The lady is called Greta. She’s an Approved Mental Health Professional – an AMHP, which always reminds me of electricity – and I met her on The Friday.
I remember an Irish accent, geometric beads, some sort of yellow cardigan and a sense that she really knew what she was doing. She was smiley and she emanated a calm, kind sense of efficiency. She was unhurried, and I felt she was talking to me as an individual, not as someone on a (no doubt) lengthy list of people to see.
Her name was familiar. She works in the same team as my care coordinator and, a while ago, I’d been given her name as someone to ask for while my care coordinator was on holiday. He’d suggested a few people, and I’d asked what they were like. I get on best with people who are direct. In fact, people with a fluffy approach make me want to hit my head against a wall and those frustrating conversations do more harm than good. Anyway, we settled on Greta because he described her as “kick ass” and that really appealed to me, because sometimes that’s exactly what I need.
After the decision to section me, Greta was in charge. There seemed to be a lot of paperwork and phone calls to find a bed, but she kept coming back to sit next to me and explain what was going on. And she made time to do normal chat, too. I’ve no idea what about. But I remember that normality. Now, looking back, I think it was finding out important stuff about my circumstances and who would be looking after my girls, but she made it natural, and it was easier to focus on giving answers that way.
She made me feel safe enough to voluntarily give her the pot of pills I had clenched in my hand in my pocket, and she hugged me while I cried for the lost opportunity.
Greta did everything she could to make the whole process of going into hospital as easy as possible. I feel she went with her instincts, and decided I wasn’t going to fight it. I felt defeated, and I think she understood that.
She let me drive her back to my house, so that my car wouldn’t be left in the car park to be clamped. And she set up camp at my dining room table to fill out her paperwork while I packed and sorted out my house and broke the news to my girls. With great tact and gentleness, she explained what was going on to my eldest daughter, my official next of kin. She let it all unfold around her and even reminded me to water the plants.
The transport was taking ages to sort out and my youngest daughter was getting increasingly upset. So I texted her dad to come and get her, to get the parting over and done with.
When he arrived he marched into my house and, without asking, walked straight past me into the dining room to see Greta. He demanded contact names and phone numbers and, calmly, Greta gave him my care coordinator’s first name and the office phone number. I then gave the girls a last hug and he shepherded them out of the house.
I cried again and then asked Greta why she’d given him that information, and her reply warmed what was left of my heart. “Oh that type always want to know things”, she said with a shrug. “No one will tell him anything; he has no right to any information, but it got rid of him.” I was astounded at how quickly she had summed up the situation and made exactly the right call.
When it turned out that the promised transport wasn’t going to materialise for hours, Greta got permission to take me to hospital herself. After a taxi ride back to her car, we went off on a bizarre road trip that involved swearing at traffic and Greta explaining to me how she’d learnt the hard way to recognise a bully – and how to deal with them. We got a bit lost and there was a bizarre irony in the fact that I was the one who spotted the signs and navigated us to the right part of the hospital.
Her job was done once I was safely delivered and signed over to the ward. She wished me all the best, and I know she meant it.
It might seem weird that I’m grateful to her. But throughout that day she did more than her job; she was primarily one human being helping another.
And I’ll never forget that.