The Awl, which has interesting reading habits especially of the British kind, linked to this letter (scroll down to “Keep Me In!”) to an editor from a man who’s been repeatedly hospitalized for suicidal depression:
I have been in and out of NHS mental hospitals for more than forty years. The first, following a suicide attempt, was Bethlem Royal, the old Bedlam, by then moved to a huge semi-rural site near Beckenham. On arrival my first feeling was of immense relief; I was in a safe place and didn’t have to worry any more… The fact that discharge was never mentioned merely increased my feeling of safety; when after six months I felt ready to face the world again I had no idea how to arrange to be discharged and was a touch afraid that if I asked they might try to keep me in – ‘section’ me, as it’s called. So one day I just walked out. No one came after me.
It really was the best thing I’ve read this nothing-happen day. And in a weird way, it reminded me of The Yellow Wallpaper.
Which is not so unusual, I suppose. I don’t know if this holds true for men, but for the women I know at least, it’s one of those stories that have a profound effect on you:
If a physician of high standing, and one’s own husband, assures friends and relatives that there is really nothing the matter with one but temporary nervous depression – a slight hysterical tendency – what is one to do?
My brother is also a physician, and also of high standing, and he says the same thing.
So I take phosphates or phosphites – whichever it is, and tonics, and journeys, and air, and exercise, and am absolutely forbidden to “work” until I am well again.
Personally, I disagree with their ideas.
Personally, I believe that congenial work, with excitement and change, would do me good.
But what is one to do?
I did write for a while in spite of them; but it does exhaust me a good deal – having to be so sly about it, or else meet with heavy opposition.
I sometimes fancy that in my condition if I had less opposition and more society and stimulus – but John says the very worst thing I can do is to think about my condition, and I confess it always makes me feel bad.