Excerpt from Out of the Dark

'To give you an example of the way the book was written from both my, and my therapist, Robin's, points of view, I have chosen an excerpt from each of us. The first (pages 68 to 71), details my husband, Chris's, first visit to Ticehurst House Hospital. The second is from Robin's perspective, as he explains the therapeutic process using the analogy of a goat track (pages 96-97).

SUNDAY, 25 JUNE, 1989

Linda Caine

Trolleys clatter along the corridor, the wheels bouncing over the cracks in the nylon carpet. They're handing out the medications again. Four times a day they come around. It's the medical equivalent of the old-fashioned tea trolley.

A nurse taps on the door and says hello. She's wearing a crisp white shirt and black trousers. She hands me the pills in a little plastic beaker and waits until I've swallowed them. As the door closes another voice in the corridor says, 'Next time, Martha, if you want to take your clothes off, please do it in your room.' Someone mumbles a reply. Maybe it's Martha.

I haven't left this room since I arrived. I lie here, curled up, worrying about Chris and the children. I've let them all down. It would have been better for all of us if I'd driven off the Thanet Way. It would be over...done with.

As the trolley rattles onwards down the corridor, I hear footsteps.

'It's only me,' whispers Chris, putting his head around the door. He gives me a smile and pushes the door closed. He's carrying a small suitcase with some of my things.

'I also brought you these,' he says. The bunch of carnations is wrapped in cellophane, with a red plastic ribbon around the stems.

I start to cry. 'I'm sorry...I'm sorry...I tried so hard...but I just couldn't cope.'

He puts his arms around me. 'I know. It's not your fault.'

For a long while we hold each other and I try to draw strength from him. I feel so pathetic and weak. I have the perfect life and I'm screwing it up for everyone.

'This is nice,' he says, glancing around the room. I agree with him. It doesn't feel like a hospital room. The furniture is dark wood, and the curtains are thick and heavy in warm, comforting colours. I have my things around me, and there are relaxing chairs to sit in.

'How are Gary and Christy?' I ask.

'Fine. We're all fine.'

'Is everything OK at the office?'


I know he's trying to reassure me. I've seen him use the same tactics on clients who come to him for help. He tells them not to worry and then does the worrying for them.

Chris is pacing the room, unsure of what to do. Hospitals give him the creeps. They always have. Even when Christy was born he couldn't wait until visiting hours had ended and he could get outside.

'Do you want to go for a walk?' I ask. He looks relieved.

I put on my shoes and we start walking down the corridor. Can Chris guess it's the first time I've done this? A handful of patients are sitting in the lounge. Each seems to inhabit a different space, without acknowledging that anyone else is around them. A middle-aged woman in a floral skirt bustles between them, cleaning ashtrays and dusting the tables. I think she must be a cleaner until somebody says, 'For God's sake, Agnes, just sit down.'

A solid-looking young man with a crew cut is sitting and staring at a half-finished jigsaw. One hand holds a piece in the air, as if he's about to put it down. But nothing happens. It's as if he's frozen in place. Nearby, two young women, one little and one large, are nodding to each other, but saying nothing. One of them has wet cheeks and the other has bandages on her wrists.

Chris walks so close to me, I can feel his arm against mine. He doesn't want to be here. Near the main door, a young man in a tracksuit shambles towards us. His eyes are half closed and he's muttering to himself. Chris tries to avoid eye contact. He wants to flatten himself against the wall.

I feel myself getting anxious. Am I one of them, I wonder? Is this where I'm going? Will they medicate me into non-existence? Am I going to become a twitching, tongue-flapping prisoner of some new drug? Please, God, no. I couldn't live like that.

Yet instead of wanting to run away, I know that I have to stay. Ticehurst frightens me, but it's also somewhere safe. Nobody is judging me here. Nobody has any expectations. Maybe there's something to be said for being mad.

Outside, I put my hand through the crook of Chris' arm and we start walking. It is a clear, warm day, and I enjoy the scent of the earth and the light breeze on my face.

'I don't want to leave you here.' Chris says. 'I can't bear the thought of you being here.'

'It's not so bad. I feel safer here.'

'Safe from what?'

'I don't know...Myself.'

He can't hide the pained expression on his face.

Not far along the path we come across a bench made from a half-log, under the branches of a tree. Somebody has carved graffiti into the wood: 'Sex drugs and a bacon roll'.

Nearby is a makeshift lawn tennis court. The net droops sadly and in the center someone has left a pair of trousers. Looking close, I see a bra in the nearby hedge and a matching pair of white knickers in the compost heap. The rest of the clothes are strewn across the grass. We look at each other and laugh as I tell Chris about Martha. Any moment I expect another naked patient to come streaking through the trees.

'Dr. Royston wants me to write down my dreams,' I tell Chris.


'He thinks dreams are sometimes important.'

I expect Chris to be skeptical but instead he says it couldn't hurt. Then I realize that he's so desperate for me to get better, he'll grab at any lifeline. He's not the sort to believe that dreams are windows to the soul. He's the son of a military man – one of the tough love brigade who believe men don't cry and emotions can't be trusted.

The sun disappears and the temperature falls. Chris notices me shivering and insists we go back inside. We almost reach my room when someone begins screaming further down the corridor. It's a horrible, wild, helpless sound. I cover my ears.

'You can't have this,' mutters Chris.

'It's OK, really.'

'No, it's not.'

He goes looking for a member of staff and I hear him talking. 'What are you doing about that noise? It's upsetting my wife.'

Linda McCormack, a nurse and councellor, puts him in his place. 'The person screaming is also upset. We're trying to find out shy.'

Somewhat chastened, Chris comes back to my room and sits on the bed.

Robin Royston

How can I explain the therapeutic process? I know that Linda likes stories and I tell her one from a holiday that I took in Spain with my stepson Simon, aged thirteen, and my brother and his two teenage boys. We stayed in a villa near Marbella and the backdrop was a mountain that soared above the coastline. I had been eager to climb it ever since we arrived and I promised the boys we'd go hiking.

We set off at around ten in the morning. My brother would take the road to the summit and pick us up later in the afternoon. It was mid-August and the sun had already pushed temperatures into the high thirties. The big wide track grew gradually steeper for the first thirty minutes of climbing. Dressed in trainers, shorts and T-shirts, we stopped regularly to drink from our water bottles.

The path curved around the side of the mountain, up a steep incline and then abruptly stopped. I looked upwards at the peak, framed against the blue sky, and down at the great bowl beneath us. We were surrounded by knee-high scrub that was sharp and nasty. Given out clothes, it would cut our legs to ribbons.

We were all silent.

'What now, Dad?' asked Simon.

The thought of going back and taking the road which wound for miles up the mountain didn't appeal to us. Then I noticed a small track, just wide enough for us to walk in single file through the scrub. It twisted so often that I couldn't see more than a few yards in front of us, making it impossible to know exactly where it was leading.

'It seems to be heading for that rocky outcrop,' I said.

'That's not the way we want to go,' said one of the boys.

'I know. How about we go a little way and see? We can always come back if it's no use.'

We began following the goat track, which led in a truly eccentric fashion up the mountain, but inevitably it began to climb again.

By late afternoon we had struggled across and up the great bowl leading to a narrow, very steep climb to a ridge. The goat track began to flatten out a little as it finally led us to the summit and the end of our journey.

When I finish the story I pause. I can see Linda trying to grasp the point. 'That's what we're on,' I say. 'A goat track. We have to trust it, wherever it goes, no matter how rocky or steep it becomes, or how many times it seems to be leading us away from our goal. We have to trust that it will get us there.'

'How?' she asks imploringly.

'There is no map. I don't know the way. Don't imagine that I have some special knowledge or technique. If we follow whatever path unfolds, the unconscious will hopefully lead us to the end.'

This idea of trusting the process is very Jungian. He said that there were times when you had to trust the unconscious and others when you had to stand against it. In Linda's case, I have to allow her dreams to unfold and hope they lead us to safety. This isn't guaranteed, of course. Goat tracks don't always lead to the summit.

'I think you should rest,' I say, getting to my feet. A shadow of fear flits across her face. She doesn't want me to leave.

'It's going to be fine. Trust the process.'

'I'll try.'

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