It’s getting super hot in Thailand now as we approach Songkran (Thai New Year). It is nearly 40 degrees and I am struggling to cope with the heat. Thank goodness for Air Conditioning! I turned 35 at the weekend and I was a bit sad about it at first as I imagined my life to be quite different at this age. However, I know I have a lot to be thankful for and as the famous quote goes; ‘Do not regret growing older. It is a privilege denied to many.’ (Unknown) I ended up having a nice time with Tam and my friends in Chilling Bar but was a bit disappointed we didn’t get to do karaoke. A couple of weeks ago I finally made it to the top of Tiger Temple, which has 1,237 steps. It is something I have meaning to do for years so was really pleased that I finally did it. It felt like such an achievement and the views from the top were totally worth it. I went with mum’s friend Gilly, who is nearly 70, and she was way ahead of me! We took a tuk tuk there at 6am so saw the sunrise which was spectacular. Coming down the steps was definitely the hardest bit, surprisingly. My legs felt like jelly and as the steps are very steep, I was scared of tripping and falling. The next two days afterwards my legs ached so much! Check out my awesome photos!
Last week mum missed her trip to Japan because she got ill with gastroenteritis. She ended up in hospital, so it was my turn to look after her! We had quite a good experience at Krabi International Hospital, although I have heard that not everyone rates it. I can definitely say their focus is on money and if you don’t insurance, be careful because they will try to give you everything they can to make some money. Mum had a stomach problem and was given an X-Ray for her heart, a CT scan, Physiotherapy, an IV drip and antibiotics. The total cost was over 1,000 pounds and she was only in for four days. Mind you, that’s nothing compared to the cost of the Bangkok hospital when I was on the psychiatric unit.. the room alone was 1,000 pounds per night! And I didn’t have insurance… oops. I found it very hard to get insurance after the psychotic episode. Most places do not want to take the risk. I was very lucky to discover Pacific Prime who has covered me with my pre existing condition for the whole trip and was not super expensive. So, this is what we have to deal with when there is no NHS. The hospital would not even treat mum until they knew the money was coming from the insurance for sure or until we actually paid them. My advice to you if you are travelling or living abroad – always make sure your insurance is up to date.
I have started writing my food blog again and you can read about my latest food adventure here. Alongside my studying Creative Writing with the Open University I have been attending an online script writing course with Future Learn and the University of East Anglia. It has been great so far and really helped me to shape the story I have been working on for a while. The course was free and has been attended by thousands of people around the world! I haven’t finished it yet but luckily there is no time limit on the activities so you can finish it in your own time. Better get back to work!
I have been back in Krabi for over one month now. I have good days when I am a bit manic and bad days when I am a bit depressed but somehow I am muddling through. I am trying hard to keep up a good routine but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. I try to make the most of every day, whatever mood I happen to be in.
Last week was very busy. I had to finish my TMA03 for my Creative Writing module and this one was a big challenge – poetry! I have never written any before but happened to find it very cathartic. Check out my poem about coffee:
Arise and smell the delicious sweet scent of coffee concoction, from the heaven’s sent dark and desirable, brewing up a storm wake me oh wicked one, so dreamy and warm don’t drink too much of the madness and mania you should shun the sugar and avoid being crazier make mine quite milky, luxurious and silky a lovely little latte, fantastic frappuccinos, the iconic iced coffee is great at a party a cup of cappuccino but spare the sprinkles please an excellent espresso is sure to meet your needs.
I learnt a great deal and worked very hard so now just have to wait and see what mark I get! I have started a little bit of work for my friend Nikki on her blog thailandtravelbag.com and am enjoying learning all about social media. I learnt an important lesson about usage rights for pictures too! I went to a few parties this weekend just gone and so am a bit tired now.
It has been two weeks since I returned to Thailand and it’s been harder than I thought it would. Just getting used to the heat alone! It’s been great to have mum with me and amazing to be reunited with my husband. We first spent a week in Bangkok with Tams family and then came to Krabi after that. Mum has stayed with us all this time and we just dropped her off at her favourite hotel, Grandmom Place tonight. Whilst in Bangkok we returned to the Bangkok Hospital and saw Dr Birth there, the director or the psychiatric department. I was very ill when I last saw her so it was nice to have a normal conversation with her! Bieng in the hospital again was really strange. Just the smell alone took me right back to that time. Some of the nurses came to say hello to me but I didn’t really remember them. Since we came to Krabi mum and I have been going to the beach every day and I have slowly started to see my friends again. I have had time to catch up with my studying and try to regain some order in my house. Everything is in a different place and a lot of stuff is missing. We joke that it is ‘down the toilet’ as I threw a bunch of stuff down there when I was ill. It’s no joke that the toilet doesn’t flush properly though. We need to get it fixed soon. After my first day in Krabi I felt quite agitated and stressed and was still awake at 3am so I took one of my prescribed 5mg diazepam and slept fine after that. Some people have said that I am quiet and this makes me sad as I feel like maybe I am not being my real self. In all honesty, even though I am off medication now, I do not feel 100% myself. But then I am still recovering. Coming here has made me realise that. It will take time and I just have to take one day at a time. I had a really great face massage at Naree last week. It was so relaxing and rejuvenating. It gave me inspiration to write an article for my favourite website, Buzzfeed. I also just learnt how to make a gif so it was super fun putting it all together. It’s called 22 truths you will know if you have ever experienced mania.
I can’t believe it’s been two months since I wrote my last blog, ‘counting the days’. I have been so busy and the days have completely flown by! I now have no longer to wait and will be leaving in less than 48 hours!! The last two months have been hard, preparing to go back and wondering what will await me when I go there. I was quite depressed for a while thinking all the ways of how it won’t work. But now I feel really positive. I am all packed and ready for another adventure. Except it will be a sober one this time. My mum is flying out with me and we will stay in Bangkok for a week until we fly down to Krabi. I can’t wait to be in my house again but I think it might be strange at first as the last time I was there was in the thick of my breakdown when I was trashing the place and hula hooping naked in the living room. I don’t remember much of that time and I’m scared that the memories will come back when I am there. It is going to be so good to see my friends and family again and, of course, my husband. Being apart from him for a year has been heart breaking but it may have done us some good, who knows?
Christmas and New Year was lovely spending time with the family and I had my leaving do last Friday, fulfilling my five year long ambition of singing Whitney Houston ‘I will always love you’ on karaoke at The Priory (that’s a pub in York, not some rehab clinic), with a little help from Zoe. It was sad saying goodbye to everyone but I had a really fun night.
Yesterday the devastating news came that the legend and idol that is David Bowie has died at the age of 69. I am a massive fan of his and was very sad to hear this. I did an online test to see what Bowie was doing when he was my age and at 34 he had made ‘Under Pressure’ with that other legend in the sky, Freddie Mercury. It also just happened to be in 1981, when I was born. That is definitely one of my favourite Bowie songs. I have been hearing a lot of quotes and lyrics since yesterday from the man himself and I feel this one sums up things pretty well for me right now:
“I don’t know where I’m going from here, but I promise it won’t be boring.”
I am feeling a bit better this week. I have discussed the visa situation with my dad and have decided to write a letter to my MP. I recently wrote a letter about the closure of Bootham Park Hospital and received a reply to that. It was a bit disappointing but the hospital has already been closed and there’s not much she can do about that. I’m hoping she will be able to do more about this. Here is the letter:
Dear Ms Maskell,
Thank you for your letter regarding the closure of Bootham Park Hospital. I have another pressing matter in which I hope you can help me? I have been under the care of the early intervention team since the beginning of this year after suffering an acute psychotic breakdown in Thailand. My husband is Thai and applied for a visa so that we could be together at this difficult time as he had been my carer in Thailand. He was refused this on grounds that I cannot even begin to understand. I have attached this information.
We tried to appeal but have been told that we will have to wait until June of next year. I cannot wait that long! He only wants to come here for a short holiday and then we can return to Thailand together. I have a letter from my psychiatrist recommending that he comes to visit. I have attached this. Why is this so difficult for us? Can you please help explain to me why this basic human right should be denied to me as a British citizen?
I hope to hear from her soon, if not then I will go to the surgery in December. I’m not going to give up on this. I still plan to go back to Thailand in January and am excited to see my family and friends there. There’s not long to go now! I need to sort out insurance and my own visa, I also need to book my flight! But mum wants me to wait till I’m completely off my meds which is only two and a half weeks away!
I’m six weeks into my nine week plan to come off meds and I should be feeling great but I feel so tired and have no energy. I’ve had some bad news too about the appeal for Tam’s visa – it’s not going to happen until June next year. This could delay my trip to Thailand even further; I was hoping to go in January. I don’t know what to do now. Trying to focus on studying but that is difficult too. We are in week 5 – character creation. I’m finding the exercises quite challenging and am anxious to find out my score from the TMA. Don’t know when that will be. I had my last CBT session yesterday and was feeling quite confident about all the work we have done but it’s hard to feel positive about things right now. We were told the appeal would happen in November and I was really hoping that Tam would be here for Christmas. Now I have to plan my festivities without him. I can’t bear the thought of six more months away from him.
Today I have temporarily moved into Ellie’s new house as John’s son is staying for half term. With it being the kids’ holidays I also have more hours at the cinema and this is all coinciding with the deadline of my first TMA (Tutor marked assignment). Trying not to get stressed! I have used the focus point ‘losing control’ for the theme of my assessment and this inspired me to use my experience of mental illness for the free write. When it actually came to writing the story though, I decided to write fiction and make up something unrelated to my experience. I came up with this:
Jenny took a sip from a can of cider and threw her head back laughing, “I can’t wait!” she enthused and passed the can to Tom who was sitting next to her in the back of Gerry’s Ford Fiesta. She looked out of the window and watched as the lights went flashing by in time to the Speed Garage music that was blasting out of the stereo. Kooky Jane in the front passenger seat drank vodka from a china teacup and kept the crew laughing with her hilarious dance moves and witty banter. Kirk was sat on the other side of Tom and was sulking. He wanted to take ecstasy that night but they hadn’t been able to get hold of any. “cheer up” laughed Jane. “Have some vodka” she thrust the teacup towards his face and then promptly spilt vodka on all three of them as Gerry went over a bump in the road. Jenny yelped as cold vodka went on her bare legs and Kirk just glared at Jane. “He’ll be alright once we get in the club” said Tom. “Yeah maybe we’ll be able to get some pills in there.” Mused Kirk. “I should think so, it is Speed Queen.” Said Gerry. “Yay! make sure you get some for me!” sang Jenny. “Yeah for all of us” said Tom. “Ok let’s get this car parked up” said Gerry as they approached the road of the club. In the queue Jenny and Jane shivered in their shiny hot pants and sparkly tops with just furry boots to keep them warm. Once inside, Kirk went off on his mission while the others headed straight for the bar. “Vodka red bulls all round?” asked Tom. “yes please” they chorused, dancing around to the incredible funky house music. Once they had their drinks in hand, Jenny led the others to the dance floor and was absorbed into the electric atmosphere as high energy tunes boomed out of the system. This was her favourite place in the whole world to be. Everyone around her was smiling and dancing, she could feel the love in the air. After a while, Kirk appeared grinning his head off. He kissed Jenny right on the lips and she laughed, shocked and asked him “you found some pills then?” “No, but I did get some mushrooms” “mushrooms?” “Yeah” “I’ve never taken them before” “well then you are in for a treat. Let’s go and sit down”. They headed for the chill out area and said hi to some familiar faces before finding a corner to sit in. “Yuk!” Jenny made a face and quickly washed them down with Vodka and red bull. “Oh my God, I love this tune!” she screeched as Kings of Tomorrow’s ‘Finally’ beautiful vocals came flowing from the speakers. She jumped up and ran to the dance floor, leaving Kirk behind. She closed her eyes and got completely lost in the sound. A sample of Madonna’s Into the Groove came blasting out and the energy on the floor turned up a notch, people were cheering and whooping. Jenny waved her arms in the air and two men grabbed each hand and pulled her up to the podium. She didn’t realise she was tripping at first then images started to move around. She felt the bass booming in the pit of her stomach and the music became her. She saw Tom in the crowd and called to him. He turned and just in time was able to catch her as she launched herself off the podium. “What are you doing!?” he exclaimed. “I feel amazing! This is the best night of my life!” “You need to be careful, you’re not invincible you know”. “Don’t bring me down Tom, come and dance” Tom gave in and smiled at her, “Kirk gave you some mushrooms didn’t he?” “yeah! Did you have some too?” “no, I don’t like hallucinogens. Bad experience on acid a few years ago.” “Oh you’re missing out Tom, these are really good.” “Nah I’ll pass thanks” he grinned as a huge robot came up to them and started pulling some funky dance moves. Jenny laughed and laughed. She couldn’t stop laughing. Tom had to carry her off the dance floor as he was worried she was going to hyperventilate. Jenny screamed at him. He had turned into a hideous creature with maggots crawling out of his eyes. She looked around – the whole club was full of snakes.
What do you think? I’m not sure of the ending description. I’ve changed it three times already. I quite liked the idea of everyone else turning into terrifying beasts. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below. Deadline is Thursday!
This week I have been learning to write about what I know. Reading exerts from ‘Cider with Rosie’ by Laurie Lee and ‘Death of a Naturalist’ by Seamus Heaney to see how descriptions of places can be made. I had to write a piece from my own memory and came up with this:
Grandma would shakily answer the door and give you a big kiss then it would be through to the living room with its huge round rug in a pattern of I think red and pink. Sitting on the possibly leather sofa we would patiently await our egg sandwiches to be wheeled in on the hostess trolley with a side of plain flavoured crisps. On the shelf there were ‘dust gatherers’ as she called them; a 1950s black and white ceramic girl with a full skirt and Jackie O shades, a small silver bell that was shaped like a Victorian woman, a wooden figure of a couple that would turn to kiss when you pressed a button at the back. My sister and I would eagerly check the ‘secret drawer’ which was a drawer in a cabinet in the bathroom where Grandma would always leave some sweeties for us. After lunch, tea would be poured and Grandma would try to teach us how to knit. We would marvel at the new set of knitted dolls she had produced.
My Grandma died two years ago over the new year period at the grand old age of 98. She had lived a good life. I think her death had an impact on me as during my breakdown I felt as though she had been reincarnated into me, hence I had become 100 years old. When Grandma died I did not receive the news straight away as I was partying on the island of Koh Phangan but I was visited by the ghost of Federica Genovese who sadly passed away in February 2013. I also felt her presence when I was psychotic.
This week is going to be quite hectic as I am helping Ellie move house and have spent the whole weekend at her new house helping to paint floors and doors, getting it ready for the move day on Thursday and Friday. Tuesday and Wednesday I am working and today (Monday) I am studying.
I went to my first tutorial at York St Johns this week and met some of my lovely fellow course mates. It was good to meet face to face with the tutor too. I have been studying most days, when I am not working at the cinema. It’s quite challenging but I am enjoying it. We have learnt how to get started with writing through clustering and freewriting. Clustering is when you take a word and make a kind of brainstorm leading to other words that you associate with it. For instance; I clustered on fame and this is one of the strands that I got; FAME – STARS – SEQUINS – DESIGNER CLOTHES – RED CARPET – HELLO MAGAZINE. I wrote a piece of freewriting from this (when you just write without stopping to think or analyse); Fame:
She’d always wanted to be famous; the parties, money, glamour but now it was a different story. Having the press on her back all the time was so overwhelming and wondering what nonsense stories about her would come out next. The last one was an attack on her ‘size 0’ body which she had achieved through hard work and dieting but had been reported to be ‘starving herself’. It was hard not to take it to heart or get upset. She was waiting for the next story to erupt. She had had a one night stand with Russell Brand and it was bound to come out some time. She didn’t even enjoy it very much, he might have been awarded ‘shagger of the year’ but the person who came up with that award had certainly never had sex with him!
This made me lol! Especially after my obsession with Russell Brand. In the tutorial we clustered on our favourite colour and least favourite colour. Then we made a character using the clusters. This was really interesting! After that we had to write a letter from our character to someone and then write a meeting between the two people. I really enjoyed these tasks and it gave me confidence that I was writing freestyle well. Which is good because it is part of the first assessment which is due in at the end of October.
On Sunday I went to an anti-austerity march with Caroline and John in Manchester where the Conservative conference was taking place. 80,000 people turned out and the police were not prepared for such a turn out so there was a lot of waiting around to begin with. I’m really glad I went though. Caroline and I made a banner which read ‘closing Bootham is mental’. This is in reference to the outrageous recent closure of the only mental hospital in York. I have written to our MP and the Secretary of State for health about it. This is what I have said:
As a patient of Bootham Hospital I can honestly say how truly grateful I am to have received care from the crisis team there when I was indeed in crisis. I am now in the care of the early intervention team who luckily still have their premises on Union Terrace. Without my amazing family around me I would not have recovered so well to be out of crisis. The clues in the name people: CRISIS! These are the most vulnerable people in our society. They need their family around them every day. How is this possible when they’ve been shipped off to Middlesbrough or Scarborough; more than forty miles away? What kind of upheaval must that have been for the mentally unwell? And let’s not forget all the patients who have been conveniently discharged back into the community. I became ill in Thailand where the only hospital in the entire country that is equipped to cope with mental illness costs £1000 per night. And that’s before any medical expenses. Thankfully, I was able to come home and be treated at Bootham Hospital alongside being close to my family. We need to fight for our NHS to stay running and stop the closure of hospitals like Bootham. It is a beautiful and historical building. If it is ‘not fit for purpose’ then put some money into it and make it so. What about all the empty buildings around the site? Why can’t they be converted into treatment rooms? The CQC had already said, months ago, it was not fit for purpose and changes needed to be made, so why weren’t they?
If you want to help and sign the petition against the closure, please click here. There has not been much coverage in the news about the protest or our fight to save Bootham Hospital so that is why we have to keep on fighting and make ourselves heard.