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.
And now Graham Morgan with:
Inspiration for Start
When I was getting help from writerly friends as I wrote START, I had the occasional bit of advice about the chapters I included about Wendy; a slight “We know you love her, but you don’t need to make it too saccharine, too gushy and cloying!” And I do know that this was good advice but Wendy was the main inspiration for the most important chapters of the book and remains one of the main reasons why my life is currently such a good one.
I had lived a difficult life for a number of years which included a terrible break up of my marriage and estrangement from my son and had become used to admissions to hospital when I only wanted to die. Meeting Wendy, finding out that I could love again and be loved in turn woke me up, gave me a balance and an energy that was wonderful and also gave me a chance to get closer and closer to my family, made me aware of what people close to me have gone through by keeping me in their life for so many years.
At one point I was inspired by recording my story of what it was like to lose contact with my son, my possessions, my friends. I thought a man’s side of how people can treat each other at such times may be important but as time went by, I tempered this, took out some of the more blatant examples of what happened. I listened to people who said that I was not adding to the story, was maybe motivated by bitterness and anger, began to consider my own behaviour at that time and adapted what I was prepared to say publicly.
I remember a long walk to Lochinver on a hot summer’s afternoon, plagued by clegs and midges but delighted by the land, the sky, the hills, trees and rivers around me; slowly trusting the people I was walking with, with my worries about what I could say when telling my story, when it involves other people who may be more private than me. At that point I found some sort of slight resolution to the need to tell my version of whatever that truth might be. I began to believe that I have a right to tell some of my tale, but maybe not all of it. Which is partly why none of the people I talk of in the book have their real names recorded, apart from Wendy, and why some of the more shameful things people did were not in the final version of the book.
Lastly, apart from the wonderful inspiration and peace that living in the Highlands and latterly in Argyle, by the Clyde, has given me; has been the joy I have had in living with and working with so many people who experience mental illness. In this book I rarely say too much of their stories; maybe that will come in another book. This one is more my story, but their daily experiences, which are often similar to mine, weave themselves throughout it. I have spent my life trying to help my friends and colleagues and acquaintances speak out and bear witness to the gross injustices so many of us experience and those extreme ways of being and feeling or, for that matter, not feeling, that are so hard to describe and which I would so much love to be recorded.
I hesitate to define it properly; I want as much to record the indignity that trauma and mental illness causes; the terrible agonising loneliness and alienation that can come from the experience of mental distress and the reaction of our society to that distress. But also, in contrast, the joy and comradeship that has come when we have joined together as a community to make a difference both for ourselves and others who will experience mental illness in the future. To say that inspires me is an understatement; nearly all my friends have experienced mental illness, nearly all my working life has been working in partnership with them; their willingness to still see the good in other people, despite what has been done to them and what they have experienced in the way of sorrow and sadness, daily invigorates and inspires me.
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Thank you to Graham Morgan for being featured on my blog today!