Melissa Lee-Houghton: ‘Articulating your experience is remarkably life affirming’

There’s a disturbing line – actually, the whole piece is disturbing – in poet Melissa Lee-Houghton’s Guardian article of a couple of years ago wherein she discusses the importance (for her psychiatric recovery) of writing.

She writes that The nurses in the hospitals seemed bored and often bullied me in disturbing ways, which inevitably prevented me from speaking with them at all.

When last in hospital myself (triple bypass), I felt the nurses (and doctors) to be on my side, ‘willing’ me to recovery. Somehow that perception (naive of me?) had significance, I needed faith in the system and in the goodwill of the people I was dealing with on a day-to-day basis, the sense that they were behind me. Melissa’s experience – the nurses’ boredom – shows another side of the system which is at odds with what you need for survival when you’re at your lowest. An isolated experience hopefully – then again, we’re all human aren’t we, even the nurses on whom we’ve occasion to pin our hydra-headed hopes?



(Melissa Lee-Houghton writes)
‘When I had first arrived on the ward in 2002, I had written a book-length poem describing my experience of grief and pain; on submitting to a staggering regime of pill cocktails, I ceased to write at all. I also stopped reading; a copy of Adorno’s Minima Moralia was swiftly confiscated as a particularly derisive nurse expressed her opinion on its damaging effect on my mind. Whenever I attempted to write something down, it was remarked on as a manifestation of my illness – never a possible route to its cessation.’

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