Where hospital failed me

November 24, 2011

When I was discharged from hospital last year, I wrote a post on the positives of the experience. It seemed churlish at the time to complain, I was admitted completely suicidal and unsafe, I was discharged fairly psychotic but at least functional. However, there are a number of things about my stay that continue to upset and haunt me. Mind have been talking a lot recently about the standards of crisis care so I thought I’d share my feelings on why it didn’t really work for me.

It all comes down to communication. I suppose the main purpose of hospital, certainly in my case, was to keep me safe by physically removing the chance for me to do anything. It could have done so much more. There are few opportunities in mental health services where you are around professionals all the time and while the staff to patient ratios aren’t good, they’re a damn sight better than those in the community. This should lead to plenty of opportunities for talking which may not fix anything in itself but can at least be therapeutic. I’m aware the nurses aren’t trained in psychology, I wasn’t expecting therapy  but they should have a high level of empathy (otherwise why on earth are they doing the job) and the ability to listen.Unfortunately, that was never the case.

It took three days for my lead nurse to introduce herself to me. It’s not that she hadn’t been in the previous days, in fact I don’t know what it was, but apparently I wasn’t worth the time. I’m just a BPD manipulative timewaster, why should she bother talking to me? Worse, that 2 minute conversation was all I had with her the entire 10 days I was an inpatient. The other nurses weren’t any better, I don’t remember having a proper conversation with any of them. At one point I was given a form to fill in detailing my exercise habits. Apparently I was to complete it and then we’d have a discussion about it and see if there were ways to improve my lifestyle. Sounds good. Except for the conversation never happened. I submitted the form and heard no more about it.

I am not good at asking for help, in fact I’ve been known to let things fall apart completely and still not say a word. One day while there, things came to a head. Something deeply upsetting to me was happening in the real world, it’s not relevant what but suffice to say it’s something which deeply distresses me still. I sat and ran it over and over in my head for hours not daring to speak. Eventually something convinced me to head to the nurses office and ask if anyone could spare me five minutes. The nurse in charge sounded deeply frustrated by my request but sat me in  a room on my own and told me someone would see me. Eventually another nurse came in, it was difficult but I shared what was upsetting me. What I wanted and needed was to discuss it, for someone to help me rationalise my fears and to see a way through it. Instead, I was offered 5mg of PRN diazepam to calm me down. No discussion, no advice just the offer of pills. Yes, the diazepam did remove the immediate anxiety but it didn’t go any way towards addressing what was really the matter.

The other thing with hospital, it’s full of ill people. Now that goes without saying, I was one of them, still am one of them. I remember being asked by another patient on my first day what my diagnosis was. The amount of sympathy I got from him and others about the rubbishness of a personality disorder diagnosis was deeply touching. A woman was admitted when I’d been there a few days. She was obviously deeply psychotic and for whatever reason became convinced that I was her daughter and that the staff had imprisoned me and were trying to poison me. At medication time she’d come up behind me and knock the pills from my hand in a bid to ‘protect’ me. In the communal areas, she’d sit beside me and stroke my hair and my hands and tell me how she would always love me. If I tried to move away, she’d burst into tears and grab at me to try and keep me close. I know that none of this was her fault but at the same time it was quite overwhelming and upsetting for someone as fragile as I was. I know that in a way I had to put up with it, she wasn’t harming me and had as much right to the space as I did. I always felt though when she was talking to me that I should contribute, to try and help in some way. I couldn’t though, I didn’t know how, I didn’t know whether to correct her or go along with it. Again, no member of staff did anything to help other than restraining her when she was after my meds. It would have been so helpful if someone had taken me to one side, explained a bit of what was going on and give me some idea how to deal with it.

I’m worried this post sounds like I’m being petty and whinging. It just seems that 18 months later, I’m back where I was before I was hospitalised. I don’t know if there’s anything that could have prevented this but what I do know is what I miss most in everyday life is someone who I could talk to about the deep and dark things in my mind. It seems to me that if that can’t be provided in the intense inpatient setting, it’s unlikely it’ll be managed anywhere else.



Make a plan

November 18, 2011

My parents know about university. Someone out there is watching out for me and told them so that I didn’t need to. It made everything that much easier. They came down to see me yesterday. Apparently I seemed well and in control. That seems odd, I don’t feel any of those things. I’m trapped in a downward spiral at the moment and I’m not sure how to escape it. My psychiatrist is on holiday at the moment which is greatly annoying. I could use some input but I’m not seeing her again until 19th December. That makes me angry because she’s only away for a fortnight so should be able to see me before then. It just proves she only pretends to care although I’m not sure why I should be expecting anything different. Last time I saw her she mentioned maybe attending the day hospital for a while. At the time I laughed but the more I’ve thought about it, the more it seems a plausible temporary option. All I’m doing at the moment is sitting on the sofa staring at a computer screen with the occasional bit of cross stitch thrown in. It’s annoying the boyfriend, he can’t see how I can spend so much time achieving so little. At least the day hospital would get me out the house for a while, give me some space and maybe there will be someone there with some time to discuss my options with me. Unfortunately it means phoning the clinic and attempting to make an appointment to see someone else. This terrifies me, I find it hard to ask for help. I’m worried that if I can manage the coherence to ask for specific support then I’ll be too well to qualify for that support.

In the longer term, I still have no plans. Well, there’s the one plan but people don’t tend to like that one. I know I need to do something, sitting around all day is not good for me but I can’t seem to find the motivation to do anything more. Actually, there is something that I’m considering but I’m scared you’ll laugh at me if I tell you about it. It doesn’t really come under the definition of a ‘proper’ job but would involve crafting in a slightly more money generating way. Even if I went for it, the training doesn’t start until January and then it would take several months to get qualified. I’m beating myself up mentally a lot. I can’t see the point of trying something new, everything I try just turns to disaster.

I’m still awaiting an assessment for psychology. I’ve been told that in the long term this is what will fix me. I remain skeptical but I am desperate to give it a go. I view it as my last option and it worries me that if I can’t engage with it that there will be nothing left. I’m also concerned that I’m putting too much faith in it to fix me and that I’m going to be left disappointed. Maybe I just can’t be fixed.

I don’t know how I’ve managed to become so unwell again. I didn’t really notice it happening. It was only the comments on my last post, with everyone telling me that I’m ill and therefore it’s ok to not always succeed that it started to occur to me. I’ve had enough of being ill, it’s been more than 5 years now and although there have been better times and worse times overall I’ve been really quite unwell for all of that period. It just isn’t fair. I feel like throwing a tantrum, screaming and stamping my feet until it all goes away. Except for it won’t and I’m starting to suspect it never will.

Where now?

November 11, 2011

I quit uni. It was always going to be the thing that gave when I was no longer able to cope. It’s a shame, there were aspects of the course I really enjoyed and having some focus back in my life was undeniably beneficial. There was just too much pressure though. I couldn’t keep up with the volume of work and the hours that were required. Student finance had fucked up my application leading to the university wanting £5000 off me in fees. I didn’t have five grand to give them and I didn’t have the strength to keep chasing student finance who promised me again and again that it was sorted only to discover yet another hurdle. The car crash really shook me up and left  me unable to think straight, I missed too much to catch up on. There are so many excuses I could site but really it’s just another failure on my part. I am incapable of coping in the real world.

It worries me. If I can’t do a university course with 18 hours a week contact time, how am I ever going to hold down a job. That’s of course assuming that someone would employ me when I have no references and no employment history to speak of. My life is a series of aborted projects. Of things started with the best of intentions and then failed. My psychiatrist says I just haven’t found the right path yet. That’s bollocks. There is no right path. Everything I try is doomed to failure from the start. I am a self fulfilling prophecy of destruction.

I can’t tell my parents. I can’t let them down again. I was always meant to be the one who made something of her life, who was going to support them in their old age. How can I tell them I quit again? They will be so disappointed so I lie to them, tell them how well I’m doing, describe lectures I’ve never attended. The truth will come out eventually though, it always does.

My boyfriend doesn’t mind that I’ve quit university. He doesn’t mind what I do, as long as I do something. The thing is though, I have no idea what. I have run out of suggestions. I’ve tried all the things I thought I might be good at and failed at them all. I am a disgusting waste of space whose biggest achievement is a 2:2 in a subject I have no recollection of.

I’m all out of options. I don’t even have the motivation to craft. I went to a big craft supply fair at the weekend and bought loads of new materials yet they sit in the bags still packed. All I do is sit and stare at a computer screen. I occasionally tweet but even there I feel on the edge of friendship groups. Everyone likes everyone else better than they like me. I am tolerated but barely.

My psychiatrist has run out of options. She says there’s nothing more she can do for me. Psychology may help but there are no guarantees. Besides, my initial referral to psychology was conveniently lost so I missed out on weeks of appointments. A new referral has been made but I will be waiting weeks for an assessment and then untold amounts of time to actually begin therapy. And what if it turns out that therapy is not for me? If I am doomed to be a big mental waste of space for ever more?

In the end there is one solution. There has always only been one solution. I may be able delay it by days, weeks, months or years but in the end it all stops one way. That has been the case for so long, I don’t know why I bother fighting it any more.


November 1, 2011

It took my mum years to believe I was mentally ill. From the moment I initially sought help, I had to put up with a constant stream of objections and ignorance. It started with

Fluoxetine? I’ve found out that’s really prozac. You can’t possibly take that.”

It deteriorated from there. Every stereotyped stigmatising comment out there, I received it.

  • Think of all the people in the world worse off than you. They’re not depressed so how can you be?
  • Just pull yourself together and get on with it. You’re fine.
  • You’ve had a happy childhood, you’ve no reason to be depressed.
  • You seem happy today. See, you’re not really depressed.

Plus variations of the same etc, etc, ad infinitum. Then of course, if I ever dared to be happy for more than one day, there was the

You seem much better. Maybe you can stop taking those pills soon?

It was deeply frustrated. As my health continued to deteriorate, she continued to deny it. People in her cozy little world don’t have mental health problems and that was all she was prepared to accept.

After my second suicide attempt, it was increasingly difficult to deny there was a problem. With it came if not complete acceptance, then at least a bit of understanding. She put in an effort to actually listen to me, to push for treatment, to support me and it was wonderful. To actually be able to describe how I was really feeling without having to be afraid the answer would be ignored or belittled.

Over the last year, as I began to show signs of recovery, the acceptance slipped. She was back to her old tricks. Every phone call for the last few months have been full of pressurising rubbish. About how good it is to have the real me back again, how fabulous I must be feeling, how it’s so wonderful how I’m coping. Plus of course, the constant references to cutting down drugs at every tenuous opportunity. It’s so frustrating.

Recently a family friend has been diagnosed with breast cancer. My parents have both been all over her. Taking her to hospital, out for coffee, offering to always be available to help in any way possible. I am in no way implying this is not what she deserves. It must be crushing to be diagnosed with cancer and I’m sure all the support is incredibly important. More than that though, I’m jealous. As petty as it may seem, I want my parents to be like that with me. I bet the friend is not being told to pull herself together or to stop taking her medication if she has a few low-symptom days. Most importantly, my mum seems to be really listening to her, acting on what she wants and I’ve never had that.

Early last week, as those of you who follow me on Twitter are no doubt aware, I was involved in a hit and run on my bike. I was physically ok bar a few cuts and bruises but mentally it has hit me hard. Since then, it has been coming increasingly clear that I am not coping. I have been alternating between tearful and ragey with no rationale. Now, being knocked over would be enough to shake anyone up but it’s more than that. It’s bought to a head problems that have been brewing for a while. The lack of balance in my life, working myself into the ground just to fall further. I am not coping with things as they are. It’s as simple as that. Something somewhere has to give and I feel completely unable to decide what.

I have tried to explain this to my mum. I really need some input and support before I crumble completely. She listens but she doesn’t hear. I mention that I’m struggling at uni and she counters it with me having enjoyed one of the practicals. As if the act of enjoying one small thing is enough to disprove any other problems I may be having. She tells me not to be so silly, that I’m fine. Any protestations to the contrary are countered before they even have the chance to leave my lips. I am well now and that’s all there is to it.

Except for I’m not. Therein lies the problem.