Recently I spoke to an old, dear friend, Pip, about her choice to use illicit drugs in managing her mental illness.
Pip was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder (a combination of pychosis and mood disorder), a condition her psychiatrist has said she has had since she was four. Pip knew she wasn’t well throughout her childhood, and suffered early, regular bouts of feeling suicidal. Then alcohol came along. “I’d never had treatment before but when I discovered alcohol at 16 I immediately felt better.”
“The next time you run away like that we won’t take you back. You know where you’ll end up then? Long Bay. They’ve got a psych ward there. That’s where the real crazies are. They cut ‘emselves up in the showers. Is that where you want to go?”
“Then stop jumping over the fence and using fuckin’ heroin!”
That exchange took place between a psych nurse and myself sometime in mid January 1999. You could say that particular nurse subscribed to the tough–love approach.
It was wet, cold and windy when we got out of the taxi in front of Prince Alfred Hospital. This was one of those things you dread but you know you have to do. We were going to see “Kempy”. Dawn had been told that he was in the hospital waiting on a liver transplant. He was very sick.
We were both very pensive as the lift ascended to the ninth floor. The first thing I remember was seeing a wall of windows. I could see Redfern. I was born and bred in Redfern, one of the original Aboriginal Redfernians.