I sat down and wrote out everything I could remember about my time in the room. It was something I thought about often, but had never written down. An image that remains particularly clear is a rubber mattress with a cigarette burn in the corner: the sheet pulled away during a struggle which ended with the nurses injecting me with the sedative haloperidol.
My usual practice explores the Thames through objects I find on the foreshore. I begin by beach combing and then I respond to the objects I find. I realised that what I needed was something used in the hospital every day, something that I could respond to. I asked Sam (curator at Bethlem Gallery) if it would be possible to get hold of a hospital sheet and perhaps a pillow case.
Sam came through for me and I began embroidering my story onto a pillow cover. Beds are highly symbolic to me: when I am manic I cannot sleep, but when I am depressed I can sleep for over eighteen hours a day. It is both a source of sanctuary, a place to hide from the world, and a place where negative thoughts become magnified, leading to far worse depression. The hospital pillow I was using would have had many sleepless patients lay their heads on it.
There were still many decisions to make: should it be black thread or coloured? Should it include images or just text? I looked at the embroidery of Agnes Richter who had been a patient at an Austrian Asylum in the 1890s. She had embroidered her thoughts onto a straitjacket during her time in the asylum. Some parts of her jacket are unreadable as they have been over stitched so many times. I considered turning the pillow case inside out so you could only see the back of the stitching, but I felt the integrity of the piece depended on my being frank about what had happened.