back.

It wasn’t long until the 24 hour staff (guards!) were in place and I was never alone. I hated it with a passion and fragment-me spat venom at the poor people who had the misfortune of being at my door for hours on end. I took a particular dislike to one male guard and would give him the finger every time I saw him. He used to wait until I was in the toilet to rush in and make my bed to try and escape my wrath. I was not even so much a fragment now as a raging, snarling, dark shadow self.

Despite these unbelievable displays of strength and cunning I was deteriorating further and growing weaker. Nova, my family and the doctors were reading up on Anti NMDARE as fast as they could and it seemed that removing the cyst, the source, was the next step. The cyst was a teratoma. It contained different bodily tissues and those included neurological tissue, a little tiny bit of brain. My body had produced antibodies to fight it and somehow the link between the neurological tissue in the teratoma and in my brain caused the antibodies to launch the attack on my brain. This was what was causing all the symptoms. 

Moving my treatment forward wasn’t to prove so straightforward though until two amazing female gynaecologists stepped in to the picture and I faced the next challenge in my journey.


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