I was just twelve years old. I hadn't even started my period, yet I was brutally thrown head first into the UK mental health system. Subjected to sexual and mental abuse for seven years before my release, this book details what exactly went on, and how I actually survived. I wrote this book as a novel, so is 3rd person throughout. As much as this has been my life, this book is also a work of art.

Image by Beck VdlaRok

PREVIEW 8 OUT NOW- READ HERE

The queue slowly went down. Sheep, following the leader, while desperately trying to find themselves, maybe aware, but painfully turning a blind eye to the dark underbelly, the sinister undertones of this cult, brainwashing scheme disguised as religion. No eucharist could stop the inevitable purging of Michelle’s heart. The bright lights, overpowering incense, stained glass windows, statues, banners and jangling out of tune organ made a great change of scenery, but that’s it. The smoke from the incense was a smokescreen. Words decorated in double entendre to sound fancy, sentences wrapped up in personification, the sinister hiding in the guise of metaphor. No cheap wine or stale wafer was going to brace her lips again. At exactly eleven, Father David announced the usual coffee break. People got to their feet and started chatting as they made their way into the coffee room. Michelle remained seated, lost in thought. The Bible was a load of poorly written fairytales, Father David’s voice went right through her, but the chocolate bourbons and milky coffee were good.

‘Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table’ says the Bible, but, in reality, everyone here was surrounded by their enemies. The enemies that they smiled to, broke bread with, had coffees with and then talked shit about behind their backs. No amount of babbling on and on and on and on and on and on from Father David could convince her to stay with this cult to hear more about Babylon. Michelle, back in the room, stood up from the hard wooden bench. She walked into the coffee room feeling like Judas. Elaine, who was already talking with two other women, glanced over but didn’t smile. Poker face, then back to chatting and smiling with the others. Michelle was not surprised at all. Keep your enemies closer and all of that. Preach inclusivity while excluding people and all of that. Michelle asked for the usual coffee and filled the empty seat near the big biscuit jar. She took out three chocolate bourbons and savoured every crumb of them, the way she was supposed to savour the wine and wafer. Elaine glanced over and gave Michelle a cold look of disapproval, but this wasn’t going to put Michelle off finishing her coffee. When her coffee was drunk, she wiped away the crumbs from her mouth and slowly made her way out of the door 

The queue slowly went down. Sheep, following the leader, while desperately trying to find themselves, maybe aware, but painfully turning a blind eye to the dark underbelly, the sinister undertones of this cult, brainwashing scheme disguised as religion. No eucharist could stop the inevitable purging of Michelle’s heart. The bright lights, overpowering incense, stained glass windows, statues, banners and jangling out of tune organ made a great change of scenery, but that’s it. The smoke from the incense was a smokescreen. Words decorated in double entendre to sound fancy, sentences wrapped up in personification, the sinister hiding in the guise of metaphor. No cheap wine or stale wafer was going to brace her lips again. At exactly eleven, Father David announced the usual coffee break. People got to their feet and started chatting as they made their way into the coffee room. Michelle remained seated, lost in thought. The Bible was a load of poorly written fairytales, Father David’s voice went right through her, but the chocolate bourbons and milky coffee were good.

‘Don’t give the enemy a seat at your table’ says the Bible, but, in reality, everyone here was surrounded by their enemies. The enemies that they smiled to, broke bread with, had coffees with and then talked shit about behind their backs. No amount of babbling on and on and on and on and on and on from Father David could convince her to stay with this cult to hear more about Babylon. Michelle, back in the room, stood up from the hard wooden bench. She walked into the coffee room feeling like Judas. Elaine, who was already talking with two other women, glanced over but didn’t smile. Poker face, then back to chatting and smiling with the others. Michelle was not surprised at all. Keep your enemies closer and all of that. Preach inclusivity while excluding people and all of that. Michelle asked for the usual coffee and filled the empty seat near the big biscuit jar. She took out three chocolate bourbons and savoured every crumb of them, the way she was supposed to savour the wine and wafer. Elaine glanced over and gave Michelle a cold look of disapproval, but this wasn’t going to put Michelle off finishing her coffee. When her coffee was drunk, she wiped away the crumbs from her mouth and slowly made her out of the door.

PREVIEW 7

A twelve-year-old girl is strip-searched and locked up in a secure mental health hospital. 

We need to search you before we take you to the ward’ Toni announced. Michelle sighed and took a swig from the cup. A few droplets of weak tea.

‘Another search? I’ve already been searched, they did it this morning before I came here’

‘That wasn’t a proper search, this is a Medium Secure Unit, we do searches a lot different here’

‘You already scanned me with a metal detector, I’ve not got anything…’

‘We need to search you again, it’s not up for discussion’

‘Can we get a woman to the strip search room, that’s a woman to the strip search room, over’ Toni asked over her radio system, fiddling with the buttons. A few minutes passed but nobody came.

‘Shall I nip and get someone?’ Lewie suggested.

‘Can’t, two staff isn’t she’ Toni reminded.

‘Oh yeah’ Lewie laid back and crossed his leg. To break up the awkward silence, Toni strained a smile. Michelle didn’t bother to strain one back. No point in pretending. After about six minutes, a woman with jet black straight hair, mid-forties came bouncing through the door.

‘Super Pam to the rescue’ she announced.

‘Ahhh, Super Pam never lets us down do you, something happening on ward or?’ Toni asked.

‘Med refusal, usual person’ she answered.

‘Thought so, anyway, this is lovely Michelle, our new patient, who obviously needs an initial search’

‘I’m Pam, I work on Ward two, the ward you’ll be going to’ Pam explained.

‘She’s a good one’ Toni laughed.

‘Your music tastes aren’t though’ Lewie joked.

‘Says you, Pavement, Pavement, Pavement all day long, crooked rain, crooked rain, more like crooked music tastes’ Pam joked back.

‘Nirvana?’ Lewie tested.

‘Nirvana’s rocking, at least we can agree on that’ everyone, including Michelle, laughed.

‘We don’t need you here anymore Lewie, you can get back to twiddling your thumbs in the office’ Pam teased.

‘He doesn’t even do that’ added Toni. As Lewie shut the door behind him, Pam threw Toni a pair of medical plastic gloves.

‘Are you going to search in my private parts or something? why you got gloves on?’ Michelle, scared, asked.

‘No, no, no, we put the gloves on when we look through your clothing. So, what’s going to happen is we will hold a towel up, ask you to take one piece of clothing off at a time, search it, then we will give you a fresh set of clothing’

‘So you’ll be looking at me naked, that’s not right’ Michelle said, uneasy.

‘It has to be done, people sneak in all sorts to harm themselves I’m afraid’ Toni explained.

‘Okay let's just get it over and done with’ Michelle said, taking off her shoes. Pam picked up and checked the shoes then slowly placed them onto the table. As the towel was stretched out Michelle’s mind turned to women. As she slowly, one item at a time, stripped down to nakedness, she thought of what it would be like without the towel being there. She looked down at her breasts. Small. She felt awful that the two grown women had probably caught sight of them. She didn’t like her body. She wanted her adult body to come so she would be attractive. She took one last look at her vagina with a few blonde hairs as decoration before some fresh underwear was handed over. She wondered to herself if she’d ever experience another girl touching her there. She wished she was alone with Toni. As Michelle put her clothes back on she looked at her. She let her eyes follow the curves of her hips as they went in and out, then let them rest comfortably on her breasts. Woman.

‘Dressed’ Michelle announced as she managed to take her eyes off them. Dressed now in all grey. Grey jogging bottoms that were far too long, and a baggy, off white, almost grey tshirt that masked her femininity.

‘Okay, let’s get you onto the ward then’ Toni said.

‘What about my things?’ Michelle asked.

‘You’ll probably get them after dinner’ Toni quickly replied.

‘I’m on until half eight, I’ll make sure you get them’ reassured Pam. As Michelle followed the staff out of the door and down the long, white corridor that was without any pictures or decorations, she had to keep pulling her joggers up as they kept sliding down from her waist. She, instinctively, went to tighten the cord in the waistband. Nothing there. Just some frayed material left from them being cut out. The painfully bright artificial lighting above hurt her eyes. As the staff approached another locked door, she noticed a clock high up on the wall. 3pm. Two hours had passed already. Michelle felt relieved that the time was going by so quickly. Toni unlocked the door. Four more doors, two of them labeled. The door right in front was labeled ‘Ward 2’ and to the immediate left was Ward 1.

‘The courtyard is over there’ Toni pointed to the door furthest to the left.

‘Each ward has a set time each day to use it for an hour’

‘Okay’ Michelle replied, to confirm that she was listening.

‘And that’s the education department, our school, over there, but you have to be assessed before you are allowed in there’ pointed Pam, to the door on the far right. All of the doors looked exactly the same to Michelle. Same light shade of wood. Same observation hatch built into them, consisting of what looked like the same sort of double-glazed glass with metal rods running through them across and down, creating a checkered pattern.

‘Assessed to go to school? education is important though’ worried Michelle added.

‘You’ll be given work on the ward if you can’t go upstairs, anyway, this is the ward, ward two’ Toni announced as she turned the big, chunky metal key in the lock. Michelle, ever so curious, looked over her shoulder through the observation hatch to see nothing but another white corridor.

‘Don’t get close to me like that’ warned Toni.

‘Sorry, was just looking through the window’ explained Michelle.

‘Don’t get too close, some staff might class that as threatening you see, your lucky I didn’t restrain you just then’ Toni continued to warn.

‘She’s totally new to this, aren’t you chuck’ defended Pam.

‘Yeah’ Michelle, taken aback, replied. The door was slowly pushed open.

Preview 6 

The backseat of the car stunk of sweat and stale air. Michelle yawned and rested her head against the car window as the car entered the motorway.

‘ I take it you couldn't sleep last night’ stated Carol, noticing Michelle’s yawn.

‘No, first time in a cell’ Michelle replied, pensive, eyes focused on the greying sky.

‘Well, you should be able to get a good nights sleep tonight’ Carol tried to comfort. She was trying to do what most adults would do, give some reassurance, give a bit of comfort, but Michelle, even at just twelve years of age, knew that this was utter bullshit. She knew that she wouldn't be getting a good nights sleep for a very, very long time. She had already mentally prepared herself for what was to come; traumatic nights and exhausting days caused by being kept awake by screaming, arguing, fighting between the other children, loud music blasting, sex sounds coming from the rooms of the popular, accepted ones, banging sounds of heads and fists against doors and windows, the sound of keys jangling and the sound of heavy weight security doors clanking shut. She had read books about prison and watched many a film already about the prison system. Michelle closed her eyes as she went along with Carol.

‘Yeah, nice comfy bed’

She picked up on the small subtleties; the things left unsaid, the body language, the tone of voice, even the speed at which Marie was driving. It seemed that there was a real urgency to get her there. Marie, uncomfortable in the silence, turned on the radio as a light drizzle of rain started. Small droplets slid down the car windows, tears. Michelle knew that things were changing for the worse. She knew, deep down inside of her, that the pages of her life were slowly being torn and soon she’d have absolutely nothing left apart from a load of ripped up pieces of what could have been. Both women had spoken about how it was such a long journey but neither of them spoke about her ever leaving there. As the women tried to make small talk and comfort her with their white lies and fabricated niceties, Michelle’s mind started to turn to the darkness. It was only three weeks until Christmas Day. Everyone in the car knew that she’d be spending it locked up behind bars. After two hours, the scenery quickly turned from streets and motorways to narrow lanes, fields and very few houses. 

Preview 5

Cleaning Hospital Room

Mary was awoken by the presence of a nurse standing over her. Through half-open eyes she watched as the red haired nurse replace the empty iv bag with a full one. That meant nine hours had passed. She glanced over to the cabinet beside her bed. Her mars bars had gone.

‘Someone took my mars bar Clara’

‘It’s not Clara it's Leanne, and after this lot of medicine is done, so at about five this afternoon, you’ll be medically fit for discharge but I think crisis team are coming to assess you first’

‘Great’ Mary replied sarcastically. Sophie rolled her eyes as she shut the door. Mary clung to the minutes, seconds, even the milliseconds after this information. She did not want to go home. She turned her attention to the walls again. The colour reminded her of Almond White 132. Maybe the whole of her living room would look good in that shade. Maybe it would make the room look bigger. Maybe, just maybe. She shut her eyes again. No need to drag the inevitable out.

At quarter past five Mary was deemed medically fit for discharge by the ward Dr. At twenty past, there was lots of muffled speech outside of the door. Her heart sank at the recognition of the woman’s voice. There was a loud knocking, then, after just three seconds, the door slowly opened. It was Jo, and she was accompanied by a short, fat bald bloke with a tan a shade of burnt orange. He somewhat resembled Penfold from the tv series Dangermouse, but far less welcoming.

‘Mary, want to come with me?’ Jo asked rhetorically in her unique blend of patronising and passive aggression. Mary swung her backpack over her shoulders and followed the pair, in silence, all the way down the hallway into the side room next to the men's toilet. This was where the NHS Mental Health Crisis Service conducted thorough mental health assessments. The guy that looked like Penfold pushed the door open. Filthy. The bin was full to the brim, the air smelled of sick combined with disinfectant, and there was a rather large spider on the ceiling.

‘It’s not been cleaned, shall we get another room?’ Penfold asked Jo.

‘Nah, we won’t be long will we, this will do’

Mary took the seat nearest the door. The bald bloke who hadn’t introduced himself sat on the far right side of the sofa and Jo sat in the middle, directly below the large spider. Mary believed in karma.

‘What’s your name, don’t think I’ve seen you before’ Mary asked the Penfold lookalike.

‘Peter, I think we’ve met before’

‘Maybe, I don’t remember’

‘What happened then?’ Jo started with a bullet of passive aggression.

‘What do you mean?’ Mary clarified.

‘You took an overdose, that’s what I mean’

‘You are being a bit aggresive’

‘No I’m not! I’m asking the required questions, you know the deal’ Jo folded her arms. Mary watched as Peter also slowly folded his arms. It was like they were at a couples counseling session. Faces miserable, stiff body language. The mental health crisis squad. The most miserable, rude pair in the whole hospital.

‘Peter, your zips down a bit’ Jo pointed out, avoiding eye contact with him.

‘Oh, thanks’ Peter awkwardly zipped up then went back to having his arms folded.

Mary laughed out loud to herself in her head then focused on the spider on the wall.

‘What you looking at?’ Jo barked.

‘That huge spider above your head’

‘For someone that just took an overdose, you seem pretty jovial’ Jo replied.

‘Oh, I’m sorry, next time I’ll bring a razor and slit my wrists in front of you, would that satisfy you?’

‘Don’t be stupid’ hissed Jo.

Preview 4

Image by Marcelo Leal

To: Chelsea

Message: I’m sorry about my past. I regret how I was.

Michelle hit send.

Loud beeping of breathing machines and heart monitors. The sound of tv’s, the groaning, moaning and hissing of people in pain, incoherent conversation, banging of doors, coughing, wheeling of trollies and iv stands. Michelle outstretched her arm and got a waft of the strong smell of antiseptic.

‘This is gonna hurt, not gonna lie.’ Cara warned as she directed the needle straight into the vein. Michelle didn’t flinch, she just focused her eyes on the light blue curtain that pulled around her bed. A little bit of thin cloth to give her a false sense of privacy.

‘Remember, bang and the dirt is gone’ blared out from a TV advert.

If only life were like adverts. Michelle thought to herself. She could drink some red bull and fuck off out of Hull.

‘I need help’ Michelle said almost under her breath.

‘I know sweetheart, I know’ Cara replied empathetically, quickly looking up for a second. Michelle thought to herself that what was running through Cara’s mind was probably something along the lines of;

‘I know you need help poor girl but there is nothing. Suicide attempt after suicide attempt, I will watch your pretty face get drained of its colour, your skin become covered in deep scars that will never go away. I am gonna have to see you five or six times, completely out of it, drained just like me, from having to go through the same stupid procedures. I’m gonna have to hear your horrific life story each time. I’m gonna have to try and convince the same robotic, heartless machines that you really, really need urgent help, but, each time they won’t listen and I will be sent away, just like you. Swatted away like an annoying fly. Yes, darling. I know you need help. However, I too need help, desperate help, in order to save you.

‘All done, you did really well’ Cara smiled. Michelle didn’t have the energy to fake one.

‘This time when the crisis people come I’m gonna speak to them myself. Give ’em a piece of my mind. You need help and it’s fucked up that you aren’t getting it chuck’

‘Thanks, I appreciate it’

‘That’s what I’m here for, remember, I’m on your side, want a kit kat?’

‘Yeah if you are offering, thanks star’

Michelle knew that Cara was trying her best but her voice couldn't be heard in a screaming match of a million professionals. The big wigs always win.

As she carried the vials of blood away she opened the curtains. Rows of beds like rows of graves. IV bags and stands at every bedside. The people looked mostly old, seventies. Whilst these people were clutching onto the last hours of their lives, Michelle was thinking about death, suicide. There was a loud beep then a loud groaning sound. A nurse rushed in to help the man in front of her. Michelle closed her eyes. It’s her decision. This hospital room was becoming all too familiar. These beds were becoming just that bit too comfy. In this hospital bed lay a tortured soul, one that had been slowly weaving itself into the fabric of her being for a very, very long time now. Death need not be morbid. The hospital bed can be a symbol of rebirth, people come and go, they celebrate the memories and wish them well on their onward voyage as the heart stops, the body dies and the soul floats away to a better place. In this life we can make our own monsters, yet we can also make our own angels. Michelle heard her phone beep.

From: Chelsea