I write to you with a heavy heart, for nearly 17 years I have had various engagements, some good, some bad, but it’s my latest engagement with you I find not just heartbreaking, but completely soul destroying.
Seeing as you don’t want to actually hear from me in person let me tell you here about myself. Although for many years I had what I know now to have been severe mental health struggles I didn’t know why I would hate myself as much as I did, why I wanted my life to be so different from the way it was, why the only way it could be different was if I was dead. The noise in my head of those thoughts alongside the noise from memories I had repressed as a child that would nibble away at my mental and physical well-being was more than I could ever cope wit, let alone make any sense of. If it hadn’t been for me going to my family GP in 1996 who knows what that autumn would have had in store for me.
Dr J was a good man, a kindly man, an old fashioned family GP. He gave me a safe space to confess all I could think about was that I had to die and ways i could do it. He was the first person I told since telling my parents as a young child that I had been abused. He was concerned, rightly so and got me an emergency appointment with the consultant Psychiatrist Dr M. I saw Dr M that same afternoon and would see him on and off for 5 years. He was a typical Freudian and Bowlbyite, absolutely obsessed with the fact all my problems lie with separation anxiety of being adopted. I can’t even begin to tell even now how much that frustrates me. My problems stem from someone wanting sexual gratification from me as a three year old, not because my birth mother gave me up for adoption.
Towards the end of my tenure with Dr M I had a stress-induced breakdown at work. I went into meltdown. things got messy, My GP suggested I used the health insurance that came with my employment and sought some help from private mental health services, as an alternative to getting nowhere with Dr M. As result I would spend 8 or 9 weeks in Priory hospital and for the first time start to see some real positives from your professionals. I still feel frustrated to be confronted by an overbearing male consultant, who’s preoccupation was that I must have social phobia and nothing else, Dr C’s treatment would not deflect from the care I received from the nurses, OT’s and therapists. I could go into naming each and everyone there but that could take a lot of time. I will however publicly offer my sincerest thanks to Jo, my primary nurse there. Like most of the staff there I was more than just a number, drugs alone wouldn’t make me better and that I was an individual. The holistic and compassionate approach they gave me was the founding of me being able to engage. Jo not only saw me as a patient she saw my potential as an active member of society. I still recall her telling me to consider a career in mental health nursing when I’d recovered, she had seen my interpersonal skills with the other patients on the ward and saw that with empathy, compassion I’d bought many out of themselves. It wouldn’t be for a couple of years before her voice would echo in my ears and lead me to university.
When the insurance and self funding ran out I was sent back to my NHS hospital, back under the care of Dr M. I have never seen a man with so much glee in his eyes as he told me the only bed available was on the secure ward. That experience was hellish, despite being a voluntary patient I was treated like I was on a section. The nurses treated me with contempt having come from private hospital to their care, they were happy to sit on their arses watching tv and dish out heavy handed treatment to any patient who placed one toe out of line. In order to get out in one piece without injury I felt like I had to make a miraculous cure to get out of that place.
It wasn’t long afterwards my GP would retire, I would move doctors to one nearer my new home and thus bought a change in my CHMT. My psychiatrists treated me as a person, finally I was given a diagnosis of PTSD & BPD. The PTSD finally felt like I wasn’t just ‘claiming’ to be abused as a child, but instead I was abused and it was validated. My psychiatrists and CPN’s kept me in check, and taught me the affect my nihilism was having on those around me, alongside with a years worth of art therapy with the wonderful Caroline I was gaining the skills to be able to talk about what I was thinking and feeling. Dr Sherington with great patience and compassion worked with me to know I was more than my diagnosis and that one of the biggest things to be aware of is if I feel like I’m not believed or being listened to it takes me back to be a child begging for help but not being believed.
With a lot of help from Dr S, Caroline, my CPN’s and my college tutor I soon found myself on my way to York as a part of my recovery and to study for a degree. It wasn’t an easy time, and finding support from the mental health services up here were almost impossible. I was left with limited support from the university counselling service and the mental health keyworker, not to mention a wonderful academic supervisor. I am proud to have battled my way through it and get a 2:2 in social policy. My social skills improved immensely when I was well, not to mention my intellect and analytical skills. Once graduation came I was alone from services, ignoring my warning signs in order to favour my physical condition following a complicated appendix.
I found myself at the mercy of the psychiatrists and cpn for my area at a time when I was once again at my most vulnerable with manifested by feelings of intense anger, uncontrollable flashbacks, self-harm, night terrors, constant suicidal ideation, intrusive negative and nihilistic thoughts, not to mention my low self and some dissociative symptoms. I was discharged in less than 3 months having lost my PTSD diagnosis and left with just the BPD. #Dearmentalhealthprofessionals I ask how can this be justified, to leave someone without a diagnosis a person has carried for 13 years from doctors he’d worked closely with for several years. How can a Consultant decide a service user’s fate when they have never met? How can a service user be discharged being told they’re not ill they just lack structure? How can a service user be told cmht services are not available and instead they should seek help from the local branch of MIND and the local NHS psychological therapy services by self referring?
This brings me to my final and most recent let down. Having had support from my support worker at Survive to ask my GP to access some therapy, my GP wrote back to the same consultant psychiatrist, who received the answer to refer me to the local psychological services, which he duly did. Because my support worker and I had some safeguarding issues for children in the area I grew up we went back to the police to make another statement about the abuse suffered. This was mentioned in my referral from my GP and the Psychological services have refused me any access to help so not to compromise any potential legal action against the perpetrator of the abuse I suffered. To justify their argument they sent a document more than 10 years old, despite the Director for Public Prosecutions (Kier Starmer) saying in recent months a victim’s access to therapy should not impede a prosecution. I can’t help but think this is just a poor excuse to save resources because I have a personality disorder and therefore stigmatised as being untreatable.
So #dearmentalhealthprofessionals I beg you to treat me not as a label, but as a person who from time to time needs a little tender loving care and understanding and can be proactive in his treatment with the right help. This wasn’t meant to be condemnation of your profession as you can see I have been blessed to have had some wonderful people treat me from time to time, but equally I have had some shocking treatment, not least recently. Resources are scarce, your jobs are hard enough dealing with some challenging behaviours and some damaged people carrying a lot of pain, but all I ask is treat us with dignity and equally and I will return the same courtesy.
Thank you for all you do for people with Mental Health Issues