My aunt, Audrey Enstone, who has died aged 91, survived a series of horrifying “treatments” in her 20s aimed at curing her obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Described by her as the “lost years”, for almost a decade she was detained in a psychiatric hospital, where she was subjected first to electro-convulsive therapy then deep insulin-induced coma treatment, followed by a lobotomy.
Eventually, however, she took part in talking therapy trials, which are psychological treatments for mental and emotional problems. With support she was able to devise a series of strategies for living with OCD, and once discharged from hospital she worked for the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) for many years.
Trained as a braillist, she could read braille by eye, and was engaged in proofreading German, French and Russian books for translation.
Audrey was born in Wimbledon, south-west London, to Ethel (nee Mathieson) and Herbert Harris, who worked in the foreign correspondence department of Midland bank. Academically driven at Rosebery grammar school for girls in Epsom, Surrey, had it not been for the OCD and hospitalisation, she would doubtless have gone to university.
During a short first marriage in 1959 to Paul Curtiss, Audrey gave birth to a daughter, Ruth, but the baby was put up for adoption as social services considered Audrey would be unable to care for her. It brought Audrey huge joy when, as an adult, Ruth got in touch and she was welcomed back into the family.
Audrey once told me that although the lobotomy had no effect on her OCD, it did cure her extreme shyness. At the RNIB she met David Hardy, a fellow braille proofer, and they married in 1968, enjoying a social life filled with music and dancing until their divorce in 1979. She wrote plays and poems for family and friends, plus a yearly panto for staff at the RNIB before it moved her section from London to Peterborough and she took early retirement in 1989.
Remarkably, Audrey rarely expressed bitterness for the brutal treatments she had received as a young woman. For her nieces she was the lively, idiosyncratic and engaging soul of every family celebration.
A third marriage, to Eric Enstone in 1980, ended in divorce in 1989. She is survived by Ruth and her nieces, Sally, Helen, Jill and me.