Trigger Warning – Depression, PTSD, Suicide, Self Harm, Hallucinations, Abuse.
So there has been a lot of talk this week in the news about the lack of support available to people suffering from mental health issues in the UK. They reckon that 3 out of 4 people with mental health issues receive no support whatsoever. Whether that’s because they haven’t been diagnosed, haven’t spoken up about how they’re feeling, or the lack of support available to them once they’ve been diagnosed due to funding or lack of services, it’s happening.
I’ve had depression of some description since I was 13. I’ve got diagnosed PTSD, severe depression and they’re querying some kind of psychosis at the minute. A lot of this stems from issues I’ve grown up with. Be it my stepdads drinking and subsequent emotional and physical abuse, seeing my grandad dying of Motor Neurone Disease or things that have happened during both my mum and dads other relationships as I grew up. More lately I have lived with someone who suffers from similar issues, but has had to deal with a lot more severe symptoms than me for much longer than me. She was sectioned for 7 months in 2012-2013. I still believe to this day she was sectioned because they didn’t listen to my calls for help when I told them how much she was struggling. I spent 2 years telling them her mental health was getting worse and worse, and wasn’t taken seriously. I remember taking her to see her GP in February 2009 about her worsening mental health and it wasn’t until she took a massive overdose and ended up in Intensive Care nearly dead at the end of 2012 that they stood up and listened, and even then the care she received while an inpatient was absolutely diabolical. She spent 7 months on several different inpatient psychiatric wards being offered absolutely no counselling or therapy whatsoever. When it got too much on the ward and they ended up hysteric, the solution was to sedate them with injections and medication. She was discharged in April 2013, and it took them until September 2015 to offer her some kind of psychotherapy. Not really something that I’d consider acceptable for someone who made a substantial attempt on her life.
This past month has seen a severe decline in my own mental health. Since New Year I’ve struggled to make it out of my flat, have made it to one lecture at uni and have had to start taking regular diazepam, sleeping tablets and have my anti depressants increased with the possibility of adding in an anti psychotic. I’ve been struggling to take my regular medication for my various other conditions, believing they either aren’t helping or using it as a way to self harm. My nightmares have gotten substantially worse and I’m waking up most nights screaming. Today is one of the few days I’m actually able to sit here and rationally explain what’s going on. Unfortunately it comes as I’m in hospital. I was due to be admitted on Monday 15th for my regular elective admission for aminophylline. My GP has been seeing me twice weekly for about a month now, and knew the state my head was in. He rang ahead to ensure the ward was aware of the difficulties I’m having and to try and ensure I would be seen by the on call psychiatry team with the aim of starting some more medication, asked them to make sure I was taking my regular medications, including my steroids and not skipping painkillers just because it’s a good way of causing pain. When I got to the ward, none of this had been done, and none of the staff were aware of the difficulties I’m facing. My friend S, my flatmate and my mum all told them they needed to watch me take my medications as I had been going several days at a time without taking any, which meant I have had about 4 major adrenal crisis’ in 2 weeks. I was requiring a side room as I’ve tested positive for MRSA so was hoping that my nightmares wouldn’t be too much of an issue for the others on the ward. However it turned out the ward I was admitted to wasn’t my normal respiratory ward, and was in fact the ward that Cookie had been sent to when she was discharged from ICU after the overdose and spent several weeks on. That ward has a lot of bad memories for me and I was struggling in a massive way to deal with my PTSD while there. My first night brought yet another nightmare, and one of the agency staff on the ward shouted at me for shouting and waking the other patients up. It has really mucked my head up and it’s left me even more scared to go to sleep at nighttime than I had already been. I’m struggling to keep myself going, and I can’t keep taking regular diazepam and sleeping tablets until a proper referral to psych comes through. As it is I’m going to be in hospital longer than I anticipated cause they’ve found I’ve pneumonia which made me fairly poorly, so I’m looking at over the weekend or Monday. I’m not going to lie, I’m struggling. I was seen by RAID which is the sort of on call psych team in the hospital. They were pretty useless and told me to cheer up. Really helpful.
One of the reasons I’m finding things so difficult is that I witnessed something a bit horrific in resus (area of A&E where they bring poorly people who need close monitoring and fast treatment) last time I was there. They brought a 14 year old in, and he was the spitting image of TJ. They were doing CPR on him. He had fallen down the stairs and had a brain bleed. They told his family that they didn’t think he was going to wake up, and were discussing organ donation with his family. It broke my heart and one of my more common nightmares is that it’s TJ on that trolley having CPR performed. I know he’s safe back home, I know he’s OK. But I can’t get my head to understand that, and it’s going to be mega difficult to make my head understand that sub consciously. There’s so many different factors adding into my brain fuck at the minute and it’s not going to be easy to get on top of it. I’m not convinced it’s possible to be honest. So many people have told the powers at be that I’m struggling and they just don’t care. My GP has been epic but he’s banging his head off a brick wall. I’m lucky I have some truly amazing friends who are fighting my corner, even if I don’t want to or can’t.
This is where the findings that have come to light this week have angered me. I asked for help for both myself, and my flatmate. I spent hours fighting for her. I begged them to give her proper help so many times and got ignored. It took her to overdose and end up having a seizure and being admitted to intensive care for them to stand up and pay attention. I’ve been telling them since before Christmas that my head has been getting worse. It’s now at the point where I’m pretty much constantly suicidal and have made so many different plans that my flatmate, GP and S have decided that I can’t be trusted with my own medication anymore and have confiscated my medication trays and morphine. People ask for help. People ask for the support. There just isn’t the support there to give it to them. And GPs hands are tied. They want to help. They see the struggle that we are going through and yet there’s still nothing they can do to help because even when they do ask, they get ignored. So what do you do? Not everyone is lucky enough to have friends like mine. Who drop everything and run when the shit hits the fan. As a result of all of this, uni is suffering. I’ve not been to a lab since before Christmas and my lecturers are starting to get panicked and worried. I want to be able to keep up with uni. I want to be able to go to lectures and labs. I really bloody enjoy it. I did well in the exams I sat, I got over 70% on them both. Which considering I had about a week to revise the entire semesters worth of work. That’s one thing that is keeping me going.
So many people see me smiling and happy. See me joking and cheery. They don’t see what goes on at night. When I wake up screaming. When I’m convinced someone’s sitting on the end of my bed with a knife or telling me to self harm because it will make them go away. It’s a mask. And it’s not one I like having to wear.
Mental health isn’t something that can be ignored. It won’t just go away. It won’t just disappear if we “cheer up” a bit. But something I’m finding helpful is saying “No, I’m not OK” when people ask if I’m OK. I’m accepting things aren’t OK and accepting the help my friends are offering. I’m offloading on more than one person and am trying to make sure that I keep myself reasonably safe. It isn’t always possible, but by making sure my flatmate knows when I’m having massive self harm thoughts, it means she can keep my company until I go to sleep and knows if something does happen and can help me deal with it.