Start – Graham Morgan

Graham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is the Act under which he is now detained.
Graham’s story addresses key issues around mental illness, a topic which is very much in the public sphere at the moment. However, it addresses mental illness from a perspective that is not heard frequently: that of those whose illness is so severe that they are subject to the Mental Health Act.
Graham’s is a positive story rooted in the natural world that Graham values greatly, which shows that, even with considerable barriers, people can work and lead responsible and independent lives; albeit with support from friends and mental health professionals. Graham does not gloss over or glamorise mental illness, instead he tries to show, despite the devastating impact mental illness can have both on those with the illness and those that are close to them, that people can live full and positive lives. A final chapter, bringing the reader up to date some years after Graham has been detained again, shows him living a fulfilling and productive life with his new family, coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness, and preparing to address the United Nations later in the year in his new role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland. 




I am pleased to be able to share an extract with you.




….Christmas in hospital is not good. The nurses all had a Christmas breakfast in front of us, with the ones doing ‘constant obs’ being relieved from their duties long enough to have their fry up. We were not given anything exciting at breakfast. The kitchen was still open for us to have toast and butter and tea but that was it.

The ward was decorated and very quiet because anyone who could possibly go home had been sent home. I would still have been on hunger strike at that time. It would have been my third week of not eating. The one good thing about it was that I no longer needed to go to the toilet so it was less embarrassing using the loo.

The day was boring. I think I spent the early hours feeling totally alone, sending desperate texts to friends I thought I had, who unsurprisingly, mainly didn’t reply at all and if they did, mostly didn’t reply until the morning. It would have been snowy, if I have the correct admission. The rooftops of the ward bulging with layers of whiteness, the courtyard piled high with snow and cigarette butts and I would walk round and round it, wearing my icy path in the snow while the nurse watched from just by the door.

Not long after I was admitted, one night, when that young nursing assistant was ‘specialling’ me, I was lying in my bed, the ward quiet, the lights in my room turned low when it grabbed me.

My son, my son, my son. I cannot, cannot do this. Why have you done this? Why do you hate me? Why do you hate me? Why did your mum refuse to let me take away any photos of her or you? Saying that if I didn’t want to be with her anymore, I had no right to any image of either her or you? I want to hold you, I want to be teased by you. I want to see you, see your beautiful eyes, your thick curly hair, your olive skin.

I would even be ecstatic if you turned the corner and gave me another of those playful punches that leave dark bruises on my arm. I would be over the moon if you would repeat your refrain of how you hate me because I am such a ‘weirdo’ and then laugh as if you half-do, half-don’t mean it.

My son. I am lying in my bed and I am alone and I am aching for you, just a glimpse, a sight of what you are doing with your life, an idea of what you look like now, a hint of where you live and what you do.

Ah, lost it there! Got lost in the memory, got lost in the stuff I do not say to myself. But I remember lying in bed, my wrist still in its bandage and I started to cry and I was all alone. And the more I cried the more I wanted to cry, until I was crying in a way I had never cried before, still trying to muffle my sobs but not succeeding, feeling my stomach filled with shudders and my breath ragged, the way a child’s is when it gets overwrought. Occasionally the person on the door would say something nice to me, something comforting, something that let me cry more without shame, until the rawness of my tears were flooding out of the bedroom and I was worried that I would wake and upset all the other patients.

The only good thing about all this was that I realised with such clarity what my anger and my blame had done to my mum and dad over the years. How horrible it must have been for them.

In the years when I used to sit and get drunk with my dad and tell him how harsh I had found my upbringing, he would listen to me and I can’t really remember what I said to him, but I don’t remember him contradicting me. I don’t ever remember him saying, ‘Hold on a bit, that isn’t right. You’ve got that wrong, we never did that.’

Because I am sure I did. I am sure I did get it wrong. I am very fluid with memory and fact and history. And my dad never really said how hurt and damaged they were by the blame I piled high on them…..

Thank you, Graham Morgan and LoveBooksGroup.

About the author

Graham was born in 1963 in York. He went to university as an angst-ridden student and was quickly admitted to one of the old mental asylums, prompting the work he has done for most of his life: helping people with mental illness speak up about their lives and their rights. He has
mainly worked in Scotland, where he has lived for the last thirty years, twenty of them in the Highlands. In the course of this work he has been awarded an MBE, made Joint Service User Contributor of the Year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and, lately, has spoken at the UN about
his and other peoples’ experiences of detention. He has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and has been compulsorily treated under a CTO for the last ten years. He currently lives in Argyll with his partner and her young twins. Start is his first book.