Voices of Whittingham….Past lives in an Asylum.

This is again for mental health awareness week. I spent some time today at the archives in Preston. I am currently participating in a local history/arts/creative writing/mental health project. It is based around the Whittingham Asylum at Preston and it aims to give a voice to the lives and stories that played out there. It was a very large Asylum and Preston was very proud of it, there were about 500 staff and often as many as 3000 inpatients.

Whittingham Lives Project.

I have learned a lot in such a few sessions and certainly had some of my own assumptions challenged. The Asylum opened in 1873 and had patients sent there from all over the north-west of England, many of the other Asylums, workhouses, almshouses were already bursting at the seams. It was regarded as a model Asylum and postcards of its external facade were sold as memorabilia. There were extensive gardens where fruit and vegetables were grown and it even had its own orchestra. Underneath this facade still lurked the very real horrors of Victorian poverty and the mental health of a scarred nation. End-stage syphilis was one of the significant causes of the mental and psychotic decline that resulted in many people spending their end of days in the Asylum and in the period of World War 1, both shell-shock and a form of hydrocephalus resulting from the Spanish flu were  responsible for increased demand for spaces and places within the Asylum. The superintendent’s journal from 1873-95 was stark to begin with detailing the very worst events including the frequent dismissals of staff for what can only be described as physical abuse of the inpatients and the frequent outbreaks of scarlatina, diarrhoea and typhoid, whilst rules and regulations resulted in greater detail in later entries, including the deaths from misadventure, poor health and at their own hand.

The Asylum had its own cemetery. People came and went though, it wasn’t always the end of the road and when the photographer that came to capture the newly admitted, those well enough would ask to have images taken to show they were well and recovered to send to their loved ones with the plea to come and take them away.

Today we were considering restraint, emotional, physical and chemical.

I wrote this for Charlotte.

 

In Chains

Into the light, beyond the bands that bind me tight,

Into the dawn, beneath the hands that hold me down,

Into the sunlight, the stench of starch and sulphur stings my eyes

Into the madness, my muddled mind festers in fetid fettered manacles.

Deliver me.

© Alison Jean Hankinson

 

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Mental health Awareness Week 2018- Procrastination

Thirty-three things to do

Each one causing stress

If only I could get off my butt

Step up and procrastinate less.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

Procrastination- the action of delaying or postponing something usually related to depression, anxiety or psychological distress.

Just one moment…

It is Mental Health Awareness week Mon 14th onwards in the UK and I wanted to take a moment to focus on the moment.

 

each moment is distinct

it may or may not relate to the preceding moment

it may or may not be followed by a moment of equal or even greater magnitude

it is what it is- a moment.

 

It will pass

It will be superseded

It will be vanquished, resurrected, redefined, it will shine redolent as the star in its own story

And then be gone….to make way for the next moment.

Always remember this.

It is a moment.

It will pass.

 

© Alison Jean Hankinson

 

 

 

Leave no stone unturned.

It was a dreary dismal day

The drizzle spilled like tears down the kitchen window.

What have we become? We of so little value,

Worth not perfunctory care and consideration.

Has hope hidden itself under some far-flung rock?

I will leave no stone unturned.

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

This is for d’Verse quadrille on the subject rock.

The image was taken yesterday at Lake Windermere.

I guess it is treasures like the one on this rock that remind us that there are always moments to be valued.

 

Whispers of madness.

White walls, empty Halls

Echoes of silenced pain and lives put on eternal hold.

Unmarried asylum seekers in days of old

Imprisoned indefinitely to save their souls.

 

Families wanted them hidden away

To arrest society’s decay

Often damaged not decadent

Guilty of innocence rather than indolence.

 

Incest often lead to childbirth and illegitimacy

They were declared insane because of forced intimacy

What madness masqueraded within

When authority had power and victims powerless remained?

 

©Alison Jean Hankinson

I am putting this into d’Verse open link night. I wrote it last year when I reflected on how things had changed so much in terms of attitudes to mental health. These women were often asylum seekers and deserved better than they got.

I have been working this year with families and carers in crisis, who have a loved one experiencing psychosis and Bi-polar.

Image- Woman In A Psychiatric Ward With Two Dolls. Stock Photo, Picture in public domain.

 

 

 

 

 

Depression-never give up hope.

Destructive tendencies overshadow joy

Empty heart and emotionless void

Piercing silence and perpetual loneliness

Replaces peace and solitude.

Even in our darkest hours we seek the light.

 

Sustain our strength with firm resolve

Support each other with promises new

In higher spirits soar above the stigma and the shame

Overcome the numbness.

Never give up on tomorrow

©Alison Jean Hankinson

At d’Verse Frank challenged us to create an acrostic, and this is tonight’s offering, I might have another later, because he introduced me to some other styles and I might have a go at one of them.

I took the photos tonight down on the beach, it was a beautiful late summer dusk, I wanted to catch the seagull soaring to represent the spirit and hope at the end of the acrostic, they soar too fast and my hands are not steady enough…but I was happy with the two I managed to capture for here. This is what I do to uplift my spirit.