Ellie’s #MadCovidDiaries #Midnight Waffles 25.4.2020
This diary, ‘midnight waffles’, started a couple of weeks before the lockdown, having recently escaped a mental health services blackhole somewhere near South London and Maudsley hospital. I was completely run into the ground having spent 3 years fighting for my patient rights – feeling like I’d been trapped in a house of mirrors, going to enormous lengths to find and open doors, only to find brick walls behind them.
It took a long, long time for anybody to believe me when I said I was being mistreated by mental health services. Even when they did, and I was finally able to give myself permission to consciously walk away, I relived the trauma of those years on a daily basis. Memories of being intimidated, or gaslit, or blamed for my condition, cut through whatever daydreams or mundane activity I was engaged with, suddenly it was happening to me all over again. I’d be consumed by tidal waves of anger or fear or shame, and I’d ‘come round’ some twenty minutes later crying and exhausted in a heap on the floor. The few hours of sleep I managed to grab here and there were disturbed by nightmares and terrors of being trapped or attacked. I’d wake up in cold sweats, clenching every muscle in my body and gasping for air. My mind felt fragmented, and I felt alone in figuring out how to piece it back together.
In the absence of any other ideas, I made a folder for notes on my phone called ‘Midnight waffles’, as a place where I could scrawl all the unwanted thoughts and memories that were swirling around my head in that foggy semi-conscious stage just before you fall asleep – the ones that would inevitably bleed into my nightmares. It was a small effort to alleviate the weight of it all, like sucking poison from a wound.
And then… lockdown happened. Suddenly, survival depended on a whole extra set of things to worry about. I think like a lot of people with mental health conditions, and especially those of us who live alone, I went through an adjustment period when everything was overwhelming. I just told anybody who might conventionally help me, essentially, to do one. I honestly didn’t feel like I had the capacity to deal with any more, so I just shut down. The last couple of weeks I’ve felt like I’m slowly booting back up again, and my priorities (as well as the anxieties which keep me up at night) have completely shifted.
COVID19 has created a sense of time between my recent trauma, and the collective trauma we’re going through right now. It’s allowed me to put the events which I’d been reliving in the past, and for a small part of me to remain in the present when they come back for cameo appearances. It’s pulled me intensely, and forcefully, into the present moment.
A couple of months ago, my friend told me it’s likely I’ll never get recognition from mental health services about what’s happened to me. Even though I knew at the time that he was right, I didn’t know how to absorb that information or what to do with it. He said I didn’t need to do anything with it – that just because they won’t acknowledge it, doesn’t change that fact that it happened, or that it was fucked up. I’m finally able to feel calm and accepting of this reality. It’s liberating not to need anything from the people who’ve haunted me, not to be waiting for closure or peace of mind.
Where I am now feels drastically different to where I was 2 months ago. I don’t know what this diary will be going forward. I’ll be honest with you, since I’ve joined the MadCovid team- and have been actively working to challenge the mistreatment of folk with mental illness on a daily basis – I don’t stay up for hours every night riddled with anxiety. Midnight waffles is more ‘2 hours till deadline rambling’, but that’s not as catchy.
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