'Being awake in a nightmare' - Woman reveals psychosis struggles in book

Nikki Rodwell who has written a memoir about her experience of psychosis and recovering from a spinal cord injury.

Nikki Rodwell, 54 from Sheringham, who has written a memoir about her experience of psychosis and recovering from a spinal cord injury. - Credit: Sue Bignell Photography

In 2019 Nikki Rodwell experienced a psychotic episode during which she fell off a roof and broke her back.

The immediate prognosis was that the then 52-year-old would most likely never walk again and have double incontinence.

But almost two years to the day since Mrs Rodwell suffered the spinal cord injury she is now able to walk her dogs short distances and has published a memoir telling her story. 

The book, which is released on Sunday, July 25, is an unflinching account of Mrs Rodwell's experience of psychosis, her time in hospital and her road to recovery.

Called Catch me if I fall, it is based on the blog she started writing when in hospital.

Nikki Rodwell, from Sheringham whose memoir Catch me if I fall, is released on Sunday, July 25 2021

Nikki Rodwell, from Sheringham whose memoir Catch me if I fall, is released on Sunday, July 25 2021 - Credit: Martin Rodwell


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Mrs Rodwell, who lives in Sheringham, said she initially started writing the blog as a way of "telling the world what had happened" as while she had previously suffered four episodes of stressed induced psychosis, she had never told people.

She described her episodes as "a case of a very well person suddenly going very ill."

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"It's taken me to 52 to finally speak out about it, after the previous episodes, I had always rushed back to work so quickly. Part of that comes from fearing what other people think and just social stigma," Mrs Rodwell said.

But rushing back to work was not an option in 2019. When Mrs Rodwell was taken into hospital x-rays revealed she had a burst fracture to her T12 vertebrae, part of which was pressing on her spinal cord.

Surgeons acted swiftly to insert screws on either side of the fractured vertebrae to stabilise it, protect her spinal cord and give her body a chance to recover.

The cover of Nikki Rodwell's memoir "Catch me if I fall" which is released on July 25 2021

The cover of Nikki Rodwell's memoir "Catch me if I fall" which is released on July 25 2021 - Credit: Nikki Rodwell

Mrs Rodwell then spent five weeks on complete flat bed rest during which time she said she reached a point where she felt she "had to face up to" what had happened. 

She said: "It was the shock of realising 'I'm flat on my back I can't run away from hiding from the world that I've had psychosis.'

"It was awful but when you read my book you realise I'm the kind of person who overcomes adversity."

Mrs Rodwell said she used social media to keep herself accountable and while still lying on her back unable to move starting writing down things she was grateful for and setting goals.

One of the goals included being able to walk 20 steps by August, a goal that horrified her physiotherapists, but by the end of the month, she took 12 steps.

Nikki Rodwell who has written a memoir about her experience of psychosis and recovering from a spinal cord injury.

Nikki Rodwell, 54 from Sheringham, who has written a memoir about her experience of psychosis and recovering from a spinal cord injury. - Credit: Sue Bignell Photography

The following month, after seven weeks at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Mrs Rodwell was transferred to spinal cord injury in Sheffield to continue with her recovery.

Mrs Rodwell said she hoped her book would help break down some of the stigma which still surrounds mental health, especially conditions such as psychosis.

She said: "People can make assumptions that psychosis means that you're violent, that you're a mad knife-wielding maniac, [which is] not the case.

"It's just like being awake in a bad nightmare and very scary for the person suffering and it deserves compassion, and a pat on the back for 'well done you got through that.'

"I'm beyond caring if anybody thinks I'm crazy. People make assumptions about all mental health but some of the assumptions about psychosis is that the person is dangerous. Psychotic is not the same as a psychopath."

Ahead of her book coming out Mrs Rodwell said most days she felt "really brave and really okay about it all" but others "a little bit vulnerable." 

She said above all she hoped the book would bring awareness of the importance of mental health and an inside view of psychosis.

Catch me if I fall is released via Amazon from July 25, 5pc of the proceeds of the book will go to Back Up spinal cord charity, which provided support to Mrs Rodwell during her treatment.

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