This article first appeared in the London Evening Standard in 2000
Day One: 11am.
We stayed up all night last night, at somebody’s studio, having a final bender before we check into the Priory this afternoon. We’re going there because I’m depressed and Shane wants to give up the drink. I came home early because I’ve no idea what to pack. What do you wear in the Priory? It’s probably full of supermodels and footballers, all Guccied up. Fuck it, I’d better bring everything I’ve got. I’m already depressed and anxious and nervously exhausted, without being underdressed as well. Maybe I’ll phone Kate and ask her what to bring.
Kate’s not home. Or maybe she’s just not picking up. I’m always afraid with famous friends that I’m far too unfamous for them to like me. I hope they can cure me of this in the Priory.
Shane’s not home yet. He says he’s on his way, but I hate being late so I’m going without him. I’ve booked a taxi.
Okay, I’m here. I’ve got to admit I’m excited, even if I am depressed. It’s so glamorous, checking into the Priory at last. I really feel as if I’ve arrived. Everyone who’s anyone has been here. General Pinochet was here. This could be a career move. I’m not disappointed so far. The facade is splendiferously grandiose. I can’t wait to see my room, but I have to see the shrink first.
This is weird. I’ve been interviewed three times now, by different people, and I’ve told them each a slightly different story. I hope they don’t compare notes. They all wanted to know how much I drink and how many drugs I take and if I’ve ever tried to kill myself and if I feel suicidal right now. What if they `Section’ me? I only wanted a rest and some nice therapy. They’re taking this way too seriously. The shrink asked me if I hear voices or see things. Does it mean you’re mad if you see things? I’ve seen angels frequently and I talk to dead rock stars but I’ve decided not to admit to anything like that just in case.
I’m in shock. I need to lie down, but my bedroom is tiny and I’ve only got a single bed, a metal one with a rubber mattress, like you get in hospitals. No fluffy bathrobe and slippers and the towels are thin and small, like the ones in motels. I checked and all you can see from my window is a wall. The window doesn’t even open properly. This is scary. I’m pretty sure there’s no cable telly either. It looks like a Travelodge. I’m sure this will make me even more depressed. One of us has got to go, as Oscar would say.
The nurse who showed me my room was highly suspicious of my luggage and wanted to know if I’d brought any medication or sharp objects. Apparently, my bags will be searched and I have to surrender my vitamins and razors and nail scissors. Do they really think I could kill myself with a Ladyshave? The thought of handing over my herbal remedies upsets me terribly. I take all kinds of stuff on a daily basis, which I’ll collapse without. Ginseng, aloe vera, green algae. I’ll never manage a bowel move ment. The nurses says I’ve gotto go down to dinner now and it’s only six o’clock, which is ludicrous.
I might have to discharge myself. I’m not kidding. There’s no way I can eat this food and not put on weight. And it’s not even organic. I can’t believe I’m sitting here eating deep-fried fish and chips with mushy veg. It’s worse than boarding school and not remotely holistic. The trouble is, I’m eat ing it because it’s comforting and I’ve got no will-power. Now they’re offering me crumble and custard for dessert. I wonder where Shane is. I’m nervous. I don’t like sitting on my own in the restaurant. I haven’t seen anybody famous in here either. Maybe the supermodels eat in their rooms so they won’t get fat.
I’m in my room, feeling sick. I don’t know if it’s the crumble or the walls, which are my least favourite shade of bridesmaid’s-dress peach. I’m watching telly and I’ve lit some incense to calm myself down. They want me to pay a cash deposit of ›3,000 each for me and Shane. I’ve told them I didn’t bring any money. Shane will have to sort it out when he turns up.
I’ve just had a horrible thought. Supposing he doesn’t turn up? What will they do to me? I’ll have to call my agent and ask him to lend me the money. Maybe we can sell my story to The Sun.
Shane’s arrived and they’ve put him in the room opposite me, which is nice, so we can watch telly together. The nurse comes in every 15 minutes to check on us. You get put on different observation levels, depending on how long you’ve been here and how much you can be trusted. There’s nothing nice to eat in the rooms, and there’s no room service, so I’ve ended up eating white sliced bread and jam and drinking tea, which isn’t herbal, out of a plastic cup. You have to make your own tea and coffee in the kitchen and they don’t have proper cups, or even spoons. We could have gone to the Dorchester for what they’re charging us. But I’m glad we’re here and not at home. Our place was getting too messy; even our cleaner had given up on it. It feels safe in here and it’s nice and clean.
I’ve been awake all night. My bed is so small, I probably wouldn’t have slept anyway, even if they hadn’t kept observing me and waking me up. I shouldn’t have told them my life isn’t worth liv ing they’ll never let me get any sleep. I am getting breakfast in my room, though. I’ve asked for scrambled eggs on toast. They’d better be free-range, or I won’t be able to eat them.
My scrambled eggs were cold and the toast was soggy. Yuck. I hate mornings; they just make me want to go back to sleep. The nurse says I have to get up for Group Therapy. I like the nurse. He asked me if I know Ronnie Wood and I said yes and he was impressed.
The admission office keeps call ing me about the deposit. Neither me nor Shane has any money. I promised them my agent will call with a credit card today. I hate worrying about money, it depresses me and makes me think my life’s not worth living. I’m serious.
I didn’t have the heart to dress up for Group Therapy. I was too depressed, so I just wore an old tracksuit and last year’s pashmina. Luckily no-one else dressed up either. I feel much better now. I hate having to try and be glamorous. For group everyone sits around the lounge on armchairs, in a circle. You have to say your name and how you are feeling and then people take it in turns to talk about their problems. I was horrendously nervous, naturally, about having to speak in front of all those people, but I Felt the Fear and Did it Anyway. I said I was glad to be in here because it gives me a break from having to decide what to do every day for the rest of my life and from worrying about what a failure I am now and how I’m going to cope with the mess at home. The others mostly had more serious problems, which I’m not allowed to discuss because the group is confidential, but they were very welcoming and sympathetic, even so. And they seemed normal enough. I like it when people listen to me nicely and don’t just tell me to get a job and be sensible.
I got apprehended on the way to lunch by the lady who wants me to pay the bill. My agent hasn’t called. I was too anxious to eat lunch, even though there were chips and ice cream. I feel hopelessly inadequate now. I sat on my own at lunch, and pretended to read a book, because I was too shy to talk to the others. My con fidence vanishes when I feel inad equate and I can’t think of any thing to say.
We had Dream Therapy just now, which I liked. I wish I could get a job doing something like that all day, just playing stupid games. I would have been an actress but I’m too afraid of rejection to audition for anything. Now we have a relaxation class. I can’t relax because I’m still afraid they’ll throw us out any minute.
Shane’s having dinner with me in the restaurant. I’m highly anxious, because I think everyone’s staring at us. I have a phobia about being embarrassed in public. Shane always gets stared at, but he’s doesn’t give a shit. He’s got no shoes on and his suit is covered in filth and cigarette ash and he’s reading to me, out loud, from a book of Irish history. I hate this, because I secretly have a desperate craving for fame and success, which I can’t do any thing about, because of my fear of embarrassment. I want to watch telly now.
Day 3 9am
I dreamed I was driving a sports car which was out of control and I couldn’t find the brake pedal. The nurse says we have to eat breakfast together, in the restau rant with the others, and I don’t want to because they’ll stare. I heard people talking about Shane yesterday, because they read in the Sun that he’d been thrown out already. I haven’t had time to look for the swimming pool or the gym. I need a massage, but there’s more Group Therapy after breakfast.
I confessed to the group that I think everyone’s staring at me because of Shane and thinking nasty things. They were all very nice about it. The group leader said maybe I should learn to see myself as a separate person, even if they are staring at him, and stop worrying about what they might be thinking, because that’s Mind-Reading, which is a symp tom of anxiety. I’ve signed up for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, which is supposed to change the way you think about things.
I phoned a friend and told her I’m in here and she said she was jealous. She said she’d like to be in here, having her nails done and chatting up footballers in the Jacuzzi. Actually, I’ve discovered that there isn’t a Jacuzzi. There isn’t a pool, either. There isn’t a gym. There’s only a crappy exer cise bike in the lounge. I’m horrified. Exercise is supposed to be good for depression. There’s noting to do in the evening except watch TV or sit in the smoking room with everyone else, where they have a couple of board games and some paperbacks. Oh yeah, they do have ping-pong. Fantastic.
Day 4 10am
I dreamed I was being stabbed to death with a carving knife on my mum’s kitchen table, with the whole family watching. There’s still no news about the bill being paid. Shane says he’s asking his publisher. I’m completely useless, I never seem to earn any money and Shane always has to pay for everything. I want to be safe and warm in a place where I don’t have to worry about anything. I’m not cut out for being alive. I hate myself and I want to die but I have to get up and go to group.
In the group, the three people before me all said they were ashamed of being depressed because they felt like they should be grateful for being alive and should count their blessings. That made me feel better. I’m having lunch with some of them today. They’ve got far worse problems than I have, death, divorce, children, that kind of thing, but they’re very sympa thetic, regardless. It feels good to have them to talk to.
My psychiatrist is very soothing. I feel like he cares about me, like a dad. My real dad never even phones me. I told him I get depressed about the fact that I’m not famous and I think people are only interested in me because of Shane. Sometimes I want to kill all the famous people, so I can be the only one, like Mark Chapman wanting to kill John Lennon to get himself noticed. I know it’s psycho and I know I’m sick, so I wouldn’t actually do it, in case you’re famous and you’re reading this and you’re getting worried. Especially if you’re George Harrison. I just read too many magazines and watch too much telly and I’ve been brainwashed into believing that if you’re a VIP that makes you a better person. I do want to be cured, honestly. But I get depressed when I read about par ties that I haven’t been invited to. I got depressed when Posh and Becks didn’t invite me to their wedding. And I’ve never even met Posh and Becks. Shane says I’m way more fucked-up than he’ll ever be.
Our friend Martin Mc Donagh is paying our bill! I’m so relieved I could die. Now I’m playing ping-pong with a lovely heroin addict I met in one of the groups. He’s really good at ping- pong because they always have ping-pong in rehab.
Day 5 11am
There’s yoga this morning, which I’m looking forward to. Last night I dreamed that Posh and Becks were my friends and they were phoning me to ask if I’d like to come shopping with them for clothes for baby Brooklyn. This morning I was allowed out into the park, to walk around the lake thing. That means I’m sane enough to go into the village, if I want to. I didn’t want to, though; I just kept to the park. I’m not sure I’m ready for the outside world. But it felt good to be out side with the ducks. There’s a tennis court, in the park, so maybe if I can find someone to play with, I won’t get too fat.
I think I need a Sense of Purpose. Something I can believe in and be capable of doing. I don’t know what
Yoga wasn’t very good. It was easy stuff, no headstands or anything, and they didn’t have mats or a proper floor, just carpet. Sort of over-60s church-hall type yoga. Not like Triyoga in Primrose Hill, where I usually go. Madonna would have hated it. They’ve got vegetarian pasta for lunch, but I’ll probably eat the chocolate ice cream with it. I’ve decided I’m a compulsive eater.
This afternoon, we had Stress Management. We had to fill in forms, challenging our negative beliefs. Mine was I am inferior to people who are more famous than me. I listed lots of disad vantages to thinking that way, but I’m still convinced that people who are slim and rich and successful and good-looking and famous are considered more attractive, in general, than fat, poor, ugly, ordinary people. And they get invited to more parties and allowed to be on the cover of magazines and stuff. Is this just me or is actually true? We had to fill in charts, too, to see how much of a perfectionist we are. I ticked most of the boxes, which means I’m setting myself up for failure because I always move the goalposts when it gets too easy to score. For homework, we have to see if we can stop being perfec tionists, so I might just not bother to do the homework.
Day 7 10am
Last night, in my dream, my Guardian Angel appeared and took me to the Clarence Hotel in Dublin, where Bono was having a party. Me and my Guardian Angel were trying to get past the velvet rope, but the bouncers asked us what kind of passes we had; VIP, VVIP or Extra VIP. We didn’t have any passes at all. Then Bono himself arrived, in a limo, with Naomi Campbell and the Corrs and I waved at him frantically, but he didn’t see me. The angel said maybe we should just go to the pub, and I said no. I wanted to go home and cry. So the angel went to the pub on her own.
I had a visitor, which was nice, because there’s nothing to do at the weekends. You can go home, if your consultant says you’re allowed to, but I don’t want to go home. I rang my dad to see if he would visit me but he’s busy. He asked me what it’s like in here and I said they make us wear straitjackets. I think he believed me. My friend Carole brought me a card that her daughter, Phoebe, made for me and flowers, which made me want to cry. Phoebe hopes I get well. I do get lonely in here. Shane’s busy writ ing songs and I’m still shy, so I hide in my room. They teach you here that depressed people usually hide from other people because they think no-one will want to talk to them. You’re supposed to make yourself talk to people or else you make it worse. But I can’t imagine anyone want ing to talk to me. I’m selfish and boring and pathetic. I wish I could do something useful with my life, like become a nurse, a teacher or help the homeless. I have thought about doing some thing like that, truly I have, but I don’t think I’d be doing anyone a favour by inflicting myself on sick people or kids and I’m sure the homeless have enough problems already. You’re not supposed to think things like that, because that makes you more depressed. I’m writing down all the bad things I think, so I can change them.
Day 9 4pm
In last night’s dream, I was in a field with Joe Strummer and we were being chased by a pack of ferocious sheep. I tried to get into the Social Phobia group this afternoon, instead of the class I was supposed to be doing, but the door was locked when I got there. Then the man who teaches it came along and said I can’t do Social Phobia because I haven’t been assessed for it. He was quite abrupt. I feel excluded. Then I went to Psychodrama and the lady said I should go away and come back on Wednesday. What does this mean? I think I’m sup posed to be doing Pottery, but I thought that might be too frivo lous and I want to be cured as quickly as possible. I’m embarrassed now. It reminds me of being in boarding-school, with the wrong colour uniform on, and getting sent home. I’m starting to worry that I may have BDD, which is where you think you’re hideously ugly and you don’t want to go out.
I was so exhausted this morning from the driving dream, which I had again, I almost couldn’t get up for breakfast. But I’m starting to enjoy it, once I get there. I’ve learned to let Shane get on with it and I ignore what he’s doing and talk to people from my group. They already know I’m embarrassed, which makes it easier.
Today we did Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. You have to write down a situation or event that makes you depressed and then list the negative thoughts that come into your head, automatically. Like for me it’s waking up in the mornings. I immediately think, Oh no, it’s time to get up I hate getting up I’m too tired I’ve got nothing to get up for I just want to go back to sleep where it’s safe. That kind of thing. Then you write how it makes you feel, thinking those things because your thoughts create your feelings, which then cause more negative thoughts. Then you write what that makes you do. Like stay in bed every day and feel guilty about it. The difficult part is where you have to challenge your negative thoughts and dispute them. I tried to think of situations where I might look forward to getting out of bed. Like winning the lottery or being on the cover of Vogue. The trick is not to lose hope that some thing nice might happen, I suppose. After that, we had to plan a new way of reacting which would be more constructive, like getting up and doing some exercise instead of lying in bed. I think I need a Sense of Purpose. Some thing I can believe in and be capable of doing. I don’t know what.
Day 11 11am
I got up early this morning and walked in the park and watched the squirrels. I love squirrels. I wish the Priory was my house and I could wander into the park every morning before breakfast. Thinking about the squirrels makes me want to get out of bed, especially if it’s sunny.
This afternoon, we had Art Therapy. I loved it. I did a painting of me and Shane in a black hole together, on a sofa with lots of nice colouredy bits floating around the outside, and I called it Home. Then I drew my Inner Baby, covered in blood and stab bing itself in the stomach with a carving knife and asking Is this what you want? It was fantastic. I was so pleased with it I did a whole series of Inner Babies in different situations, and a paint ing of all my friends, looming over me like spooks, asking me why I’m frightened. I’ve defi nitely found my vocation. I’m going to be a famous artist like Tracey Emin.
I have to go home soon. I’m scared. I want to live and do Art Therapy every day and eat fattening food and never see anybody thin or glamorous again. I even like my room now and I like the way it’s decorated. It makes me feel safe. The psychiatrist said it’s common for people to feel safe in here and not want to go home. He says I’ve got to think about how I’m going to manage on the outside. I’m very worried about it. It’s so much easier, having other people to plan your day. Maybe if they won’t let me live here, I’ll join the army or become a nun. I don’t like being a writer because there’s no-one to talk to at work and nobody to tell you what to do. And I’m not successful. The CBT man says labelling yourself a success or a failure is a Thinking Error and is guaranteed to make you depressed. I’ve only got a few days left. I hope I don’t need something drastic, like ECT. I’ve got a friend who had ECT and he liked it, though.
Day 12 12.30pm
In the group, one of the women said she’s planning to kill herself as soon as she gets out. I asked her why and she said because she’s a useless mother and her kids would be better off without her. We spent the morning trying to convince her that she’s not useless and she shouldn’t kill herself. A lot of people in there think no-one would miss them if they killed themselves. Hearing other people say it makes you realise how crazy it is. We told her she won’t always feel this way, it’s only because she’s depressed. I’m going to miss the other people when I go home. It’s like living in a village where everyone know you and knows your worst secrets and they’re still friendly.
I’ve been home. Shane got out before me, so he’s already here, playing his guitar and watching videos. I phoned the Priory immediately I got here and asked them to let me back in. The nurse said I won’t be able to live in the Priory forever, so I’ll have to try and get used to being at home, but I’m not so sure. The cleaner hasn’t been and the mess is worse than it was before, because I’ve got used to things being neat and orderly. I’m not so bothered about being famous now, but I want to live in a nice big house in the countryside and have all my meals cooked and play ping-pong and paint pictures. I’m not sure what this means.