Wednesday, February 2, 2011

From "Mary Barnes: Two Accounts of a Journey through Madness"

(By Mary Barnes and Joseph Berke, with an introduction by David Edgar)

Soon after arriving at the convent, on 8 December 1951, I was for a few weeks sent out to care for a lady physically and mentally ill. As Mother Michael advised me, I got this lady to the Catholic Home that I was myself later sent to. The Mother Superior of this Home subsequently told me she thought on first seeing me, that it seemed as if I was like the patient I was then bringing her.

Back at the convent, a small pimple on my knee became a big boil and for a short time I was in bed on penicillin with a high temperature. Then what happened was that I had gone down into a dumb-struck state. Trying to keep up with the others brought me to a standstill. A great cloud seemed to come over me. I was quite unable to express any feeling in words.

I seemed able to do things and then couldn't. Sister Angela showed me how to make altar breads. One day everything seemed wrong. She had to help me a lot. It was difficult to move. I was quite unaware of my own state. Mother Michael suggested I go to the Catholic Home to help. I knew the sisters there had had breakdowns.

Once there, I still felt dreadful, cut off, unable to contact anyone. My speech seemed to have gone. Sitting alone sometimes in the chapel, where I would say long prayers of my own, then playing with the earth, rather than weeding. Sitting watching people seemed more within my scope. Any sort of order to do this or that, especially washing up or any sort of housework got me caught, unable to move. Left alone, talking to myself, pleasing myself, was, in a sense, my only relief. Sometimes the Mother Superior sent for me. She would say, "How are you?" "All right." Then there was silence, nothing more. To me other people there were sick.

When they took me to London, to have ECT, I decided I must be sick, and wanted to go in a tax, not a bus. My trust was in them. My knowledge of the dangers of electric shocks and how some people "punished" other people by so-called "treatment" was then completely beyond me. This was in 1952.

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