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My experience of mental illness, Frances Truscott

At the age of 23, while living in Mexico, Frances had a bad attack of dysentery and was left feeling quite weak. Her story of experiencing difficulties within herself starts from this point of weakness.

Frances tells us that, “One day, as I walked up the steps and onto the threshold of the church, a man sitting at the door said: ‘Diablo’ – devil. I felt all the sin of the past months engulf me and turn me into the most hated person in Guanajuato. This man seemed to know all about me, knew how unfortunate and isolated I was, and that I was like a devil in the church. Looking back, that was probably the first ‘voice’ I heard and, believing it to be real, I was hurt and unsettled.”

Frances came back to Britain and one day, out of the blue,” a twinge” came over her mind. This left her feeling suddenly unsettled and she started thinking that the other staff did not want her there. Just as suddenly the feeling disappeared. The experience left her apprehensive that it might happen again, but hoping that it would not.

Frances eventually took another job in a bookshop but found that she could not cope. She was confused and worried most of the time and her sleep was suffering as a result. She often felt ill without explanation. Eventually she was dismissed as her performance at work had dropped off a lot. She wondered if she still had the same illness that she had suffered from in Mexico. Frances took several jobs and paid many visits to the GP. Medically, nothing could be found wrong with her. She feels that eventually doctors viewed her as a time-waster.

At one job, she started feeling that she was being watched and when they were on the telephones, a lot of what they were saying seemed to have significance with what she was doing and thinking. Apart from these experiences, she found the job complex as she had very little experience of the systems in use. She felt totally exhausted after the working day.

Frances became more isolated as she was losing all of her friends. She found that she had started feeling uncomfortable with them and sometimes felt that they were whispering insults at her. At this time she was ‘hearing voices’ but thought that these were real people talking although they always seemed to be the voice of the person she was with, appearing as an undertone in between their words. She found this very distressing.

There were also other difficult experiences that dogged her, for example, there was the feeling that people on the escalators in the tube stations were talking in a rejecting way about her. It was at about this time that Frances came to the conclusion that all was not well with her and sought help.

(Quotes taken from the above article in Clinical Psychology, 11 p36-39, March 2002)

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