As published on the SANE UK blog SANE is a leading UK mental health charity improving quality of life for anyone affected by mental illness – including family friends and carers.
“My name is Priscilla Silcock but following my bi polar episode 19 years ago I chose a new name for myself which is Sapphira.
My experience of bipolar was severe and frightening and revolved around misusing drugs and self-loathing that built over many years because I was confused about sensuality and sex being raised in a strict Christian household.
I was always part of the music industry my songs were very precious. When I gave a track to a DJ I admired, I could not have imagined his negative reaction would hurt me so deeply.
My distress took place with sleepless nights that spiralled out of control.
The world I knew turned against me.
Headlights of cars slowing down in the streets became double agents and spies hunting me down. The red lights on electronic devices around my home glowed ominously.
I was being watched.
I was being recorded.
All the street signs became part of an evil test.
At the toilets, did I choose the male or female symbol?
It was part of a game and my life and the safety of my family depended on making the right choices.
Finally I was taken to see a psychiatric doctor. Even then, I thought it was part of an elaborate hoax. Somehow I thought my family were using code language and I was secretly being flown to London to meet the Australian songwriter, Kylie and to sign a recording deal.
I did not spend much time at the psychiatrists.
He took one look at me and said quietly to my Mother ‘I want you to take Priscilla to the special place we spoke about.’
Of course he meant the airport where my private jet awaited!
My mother had tears in her eyes as she took me to the hospital. The place where I was born has been the location of two of my biggest traumas.
It was not until they took me into a room and stuck a needle in my arm that I realised I was not going to be flying first class on a plane.
I began screaming hysterically and was given strong medication to calm me. In fact, the mediation was so strong it blurred my vision and rendered me in a zombie like state. My sister would visit and leave crying to see my listless form, hair matted and uncombed, my pupils the size of pinholes because of the chemicals keeping me calm.
I spent many hazed days in the high dependency unit, behind a thick window with other very unwell patients. We were all locked in there for our own safety but I did not feel safe.
Patients would howl tormented with delusions throughout the long sleepless nights. Other women in my ward had bandages around their wrists and I could only imagine the horrors they had bestowed upon themselves.
I was trying to find a shred of normality. Something I could cling to. I did not know when this hell would end. In the morning, some patients had electric shock treatments. Others had severe reactions to their medication, their faces puffed like distorted balloons. On my worst night, I was locked in a room by myself because I would not settle and was a disruption. I remember being forced to urinate in a pillow cover because no one came to help me when I screamed for the toilet.
Eventually, the medication began to work and I was moved to the less enforced area of the hospital until I was well enough to be sent home.
The return home was difficult and it was even more difficult to return to work and my social group, particularly the group of DJs who were there the night I lost my mind.
It was a slow recovery but I vowed to myself I would find myself again.
I cut my hair.
I pierced my tongue.
I adopted the butterfly as my symbol of transformation believing if I could transform from this back to a normal life, I could overcome anything.
Now, nearly 20 years later I have a new perspective.
And I have devoted my life to creating a safe place for women to express their sensuality through my business Sapphira’s Showgirls. It’s a burlesque dance academy because for me, burlesque was the place I found I was reborn, with a new name and a new identity.
My dance school has taught 15,000 women and our students have been on Australia’s Got Talent and appeared alongside me achieving World Records.
Everyone who joins my dance school or works with me on a creative project is given a butterfly. It is my mascot and signature emblem.
Oh, and I married the music producer who has co-written my first album. After all that tragedy, there is a beautiful happy ending. I also joined some personal development groups and qualified as a Soul Voice ® Practitioner to help others overcome trauma. I have used it to become stronger and to help others from my own experiences.
Thank you for reading this far. I hope you will take courage from my story and stay strong because there is a light at the end of tunnel. If I can find a way back, you can, too.”
(Please note, I would like to thank all carers at the psychiatric facility I attended. They were caring and professional, my account is based on seeing things in a very distorted mind that was not interpreting the situation accurately at the time.)