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Success against the odds

I am going to take you back 41 years, to when I was 22 years old and had a four year old son, my mother was already dead and my father had left us years earlier. I was now in a violent relationship and had been drinking heavily for a number of years.

I eventually cracked up, I went psychotic, hallucinating, hearing voices and completely out of touch with reality. They put me in a mental hospital in Scotland. This was my worst nightmare, as it reverberated with memories from my childhood regarding my mum. My first attempt at escaping from this hospital was through a third floor window. I smashed the widow and as the glass fell to the ground. I followed it! I fell the three floors and split my foot wide open as well as fracturing my ankle. I was found crawling around the grounds and taken back into the hospital. I lay three days unattended in a ward, with my foot three times its normal size. Fortunately someone eventually insisted they take me to a general hospital. They plastered my ankle up and gave me a set of crutches.

Now I was sectioned, that means they could keep me in hospital against my will. Forty years ago the staff could just force you to take medication whether you wanted it or not. My ability to think was seriously dulled down with the concoctions of drugs they were forcing down my throat. I felt as if my head was in a cage. When people talk about chemical cosh believe me, my head certainly felt as though it had been “coshed”.

I was still determined to escape. I would find a way to get outside the hospital grounds and when I thought it was safe, I would hitch hike along the road. Someone would stop and give me a lift. I would jump in the car quite delighted, only to find the person who had stopped for me was a member of staff from the hospital. The car would take me straight back to the hospital. Let’s up her drug dose, that will stop her trying to escape and dampen her spirit!

The months passed me by, I was so vulnerable and hated every minute of my existence in this hospital. Eventually they said I would be examined by a psychologist to see if I was considered sane enough to be realised. Great, this woman with her psychology degree sat opposite me, while asking numerous questions, which I answered. She asked me why I was making faces as I talked. I replied that I thought everyone made faces when they talked. She did not think so. On this evidence she said I remained insane and had to stay in the hospital. In those days Botox was not around otherwise I could have used a Botox injection to keep my face straight!

Months later they said I could have a weekend out with my son. I went to where he was staying, threw my medication down the sink, picked him up and hitchhiked the almost two hundred miles back to the North East of England. I lived 12 years with the fear that they would find me and take me back to that hospital. I prayed to God every day that I would not end up back in a “mental hospital”.

Although I always worked, I had to keep my head below the parapet, as I was frightened to apply for a job where there was any status in case they found me and put me back there. I had stopped drinking through the day now, however I drank heavily in the evening to obliterate the pain from the abusive violent relationship I was still in.

He put me in hospital numerous times. He once broke my jaw another time split the back of my head wide open. I had a baby and he died in my arms after living for a day. His father could not be found. The day he died I hitch hiked over a hundred miles from the hospital back home and back to the hospital with stitches to sort out my baby’s funeral, as I didn’t have a penny in my pocket. I did run away numerous times from my partner but he always found me and kicked my doors in, and that would be sure to be an end of the new life I was building for me and my son.

I eventually ended up very ill again going through the delirium tremors, better known as the Dts. I ended up in a coma and on my death bed and came around in a local psychiatric hospital. Fortunately this time they released me to the local rehab centre for treatment. This was the main turning point in my life, as I had been released from the “mental hospital” my sanity was now endorsed.

I was now 34 years old, there were murders and all sorts of criminals in the rehab, it was the best time in my life. I now had the rich soil and nourishment needed to grow and thrive for the first time in my life. The other residents in the rehab thought the world of me. One of the gangster used to say, “I hear you cough in the morning Ellen and I put the kettle on.” I was getting stronger by the day and worked voluntarily in a drop in centre for people with addiction problems.

It was disheartening when I applied for paid work as I was rejected time and time again. People said be honest. Being honest really did not do me any favours. But on reflection, I went on to succeed and go beyond all those who were sitting on the interview panels and telling me I was not good enough because I was an alcoholic.

I did numerous small counselling courses before doing my first assignment with the Open University and passing it! I had to attend adult literacy classes to learn how to write, after the tutor said, “13 lines is far too long for a sentence.”

I went on to complete several degrees and trained as a local preacher after having numerous spiritual experiences. However, I chose to become a psychotherapist and built up a brilliant psychotherapy practice which lasted 25 years. As my career progressed I represented professional bodies across the UK and in Europe. However, I felt inadequate as I had no idea how to behave in regard to the correct protocol in these situation. As a result I decided to study at a leading school of etiquette in London.

I eventually got to a point where I did not wish to continue working with people’s problems. I wanted to create a “happy career”. This was when I decided to set up, “The English School of Business and Social Etiquette” This business also thrived as I travelled the world teaching etiquette. Nigeria, Hong Kong, Dubai, Malaysia, and Shanghai. I also delivered the training in numerous UK cities including Newcastle, London, Darby, Rugby, Kent and Cambridge..

I now no longer had to hitch hike everywhere. I visited dozens of other countries, including: Russia, Paris, Vienna, Italy, Krokoff, Switzerland, India, Spain, Kenya, Portugal, most of Europe the Canary Islands, Iceland, Cuba, Prague, Malta, Cyprus, right across America from New York to San Francisco and Loss Angles, a cruise from Alaska to Vancouver and back through the Rocky Mountains, Egypt and Austria..

The icing on the cake was when the telephone started to ring and I was now frequently being invited to speak on the local and national radio and TV. I had turned my life around, but what was it that made the difference between the dismal life I had for the first 34 years and now? It was the loving, supportive, encouraging environment I was taken into in the rehab. The other, now sober criminals were gems. We had therapy groups, they hugged one another, they cared and looked out for one another, they certainly provided me with all the nourishment I needed to start to grow and learn.

I had years of my own therapy to deal with the life time of repressed and suppressed emotions and memories. The therapy helped me to identify my feelings and make decisions based on the possible consequences of my actions. It was one small goal at a time, with a vision. When adversity strikes as it always will, I am now equip with coping skills and never stopped praying.

At 61 I had a heart attack which knocked me for a while and the year after I had another operation. At 63 I have decided I am now going to be a motivational speaker and I am also writing my autobiography so that I can help others who face adversity. Never give up hope.

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