Why are all these people outside my house? I don’t understand why they are here. I feel surrounded, and I’m really fucking scared now.
It’s Monday night. Well, Tuesday morning now. I’m sat on my bed, holding my head, trying not to spin out of control. I’d just cut my leg.
I haven’t done this—not really, not like this—in a long time. I struggle now with a powerful sense of anger at myself, a good dollop of disgust, and a feeling like I’ve just taken a gigantic step back. A huge feeling of frustration. I can’t undo this. I’ve wounded myself now. It won’t heal for a while, and when it does, I will be treated to a couple of brand new scars. Those nice angry looking red ones, the kind that seem to scream your pain and your ‘craziness’ to anyone who sees them.
They won’t fade and look ‘old’ like my others for a least 3 years. That’s a long sentence I’ve just given myself—a few more years of having to explain any time someone sees it. And now I can no longer say with honesty. ‘It’s ok, I haven’t done it in years.’
My brain struggles to think of a bigger step backward right now.
Anyway. It’s half 1 in the morning when I do this. The problem is, this is just the start. When this used to be, heartbreakingly, an almost daily occurrence for me back in my late teens, I would egg myself on and on until it got quite bad. I don’t want it to get quite bad.
I am rescued for a while by a call from a friend-to-be. I’ve known her for a while now, and known we would be friends. We just hadn’t actually got there yet. We barely know each other at this stage. She knew something was up though, and she made me call her.
We talk for nearly an hour, somehow she even makes me laugh. We talk about how sexy that Danish actor in Hannibal is. I calm down over the course of the call.
We plan contact for the next few days and say goodbye. It’s about half 2 now.
I go back to sit on my bed. I take a look at my leg. The fucked up part of my brain tells me this is ‘nothing’ and that I should carry on. I realise I’m still in a dangerous place.
I call 111. I’m thinking this is the sensible thing to do. I don’t want to overreact. I don’t want to underreact either. I just want advice from someone who knows what they are doing—because I certainly don’t.
I’m waiting for 15 minutes. I get through to a young man who asks me standard questions, each one—and I mean each and every one—preceded by the words ‘I mean.’
“I mean, Miss, are you injured anywhere else?”
“I mean, is it still bleeding?”
What a strange young man.
I am put through to a nurse. After explaining the reason for my call a little further—namely, my fear of escalation from this point—she says I might need to go to hospital. She puts me on hold for a few minutes.
When she comes back. she tells me she’s called an ambulance. She doesn’t ask me if I want to have an ambulance called; she’s already done it. She tells me to get my stuff together, prepare to lock up, and keep an eye out for it.
So I do. I get my stuff together. Since my doorway isn’t really visible from the street, and I don’t want them waking anyone else up. It’s now just past 3 AM; I lock my door and I go out to wait by the road.
I roll a cigarette with shaking hands. I have about enough time to smoke it before I see flashing lights.
I see they are lower down than they should be.
Then a police car pulls up. No, I see two. No...there’s another. The doors of the one directly in front of me open and two women get out. They’ve still got one foot in the car when they start shouting at me over the sound of the last car pulling up.
“Did you call for an ambulance?” one demands.
I reply, yes. My voice is quiet.
The woman I focus on is approaching me now, her hands hooked into her vest, she looks at me intently. She asks again
“Did *you* call an ambulance?”
I’m so confused. Ok. Fuck. I’m scared now.
There are six of them in front of me now. They’ve formed a wide semi-circle around me where I stood leaning against the garden wall. Except for that first woman actually. She’s stood beside me now, to my right. She’s really close.
I am not sure how I can possibly get any words out. I try though. I stumble over them.
“Show me please.”
I raise my skirt on one side. She looks. She nods.
I managed to get my words out.
“Why are you here?!”
My voice, like the rest of me, is shaking.
She looks at me. I think she looks at me funny. I don’t know. I’m panicking. I don’t understand what’s happening.
“There’s no ambulance.”
“There is no ambulance. They called us.”
This is one part of the exchange I remember exactly. This is what she said. Now, now I panic.
There’s no ambulance? They called the police instead? My head's spinning, my confusion and fear I think make my voice sound strange as I desperately try to understand.
“But...why are there so many of you?!”
Maybe I’m trying to tell them they are scaring me. It wouldn’t matter though, I don’t know if it is their job to worry about that.
“Well,” This woman to my right looks at me with her head to one side. “We get a call that someone’s been cutting themselves with a knife, they are going to call us aren’t they? And there are going to be more than two of us, aren’t there?”
HOW THE FUCK WOULD I KNOW, OH JESUS?!
I’m starting to cry now. From this response, what should I think? I still don’t get it, but I am more scared now. This has been, what reported? I’m in trouble now? They don’t send medical help but call the police? Fucking six of them? They think I’m dangerous? Criminal? Am I in trouble? What the fuck is going on?
To that woman, I reply: “I don’t know!”
I can’t help but look from side to side. My instinct is to run away. I’m not going to do that. They wouldn’t let me, and besides, I’m standing outside my own house, if I run away from here, where would I run to?
I want to ask them to leave. There’s nothing I want more than for them to go away and leave me alone, all these strange people in uniform, all staring at me, arms crossed and on guard. I want everyone to forget the whole thing, just leave me alone, you’re scaring me.
I can’t remember the exact sequence of events from here. I think next she asked to look in my bag. She was very thorough. She found a knife, which, ironically, had nothing to do with the events of the night. It’s a small craft knife I carry for when I need one, like some people carry a Swiss army knife.
It’s taken away of course.
I must have asked the woman closest to me another question, because eventually the situation becomes clearer and I am able to calm slightly. She tells me there is an ambulance.
Well, there is a potential ambulance. She says ‘they’ (999 dispatch, I guess) called them (the police) too. But she says sometimes they lie and say they have sent an ambulance when they haven’t.
I think when she said, ‘There is no ambulance," before, she meant there wasn’t one yet.
She tells me they were with an old lady the other day who waited two hours. I don’t know if this is the intent but I feel guilty now. I know I’m less deserving.
She also tells me that they will wait here with me until it comes. And if it doesn’t, they will drive me to the hospital themselves.
Oh thank God.
Why didn’t she/they tell me this before?! Some of my panic drains away.
I falteringly try and explain to her what I thought she meant when she told me there wasn’t an ambulance earlier. I think I am trying to tell her she scared me. She doesn’t quite understand what I am saying but it doesn’t matter anymore.
I know that one is coming now, I just have to cope with how uneasy I feel being stared at by so many intimidating looking people when I feel so vulnerable.
Thankfully at this point, the woman to my right says that she and her partner will stay, and she says to the others that they can go.
To cut a long story short. After having to go over much of what I said on the phone again to the policewoman, I then have to repeat what I told her, to the paramedic, only with a bit more info added.
I get to the hospital. It’s quiet and cold. I wait alone for half an hour while their systems crash.
When I get booked in I tell the story a fourth time to the woman who books me in.
They get a nurse over. She jams saline soaked gauze into the cuts to clean them. She steri-strips them together...really badly. I mean, it’s weird. I can do better, and I will re do it when I get home. She puts a blood pressure cuff on me and waits for a reading before realising she didn’t turn it on. She goes to get some more stuff, and it about to give me a tetanus shot - but she forgot the needle.
I forgive her. It’s 5:30 am and I don’t really care anymore.
Another half hour wait and I am collected by a psychiatric something or other. Psych assessment person for the night I guess. She’s got a man with her. From the crisis resolution team.
They ask me to tell them why I am here. That’s...a big question. I’m tired, hungry, and I’ve numbed out now. I try to answer but I don’t know what to say.
The main thing they are trying to ask me is "Are you a danger to yourself or others if we let you go?"
Of course, I am in danger. I would never have summoned up the willpower to put down the knide and call someone for advice or help if I wasn’t.
The answer they want is no.
I’m too tired now. I give in. I tell them no.
They parrot off some numbers for emergency lines I’ll never use, and then I’m done.
At 6:20 AM, I am wandering down a road in Hammersmith away from a hospital I’ve never been to before. I’m wearing a skirt too big for me as it was the first thing I grabbed when I left. It’s almost falling off. It’s got blood on it. I’m a mess, my hair’s a mess, and I’m still wearing the hospital bracelet.
I’m glad I bought my handbag with me. My oyster is in there.
I’m glad I asked the psych person where the hell I was, because they assumed I knew.
I walk down a road I don’t recognise until I find a bus stop showing a number I recognise.
I go home. It’s over.
I don’t know if anything was achieved, if anything was avoided, or if it was the right thing to do.
I know that. No matter how bad my mental health has gotten, I’ve never phoned an emergency number since.