This is the transcript of a hand-written journal that was kept by Caroline Brett, whilst she was a mental health patient in a medium secure unit in the UK, between 2010 and 2012.
A journal is perhaps not the best description. It is more like an account of the events in her life, which she felt caused her to end up in her unfortunate predicament. It is a continuous narrative, and it is impossible to tell how much of it she wrote on any one day. The pages telling her story are occasionally interspersed with dated entries, which depart from the story and describe, instead, events taking place in real time. These entries appear on days when she was experiencing particularly heightened emotions. At the risk of making the narrative seem confused or disjointed, I have left them in place exactly as they were written. This is because I think, on the whole, they give a flavour of her suffering and of her attitude to all that she was forced to endure.
The journal was written using whatever writing implement she could lay her hands on at any given time. Sometimes she used a ball-point pen, sometimes a pencil, at other times coloured fibre-tips or even crayon. The first two pages consisted almost exclusively of crossings out, with just the odd word left in. These were words I was unable to make any sense of; “destroy”, “mobile” and “strength” for example, were all left undeleted but remote from each other on the first page. The transcript proper then, begins from page 3 of the journal, at which point she has clearly invoked enough self-discipline to begin a more fluent dialogue.
I ought to explain briefly the circumstances behind her incarceration in a mental health hospital. This viewpoint would not, necessarily, be shared by Caroline, but it is the honest opinion of her husband, Rolande.
Caroline and Rolande’s daughter, Keira, ran away from home at the age of fifteen. Despite a massive police search, together with TV and internet appeals, she (dead or alive) was never found. Caroline began to exhibit signs of mental health problems during the days following her daughter’s disappearance.
She was monitored by her GP and local mental health services but was cared for at home. Her condition deteriorated however, leading to an incident one evening when she covered the TV screen in black treacle, claiming that the static was making her head scream. Her husband, alarmed and upset, called the Community Mental Health Team who arranged for Caroline to be admitted to hospital.
She remained there for just under two years.
I worry constantly about my daughter Keira, now sixteen. I don’t know where she is. I only know she is not here and that she is with “the other one”, she whose name I am forbidden to utter. But I will write it – I will write it. I will tell you exactly what happened. You won’t believe me – nobody believes me – they put me in this place because they think I’m mad. But I’m not mad, I know what I saw. And I will tell it, even if they destroy this journal just as they’re destroying my life.
My husband Rolande and I have two children – Blake, twenty and Keira, sixteen. My pregnancy with Blake was not good. I was sick most of the time and my labour was protracted and difficult. According to my midwife at the time however, the labour was fairly standard—well, what would I know? I was only the one undergoing the ordeal—I wasn’t a midwife with eighteen years experience, so...
Anyway, by the time Blake finally agreed to make his reluctant entrance into our world, I was exhausted, traumatised, and pretty much good for nothing. I’ve seen all the TV images of mothers going through all that and then cuddling their newborn, whilst crying tears of sheer joy.
Not me. Joy was as distant as China, whereas despair became my new best friend. The maternity staff, Rolande, my mother – all of them tried their damndest to make me perk up, sit up, cheer up, and bond with my baby. But I was having none of it. I heard myself at one point, screaming at Rolande “You bond with it! It’s your baby!”
I could see them all looking at me, and I could read the thoughts in their accusing eyes. “What’s wrong with her?” “Where’s her natural instinct?” If I’d had the strength or the interest to answer them, I’d have told them that, right at that moment, my natural instinct was to murder the lot of them and then myself.
Things didn’t improve when we took Blake home either. If anything, it got worse. Everyone had decided (probably quite rightly, but without involving me in the discussion) that I would be unable to cope alone. So my mother temporarily moved in with us. That, in itself, was a nightmare. She wittered constantly and I couldn’t bear it. The only way I could handle it was to switch off altogether. I became really skilled at it and reached a point where I stopped hearing her voice completely. I could see her (through a sort of haze) walking around and moving her lips as though she were speaking, but she made no sound at all. It was comforting, calm, and I began to feel less stressed. Unfortunately, no-one else saw it that way. They all interpreted my silence as ‘withdrawal’, or ‘denial’ or any one of several other trite expressions invented by a group of so-called professionals—people who have never actually experienced any of the things they so expertly describe.
Strong medication was the order of the day for us inadequate mothers too weak to face up to our responsibilities. How ironic.
The only thing that medication achieves is to increase one’s already legendary inability to carry out the simplest of tasks. It takes a damaged, suffering woman and turns her, as if by magic, into a gibbering heap of worthless rubble.
And so, this impossibly horrible state of affairs continued for, I don’t know how long. I have very little recollection of the detail of it. All I really remember is that a time came when an odd day would emerge like a lost island in a drought-diminished reservoir. On those days I could see and hear. I would hear a baby cry and wonder whose it was. Then the rain would cover the island again, just until the next drought.
The human mind and body are truly wondrous things, capable of tremendous feats of self-healing. Eventually the sunken island, which was my former self, began to emerge more frequently until the glorious day when it rose from the water one final time, never again to be defeated by the rain. That dark episode in my life affected a lot of people, I now realise. I am not blaming myself, you understand, this is merely an observation. Whilst I was “out of it”, my husband and my mother lived a kind of surreal existence, trying desperately to be polite to one another but not always succeeding.
My siblings fretted endlessly, unable to help. Friends offered well-meaning but lame advice and my son, my poor motherless son, began his life in chaos and confusion. How blessed I am, then, that no permanent damage was done. I did bond, rather belatedly, with Blake and the next few years were happy and content, bringing Rolande and I even closer together.
Three and half years later I became pregnant again. But what a different experience! I was incredibly well—“glowing”—as the cliché has it. The birth itself was far easier than the first and, yes, I did the weeping tears of joy thing as they handed my baby daughter to me. We named her Keira, and she was an angel. Life was good. We were an idyllic little unit—the classic family of Mum, Dad, one boy and one girl.
Blake adored his little sister – he would play with her, give her little gifts which he made for her, he helped to feed her and would have defended her to the death were she ever to be threatened. She, in turn, giggled and gurgled at him and almost never threw her breakfast in his face!
And so our happy but otherwise unremarkable lives continued without let or hindrance until the day of Keira’s 5th birthday. Though we did not know it at the time, the events of that day were to turn our world upside down—not immediately—but slowly over the course of the next eleven years.
17th September 2010
I haven’t written anything for days.
That damned man. Every Tuesday he comes to the ward and we ‘patients’ are put through the mill. When my turn arrives, I have to go and sit in a chair surrounded by a horseshoe formation of people, most of whom I don’t know. They are never introduced. But the Psychiatrist sits immediately opposite, looking and behaving, for all the world, like some minor demi-God. He asks dumb questions I can’t possibly answer. And he always asks about Keira. What can I tell him? I don’t know where she is. What does he want me to say? Anything for a quiet life – if I knew what he wanted me to say, I would say it. Even if it were a lie.
This time he asked me whether I’d seen her. Really, why does he have to be so cruel? Am I being punished for something? He made me cry. Big mistake. My tears were taken as proof positive that I am indeed mad, and in need of even more medication.
So I have been languishing in a drug-induced stupor for days, unable to write, unable even to think. But at least the nurses are happy. Their lives are always easier when we patients are ‘medicated’.
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I was transfixed with this story from the first page! Once I started reading I literally couldn't put it down. From beginning to end I was captivated by Hache L. Jones story telling! I became so drawn into this tale that the outside world ceased to exist. I thought I knew how this would end and to my astonishment I was wrong! I recommend this book to everyone looking for a well written, captivating story! Well done Hache!
i read this as soon as it was downloaded, and thus delayed dinner, but it was worth it. The writer led us down a path of questioning suspense and did not let us go. The writing style is flowing even through the two "paths" that the subject travels. What a brilliant start to a writing 'career' cant wait for the next one.
What an incredible story. The author builds up tension by including segments from the protagonists diary. This brings me back to many of the films I love such as Paranormal Activity. Of course its not the same genre but the style of telling the narrative is the same and works extremely well. Its a difficult way of telling a story within the novel format. It was a brave and courageous element to include in the narrative.
I can't say much more without spoiling the story. However this is an extremely great piece of fiction, with a sense of drama clashing with thriller. The characters are believable and it the story is even creepy in parts. Its real page turner and I enjoyed it immensely.