Hi, I’m Jean. I’m married to Ian and we live in Leeds, West Yorkshire. I’m an author, a speaker, and I work for a mental health charity. My memoir The Dark Threads is published by Accent Press. I enjoy writing short stories and articles, and I’m currently working on a novel.
My strong curiosity about life leads me to a love of reading, engaging in interesting discussions and tying my brain in knots with unanswerable questions. I have a first-class BA (Hons) degree in Combined Studies (mainly literature and psychology) and qualifications in counselling skills. Most amazingly of all, I gained an ASC (Association of Speakers Clubs) Certificate in Public Speaking. Now, please forgive me if I sound boastful. For someone as painfully shy and quiet as I used to be, becoming a qualified and experienced public speaker is the star at the top of the Christmas tree. Today, life is Good, Good, Good.
It wasn’t always so.
I was born into a working-class family. At seven, along with my parents and older brother, I moved to a council estate as part of a slum clearance plan. My family could be described as ‘dysfunctional’, but I have sun-drenched childhood memories of playing happily with my friends. This sounds like an old cliché but from as early as I can remember I wanted to be a writer. A shy, dreamy child, I quietly observed the life and characters of my world and weaved them into stories. Another side of me, a chatty, boisterous, giggly side, showed only with friends I knew well.
My life took its first big downward turn when, at 13, I persuaded my parents to let me transfer to a new school which seemed to promise exciting opportunities. Like another important decision I would make later, I soon came to regret it. Crippled by shyness, and bullied constantly at my new school, I left as soon as I could at the age of 15 and went to work on a factory assembly line.
Somewhere in the space between childhood and adulthood I got lost. The world of pubs and nightclubs grew increasingly unsatisfying. A stream of boyfriends I’d little in common with didn’t help, nor did my troubled family home, boring, dead-end jobs, and losing the Christian beliefs that meant so much to me. In December 1968 at the age of 18 I asked my GP to refer me to a psychiatrist and was admitted, voluntarily, to a large, Victorian-built psychiatric institution: High Royds.
What happened next is recorded in detail in The Dark Threads. With a millstone swiftly thrown round my neck (a schizophrenia diagnosis), my brain was bombarded with debilitating drugs and assaulted with electricity. By 21, written off as suffering from chronic schizophrenia, I inhabited a deep, dark place, harmed by a psychiatric system that purports to help people.
I believe, passionately, that survivors of psychiatry need to break the silence and speak out. This is why I wrote The Dark Threads. I could never have written it if I hadn’t come off medication and jumped out of the net back in 1974. Awake and alive again, I resumed my life interrupted, or rather I built up a new and better life for myself than I’d had before psychiatry.
I’m not saying that coming off medication is right for everyone. A well-informed, personal decision to stay on or come off deserves respect. Taking psychiatric drugs is dangerous to health but withdrawing can be too, especially if not handled carefully. Although coming off against medical advice ultimately worked for me, it is risky. In an ideal world, nobody who wishes to come off their medication would need to attempt withdrawal without the supervision of a caring and informed medical professional and a good support network of family and friends. I have included links to sites giving information about coming off psychiatric medication on my Links page.
I share more of my thoughts on psychiatry and on writing The Dark Threads in the Q & As section of this website.