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Real Life Stories from the ASYLUM Pt 1

Real Life Stories from the ASYLUM

This is somthing I wanted to do for ages but are reliant on people willing to share their story or experience with me. Hopefully over time I will get more of these accounts and produce portfolio to share with everyone.

This piece was written by Jenny N and sent to me so that people could get a glimpse of what day to day life was like for patients and family in Royal Derwent Hospital.


My mother went in RDH 1979 and spent time there until 1995 when she passed away in RHH.


She was allowed to go out once a week and go to the local store to buy... of course smokes and chocolate. She used to get teased a lot by the public - mostly young people who just didn't get what schizophrenia was all about. She didn't talk to herself or anything like that - she just insisted all her life that she was being watched by the CIA. 

It was a little strange how they handled patients up there.... if she was taking her medication without a fuss for a couple of weeks they would then deem her to be well enough to go back into the community and they sent her the Order or St Basil (before it was too demolished). 


One time they did house her on site - in one of the units there. There is a row of units that are still there that patients used to be housed in. When you look at the row of units (red brick I think) she was the last one on the right - the one nearest the road (the road that runs down past Tynwald Park). 


I am not sure who my real father was but it appears he may have been her psychiatrist?????

What is interesting is my first birth certificate said "... Fathers name... not necessary". In the first few pages of my Department file (as I was actually still considered fostered not adopted - even though my family had me full time) it said that it was a David that took mum to her first mental health appointment????? Then a few days later the department changed my birth certificate to state - father unknown. They would never get away with changing things like that now. 

They even stole me from her literally one day. A Sister came into her home and literally stole me while she was busy. Then she rang the police and the police escorted mum to the department and she got me back. The department tried to force her into adoption but she refused and insisted that I be fostered with the plan that my foster parents can have me like their own on the condition that she gets to see me regularly - and that's the way it went. I am now 30... So many years have passed.


Mum loved those romance books, the tacky ones! She read a lot as it filled her time. Sadly before she became ill she was a fully qualified hairdresser who was doing really well. Over the years I have by chance met a few older people that used to go and get their hair cut by her. A nurse told me many stories of the horrible way patients were treated up there. Often mum used to have lots of bruises on her - she always said it was the nurses so that's sad. She described electric shock therapy to me. It sounds just awful, the one thing it did do to her was make her quiet and glazed - she had little capacity to talk or even move her body afterwards. How they hell they thought it worked I don't know??? 


Apparently there is an underground chamber where the electric shock therapy was done. Mum was in the wards with the pits so it must have been ward 7 because 10 I don't remember ever going to. She said that the chamber is underground.


I remember the faces of people when I went into the ward. There was one older man that stood out - he was skinny and had greyish hair and a beard - in his 40's I would guess. He seemed like he shouldn't be there, he seemed so normal but just a vegetable like he had way to much electric shock therapy. It was sad because all the patients were dressed in white and just hung around like zombies. They looked so bored. I am not even sure if they were really allowed outside because I never ever saw anyone go out there and the nurse I know said it was very rare for them to go outside. There was a lot of moaning and people there looked like they were in great mental pain. The mix of people too was odd... older people and younger people. The younger girl rocking herself in the corner looked totally out of place... she was so much younger than all the rest up there - it was mostly males. But I know the mix of people was also dangerous.


One thing I also remember is hearing lots of yelling when I used to visit her in the visiting room. There were always nurses running around frantically often with straight jackets in hand. It was a sad and spooky place. I don't think it was based on treatment as they tried to make is sound like - it was just containment - get 'these' type of people off the streets and lick them up and make them quiet.



Being up there in the ward will no doubt bring back memories I forgot about. 


Although it is sad I am very relieved that my birth mother passed away quickly and peacefully - her life just wasn't a life and she just didn't cope out in the community so it would have been horrible for her to continue to live. 

The bit I get stuck on is that her illness came on so quickly. One minute she was well and living a great life and then the next she was a maximum security patient and very unwell with the worst form of schizophrenia. She did say that she was poisoned by someone and that is what sent her into her state???? I am not sure what to think really. I have heard from former nurses up there that there were some very strange goings on - it has been said that some patients were used as experiments and a range of treatments both electric and medicinal were used on them. It would explain to me why mum went from well to unwell. I did meet her sister once; she said that mum was a happy person and normal until 'that day'. But she died before I had a chance to find out what she meant by 'that day". 

Her family disowned her and never visited her from the day she was admitted up there – in fact her sister said they were scared to go there- .


I have a feeling that mum won't be seen - if there is such things as ghosts (which I am open to and have perhaps seen some) I am not sure mum would be a ghost - she was ready to move on from this life. 

 Jenny N


 Nick Jarvis



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