Part 11 (A) – PRODUCTION LINE PSYCHIATRY
In the first couple of weeks living at my parent’s home, depressing at it was to be ‘a little girl’ again, I thought, as I blamed myself for my ‘supposed’ breakdown and how I’d got everything about myself so wrong, that I needed to consult a good psychiatrist who would listen to me and help sort myself out. I chose to return to a Dr C who I had first consulted in 1971 after the initial violent outburst by my then partner, Boy X. The psychiatrist, who I had only seen twice, seemed from my recollection at just 21 years old, a reasonable man who said I was very aware of my problems, but he could make life easier for me if continued to see him. At that time, I was a successful journalist, in love with a violent ‘Jeckyll and Hyde’ young man just a year older than me, and I believed I could work it all out for myself. In 1980, however, when I was still suffering painfully, albeit tortuously, from the agitation caused by the Modecate (without being told about the importance of the anti-agitation tablets Cogentin), I knew I had to go and see someone. I should have realised from my first consultation with Dr C that he was yet, another production line shrink as he didn’t believe the agitation was caused by all the Modecate I had been administered, despite me telling him that the restless pain inside had only started after I had been given the injection and had never experienced that feeling ever before. I was so distraught about myself I didn’t know who else to consult, and still had faith, albeit naively, in the psychiatric profession, despite the damning diagnosis and madness of the shrink at the RMH and the next one I had seen. Instead Dr C told me I was suffering from agitated depression and prescribed the anti-depressant, Tryptanol.
I was in such a pitiful state I couldn’t even think straight, let alone trust my own perceptions after what had happened at the London TV station and my own family’s comments, so I took the Tryptanol and back at my parent’s home, I once more embarked on a job finding mission. But to no avail, sadly. No one it seemed, from my old journalistic contacts, wanted to know me. The Tryptanol acted as some sort of sleeping pill; I felt sluggish, lethargic, and spent many hours sleeping, not just at night but during the day as well, playing Scrabble with my mother in between and going to the football (the only thing I still had some interest in), feeling like a huge failure. I saw Dr C once a fortnight, and after a few weeks, the agitation disappeared but I had gained about a stone and a half in weight and felt ‘dead’ inside. I couldn’t laugh and I couldn’t cry; I felt quite numb, existing like an automaton without any direction. There was little of ME left; my entire sense of self had been ripped out of me leaving me feeling bereft and totally bedevilled by how this had all happened. I tried to keep myself going by thinking about my books; writing a few things again in my bedroom and just trying to get a job, though I had completely lost my confidence and my strong self-belief.
Dr C told me I had been psychotic, though he said it was ‘unusual paranoia’ when I tried to explain some of what had happened. But I was so upset and confused, I couldn’t even articulate what HAD really happened. I didn’t tell him all the comments from the London TV station, nor what my family members had said to me. I didn’t even ask him what was ‘unusual’ about the so-called paranoia – his words just rolled around in my addled brain, without me challenging any of it. He also added it was ‘inevitable’ that I had the breakdown, and once more, I just accepted it without asking what he meant. Sitting smoking inside his well-furnished room (there was no couch to lie on), I was struck dumb; all my questioning as a journalist had fled from my mind as if my brain was a sponge, an amoeba of sorts that just soaked up all the verbals like a piece of blotting paper that someone had spilled ink all over. At my parent’s abode, however, I began reflecting on his words as well as all the comments that had been said to me, and the one thing I knew for certain was that I hadn’t been frightened of anything; indeed, I believed the shrink at the RMH was frightened of me! I had just been so very, very sad at how everything had turned out back in Australia. My going over everything again was an attempt, albeit on my own if that’s all I could do, to try and make sense of it all and to wrestle with the truth, finding out for myself why all those comments had been said to me
So what else did Dr C and I talk about? At first, he told me I had to ‘GET OUT” of my parent’s place; but how unrealistic was that, I pondered later? I had absolutely no money and no job to pay rent anywhere except to live in another hovel again. At least my parent’s place was warm (it was the middle of winter) and they could afford to feed me. I was living on the dole (my family’s solution to it all) and I could feel their pity swarm all over me in a rush of distaste and despair. I hated it! Dr C’s attitudes should have alerted me to the fact that he had no true awareness of the reality I had faced and sadly, still faced. No one wanted to give me a job, except now I believed that maybe I wasn’t really good enough as one of my sister’s had said. But deep down, I couldn’t let go of the facts about my work in the UK; I had been bloody good at my job, had worked damn hard and how it had turned out just didn’t add up. I continued to see Dr C in good faith, believing in psychiatrists (more fool me) as it was ME who had been sick! After three months of futile job hunting back in Melbourne and feeling at least somewhat better and knowing I just HAD to get a job (any kind now would have to suffice), I thought I’d have to go to Sydney as there was nothing in my own city for me. I didn’t want to go to Sydney as it was too glitzy and sham as far as I knew it and moreover, I loved the AFL football in Melbourne as it was a big part of my life in winter. I had no choice except continuing unemployment, and at least I knew a couple of people in Sydney. Little did I think about what they thought of me too – it was as if everything I had thought before this ‘breakdown’ was SO VERY WRONG – I had come to believe what everyone was saying about me; I was psychotic, I had been deluded, I was totally paranoid, I was indeed, MAD! Far worse, I was back to square one – the Tryptanol had slowed down my metabolism (according to Dr C) and I had stacked on weight, felt fat, unattractive and without any real energy, forcing myself to get on the plane and go to Sydney with money I’d saved on the dole. I was also feeling exhausted after no holiday (unemployment is NOT a holiday) and no respite from the emotional pain still enveloping me.
As much as I didn’t want to stay with her, I had no other choice again but to stay with the friend who told me she would have me committed, who wasn’t interested in my books or anything I’d done in the UK. All of this paled into the background as of course, I’d got it ALL wrong. It was ALL my fault, my madness, my delusions of grandeur! I had asked Dr C if he could recommend a couple of psychiatrists in Sydney, giving me two names and telephone numbers to contact. After settling into the flat, (I was sleeping on the couch in the sitting room), I made a few phone calls to some journalists I vaguely knew in Sydney, but that too, proved fruitless, though I was lucky to pick up some freelance research work with an independent TV company which I found soporific and a waste of time but at least I was earning some money again. I then tried to write a freelance journalism story for Australian Business magazine which its editor had approved. It was a similar idea I had written about in London for a marketing magazine except it was now from an Australian angle. I did all my research on the telephone, at least the questions were straightforward and factual without any need for more detailed elaboration and I didn’t have the energy to traipse around Sydney nor the money for taxis to see people face to face. As tired and uninspired as I was feeling, I had to really push myself to write it. I wrote 1500 words and sent it to the editor, ringing him a couple of days later to be told the story was fine and he would run it in next month’s magazine. The pay cheque was $250, and it seemed like I had struck gold with that amount as I was so used to far less for my efforts. When it was published, I was really glad to read that hardly a word had been changed. At least I could still write a decent story again.
It was now summer and my friend had gone to Bali for a holiday and I was renting her flat. There was no air conditioning and it was stinking hot and unbearably humid; I would sit in her flat with sweat running down my face and across my body. It was so unpleasant and uncomfortable (humidity was never good for my asthma), but what could I do? Moreover, I was a bit incredulous that she charged me rent to stay in her flat as I was just managing to scrape by and feed myself, but she told me she would be renting it to others if I didn’t stay there as she was away for a month and needed the money. At least with the freelance work, I could pay her what she asked. Ho hum – I thought – so much for friendship. (You certainly learn who your REAL friends are when you’re down and out!) And she still wasn’t interested in what had happened to me. Before she left for Bali, she asked nothing and I didn’t say anything either. I started seeing one of the psychiatrists Dr C had recommended and after only a couple of visits, abandoned him as he was such a boring, bland man that I can’t even remember what we talked about.
I was just existing, a robot, forcing myself all the time to do things and still on the Tryptanol. I slept in the afternoon in the flat in between making more phone calls looking for a job, while the editor of the magazine said if I had any more ideas to call him again. But I didn’t have any business contacts and had no ideas left. After seeing a small item on the TV news about the need for grief education in schools (aka sex education which had only been introduced a couple of years before), it seemed like a good idea for a more detailed story and it was an idea I related to as I was feeling a very profound sense of loss; I had lost my family (I couldn’t blot out what they had all said to me), my career and many people I thought were my friends. Part of me thought grief counselling was exactly what I needed. I managed to interest the National Times weekly newspaper in the idea, but the people I needed to talk to were in Melbourne so I had to do all the interviews on the phone (I had always thought this was a very superficial way of interviewing someone) and I still wasn’t at my best with questioning, still feeling half dead from the neck up. Indeed, I cobbled together some copy and sent it off to the newspaper and was not surprised when they sent me a letter back saying it wasn’t questioning enough. I agreed with them. Then, through a couple of contacts, I managed to find out ABC TV was going to start a new science/technology program (I had worked on a science program in Leeds) and I applied and got myself a job once more as a researcher (I never wanted to do this again but there was nothing else forthcoming), albeit for another pittance of a salary.
I also consulted the other psychiatrist Dr C had recommended and he was even worse than the previous shrink (this word now seemed more than appropriate); one of the things he told me on our first consultation was to do something about my hair (I just pulled it off my face in a pony-tail), adding that having a nervous breakdown was about having low self esteem. He didn’t even ask me if I could afford to go to a hairdresser- which I could NOT! Moreover, he didn’t know a thing about me so why did he assert I had low self esteem? Where did he get that from? The way I looked? The clothes I wore? (I was still wearing jeans and T shirts as I couldn’t afford to buy any other clothes) But with a job now, I found myself a room to rent in a house share from a newspaper, with a couple of other people, (my friend had returned from Bali) and I could just pay the rent and manage to feed myself. There was NOTHING left over for going out or buying anything else I needed except I was now fat and felt I looked ghastly. I thought this psychiatrist was yet another sexist who was also unrealistic and not at all interested in what had really happened to me. He made assumptions based on nothing more than what I looked like. My reality of earning so little meant nothing (he never even asked me how much money I had or what I was earning). I hated the job on the science program as I was expected to do so much less work than what I had done in the UK, and being a researcher again felt just as humiliating as it had over there. And I was just as depressed and impoverished. But I had NO choice except to try and find a better job. I now realised I had to put up with being put down and earning a paltry sum, there was nothing else I could do as I kept turning over in my mind – had I been deluded in thinking I deserved better? That’s what everyone was telling me. I wasn’t allowed to believe in myself as it was delusional, grandiose, manic!
Shortly after I began work at the ABC, I bumped into a young Aussie woman who had worked at the London TV station where I had worked, albeit she was a secretary for the international current affairs program producer who I had had so many odd dealings with. We had never ever had a conversation in London, but back in Sydney now, we became friends for a while. I told her about my breakdown but I didn’t go into any of the details about what had been said to me; only that I had had some issues with the producer. She then asked me if I had fucked him? To which I replied I wish it was only that. She told me she had fallen in love with him and they were still in contact. A few weeks later she told me she had told him she had seen me and that he offered to write me a reference. More interested in what he would say more than it being of any use now, I wrote to him and asked him for the reference. His reply was very enlightening. Firstly, he wrote he was glad my paranoia was behind me (I found out what they had all thought and why I couldn’t get another job in TV- moreover, he knew I thought my phone might have been bugged but he interpreted this as paranoia when I thought it was all in my favour and best interest) but his reference was equally revealing saying apart from my clarity of research, my tenacity and efficiency, that I had journalistic instincts. He didn’t even know I had been a journalist in Australia before I went to the UK. His ignorance was very pertinent though I knew the reference was now irrelevant. (There’s more to this guy down the track as I kept up my efforts to find out other things)
My friend who had gone to Bali stopped wanting to see me. Over the next three or four months as I called her a few times, she always said to leave it and didn’t ring me at all. (At a time when I desperately needed a friend, turning her back on me was very painful and hurtful, to say the least!) Instead, I would ring my mother to Melbourne and say how depressed I was; complaining about my job and how I could hardly make ends meet as Sydney was far more expensive than Melbourne and I just didn’t earn much! After six months working at the ABC, she then told me she’d seen a job advertised for a reporter/producer at SBS-TV in Melbourne which had just started broadcasting.
I decided to apply for that as it would get me back to Melbourne for the football and it seemed a far more appropriate position for my experience. There was nothing else in Sydney for me as I had failed to get myself the sort of job I had wanted. For the SBS job, at least my friend acted as a referee as I had no others. (I had once more no one else to ask, despite not having seen her for several months.) I was flown to Melbourne for an interview and as fat and depressed as I was feeling inside, I put on a great act (I was getting good at hiding how I really felt) and got the job with a six month contract and some more money. When I told the head of light entertainment at the ABC (the man who had hired me) that I had been offered another job in Melbourne for more money he told me not to leave, going on to say I’ll pay you the top of the researcher’s positions (they were actually called program officers and I was labelled a senior researcher for just over $17,000 in 1981) which was what he had originally told me when he gave me the job. I then rang the ABC Staff Association and found out he had lied about what he had previously paid me (it wasn’t the top of the scale at all) and only when I said I had another job offer, did he decide to pay me the top scale which was still far less than what SBS was offering me. I was disgusted at this guy for lying to me and moreover, the executive producer of the program also told me I was doing too much work as a researcher and it wasn’t my job to be writing scripts as I had done. Indeed, a researcher at the ABC was simply a fact gatherer, he told me, the reporters wrote scripts and it wasn’t for me to do so. He added that only female reporter on the program was lazy and I had been doing some of the work she should be doing! There was no deliberation about whether to stay or go and like my experience in London, the ABC was full of lazy, lying arseholes too. I accepted the SBS job and after 10 months in Sydney headed back to Melbourne where my mother had found me a flat to rent. I re-consulted Dr C in Melbourne. I didn’t know who else to see.
The SBS job, on a so-called current affairs program, was another kind of farce too. I soon found out that one of the cameraman I was working with was earning $200 a week more than I was despite me being the director and telling him what to shoot. Furthermore, I was NOT allowed to do my own research. The program had researchers to do that and I was just supposed to read their briefs and push the mike into people’s faces and ask them a few questions. I hated that procedure; I loved the conversation of research where you could really engage with people in a two-way fashion and I found being a so-called director another kind of humiliating and depressing experience with the research I was handed by my colleagues not up to the standard I would have delivered. I felt I didn’t have enough background and didn’t really know the right questions to ask. I felt under prepared and as for the directing, well, I partly enjoyed thinking and imagining what shots I might be able to achieve with the cameraman but it wasn’t what I really thrived on. Furthermore, I was back working 18-20 hours week, (we filmed during the day and edited at night, often till 2or 3 in the morning) for little money, not much sleep and mediocre albeit boring stories. We weren’t allowed to do any political stories or stories about the real truth of ethnic communities in Melbourne. The program’s stories were tame, comforting and harmless; there was no real guts to them and as far as I was concerned, glossed over the truth of a quasi-racist and anti-ethnic Melbourne in 1981. Another cameraman (I never asked him how much he was earning) and sound recordist told me after a few weeks that ‘we voted you the person with most potential on the program’, but I had already decided TV and I were sadly mismatched (at least when I couldn’t do my own research). I managed to find time to continue to see Dr C and then, suffering from little sleep again and copious cups of coffee, I ‘picked up’ on a comment I heard outside the flat my mother had rented for me in South Yarra. It was a woman talking to a small boy saying ‘that’s enough’ and I related to that comment as I was feeling so very tired and pissed off with the unjust and boring TV world I had so far found in Australia. My mind started racing over all the comments from London TV again and I couldn’t sleep. It was about 9pm and it was one of my few nights off. I was hearing a little of the voice again saying these comments and I decided to call a taxi and go and see Dr C at home to get some sleeping pills. He came to the door but wouldn’t give me a script. I was pretty peeved, but I didn’t think of going to see my GP sister so I returned home and stayed the night at my manic-depressive cousin’s flat, however much I didn’t want to do that I thought I might sleep if I wasn’t by myself. I lay on her couch, managing to fall asleep for a few hours, waking up feeling OK again without hearing any voice. I went back to work.
I also had decided that I wanted to go back to print, where I could do my own research, engage in real communication and write my own stories. I applied at The Sun again and spoke to a new editor who had been the news editor when I had worked there some nine years previously. The newspaper had recently started a more in-depth investigative section called SunProbe which I felt was more akin to what I had been doing in London, but the editor was very quick to dismiss me. I also applied at The Age again but that was also futile so I decided I’d give magazines a go. I rang the deputy editor of New Idea, a magazine about women that my mother used to buy and I used to read, and it printed many interesting stories about women which I found relevant and enlightening. The deputy editor was a woman I knew vaguely from my years at The Sun except that she had worked in the women’s section while I had been in general news. She too dismissed me, saying she thought there might be a job on their sister publication, TV Week. But the only real passion I still had in journalism was for the football; and that’s what I wanted to do, but no one wanted a woman in that either. Desperate to get back into the written word, I wrote to the editor of TV Week, had an interview and got myself a job, though at the interview, he just asked me what I’d done at The Sun and wasn’t at all interested in my work in the UK (a pattern I found repeating itself all too often). The money was supposedly an A-grade but the same as I received at SBS and I resigned after four months. One of the few plusses was that I had saved a lot of money as I never had time to go out much and buying my own flat was my number one priority. I was looking forward to returning to print, but I had never read TV Week and when I did buy it to read, was a bit horrified at the ‘crap’ within its glossy pages. Its writing acumen wasn’t however my concern then; sorting myself out and finding out what had really happened to me was my number one obsession. I had kissed my career goodbye.
I had seen Dr C a few times while I worked at SBS and with the agitation now completely gone, I went off the Tryptanol and back on a diet. Within a few weeks, I lost over a stone and before starting at TV Week, took myself on a four week holiday – the first REAL holiday I’d had since leaving the London TV station four years before. (I stayed at my brother-in-laws sister’s holiday house on the Mornington Peninsula for a modest rent). Saving some more money and having my own place so I didn’t ever have to depend on anyone again was close to another obsession as I wanted to be by myself, reflecting as I did at night on all the things that had happened to me, going over my life again as I had done with the ‘imaginary’ shrink behind the walls in Adelaide. Except I now had a real shrink to do it with. Or so I hoped! And working 9-5pm, as much as I’d never wanted that sort of lifestyle, would I thought provide me with a more normal life (as I said, I thought I’d got myself totally wrong) whatever ‘normal’ was supposed to mean. I also determined not to be a workaholic again; certainly not for the meagre salaries I had earned. I was once again in touch with my so-called friend in Sydney who I rang to tell that I’d left SBS and was now at TV Week. She didn’t say much about that but I confronted her about why she didn’t want to know me all those months in Sydney. Her reply was that she couldn’t cope with listening to how depressed and pissed off I was at the ABC. I didn’t say anything and let it go but my private thoughts were that she was the really weak one and was certainly no real friend as I had needed. When you’re feeling strong and good about yourself, listening to others who might be depressed shouldn’t be a problem. That’s what friends are for; at least, that’s my perspective. But what it meant for me was that our subsequent friendship (as she continued to call it) was based on nothing but superficialities where I could never be honest with her again. She only wanted to know me when I was supposedly feeling good, not sad or pained.
When I began at TV Week, I was however, feeling better, both physically and mentally. I was slim, had bought a few cheap clothes and was no longer confined to T-shirts and jeans. I even had a suntan, was feeling more energised and hoped the worst was well behind me. I wasn’t taking any medication though I was still haunted at times by why, and how, my life had gone so painfully wrong. I still harboured secret dreams of returning to London, but work was shelved into a more insignificant shelf in my mind as I wrestled with the truth of my past. I saw Dr C once a fortnight at 8am on a Monday morning and after a couple of months, I thought he was doing me well. Even though I arrived at work about 30 minutes late at around 9.30am, nobody said anything to me. But I was concerned that someone would eventually. (I later told the Features Editor who I liked and who seemed to like me. I certainly didn’t want trouble for coming late to work) The Dr C sessions lasted an hour; after talking (me doing most of it in the beginning) he would look at his watch and say – ‘time’s up’ and it mattered little that I might have been in the throes of saying something that I considered important or insightful. I had to shut up and walk out. Cutting me off in that way started my reappraisal of psychiatric so-called therapy. I was supposed to ‘switch on’ when I walked in there even though I was thinking about having to go to work and then just as quickly, ‘switch off’ again so I could go to work and do my job. Too often, my mind was circling around all the things I had said and what Dr C had said back to me, finding it very hard to supposedly ‘compartmentalise’ my mind, let alone my emotions, in that cold and structured manner. It was all designed to fit the clock, seemingly very artificial; very controlled, very unreal and akin to a factory production line. I would clock on and clock off on the hour so that the next patient could do exactly the same thing. There were times I felt like crying; but I stopped myself somehow as I was reluctant to go to work with tear stains on my make-up and red, blotchy eyes. I started to realise I was putting on an act as I couldn’t be the real ME in that scenario. I just absorbed Dr C’s words in his room without really appreciating what he was saying until I got home after work. Sometimes when I returned to see him a fortnight later, I would confront him with what he had said, but his replies, if there were any, would be to dismiss my attitudes with – don’t go attacking yourself or depression will set in. I didn’t respond; what was he talking about? I didn’t attack myself; it was OTHERS who had always attacked me and depression? I had only been really depressed when I was unemployed and broke and still searching for a better less humiliating job in Adelaide and then in Melbourne.
Other things he said to me over the two and a half years I saw him (yes, I kept it up still believing it was ME who had ALL the problems as he had told me) was that when telling him what the psychiatrist had done to me at the RMH, well, that’s what they do to prisoners in Russia. I didn’t really understand what he meant, and the sense I made out of it was that it had been psychiatric abuse – which I had read about in London in the newspapers – people who dissented or criticised the communist regime were imprisoned and given Modecate without anti-agitation pills to torture them. I was horrified but I said nothing. Other things he said was that I had been ‘OUT OF CONTROL’ – when I knew I hadn’t done anything except feel sadder and sadder and cry and talk to an imaginary shrink behind the walls of my bedroom in Adelaide. But Dr C (also Jewish) knew my sister and she had talked to him – so that’s where he got it all from, I surmised. I never told him what all my family members had said to me because he not ONCE asked me what really happened; I never told him about all the comments from the people I’d worked with in London because he never asked me that either and when my mother told me she wanted to go and see him too, he said he wouldn’t see her. I didn’t know why except one of the few things he said to me that made sense was that ‘your family is a farce!’ Moreover, he added that he thought it was ‘some terrible insecurity’ that had caused my breakdown. I later started asking him a few questions – what sort of marriage did he have etc to which he replied ‘ traditional’ without elaborating on what that really meant. He also asked: was I interviewing him now when I felt that he didn’t even know how to best interview me. Despite my disappointment with a lot of what he was saying, I continued to see him, believing it was what I needed despite not really confronting him with all the issues I ruminated on at home after I had seen him. I had kept a diary in London (indeed, I had written in a journal of sorts since I was 13 years old) and I gave it to him to read and he didn’t say anything; I had also given him the books I had written, a novella on an adolescent girl, Hannah, growing up in Melbourne in the 1960s and another about sex, violence and the media which was set in London in the early 1970s and called The Circle War. While I had written a supposed sequel to that novel, At The Front, he wouldn’t borrow it as I told him I only had one copy and he said he was wary that he might lose it. He didn’t pass any comment on the adolescent book, except that later he told me ‘I was special” when in the novella it referred to the character Hannah’s sister telling Hannah that she was NOT special. Where else did he get the ‘special’ from, I pondered? About The Circle War, he said he had read it twice and thought it was easy to read and terrific, adding to ‘sit with the pain!’(just like my manic-depressive cousin had said to me when she read it). I started wondering why he had said that, did he think it was all true too? Of course, saying it was terrific pleased me as it was the only positive comment I had heard from anyone and fool that I was, I believed him. But he never discussed any of what I had written and never asked me any questions about it at all. I said I saw it as a denial of my love; much of it quite the opposite of what I felt, thought and perceived as well as trying to fictionalise a lot of the story. I hoped imagination and understanding counted for something.
It was a short time later that he told me I had intimacy problems with men (I was aghast as how on earth would he think that?) , that I was a dreamer (after everything I’d done and written and worked so hard at) and moreover, that I should go and live like my sister. When I confronted him on that he replied, I was just being facetious! End of conversation. As the months went on he then told me I needed group therapy – twice a week in the afternoon and when I said I am working – I can’t just take a few hours off a week – he said – you’re frightened of it. I should have walked out then for his totally irrational and unrealistic attitudes; but I kept it up and was starting to get angry at what he was saying about me. But I thought that might have been good for me as maybe I was still denying my truth and had to confront what he was saying about me. Is this how therapy works, I naively wondered, even though I’d told him he was patronizing to me and he just didn’t respond. What was even more significant, by way of omission, was that we hardly ever discussed my work which had always been the most important aspect of my life. He never even knew what I had done in the UK and it was never mentioned. Neither was any of the unfair and unjust situations I had faced in the workplace as well as the tough and hard battles and conflicts I had to deal with. There was so much emphasis on my family as if that was all that mattered. At home at night, I was doing a lot of reading, and even more thinking, and the one thing I clung to was that he’d said my family was a farce. Despite thinking my family was a lot worse than a farce, at least he appreciated I didn’t have the loving, supportive, positive or encouraging family I needed. Or so I thought.
Meanwhile at TV Week, I was struggling to write the sort of stories they wanted. The editor called me in and said I needed to be more personal with my interviewees, an attitude I hadn’t adopted during all my years in the UK. I was clearly upset, but felt determined to master writing what I mostly considered as rubbish. I also determined to write my way, hoping that I could still once more write what I thought, was a good story. I started suggesting longer Features’ ideas about issues like comedy on TV, current affairs and women in serious journalism where I realised even more how unjust and unfair TV was to many females. It made me re-examine what had happened to me in a new perspective; TV was undoubtedly sexist and run by a boys’ club that deemed women had to be very pretty, glamorous and intelligent as well. Only months before I began at the magazine, Jana Wendt had been hired on 60 Minutes (I only applied there at the behest of my sister because compared to British current affairs programs, I thought it was light weight and sensational), fitting the portrait of a young, beautiful and smart woman. (I didn’t even get as much as an interview and until the employment of Jana, the program’s three reporters were all male) No wonder I’d gone nowhere in this country or for that matter in London, where class and accent also ruled as sacrosanct. After writing a few more ‘personal’ stories at TV Week, even the chief sub started saying they were good and the Features Editor asked me to do a story on male feminists with three TV stars who had purportedly stated their positive sentiments about women, claiming they understood what it must be like to be female. They were supposedly on our side, but without naming names, I found these three, high-profile TV stars wanting; they understood nothing of the non-traditional, hard-working woman who didn’t adhere to the stereotype of being a good-looking, albeit clever, ambitious, young female. The story was right up my alley after all my book reading on women AND men and I knew a lot about so-called stereotypes; indeed, I wanted to write my own book on Australian men as I believed most of them to be far more flexible and less sexist than those I’d encountered in Britain. That project was placed on my future agenda.
Then, something very odd happened at the office. The Features Editor who I got along well with (he loved football too and was always ready for a joke) asked me: Who is Hannah in the TV series Prisoner? I had hardly watched a lot of TV and didn’t have a clue so I replied I don’t know, but Hannah was the name of the character in my adolescent novella I had written and I thought it more than fortuitous that the Features Ed had asked me that as it seemed apropos of nothing I was working on. Despite now at least being able to write a decent story (they didn’t get changed much when published), I was back writing pretty fast again compared to the other two female reporters and come mid afternoon, I often had nothing to do and was so bored that I was drinking umpteen cups of coffee during the day and smoking like a chimney. I felt I had conquered enough of what I wanted to achieve there, but when I got home that night after the “Hannah’ question, I found myself wondering why he had asked me that question at all. Did he think Hannah was me and had he read my book (I never gave it to him) and did he think I felt like a prisoner? I just couldn’t make sense of it any other way, but then I started ‘hearing’ my own voice going over comments again; comments that the shrink at the RMH had treated me like a prisoner in Russia and the horror at them all took over and I just couldn’t stop the voice from going over all the things said and done to me. Except this time I quite clearly knew it was MY voice and I wasn’t talking to anyone but myself. I kept going to work despite having little sleep, but I could still concentrate and shut out the voice when I was really interested in what I was doing. When I went to see Dr C and told him about the voice again, he told me I was manic and too sensitive, prescribing lithium to take. Well, I asked, what sense do you make of the question? He just replied the Features Ed had been playing ‘funny buggers!” What on earth was that about? Why would he be playing funny buggers with me? But I had to let it go; what else could I do? And well, I trusted Dr C and thought, maybe I am manic (more to the point was that I was very upset, even depressed) but then Dr C said’ do you want to go to hospital? to which I replied – What for? What was he thinking? He also added my mind was inclined to a paranoid illness! I was dumbfounded, I didn’t feel at all paranoid as I understood the word, just very confused as to why the Features Editor had asked me about a Hannah I’d never heard of. But I didn’t say anything else to Dr C as I just wanted to go to sleep and I took the Lithium for a couple of days and it made me sick and even worse than I was. He told me to stop the Lithium and prescribed me Stelazine instead, 20mg for a few days to see how I went. He added there was a possible side effect as it could cause involuntary muscular jerks like your leg kicking up without reason but I just had to take it and accept the consequence of what might happen.
It was a drug I’d never heard of but I returned to work after a couple of days and the voice subsided. I resumed my job tho I still had some misgiving about what the Features Ed had asked me. But I never found out why he asked me that. The Stelazine just slowed me down again and then Dr C said something about schizophrenia to which I replied – fucked if I know! Over the next few weeks he reduced the Stelazine to 10 mg and I was feeling better tho’ sleepy a lot of the time, as on the packet it said it can cause drowsiness. I was still drinking even more strong coffee at home at night as I kept reflecting on everything again. Now what? I had read about schizophrenia and didn’t relate to any of it except hearing a voice which I knew was my own – nothing else – and I wasn’t frightened by what the Features Ed had asked me – just very puzzled and perplexed. Maybe I should just stop looking into what people say too much; stop thinking and feeling upset, but this was only the beginning of a myriad of odd comments that would be said to me over the ensuing years. Dr C had also told me not to tell anyone I’d had a breakdown because of the stigma, but I started to wonder if people at TV Week knew anyway. I had written a letter to my old Sun colleague who had given me a job in Adelaide when I was unwell, and TV Week was a News Ltd company as was the Adelaide News where I had worked. Journo circles were very incestuous and I had been quite well known. My suspicion was somewhat confirmed when another reporter on New Idea (the magazines shared one big office together) asked me what I had done in London and when I said I had worked in TV, she immediately replied – well, you’ve had a chequered career! What did she mean? I didn’t know what to reply and said nothing, but it seemed odd. I had never known this woman and had never before spoken to her. But someone clearly had!
I had also bought a flat in Richmond with the money I had saved at SBS and my mother put in half of the deposit but my repayment on my mortgage left me with little money left over to live on again and I could hardly afford to go out or do anything at all. While I felt more secure having what I believed was now a permanent roof over my head; my own space to do exactly as I wanted, my lack of money was starting to become the real bugbear of my life again. I stayed at home most nights drinking copious cups of coffee, smoking cigarettes and reading books – on psychology, anger, and women! I went over and over again many of the gender issues I’d read and reflected on in London and in Adelaide and was coming to the same realisation about my fate as the second sex. At TV Week, I was feeling once more humiliated and put down, my writing for the magazine had certainly improved as I returned to the basics I’d learned at The Sun all those years ago and had forgotten during my years in TV. While I didn’t cope with the rejection of my books well before my breakdown, after Dr C’s positive comments I decided to send my books out to various publishers again, alas to only negative outcomes once more.
It was 1982, and the publisher at Penguin sent me a letter saying – there is a lot to recommend the honesty with which you confront the issues but I hope the argument has moved on and it doesn’t work for me as a novel! So he thinks it’s true, too. (Furthermore, I had originally tried to interest him in a non-fiction book about men when he was at another publisher and I did about six trial interviews with men which I didn’t have time to edit. I sent them to him but his response was no go, telling me they were boring. I’m not sure he even read them through properly because while some of it was certainly pedestrian, the bits about sexual attitudes and behaviour I found fascinating. Nothing indeed had changed by the 80s.) I also gave The Circle War to one of my female reporter colleagues on TV Week who said she couldn’t put it down and it was very commercial. But more rejection letters just followed, a couple saying they had enjoyed reading them (and the adolescent novella),but were not for their publication. I realised these letters were plain bullshit; if they enjoyed reading the books, why then didn’t they want to publish them? Bullshit was fast becoming another regular feature of my life. As the years ticked by, I started to have an affair with an Age journalist who was married with two small kids. At least I fancied someone again as it had been a long time between drinks, as they say. The fact that he was married didn’t concern me as I wasn’t in love with him and knew I never would be (he was far too serious for me and we never ever laughed together). It was just an opportunity for some sex, I believed. It was a very strange liaison to say the least. He would ring me at TV Week and say – do I fancy a fuck? And then he’d come round to my flat and just sit and talk and when I’d say – do you want to go to bed – he’d look at his watch and say he had to go home. And he asked me heaps about my adolescence. And when I told him that I’d written a novel – The Circle War and I gave him just a few pages I’d copied out to read, he just glanced cursorily at them and said – you wrote from the inside! And on one of the few occasions he fucked me – he said – I’m in love with you which I thought was just more bullshit! He then started talking about our relationship to which I replied – we’re not having a relationship; it’s just sex! However, it wasn’t even good sex. I had already started to put him in my ‘dud fuck’ category! Once, when I sat on his knee as we were talking, I ventured to kiss him but he just turned his head away from me. Moreover, he had never kissed me the very few times we did have sex. He was cold and distant, as if he wasn’t really there with me and I wondered if he was stoned as he had earlier told me that he used to write his features at home while he was smoking dope! I started to realise there was something else going on; he didn’t really want to fuck me, so why was he bothering at all? We never went out anywhere only taking me out for dinner on our first date which was the first and last time we ever went out. Furthermore, he started asking me about my relationship with Boy X, the violent one, (he was another journo who people knew), wanting to know why I’d gone out with a violent man who gave me black eyes. By this time, I started to realise something was very amiss, only replying: he was a great fuck as I certainly wasn’t going to tell him the complicated saga of that relationship and what I had worked out many years before. I also told him how some of the journos at The Sun thought I was a slut to which he replied: you must feel rotten. With this response, I knew he just didn’t have a clue; I never felt ‘rotten’ at all, just pitied the pathetic double standard attitudes which I encountered all too often. I then added: you confuse me; you ring and ask me if I feel like a fuck and then don’t want to even fuck me much. Goodbye; I don’t want to see you again. He didn’t say anything and walked out of the door. But had he read The Circle War too, albeit behind my back? Why did he think I’d written it from the inside when I had never given it to him and he had presumably never read it. What was going on again? But I then found myself pregnant; arranged an abortion without as much as a second thought, and cried my eyes out afterwards in recovery with both physical pain (I was wracked by very strong cramps which went after a couple of strong Panadeine Fortes some two hours after the surgery) and emotional regret. When I was madly in love with Boy X in London a decade before I had discussed having a baby to which he replied – no way! I’ll probably kill it as I can’t stand even you crying! Although I was glad I’d never had a baby with him as we split up after just six months, part of me was sad about not having one with the only man I had ever loved. Moreover, at the same time as I was having an affair with this journalist, I had also been sleeping with an old mate (my mentor in my early years at The Sun) who I still saw as a close friend. I wasn’t even sure who the father was for while the FPA had told me I was probably eight weeks pregnant, the doctor who performed the abortion told me I had been six weeks pregnant. It didn’t really matter to me as I never told either of them.
At the same time as I was seeing Dr C, reading books about women AND men, I was also having lots of discussions with my mother about the time I had been unwell. I could get most things out of her and she finally admitted that it was my GP sister who said I could have been violent and dangerous and that I was out of control! So, had she told the shrink at the RMH? Had my mother told the physician who she had referred me to who sent me to the RMH and had he told the shrink there? Finally, I was getting some answers, as horrifying as they were to me. Moreover, she believed, in her own deluded sense, that it was Boy X hitting me on the head (only twice) that had fucked up my brain, blaming him for everything that happened, while my other sister, blamed my ill-health on smoking dope, even though I had hardly smoked it in all the years leading up to 1980. She also too blamed Boy X, refusing to acknowledge what she had said to me (she said she couldn’t remember as my GP sister did, too). All of them totally absolved themselves of any responsibility for my breakdown, blaming Boy X and my own madness for ever going out with him. The one thing I didn’t believe was how my mother had found me in Carlton living in the house with the five men. She said she just figured it out but had she read my teenage diary like I had thought because there was a reference to Carlton? That is something I will never know. What I did know was that she had once read it when I was a teenager still living at home because she told me I had left it sitting on my bed and when she went into my bedroom to clean up a bit, she read it. I had found it in a different place to where I’d left it on the bed. I was extremely upset she had violated my trust and I’m not sure I ever wrote the truth in it again while I was still living at home. Moreover, in our discussions in 1980, following the breakdown, she referred back to the time she had read my diary and said I had written that I hated her. There was NO such entry or comment; was it her own guilt, shame or even paranoia that prevented her from reading it correctly? Who did she really hate? I still had the diary and returned to read it myself to reassure my belief that there was absolutely nothing in it about hating her. All I could reflect on was my poor mother! Why and how had she ever thought that? She did however agree with me that I could sue the shrink at the RMH for what he had done and thought about me, without wanting to countenance doing anything about it. I shut up, realising all too sadly that she just didn’t care enough about me and what was done to me. She didn’t care about my truth, although she was upset as to why Dr C wouldn’t see her. Justice for me wasn’t worth fighting for, just put up with it all as she had in her very sad life, too. (But that’s another story).
It was now 1984 and I’d been seeing Dr C for two years and becoming more and more upset at him as I started to realise he had no idea or no interest in what had really happened to me. The only discussion we ever had about my relationship with Boy X was that he told me – well, he really touched you, to which I replied very angrily, he sure did! But we were coming from completely different perspectives I believed later when I thought about it at home that night. I was angry at being hit, raped, kicked and attacked while Dr C I believed, was hinting at something quite different, that I felt moved by him in a far more sensitive way. We were at such diametrically opposed viewpoints that I started wondering how much longer I would continue to see him. More so because we weren’t really communicating as he should have picked up on my angry response and discussed my feelings further, but whether he did pick up on it or not, all I know is he said absolutely nothing in response. There was just lots of postulating, conjecture and assumptions about me and where did he get them all from? There was no discussion either about the sort of woman I really was except for one occasion when he told me I was a passionate woman, but he didn’t even realise that a lot of my passion had evaporated after the Modecate injection and certainly with the Stelazine tablets, too. (The only deep passion I still had was for the football and my team had won the flag in 1981 and again in 1982). But as I started to feel more and more disappointed at him, I was starting to get some of the old me back again; I was feeling stronger about the sort of woman I was and also realising albeit through many of the books I had read (some again after reading them originally in London) that much of what I thought in London and then again in Adelaide was SO right for ME. At the same time, I was becoming pretty disgusted at TV Week, particularly the way the other reporters on the mag clapped their hands with glee at the sad or tragic news about many of the so-called TV stars. Their own breakdowns, their marriage turmoil and their sexual infidelities etc were always good stories, as if their sadness and personal angst could be sublimated in print. And I was horrified at working for what I was fast thinking of as a disreputable magazine. I had also recovered my skill in writing fast again so that too often, I would have almost nothing to work on in the afternoons except to sit there and try and talk to the other reporters much to their annoyance. But they appeared to be such slow writers as they laboured over one story for hours, while my stories usually took me just one hour to complete. I was also running out of ideas so I would just drink even more coffee, watch the clock tick over so I could go home and escape the boredom. I knew it was just a matter of time before I quit and as scared as I was to do that, I knew I just couldn’t put up with it for much longer. My boredom had always shifted into a kind of depression; I felt mentally wasted and inert as my mind was so intellectually unchallenged as I regained my confidence and felt ready to tackle more demanding and worthwhile journalism again.
I was also hearing other ‘odd’ comments from another journo mate I had known from the past and who I was again friends with.Having given him The Circle War to read, he had said to me one night over a few too many vinos – you deserve an Oscar! What? Did he think I was putting on an act all the time? That the book was true of me and that I was a manic-depressive who covered my depression by putting on act? Furthermore, one of his mates, a printer I had befriended too – when I told him about The Circle War had remarked – you took it out on the typewriter! He too had never supposedly read it and I hadn’t even elaborated on what it was about but I realised, or thought, he believed it was true, too! He then told me I was like Germaine Greer and men were frightened of me. (Indeed, my mentor close friend had also told me that men were scared shitless by me!)
With the boredom at TV Week seeping more and more into my system, I started going to my other sister’s place at night after work. I didn’t want to stay home so much by myself as I just kept going over and over all the things people had said to me, hoping to find some sense in it all. I was also a bit scared of becoming too sad again, believing I needed the company of others to offset this possibility. I had put into the background of my mind what both this sister and her husband had said when I returned from London; it was as if all the comments I’d heard had been my fault; my sickness, my madness and all I could do was try and understand why people had said what they had as well as burying some of them into the too hard basket. But my brother-in-law had always been somewhat interested in me and he used to visit my flat and talk a lot about sex. Indeed, he had told me as an adolescent when he was going out with my sister that he was in love with me but that I was too selfish so he would marry my sister instead. On one occasion, he had tried to kiss me (I was only 16 at the time) and I had told my mother then in the hope she would tell my sister who would break it off with him. My mother did indeed tell my sister who replied that she simply didn’t care. She went on to marry him.
One of the realities about my family after I had been unwell was that not my mother or two sisters even cared about the WHY of my illness. What they had said to me was left in the past; as much as I tried to talk about what was said to me they weren’t in the slightest bit interested and I realised they too blamed me for what had happened. They didn’t care what the shrink at the RMH had done to me; they didn’t care about my work again and they would NOT even confront the possibility that they had played a part in my breakdown. They certainly did not care about the truth or any kind of justice for me; I was just a poor sick schizophrenic who they felt sorry for. And as I also tried to talk to my GP sister, the only things she said was that I had run away from the family by going to London and that patients fall in love with their shrinks. I was horrified at her lack of understanding anything and her total inability or disinterest in confronting what she had said to me. While they had all told me they couldn’t remember what they’d said to me at that time, I hadn’t believed them. But as the years ticked by, I started to appreciate that they really didn’t remember. Indeed, they didn’t even know what they were saying to me – the words just flew out of the mouths unconsciously; there was nothing deliberate about their put downs or sadistic cruelty; their words when I analysed them all, reflected their unconscious thoughts about me and the reality of that was even more horrifying. They were sadistic and cruel albeit buried in their unconscious, totally unaware of their feelings towards me. While I worked that out, I have never understood the WHY of their hateful and spiteful attitudes. Was it some unconscious self-hatred that they projected onto me? Jealousy? (Which is what I had partly already worked out about Boy X). I just couldn’t come up with the source of their sadistic comments! Suffice to say that even when I was 17 years old and studying at university (I didn’t obtain my journalist cadetship till the following year), my GP sister had told me to leave university and go to business college because I had wanted to leave home and she thought I could earn money by being a secretary (She was already married and both her and her husband were working full-time and had not yet had any children. They had some money and I asked her to lend me some so I could find my own place to live as living with my parents was becoming increasingly intolerable. And it was only for three months until the end of the year when I could go and get myself a holiday job and try again to get a cadetship. She didn’t want to help me at all. Moreover, she was also very damning and negative about my aspirations to be a journalist, telling me I’d never get a cadetship because we didn’t know anyone in the media) I also realised she was projecting on to me exactly what she had done with our family. Furthermore, I had suggested to her that we should all participate in family therapy, and to my horror, she responded ‘so we’ll all run round wanting to kill each other!’ She wasn’t interested at all. That to me was the confirmation I needed; she hated our family and buried her pain in her unconscious psyche, with that hate projected onto me when I caused her displeasure. I had never run away to London to escape my family; rather, I had gone to London with Boy X partly for my career as so many other Australian journalists had done and also to travel and see Europe. And as for being in love with Dr C, I just couldn’t believe she could think that, especially as I was becoming so disenchanted with him.
I never of course, told them what I had worked out, and continued to see them occasionally, keeping all my analyses to myself, thinking I had a come a long way in understanding what had happened to me. I knew I had an emotionally violent family many years before, but it was something of another very painful shock to appreciate just how sick and destructive they all really were. I realised as well that they weren’t interested anyway and as the clichéd saying goes – you can’t choose your family but you can choose your friends. That was another issue I’d have to confront, too. Around about the same time as my increasing understanding was becoming clearer, I had a very nasty confrontation with the chief subeditor of TV Week over a story I had written. It was on actor Stuart Wagstaff and when the story was published I just couldn’t believe how they had changed what I had written to a copy I didn’t recognise as anything remotely like my own. I confronted the Features Ed and he told me to take it up with the chief sub which I duly did. He told me the story I had written didn’t make sense and that I was a disgrace as an A Grade journalist and when I asked him who else had spoken to Stuart Wagstaff to write what appeared in the mag he didn’t reply. I walked away and confronted the Features Ed again, threatening to resign. He just replied that’s a bit extreme, isn’t it? I went back to my desk. Luckily, I had kept a copy of my original story and a couple of days later I showed that original to both the Age journo (it was just before I said my final goodbye to him) and to my other journo friend who had made the Oscar comment. The Age journo simply said it made sense but probably wasn’t TV Week style, while my other friend said it was too heavy for TV Week. I was so disgusted as it wasn’t the first run in with the chief sub. A few weeks previously, we had quite a heated argument about boxing; the sub was president of the Victorian Boxing Federation and I had told him I thought boxing was a sick sport that should be banned. And anyone who likes it is sick too, I had added. He of course disagreed vehemently with me and asked me if I’d ever been to see boxing. Of course not, I responded, I hate it. So how can you say what you say without ever having seen it? OK, I said, I’ll go and see a boxing match and asked him if he could arrange a ticket for me. I duly went to see a bout at the Melbourne Town Hall and afterwards was even more convinced how sick, brutal, ugly and potentially murderous the so-called sport was and passed on my view to the chief sub the next morning at work. He didn’t say anything but we never had another conversation until the confrontation over the Wagstaff story. Moreover, I had also found out he had been a TRUTH newspaper journalist (a part of the gutter press in Melbourne) and also that he was a violent man who had bashed up his first wife. I was horrified but what could I do? I didn’t resign then but my days at the mag were obviously clearly numbered. Furthermore, as the reality of my ‘sick’ family was becoming clearer to me, I attended the annual Logies Awards night of which TV Week was the sponsor. At an after ceremony party in one of the hotel rooms, I said in a too loud voice, and having downed a few too many champagnes to a colleague from our Sydney office I was talking to – ‘The Jews are all crazy’ The CEO of Southdown Press, Dulcie Boling, who had a nasty reputation (unbeknown to me when I first went to work there) heard me say it, looking with daggers at me in a scornful contemptuous face. The truth was I had realised that my family were the ones who were paranoid about what I had written in my books- and my mother still kept saying she did not want to read The Circle War.
Meanwhile, Dr C was also beginning to say a few things that were really disturbing me. He told me on four different occasions that I wasn’t a psychopath – where did he even get such an idea from? That I could have been? I let it pass as his problem, and then when I mentioned I needed some help to give up smoking, he replied – that’s the least of your problems! At home at night, I started to wonder where he was getting all this from and apart from acknowledging my family was a farce, most of what he was saying was so out of touch with the person I was, I couldn’t believe it. As I was getting back to the me I had been before the breakdown, I started thinking I should call it quits with him as I was realising that he got so much of what he had said from my books. Yet, he never asked me ONE single thing about what I had written in my novels; it seemed he just assumed everything was true. I was beginning to believe yet again that others too thought that as well. At one point, I had lunch with an old school friend I hadn’t seen since leaving school (she was now a friend of my cousin who was the manic-depressive and who had said to sit with the pain when she had read The Circle War as Dr C had said too by the way), I lied to her as I tried to find out whether people had read the book behind my back as I was believing once more. So I told this friend about the book and said I was the central character and instead of asking me what it was all about, she just looked embarrassed and didn’t say anything. I didn’t hear from her again, and all I could do was wonder what my cousin had said to her about me.
It was a couple of weeks before Easter two years after I had joined TV Week that I finally decided to resign. I had had enough of the boring albeit depressing environs and humiliating job and feeling confident once more, thought I could now venture back to the sort of journalism I needed. I felt I had sorted out a lot of issues for myself; about being the sort of female I was and how my father, who had told me some years earlier that I was a radical and non-conformist, was the only person who seemed to really know me. I had three months notice to work out at the mag and shortly after resigning, I also told Dr C I wasn’t coming back to see him and wanted to go to a female psychiatrist instead. By this time, I realised Dr C thought the books were all about me; including the adolescent novella and The Circle War as so much of what he said to me could only have come from him thinking the books were true, despite never discussing any of what I had written with me. Indeed, I was about to find out.
My brother-in-law was still coming to see me at night at my flat and one night, he knocked on the door just as I was about to get in the bath. I let him in telling him I was going to have a bath and he could wait in the sitting room. He didn’t wait. Instead, he waltzed into the bathroom as I was bathing and then lifted me out of the bath and took me to bed where he took his clothes off and started a lot of sexual foreplay. I didn’t stop him, thinking now was the time to fuck him and turn him away for good. After about half an hour of doing everything but having intercourse, I told him to fuck me, but he couldn’t get an erection and I stopped the fiasco and told him to go home. How did I feel? Amused; he was steeped in Catholic guilt, I believed, and just thought, well, at least he won’t try that again!
The following week I saw the female psychiatrist and thinking how everyone thought The Circle War was about Boy X and me; I said to her – he was a fucking thug! Even though I hadn’t given her the book to read, she didn’t even ask me what I was talking about. Indeed, she asked me why I had stopped seeing Dr C which I thought was a bit strange, too. I replied he was some help (at least about my family being a farce) and she told me I had to go back and see him and say a proper goodbye and thank him for his help. I couldn’t believe it but there was one thing I wanted to ask him again so I duly said I would do that. I also told her I was feeling OK and should I stay on the Stelazine? She told me to go off it which I did and went back to see Dr C. (She added she wouldn’t see me again unless I saw him again and told him thanks) When I walked into see Dr C I immediately asked him – do you think my books are true? He turned his face away from me and without even looking at me said – they’re close to the truth! I was horrified, said thanks and walked out. I was right after all. I went back to see the female psychiatrist a couple of days before Good Friday and I had been off the Stelazine for nearly two weeks. At work, I was drinking coffee and feeling very, very sad again when the voice started cascading down my brain going over once more what everyone had said to me and even worse, that my mother and sisters had hated me and destroyed my life. This was all going through my mind as I sat at my desk, and I started to cry, tears running down my cheeks. The other reporters saw me and didn’t even say anything – not, what’s wrong- just nothing! I couldn’t believe it as they just sat and stared at me so I walked out of the room and went to the toilet where I just cried and cried over my mother and sisters and couldn’t stop the tears for about five minutes. Eventually, I managed to stop, went back to my desk, picked up my bag, and went to see the Features Ed and said: I’m not well. I’m going home. I walked out, hailed a taxi and went home.
I just lay on my bed, the voice in my head much louder than it ever had been and I wasn’t crying – just lying there unable to stop the voice going over and over all the comments once again. The phone next to my bed rang and it was my manic-depressive cousin’s brother (why was he ringing me now?) and I said I can’t talk and hung up. It rang again and it was an English female friend of mine, a journo now living in Sydney, and I said the same thing – I can’t talk and hung up. I continued lying on the bed, trying to sleep but listening to the voice which one again I knew was my voice but I just couldn’t stop it. I got up and just sat in my sitting room drinking coffee after coffee and chain smoking trying to talk it out with myself. I spent the whole night doing just that until Good Friday the next day where I got a cab and went to my sister’s place. (not the GP sister) I felt so tired and took a couple of Stelazine again hoping it would settle down but it didn’t so I tried to talk it all out with my sister but she didn’t listen to a word I was saying. I was going back over everything again – from the London TV station and everything that was said to me then and over the last four years. The TV was on and I heard ‘you have’ jump out of the TV. It was NOT what they were talking about as I wasn’t even listening to the TV. I knew it was my voice projecting outside. Then, she said to have a glass of wine which I drank, going to lie on her son’s bed to try and sleep. I think I slept for about half an hour but then woke up again with the voice still repeating everything. It went on all thru the Friday night, me sitting by my sister’s bed as she tried to sleep and me just trying to talk it all through, even though she wasn’t listening to a word I said. I was even smoking her Alpine cigarettes which I hated because god knows how much I smoked and I just had no appetite and was still drinking coffee after coffee. In the morning unbeknown to me, she had rung my GP sister who arrived late that Saturday morning and I just walked away from her remembering all the cruel things she had said to me. I went into the bedroom and cried. It felt like I was crying except there were no tears in my eyes and they were bone dry. I was scared. What is happening to me now? I said I wanted to go home so my brother-in-law drove me back to my flat.
I was then sharing with another young male cousin of mine. (He had been sharing my flat for about three months and one Friday night I had come home from the theatre on my own -I had a freebie from TV Week-and found the phone had moved from where I had left it and one of my old diaries that I had kept about a very tough year at the London TV station had moved from where I left it. My cousin had left me a note to say he was away for the weekend. I was very upset as I presumed he read the diary but when I confronted him when he returned on the Sunday night, he denied it all. I told Dr C at our next meeting and he just replied – your mind plays tricks on itself! But I never believed my cousin. He had also read The Circle War which I had given him to read and after he said he thought it was more accurate about Boy X than me so he thought it was true, too. (That never left my consciousness either) When I arrived home at around midday, my cousin was there and while the voice was still roaming the crevices of my brain, I went to the football with him (I lived across the road from the MCG) as my team Carlton was playing Richmond and I used to attend every week and thought it might help get my mind off everything. My cousin was meeting a couple of his friends at the Cricketers Arms pub across the road from the G so I went with him and when I went to pay for my drink (I knew I had $60 in my wallet) there was only a few dollars in there. I didn’t know what had happened to my money. I started wondering whether my sister, who always had a lot of money problems and had been previously accused of stealing money at the school where she worked as a teacher (she had denied it and nothing was done because they could never prove anything), had taken the money out of my wallet. I was getting more upset by the moment and when I got to the G and the game started, my eyes were all out of focus and I started clapping for Richmond for a couple of seconds before realising it wasn’t Carlton. The players rolled around as clouded visages in my eyes, I couldn’t distinguish who was who and knew I had to go home. I left my cousin at the football and somehow managed to walk through the G, telling myself to stick to the path as I wobbled around on the trek through the carpark. My vision was still foggy and blurred unable to see straight and my head was spinning as I kept telling myself, it’s OK, you’re nearly home. Just keep going. I hadn’t slept for two nights, hadn’t eaten, just drank so much coffee and smoked hundreds of cigarettes so that when I got home I just lay on my bed again and listened to the voice once more going over and over everything that was said to me. I was still trying to make sense of it all. I was all alone as the voice kept telling me, adding you poor thing. No one cared about my truth; no one really cared about the REAL me and everyone thought the books were true and I was some deranged, disturbed psychotic homicidal killer (as the books would have it). I just wanted to sleep but I couldn’t – my cousin came home some time later and I took some more Stelazine but it still didn’t work and I knew I had to sleep so in utter desperation, I rang my GP sister and while I knew she had helped destroy my life too which filled me with abject horror, I knew I needed a doctor. She came over with her husband (what did she think I was going to do?) and she took me to the Melbourne Clinic down the road in Church St Richmond where I just sat in the foyer as her and her husband sat opposite me. I didn’t say anything – just stared at her in amazement for all the sadism and cruelty and projections she had put on me. Someone then came and took me to a room and told me to get into bed. They asked me a few questions about how many sisters I had and some family details and I don’t know what they gave me (I just wanted some sleeping pills) but whatever it was knocked me out. I woke up about 24 hours later. The next eight months or so were to be the most painful and cruel time of my life.