Becoming a voluntary patient transformed my life at the Royal Cornhill Hospital. I could see that there was hope of resuming a normal life rather than being in continued confinement in an alien environment far from home in a drugged haze and being given forced distressing treatment against my strongly expressed wishes. I refused any further ECT, I got my wallet and bank card back, and was able to leave the ward between meal times and walk into Aberdeen. Going for long walks was probably the most important factor in my recovery, together with gaining some control over my life and being able to deal with some of the triggers of depression in a more rational way. I was still being given drugs to take morning and evening, but my body must have started to adjust to them. Money from an expensive motorbike that I had sold with my cousin’s help before going to Shetland was in my account, and payment of the state pension had started, so the balance was well into double figures. I walked to the Berryden Road shopping centre and bought new clothes, I had a haircut, and I bought a radio and writing materials. I walked to Union Square and bought a MacBook and iPhone from the Apple Store. This meant that I had access to the internet from my bed in the ward, could start to sort out my debts, contact friends, have some of the mental stimulus that I had been missing, and order books online that were delivered to the hospital. I decided to cut my losses on a property that I had been renovating and instructed an estate agent to put it on the market, so I would never have to worry about debts again.
I walked to an appointment at the Aberdeen Royal Infirmary and met my oncologist for the first time. He explained to me how far the cancer had spread, the prognosis and the proposed treatments. Although it had spread to some lymph nodes, it had not yet spread to my bones as I had been toId in the letter from the urologist in Lancaster. I could see that although I would never be cured and that the cancer would catch up with me eventually, the diagnosis wasn't as bad as I had been led to believe up until then and there was hope of living a relatively normal life for some time. Why didn't someone tell me this earlier and arrange for me to be given some emotional support when I was first diagnosed, and why was I discharged back onto the street and treated as if I was wasting valuable hospital resources when severe depression suddenly hit me and I asked for help in Lancaster?
I went out almost every day, often twice. I went on a date with a fellow patient. We took a taxi to Old Aberdeen, explored the area, had coffee and cake in a cafe and tea at the house of a friend of hers before returning to the hospital. I visited the art gallery and the Aberdeen archives, and sampled the coffee and cake in numerous cafes. I believe that, as well as the regular exercise of walking, this freedom to control my life again and to deal with the issues that had triggered the depression was the reason for my recovery. I was relieved of the pressures of working and fending for myself, had people around me, had a routine, had the stimulus of exploring the city, and was being fed and looked after by nursing staff who were caring.
I am horrified to think how different my fate would have been if the Tribunal had accepted the statements made by the psychiatrists and I had remained locked in the ward and given more electric shock 'treatment'. I now see from my notes that the doctors were annoyed that there had been no input from a psychiatrist at the Tribunal and weren't happy that I had been given my freedom despite their written evidence.
I hadn’t been told any details by Dr Hannah Badial about the medication that I was being given morning and evening, despite becoming a voluntary patient, so I asked a nurse and on 16th January wrote down what she told me - Sertraline, Olanzapine and Mirtazapine as well as (less regularly) Diazepam. As I now had a MacBook I could look them up and confirm that these were two different antidepressants, an antipsychotic and a benzodiazepine. Each has a long list of recognised side effects, some very serious, and each take some time to work and may cause mental disturbance before they do. I also discovered that some people have great difficulty withdrawing from them. There also seems to be convincing evidence that antidepressants are not much more effective than placebo, except in a minority of cases. Once I was admitted to hospital my mental condition deteriorated rapidly, particularly after being transferred unconscious from Lerwick to Aberdeen. I now believe that much of that deterioration was due to my body being unaccustomed to the powerful mixture of drugs that I was being given while held in isolation against my wishes with a terminal diagnosis and no contact with friends or family.
I only saw Dr Hannah Badial occasionally but one day she did come to see me in the dormitory and asked if we could have a word in a side room, and did I mind if there were some medical students present. It was an informal friendly chat rather than a consultation between doctor and patient, and I now know that this happened on 26th January. She asked me to tell my story. I suspect that she was hoping to show me off to the students as an example of successful treatment, as by then I was presentable and more articulate than any of the other patients on the ward. What she perhaps wasn’t expecting was for me to say thank God the Tribunal didn’t accept the statements from the psychiatrists who had only seen me for a few minutes each, and instead believed the nurse, and allowed me to become a voluntary patient. I also said to the students that no one had told me that I was getting ECT until a nurse told me on the morning of the first treatment and thank God again that I was able to stop it when I became voluntary. Dr Badial told me semi-apologetically that she was away when the ECT started. I now know that she was fully aware of what was to be done to me because she arranged for it to happen, but she deliberately decided not to warn me and left me helpless on the day of the first 'treatment' with no way of stopping it and no knowledge of what was about to be done to me. It was one of the most distressing experiences of my life. I cannot understand how anyone could knowingly inflict that experience on a fellow human being and will never forgive her. She asked me about a discharge date and I suggested after about another week, as I had just started taking the Aberaterone and steroid prescribed by the oncologist in addition to injections and would like to wait to see if they had any adverse effects. I never saw her or any other doctor again. I expected to have a consultation with a doctor before I was discharged to discuss any ongoing treatment. No one told me about the tablets that I was taking, how to take them after I was discharged, their possible side effects (particularly when used in combination), and how and when to reduce the dose. I certainly didn’t give informed consent to continuing to take them after I became a voluntary patient, as I should have been asked to do. That is the main reason why I didn't take the drugs that were handed to me in a paper bag when I was discharged, and I think that the fact that I haven't taken any psychiatric drugs since I was discharged over a year ago and haven't been depressed again is proof that such a heavy-duty chemical and electroshock assault on my brain was unnecessary and seriously harmful. I believe that Dr Hannah Badial and Dr Jane Murdoch were seriously negligent in not telling me anything about the life-changing and potentially life-shortening drugs that I had no choice about taking, even after I became a voluntary patient.