Walking into a courtroom and to the witness box for the first time-to defend ones Mental Health, specifically Bipolar, to others who don't understand but seek to discredit you and make you feel inferior... to then walk out feeling more self assured and proud of oneself than I have at one other point in my life is a truly magical feeling.
A little background history...
This week has been on my mind for almost a year now. It started with Anna's husband filing for Divorce then the subsequent ensuring custody battle for their 3 children.
It has been the mot acrimonious battle a lot of people have know, to of been taken to the High Court in Lodon signifies the seriousness of it.
In giving Anna my unconditional support I had to provide a witness statement which legally tied me into any court proceedings. This has been a greatest fear of mine for many years, to be faced with being in a court and being cross-examined. I can't say way, other than the varisou press stories you hear of horrendous acts of misjustice and ofcourse the movies, so the picture in my mind was not at all pretty,
I had worked myself into such a knot that I felt unable to do it, that I would let Anna down when it came to the crunch.
It has been a monumentally difficult last couple of months gathering evidence, having to trawl for all out personal, privite and confiential medical notes and reports from out respective stays as The Prioy, Hove and subsquent follow-up therapy sessions.
This has been the most resentful aspect of it, that I have had to disclose these notes to the last person on earth I would want to see them, Anna's husband and legal team.
Anywho, to get the point. Anna was in court for a whole week listening to witness upon witness, husband and friends slate her in every way imaginable. I cannot think of a more horrendous position to be in, unable to say anything or defended oneself for a whole week, just sitting there listening, your whole personality and life history being methodically assassinated, to achieve the ultimate aim of convincing the court that she is a unfit Mother due to her BiPolar Illness.
(It is a very real fact of life that a great many people do and will experience some form of depression during the course of their lives. What saddens me most is the level of stigma and prejudice shown towards those who have suffered from depression by other people in our society. It is now accepted as a disability under the Disability Discrimination Act of 1995 and to discriminate against those suffering from depression is now as illegal as it is to discriminate against those suffering from more obvious disabilities.)
Anna is the most compassionate, caring, sincere, generous, humble, funloving, smart, beautiful lady I have ever had the fortune to meet and be in love with. She amazes me with her gut determination to let these awful things drag her down and the admiration I have for her is beyond describing.
This week then I came up to London to support her, just so she knew I was there for her if she needed me. Clearly for me this was such an anxious time, so much as stack.
To put it bluntly, and if you are a mother or father you will understand this more than I, but she potentially faces loosing her 3 children to whom adore her and she them, there is nothing she would do for them and you can imagine how it must feel to live for a year whilst the proceedings dawn ever closer.
My moment incourt was booked in for Thursday, but as luck would have it whilst I was a wreckp acing up and down the chilly corridors of the halls and courts is not the most inspiring place to be especially when you know you are to be cross examined by, supposedly the most aggressive barrister going. Court was running late, so 4hrs later, i was unceremoniously told i must come back for 9.30 the next day! What a let down.
So Friday comes, round 2. Both mornings I had woked feeling pretty hyped up and actually pretty OK. Probably more relief that in a few hours time it would be over.
So the rest of the legal team enter the court, Anna and her husband. Whilst I wait outside inthe cold corridors waiting to be summoned. What a surreal moment that was. I just stood staring out of the stain glassed windows feeling unusually calm.
So, in we go, take the oath and here we go.
To sum up, I was outstanding. I totally blew the opposition away, often making him lost for words at my frankness, my ability to remain calm under pressure. BEar in mind there were about 10 people in there watching your every move, facial expression. At times he would ask me to read segments of my statement. To most people, its like reading the small print whilst you are signing up for another loan for life Plasma 60" with the sales attendant hovering over you. I didn't flinch.
I read and re-read, also the paragraphs before and after and in my head I could actually sense where he was trying to take me, which I was asounded by, thus I was able to stop him in his tracks. Which was just class. Time slowed down whilst i read these selected paragraphs and for these moments I was unaware I had the whole court waiting for me to lift my head to say I had read them.
He tried to trick me, put things in my mouth, repeat things I has previously said with a twist, which I would pick up and say 'thats not what I said', which again meant I was well and truly on the ball.
I felt in control and at ease even under intense verbal confrontation. When i saw this guy I thought you have to be kidding me, he's the most aggresive one going? All i saw was 'Mr Mucsle' the chap from the TV advert the weedy bloke with vest and gloves. This sort of stayed with me throughout the cross examination. So even when he did raise his voice it barely caught my attention.
But the bestt hing was that I was myself and Anna's legal team for so very relieved and surprised, given how much I had told them this was the last thiing on earth I wanted to do, they clearly doubted i would perform well. But I did. I was me, i was sincere without being 'sickly', i was firm without being 'offensive'. I was just me and it came over very clearly.
I can't explain why it went so well, how I remained calm, in control and smart. Not the Graham I know or knew.
I came out grinning as I knew I had achieved a monumental personal victory. Everyone was so pleased, even Anna's Barrister whispered as she walked by 'Anna is very lucky to have you'. This actually meant so much to me. Recognition that people could finally see the real me, not the me full of doubtt and low self esteem and in such a dramatic way.
I did all this for Anna, but it turned out to be for me also. Although I have to go through much more and it will be much harder as they now know how i tick so I am sure they will adopt a new strategy, but I will expect this and hope I can match or better whatever they through at me. As Anna's lawer kept saying to me, 'dont waffle and be yourself'. Simple advice but so valubale. To get drawn into a conversation with the examiner will ultimately draw you into a place you did not want to be. Answer Yes or no, or don't recall. Let the examiner do all the hard work, don't give him time to think of more questions whilst you babble on, keep his thinking time down to a minimum,
One point I knew I had him as he had to ask me the same question four times, and four times I said yes. To which he just gazed in the air, I am sure he was somewhat caught of guard at my honesty and bluntness. It was a magical moment.
Simply, I was outstanding and I knew it too, so did Anna.