Hello viewers and readers of "Doorways in the Night", "Mind Machine", and "Round the Bend".
You are invited to send us your comments about the book. Several are already listed below.
We hope to include many more in the future.
"What a book ! Beautifully produced, wonderfully illustrated, "Doorways into the Night' is, as it claims, stories from the threshold of recovery. Powerful, disturbing stories of people who have, for whatever reason and by whatever means, been to the uttermost depths. Happily there are also stories charged with hope, for they tell of people fighting their way back. 'Give Me Back my Words' tells the story of Jean, who, at the age of 18, was referred by her GP to a psychiatrist (at her own request, it has to be said) with the result that she suffered 4 months of drugs, E.C.T. and both physical and mental abuse in a classic prison regime style 60s Mental Hospital. Wrongly diagnosed with Chronic Schizophrenia she received a further 5 years of "inappropriate and damaging" psychiatric treatment. Happily, in 1979, she met the man who was to become her husband and the inspiration for her recovery. They are still together, she has written a book about her experiences, it may well achieve mainstream publication...
"The Key" tells of Jayne, a homeless alcoholic, taking possession of her first Council Flat. A "Hard Let" on a bad estate: "The key had given me power over hot water as and when I needed it. I sat on the edge of the bath and like a child at Christmas opening a gift, I played with the taps, hot, cold, bath, sink. I listened to the cistern refill. I don't know how long I sat there feeling like a Queen, but now I had a throne all of my own." Strange world. A flat on a bad Council Estate. Something most of us would run a mile to get away from. But to Jayne and her dog, a priceless treasure. What's that saying about how the other half lives ?...
..... "Doorways in the Night" contains stories about surviving suicide and escaping suicide ('The Rabbit Intervention' by Char March is a fascinating monologue on the joys of being alive on a journey whose intended destination is death); stories about surviving the mental breakdown caused by both a violent marriage and an arranged marriage; stories about Bulimia, Schizophrenia, childhood abuse and the horrors that can lurk behind a stammer. "Doorways in the Night". Buy a copy, read it, give it to a friend. Survival involves all of us. Be involved.
This book—a collection of recovery stories by Leeds people writing from the very edge of experience—is all about triumph: triumph over the effects of abuse and the effects of being controlled and unloved. Self harm, bulimia, somatisation disorder, alcoholism, agoraphobia, drug addiction, over-prescription of antipsychotics, misdiagnosis, post natal depression, extreme anxiety, stammering, weight gain—the terrible list continues. The book- seems to get darker and darker as it goes on, culminating in Carole’s extremely disturbing account of sibling physical and sexual abuse and the attendant suicidal guilt and shame. But she too has been able to start to piece together her fractured life, with the help of counselling and writing as therapy, and an enormous will to survive. What shines through is the resilience and tenacity of the writers—their refusal to give up, and their determination to win, and gain a life for themselves. Recovery is possible, but is often a lengthy and difficult process. Hats off to all these unsung, remarkable people.
by Polly Mortimer
The ones I've read so far have all been well crafted: well reasoned: not the sort written by writers labelled "mentally unbalanced": objective and not squishy, "poor me", accounts: unsentimental, yet very emotionally moving.
"What sort of world do these people live in?" One is prompted to ask when reading these very honest analyses/accounts of seemingly surreal experiences, their symptoms.
All show a positive attitude to very negative experiences. They all were enabled to objectify their 'Tigers' and face them head on, and defy them constructively in a very positive way.
I felt a fraud being labelled Anxiety Depressive after merely not being able to cope with a stammer. I could not entirely identify with the general feeling of negativity about psychiatry, after having had some very good experiences with the N.H.S. Psychiatric Service; excellent advice and after care, and, my medication keeps me stable and able to cope, but from conversations with people who still suffer from recurring symptoms of various severe mental illnesses, I came to understand the reluctance of some people to go to their GP unless it was an absolute emergency, in case they got hospitalised and had to re-face the traumatic experiences there: feelings of being manipulated, of not having a say in their welfare.
But the stories give an all round picture of ‘mental illness’ and the hope beyond. It seems that, when one reaches the end of hope a new hope seems to rise within one. It is only then that it is possible to sort out the issues and see them for what they are—that is, objectify them. Then they can be faced full on and defied.
Ones of special mention, all very different but all of the same quality, are Eamon Rooney's 'Flight of the Phoenix', Linda Steele's 'No Entry', Jayne Scadden's 'The Key' and Richard Barber's 'And the Unwelcomed Guests'....and of course, Barry Fox's 'Coping with the Tiger'.
by Barry Fox
(72 pages, published by Local Voices 2010)
For me Angel Heart hits a unique spot no other survivor writer reaches. She describes the world of entanglement with mental health services with such a surreal humour, and such an accurate eye for detail, that although often she is describing harsh things, you can’t help enjoying the journey, and feeling uplifted at the end of it.
This collection of Angel Heart’s stories brings together new stories, along with previously published work. For instance ‘A Day in the Life of Larry the Plant’, told from the perspective of a neglected plant on a psychiatric ward was first published in ‘Beyond Bedlam’, an anthology of contemporary women’s writing . Like the slide shows of Andrew Voyce, Angel’s stories capture perfectly the chaotic and surreal atmosphere of the ward, so we are not surprised when no-one gets any breakfast because the cooks are sleeping off a hang over, or the goldfish have a discussion round the back of the ornamental arch. To quote from Beyond Bedlam ‘Angel reveals a viewpoint of authentic difference, instantly familiar to psyche dissidents everywhere’.
‘Sally Wins the National Lottery’ describes the sad irony of a lottery winner who is drugged and put in seclusion before she can claim her winnings. ‘Pepperoni with Extra Sweetcorn’ involves apparent divine intervention on the ward which turns out to be…..well I don’’ want to spoil it. ‘Holiday On Earth’ was first published in a short story collection published by Route, and concerns an alien trying to get back to her planet, mistakenly admitted to a mental hospital. ‘Snow On The Lawn’ is a moving account of how people find ways to stay human despite the conditions forced upon them.
Each story strikes a different note, but the characters are familiar. This is the world under the stone, that could only have been written by someone who was there, retained a sense of humour and came back to tell us. The illustrations by Pam Burrett and BO are a joy in themselves, and add a dimension of their own. This is definitely a book to add to your collection.
Angel Heart’s poems are available through the UKAN website at http://www.u-kan.co.uk/survivor-publications.html or write to LSP, c/o 8 Beulah View, Leeds LS6 2LA for a publications list.
by Timothy Coupland