Rewind a few months back, and I was sat in my local A&E discharge lounge, waiting to go home after one of my many self harm incidents, and the patient opposite me said, I wouldn't mind being sectioned.
Being sectioned means that you are no longer a free human being to come and go as you please. For many of us in mental health services, or those who've had encounters with the police in regards to mental health, we've had the threat of being sectioned, under either section 136, 2, or 3. The threat is enough to make anyone want to run as far away as possible, but for me and many others, being sectioned brings with it overwhelming sadness and hopelessness.
You have now been detained.
5 words than can change someone's life forever. Words that I never thought I'd hear being said to me.
Imagine yourself in a place, mentally, where you can't see yourself living to see the next day. When you think, this is it. It will all be over by tomorrow. But then two police officers have you in an upright restraint while you scream at them to let you die. You don't want to hurt anyone else other
than yourself, so you're desperately trying to get away from them but it's no use. You're a danger to yourself so they handcuff you, search you in the middle of the street and then put you in the back of a police car. They tell you you're now detained under section 136, and you'll be taken to a 136 suite. The whole car ride there you feel numb and detached, as if someone has reached inside of you and taken the part of you that feels emotions away from you. You pass by people who are going about their day to day life - shopping, going to pick up the kids from school, walking the dog. And you think to yourself, why can't I be normal? You arrive at the 136 suite and as soon as you get out of the car, you panic. There's no way you can go inside there! You try to run but it's no use - two officers already have a tight grip of you. You scream and stand your ground but they just drag you inside and the door is locked. It's over.
You're assessed by three professionals under the Mental Health Act and they decide you need to be detained under section 2. You cry and beg them to let you go home, but it's too late - you've already been detained. You're then taken to your nearest psychiatric hospital, which could be miles from home depending on the beds availability, where you'll be staying until your responsible clinician decides you're well enough to leave. The door that you've come through is locked by one of the staff, and thats when it hits you - you're no longer a free human being.
You walk down the corridor and there's patients sitting chatting and they smile at you, and you think maybe this place isn't so bad after all. But then the screaming and shouting starts, and you start to cry. You beg the nurses to let you go home, that you'll try harder to stay safe. They comfort you but it's no use - all you want to do is go home. They've decided to put you on 15 minute observations so you take your chance to engage in self destructive behaviours. No one will find out. Then the overwhelming emotions come and you feel enveloped in this huge bubble of sadness and anger that hits you like a tonne of bricks. You can't stop yourself from screaming. You feel out of control; you cry, scream and hurt yourself. The staff come in when you're in the middle of your meltdown and try to calm you down. You shout at them, tell them to get away from you so you can hurt yourself. You didn't want to be here in the first place. And then the staff are restraining you away from the wall so you can't hurt yourself anymore. You cry and struggle to get out of their grip but it's no use because you're then held in a floor restraint and given an injection of medication to calm you down. Against your will. Imagine that you're then placed on 1:1 observations. You have a member of staff following you about constantly, watching you. When you're sleeping, when you're sitting in communal areas, even when you're in the bathroom. All for your own safety. You hate it, it's driving you crazy!
Your responsible clinican tells you that you can only have escorted leave around the grounds, three times a day for 15 minutes. But then when you want to go out there's no staff around and being on the ward is driving you mad. So you resort to sticking your headphones in and blasting your music. But then a patient comes up to you and wants to talk to you, and you feel rude ignoring them so you engage in a conversation that you couldn't care less about. These patients that you once thought were going to be crazy and violent become your best friends but then you see them being dragged to their room in a restraint, or you witness them screaming at the staff to just leave them alone.
You lose most of your freedom and you end up staring at the same walls day in, day out. Days become focused on meal times and all your decisions are made by your responsible clinician, whether you agree with it or not. You may have no visitors for weeks at a time because there are no beds in your local psychiatric hospital, so you end up miles from home. Being sectioned and being in hospital becomes normality, so much that when you're given overnight leave your home doesn't feel like home anymore and nothing feels right. Your responsible clinician may decide that actually, you're not well enough to leave so you have to have another care programme approach, which isn't for 2 months time. Or how about you're told you have to be moved to a low secure unit or a psychiatric intensive care unit because you're too risky and your current unit can't manage you.
Being sectioned isn't like having break times with refreshments. It is a constant having to live alongside your thoughts in isolation - drowning in them. There's is no power in your life - your mind and clinicians have power over you.
Being sectioned isn't a walk in the park, it's a war ground, tackling it one day at a time.