Circle of Dolphins – Clare Roskilly
A gritty description of life inside a psychiatric hospital
Circle of Dolphins is a vivid account of the trials and tribulations of sharing a small space with other patients. True to life and detailed, Clare Roskilly tells of her own experiences before being diagnosed as schizophrenic, and the events that followed as she came to terms with the real world.
Introduction Taken from Circle of Dolphins
Schizophrenia is the medical term for the mental health problem which I suffer from. It often feels like hell on earth. Sometimes I hear voices talking to each other in my head. I had other symptoms such as an absence of emotions. I remember feeling blank about everything I knew about the world when the illness struck me. I couldn’t feel happy, I couldn’t feel sad and I could hardly make up a sentence for something interesting to say. I had lost my spark and didn’t have any inspiration at all.
Psychiatric hospital whereabouts are not usually known to the general public. Mental health patients are few compared to the numbers of people who never suffer a mental illness, and the world of psychiatric hospitals is usually kept hidden. ‘Bewley’ was on the outskirts of the city and well concealed from residents of the little village of Long Apton nearby. The road that led up to the hospital gates was quiet, and the gates themselves discreet. Although it never crossed my mind to note what type of trees were there, I remember many extremely tall green leafy trees in the grounds. The grounds were huge and surrounded by fields with a fence or wall in places to keep us all in. I didn’t have a clue that this place existed although it was only twenty minutes from the city and I’d lived in the region for sixteen years out of the twenty-two years I’d been on this earth.
The hospital itself was spread out and consisted of a smallish building for acute cases, and on the other side of the grounds, three larger villas. The majority of patients spent the most time residing in a villa; acute illnesses were treated over in the smallish building called ‘Bashton’. I was classed as acute after only one night in a villa. Maybe I was initially put in one of the three villas in the hope that I would leave early; however, it seemed strangely logical to me that I would restrain against taking medication from the start; this was one of the reasons I was admitted to Bashton.
My Uncle had come with me in the ambulance on the night I’d arrived and the villa had a reception and to me it seemed more like a guesthouse than a hospital. I felt so unprepared as I had no luggage, and, head spinning, I was worried Uncle Tom wasn’t going to stay too. And I was right – he soon left. I was led upstairs to my room and instructed on the way not to go to the other end of the corridor as the male patients slept there. My room came as a total shock. It contained two pieces of furniture – a bed and a narrow wardrobe.
Alone in my room I felt uncared for and I wanted to be anywhere but in that building. I felt harrowed and had no distraction at all – there wasn’t even one picture to look at on the walls. I went downstairs and was asked again to take a pill. This time the request seemed urgent so I took it reluctantly instead of happily as I’d always done when given an aspirin for a headache.
The black man and the white man who were playing draughts when I arrived were sitting watching T.V. when I went downstairs the next morning. I went into the small room I had found them in the night before and looked out of the window and then back to the doorway. I saw the small fire alarm box and pressed it hard with the cushion of my palm. An hour later I was in Bashton, and the patients certainly weren’t playing draughts; in fact, to me it seemed that they could only walk or sit and stare. The seriousness of my situation still hadn’t sunk in, although I was pleased to be in a ‘proper’ hospital where I knew that, to be admitted, you would have to leave in the end too. The ‘guesthouse’ had made me confused – after all, I’d never been one to go on holiday alone. Bashton had an office and the ratio of staff to patients was 1:2. I felt more secure and, sitting on my bed, I drew the little curtains on the rail fully so I had privacy.
About the Author
Clare Roskilly was born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent before moving with her family to Falmouth in Cornwall at the age of 17.
Clare always enjoyed writing short stories, even at school, and although she has suffered with anxiety and depression all of her life, she finds that writing helps her to keep those feelings at bay.
School was a frightening place for Clare and she had trouble getting by. Despite this, she achieved good GCSE results from her secondary school in Bristol and went on to successfully study for three A levels at Truro sixth form.
Before going on to study at both Loughborough University and the University of the West of England (UWE) in Bristol, Clare took a year out, travelling to Israel and Egypt during her ‘gap’ year. Unfortunately, her studies were interrupted by her illness so she never managed to complete her degree.
During her adult life Clare has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals following her diagnoses with schizophrenia, which typically includes delusions, hallucinations and disorganised thinking or speaking. While she admits these stays have helped her to some extent, they have left her feeling disturbed too.
Although Clare has a son, Jack, sadly at the time of his birth her illness made her feel extremely muddled and incapable of looking after him so she put him up for adoption. She hopes that he will want to see her when he is old enough.
Today, Clare’s illness is managed with different medication so she doesn’t feel like it’s so bad. She is not ashamed to take medication, or to tell people of her schizophrenic illness. She keeps busy with occasional work in charity shops or going swimming or to the gym.