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Disturbed Mind

Updated: Jul 3, 2023

The title may seem slightly discriminatory, but don’t be too surprised, it was my intention. Why? You may ask yourself would I be deliberately discriminating? I’ll explain.

I’ve never really talked about my own lived experience, always avoiding the question of having any form of mental health problem. So, for me, this is new territory. Part of the reason I’ve not spoken out before now is the word above “disturbed”. A word that has had a profoundly negative effect on me, equal to “bastard” another wonderful word that hurts and discriminates. Both have been used to describe me since childhood.

My first encounter with mental health services was at the age of nine. I’d been caught in the city centre stealing two records, from a popular shop, this combined with my reluctance to attend school, landed me in court. I was given an order that I attend a Birmingham clinic and a child psychologist.

The visit remains in my mind, clearly after 53 years.

On entering the room during my first visit there was a tall thin man who approached me with his hand out to shake mine and a greeting of “Hello Andrew? I’m Tom”. He seemed okay, friendly although I wasn’t sure about the shaking hands thing. He offered me a chair and I sat down; he sat opposite me, and my memory isn’t good enough for the whole conversation. I remember he went through how long we would chat and the frequency of visits.

He explained why I was there and that he would be writing a short report about me for court.

He talked for a while about current affairs such as clothes, what I liked and didn’t like. He talked about my mother and how we got on which was all fine. He asked me “What do you think of the mini” I replied that I liked them, and my uncle had recently purchased one. He explained that he meant the skirt, not the car, as a nine-year-old this seemed a bit odd, I had no real impression of the skirt one way or the other. The question made me feel a bit awkward.

After the initial “breaking the ice with Tom” he said, “Do you like games”, I was slightly hesitant due to his question about the mini I said I enjoyed playing. He suggested the hoop game, asking “You know the one? Throw a hoop over a peg that’s numbered. The person with the highest score wins”.

Strangely enough, I enjoyed the game, after about three games he said, “Okay we’d better leave it there, Mom will be waiting”. I thanked him and started to help him collect all the hoops. “Oh dear,” he said, “one seems to be missing”. At that point, he started patting my pockets saying, “One didn’t fall in here did it” This made me feel both embarrassed and awkward, in that single action of mistrust he had lost me completely. I would never now feel comfortable with Tom, combined with making me feel uncomfortable with the mini question he had ruined any chance of a relationship with me.

To cut a long story short, the child phycology unit felt that I had a school phobia. Not the best thing in the world to have as a nine-year-old child, and something that would have severe consequences on most of my life. Handled differently and a touch of understanding could have saved me much suffering.

So, what does that have to do with a disturbed mind?

Well, it’s a word that would plague me for several years. Quite a lot of people close to me discussed who had made me disturbed and blamed each other. In anger, it would be used against me as a form of chastisement.

The other thing that surprised me was the following sessions where they raised concerns about my well-being and possible abuse, although they never acted on those concerns. Why had I started to play truant from school when I’d attended so well living with my aunt for two years?

They never seemed to establish a link between living away from my mom for two years and my fear of school. My memory of that time is that the thought of leaving my mother, and grandmother who also lived with us, terrified me. I remember my nan watching me from the balcony of the flat, which overlooked my school, I’d keep pretending to go into the building and then sneaking back to see if she’d gone in or fallen over the side. These were things that had they asked I’d have talked about, instead, they continued to ask questions relating to neglect and abuse.

I did not have the best enrolment into the mental health system; however, it did one thing for me, I discovered I quite liked playing the hoop game.



Andrew is a member of the Speakers Collective and works as a central manager for a mental health charity. If you have been affected by this blog you can reach out for help from the following organisations.

Call free on 0800 1111 or for more information visit

Call free on 116 123 or via

Find support that's right for you

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1 Comment

Andrew Nicholls
Andrew Nicholls
Jul 05, 2023

Hope you like the blog. It’s my first time, really speaking out about my own lived experiences

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