Too Much by Zoë Kristin


The hospital doctor smirked as he changed my diagnosis from bipolar to borderline personality disorder – BPD. And with that, the validity of my madness was gone.

Image credit: Mud

My fiery outward display of profound distress, which had been understood and received as manageable, was now reframed as unacceptable. My psychosis was down-graded to ‘psychotic-like’, my delusions demoted to ‘pseudo’. He discharged me, releasing me from the Section 3, and withdrew all medication. I’m sure I heard the ward sigh with relief as I left.


Not long after this I was homeless. My struggles persisted and proliferated, though my external displays of desperation were now unforgivable. My new diagnosis meant I was no longer seen as unwell, but culpable and distasteful. No longer mad, but oh so bad. My uncontainable suffering made me disorderly, hysterical, and disturbing to others, but when the police detained me under Section 136, the psych wards said: not anymore, thank you.


Instead of compulsory hospital admissions, now I was disposed of via arrests, convictions, and finally a custodial sentence. My brief time as a prisoner was the most shameful experience of my life. Too much for mental health services? Never fear: the police will be there to hold you. The courts will shepherd you in.


My criminalisation was a victory for many. After all, I was no longer striding and screaming through town centres. I was not falling drunk out of the back of ambulances. I was not hissing and cursing at nurses. I was no longer lying on the floor of A&E between the boots of stony-faced policemen, a month’s worth of meds melting inside me. No more professionals would go home hating their jobs because of me. It appeared that the decision to withdraw treatment had worked. But for who?


Outwardly, I am reformed. I tend to the front garden of my new flat. I have a sofa, a carpet, a spider plant, and a cat. I’ve put bulbs in the ground for next spring. I hang my washing on a line in the sun. I smile at my new neighbours; they have never seen emergency workers dragging me away.


Every moment of my life remains steeped in hurt, but I have learned to keep it out of sight. Behind my door, I buckle silently under the memories of cruelty and indifference. I wrap my arms around my heart to keep the grief from bursting forth. I drop to the floor and let dissociation weave its magic, paralysing me, causing my emotions to thicken in my chest like concrete, anchoring my mind as it dithers on the ceiling.


Is this recovery? I am no longer a burden. No longer a source of mental health worker’s burn-out. You’ll hear no word of me. I am the model patient because I no longer exist. The magnitude of my pain has been deemed a criminal offence. It is unauthorised. It is unlawful. It is Too Much.


I wonder, do the mental health team ever think of me: that patient? Her. My absence may suggest to them that perhaps, at last, I am dead. No, I’m alive, but in hiding. I’m drowning – just no longer waving. I’m fixed to my bed, mutely riding the boundless tides and tsunamis of my mind, too petrified to ever consider calling for help again.


My reputation precedes me. Harpy, harridan, fishwife, shrew. I have disturbed too many with my staggering distress. BPD: three scarlet letters pinned against my name: sewn to the bone and printed in stone, regardless of how someday I may grow or change. The curse will remain, but if I stay here long enough, they might at least forget my name.


This is the borderline existence: survival in the borderlands. I am Too Much, the witch on the edge of the village: shunned, jaded, gnarled, but so, so wise.

Zoë Kristin was eventually diagnosed as autistic, a revelation that significantly improved her life. She intends to write more on this in a forthcoming issue of Asylum.


This is a Sample Article from the Spring 2023 issue of Asylum Magazine [30:1].  Subscribe to Asylum Magazine.