I was 19 years old and it was a freezing cold day in January. I was exhausted with my eating disorder, full of self-hatred and crumbling under the pressure of exams and university applications. I was addicted to laxatives and taking ten times the recommended dose. I was in a very dark and isolating place. It felt like the whole world was caving in on me and I couldn't stand another day in my life.
I took all the money I had that morning and I bought food from several shops, I sat in the toilets in a department store eating it all. I was disgusted at myself, at my situation but I already had my plan for 'after dark'. I was going to go somewhere on my own and take my life.
I should've been at college and when I didn't turn up to class the staff became concerned, I had only recently discharged myself from the acute psychiatric ward. The staff convinced me to come up to college and have a meeting with the nurse and student welfare and I decided to be honest about how bad things were. It was college policy to phone the police if a student expressed suicidal ideation and so the police were called.
The police arrived and we had a calm conversation. I agreed to go back into hospital because I wasn't well enough to be at home however the hospital said that they couldn't do an admission that way. It was not their policy and so the police were left with no choice but to detain me under Section 136 of The Mental Health Act. Normally under S136 patients are taken to a place of safety such as a hospital or a S136 suite which is a specially created room with a bed and chairs and trained psychiatric staff who will look after the patient until they are assessed. On this occasion there wasn't a single 'safe place' or hospital bed available and the police were left with no choice but to take me to the police station and put me in a cell. I remember when they told me, I gripped my head crying, it was the last thing I wanted or needed but I had no choice. I had to go there.
I felt so ashamed, I remember thinking that I would never tell my family about it because it felt like I had done something wrong, I was a bad person. I told the police to tell my parents that I was with them but not to tell them where I was. It made an isolating situation even more isolating.
I was scared of getting shouted at, there were signs all around saying not to step over the line and I placed my feet carefully up against the line but the sergeant couldn't hear me and shouted at me to step forwards. I was so scared. So ashamed. I thought I was a bad person.
I had to leave my shoes outside the door and then I was strip searched in the cell, it'd be horrific for anyone but having anorexia and having just binged it was incredibly hard because I wanted to hide my body, not stand there naked! I cried throughout the whole thing and it took a long time because I kept refusing but the police were good, they allowed me to take my time rather than being forceful with me.
I had to change into 'safety' clothes which were tracksuit bottoms and a jumper and I felt like a criminal. There was something about having my clothes and identity taken away and being replaced with the clothes they would give someone who had been arrested that made me feel horrific about myself.
The police got me a hot drink and sat outside my door all night, I cannot fault the police in this situation, they didn't want to put an innocent and unwell person in a cell but they were left with no choice.
I spent the night laying down on the hard bed and gripping my painful stomach as the laxatives and binge were going through my digestive system whilst listening to criminals shouting and swearing. If you think A&E is bad on a Friday night, try being in a cell! I felt like I could never talk about what was happening to anyone, like this had to be my secret. Ten hours later I was finally assessed by a doctor, and transferred onto the psychiatric ward we had phoned in the first place.
Getting help is not supposed to be the traumatic part, experiences like mine are damaging, I will never forget that night, these memories stick with people forever and they have the potential to stop people seeking help. Imagine the outrage there would be if a cancer sufferer was put in a cell because there were no hospital beds. It is totally unacceptable. I am a law abiding citizen who has never been arrested, I should not know what it is like to spend a night in a cell.