by Grace Maxwell Brown

Please complete the following multiple-choice question in order to decide how to proceed after your mental health assessment:

a) You could beg. After being assessed and given your score, a rating, that determines just how sick you are – just how mental – quirky, whacky, cuckoo – you could beg them to reconsider. To re-evaluate you. You’ve gotten good at pleading with people: to stay by you; put up with you; accept your attempts at apology. You could say it’s worse than what you first thought. You downplayed it before. You didn’t understand it was a literal points-based system. You’ve never been very good at scoring points outside of Scrabble, but you could try again. You promise to be more honest this time. To try harder.

b) Or you could agree. Agree your score isn’t too high – it isn’t critical – and neither are you. You could nod in submission. Think: it’s not as bad as last Christmas Eve spent under duvets in tears; or the September you had to move out of her house; or the blistering July your dog died. You could agree with their evaluation: that you aren’t as ill as you could be. As you have once been.

c) Alternatively, perhaps preferably, you could become angry. Irate. Enraged. They vilified you. How dare they treat you as a number, a half-arsed score? You could make your voice rise in sound and pitch and tempo, become flushed. End with a cutting remark about the faults of the system, the holes in the net, the cracks people slip through because they were deemed a thirteen instead of a twenty. When really everyone is a thirty-two but are masters at hiding it. How do they feel, you could demand, endorsing the negative thoughts you tell yourself everyday? That it’s all in your head anyways; that you’re attention seeking; that you just need to cheer up. There are people worse off; people with illnesses, corporeal, that you can actually see. Get angry at not being enough. Cross your arms in a huff. Sit there and cry.

d) The final option. You could leave. Close the door, walk out and away along the road to an overpriced coffee shop where you buy something milky and sweet and not look the barista in the eye as you pay then leave and pick at the spot on your chin while you sit on a bench in the park. You could say thank you for the time and take the loose sheets of paper and pamphlets they hand you and stuff them in your bag knowing it wasn’t their fault your number wasn’t high enough. Knowing you weren’t ready to let go of the gnawing in your head because who would you be without it? It’s been there for so long. You could head for the bus. You could cycle home. You could text your friend about a drink in the pub or you could call your mum. Call your mum and listen to her tell you about the hydrangea drooping, closing its buds, in the garden. It’s nearly touching the grass she’ll say, and she can’t seem to revive it.


Grace Maxwell Brown | @gracejbrown

Grace Maxwell Brown is currently studying at the University of East Anglia for a MFA in Creative Writing. She is a feminist and activist, formerly working in the Houses of Parliament, and a producer of the literary podcast for the feminist writing organisation For Books’ Sake. She likes to read, run and drink red wine.

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