Sunday, 17 April 2016

Ahoy, and a rant...

So... over a year since I posted. This blog is old now and neglected (a bit like me ;-) Well, I have had a milestone birthday since I began it...) Yet again, I resolve to post more. Found myself writing a marathon rant on a forum today, stopped myself, and am posting it here instead.

The issue at hand was the difficulty of obtaining psychodynamic therapy from the NHS, in particular for those with a diagnosis of BPD. The NHS tend to stick at offering stage one DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy) only. Stage one DBT focusses on reducung self-injury and other maladaptive coping techniques. The idea is to make sure people have a basic stability and safety before they go through further therapy (DBT or otherwise). However, they do actually need further therapy to happen, otherwise the underlying problems remain, and you have someone who has basically been taught not to show their distress. It's all part and parcel of the generally dismissive attitude towards those diagnosed BPD from mental health professionals...

And so began my rant:
...

"It maks me feel so angry, actually - people turn to them in great need and are treated like they shouldn't make a fuss. It has parallels with the sexist treatment of women over the years - calm down dear, be quiet, please others, have no needs yourself, no opinion and no feelings.

In my opinion, this is closely liked to the BPD diagnosis - I mean, you have a diagnosis that more often than not involves abuse or other traumatic experiences, and yet people diagnosed BPD are treated like they are making a fuss about nothing! "Attention-seeking" is a phrase bandied around. No-one would say to someone yelling for help after being severely physically injured, "You're just attention seeking".

I wonder if it's a collective refusal to face the damage humans to do each other on a personal level? People don't like to think that there is abuse out there, or that the way they themselves act may seriously hurt others, or that the way society is structured may cause problems. Much easier for everyone to blame the victims, and decide they are "overreacting".

In that way I think psychiatry is an abuser. It gaslights people, twists things around to blame them, labels them as deviant from the norm, because their struggles show."
...

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Truth and Madness

Hello there, after so long (again!)

Started this post a couple of weeks ago when I'd just got discharged by the CMHT.

It's brought up a lot of things. Things that make me feel crazy. I imagine I look a bit like a "mad scientist" with my hair all sticking up, a flushed face and manic expression, saying "Ahaa! I can see it all so clearly now!"

In a way it's incredibly liberating, like seeing the truth exposed for the first time, or the pieces of the puzzle fitting together, and a shiver goes through me (get this when I have very creative moments too). But there's also the dreadful, sickening feeling that what I see is a tangled, messy web largely constructed by professionals, with me trapped in the middle forever wrongly condemned with no justice, no chance of redemption, like trying to fight a tidal wave. It's horrific.

Part of that is the way most people would not understand - it's easier to blame the 'crazy' person than face the unpalatable (and in most people's view unlikely) scenario that mental health services are not, on the whole, staffed by angels and do not provide what most would consider basic treatment/care. Also because this has given me the... ah... opportunity of really opening my eyes to human behaviour, and insight/different views on things, it compounds the feeling that I am in a very lonesome position. I kind of get the feeling that to fully understand what has been so awful about the mental health system, someone would actually have to re-evaluate their own behaviour, thoughts and worldview - and that is a big ask.

I'm also aware that wittering on (whilst looking like mad scientist, as above) about seeing the truth and no-one else understanding, is classic 'mad' behaviour. I wonder, about those with psychosis... were they once where I am now? Could they see, but our stupid messed up society found it easier to shun them than to listen?

Anyway, not being involved with services is basically a good thing, considering what it's like for me. However, it means there's no way to correct all the errors and horrible judgements made about me (no chance of redemption, as above). Mind you, being involved with them won't either, if I'm honest. You can't get through to people who's worldview rests on them not understanding. I have the feeling... the mistake I made was a classic, expecting my abuser (psychiatry) to change.

One of the things that has majorly pissed me off is that they've been treating me as if I have Borderline Personlity Disorder even though I'm not officially diagnosed with it. I've had horrible experiences with a different mental health team in the past, due to being (mis)diagnosed BPD (I have never fulfilled enough criteria, though I'd say I'm BPD-ish in some ways, when under stress, but then isn't everybody?) These experiences were actually a major contributor to me breaking down later on, and I originally thought the new team understood this – huh! They just sort of pretend to listen and then ride roughshod over everything you say. With patronising smiles and 'knowing' looks. It makes my skin crawl with the shame, despite knowing they're wrong.

So to them I am BPD, but as it's not on my notes I can't demand treatment/a CPN. And if I argue that it's inaccurate, they'll just use that as confirmation it's true (“inappropriate anger”, “manipulative” etc.) and I'll be lumbered with it officially! It feels like they've completely stitched me up.

In my discharge letter, my MH worker (an occupational therapist, not a mental health nurse, which reveals what they think of my problems!) wrote that she'd sought advice from various personality disorder specialists, who all advised they don't know how to help. No-one seems to have taken a step back and questioned the BPD diagnosis, or looked at the actual presenting symptoms – the saying “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail” springs to mind. It seems they're trying to force me to fit the treatment (and blaming me when I don't), rather than find a treatment that fits me. DBT (standard therapy for BPD) is not suitable for me; certainly not NHS stage-one-only DBT! I self-harm incredibly rarely, and not seriously, I don't make suicidal gestures, and I hardly ever contact the team in crisis. Admittedly, the latter is more like despair knowing they won't help, so why bother, but still. I'm not impulsive, and the only problems I have in relationships are as a result of feeling low and depressed or overwhelmed (not the other way around). The professionals seems to think I feel crap because of all the crazy shit I presumably go around doing, being such a terrible person. Despite me being quite open and willing to explain to them (ad nauseam) the things I am pieceing together, and where I'm at.

They say they accept that I am hurting and traumatised, an can on occasion display this interpersonally, but overall it doesn't affect how I'm treated. (It's like debating with someone who's incredibly racist – you can explain rationally and give examples and they'll agree with you all the way, and then say “but __insert racist comment__” as if the whole conversation hadn't happened.) They encourage sweeping things under the rug rather than dealing wih them, even though supressing everything is why I'm depressed now. In short, they encourage the most unhealthy and counter-productive things possible for me. They condemn me yet expect me to develop high self-esteem. They wont accept me for who I am yet blame me for not building a relationship with them (this was given as the reason for discharge).

They seem to expect me to trust them implicitly, go along with everything they say, sort of... give myself up and be what they want. And yet, if I did that (a terrible idea, I think) I would be incredibly dependant on them, because I'd be giving up the very essence of myself. The bit that keeps fighting. The bit that keeps me safe. The bit that thinks I'm worth something. (Being dependant on services is something they criticise in people diagnosed BPD.)

Hmm... “the bit that keps me safe” makes me think... is it one of those dysfunctional coping mechanisms? Something that once kept you safe but is now causing problems? But that would suggest I should succumb to them and then what? Be left alone in a world that doesn't make sense and thus causes deep psychic pain? Oh what a BPD thing to say! (I hear them say.) Clearly I “lack insight”! (Snigger).

Even if going along with what they say meant they wouldn't discharge me, it would involve “building a relationship” with them where I am not the real me but just a reflection of what they want. This strikes me as a rather unhealthy relationship! (Not to mention manipulative – that “symptom” that is not a symptom but attributed to BPDers regardless.) And it would make me feel trapped, a despicable person who can't be known, reliant on the approval of those who will not be satisfied until I cover up my pain and become a people-pleasing zombie. Which, funnily enough, is not actually a healthy way to go about life in the real world. As well as being blindingly obvious, I spent a good chunk of my life trying to live like that so I know it doesn't work (and causes more problems).

For a start, I'd be utterly reliant on them for approval because the approval would no longer come from inside me. Nothing I did would be good enough for me. I'd feel utterly unloveable, because being myself was unacceptable. I wouldn't be able to cope with any bad feelings, because I'd need professionals to validate me. Which, obviously, they wouldn't do (I'm supposed to be fine) so there'd be a negative feedback loop of despair leading to escalating crises and probably self-harm/suicide attempts. I'd actually gain BPD symptoms – loosing a sense of self, feeling of emptiness, frantic efforts to avoid abandonment... And the professional response would no doubt provoke what they'd view as “unreasonable anger” and “transient, stress-related paranoia”. Or am I displaying those two now?!

So what would their response be to all this? DBT, my friend. Yup, DBT, to teach you all the ways to behave so that you don't bother anyone and can be discharged. Next! What's that – you still feel depressed? Who cares, unless you're about to kill yourself, in which case we'll rediagnose BPD and tut at you loudly until you stop being so damn awkward.

It strikes me that the symptoms of BPD are what everyone is like to some extent, especially when stressed or upset. And that's the thing – I only struggle interpersonally when I'm very upset, depressed or stressed. Even then, I'll only struggle in the way professionals see as a problem (ie. getting angry) out of sheer frustration and fear, because the other person doesn't understand or is expecting me to do something I can't (ie. completely invalidating/not taking into account how I feel, or actually being angry with me for being upset). Obviously this is far more pronouncd around professionals because (a) they see me when things are bad, in the same way a doctor sees sick people all the time, and (b) because of their position, I expect them to have the skills to cope with an upset person and the desire to understand (hahahaa!)

Regardless, I can DBT them up to the eyeballs when I'm on form, and actually am quite a considerate person – I try to do what is right, not what is easy, and care because I think there's too little love in the world (I know that's cheesy but really!) The issue is that I am so often not on form. The heavy weight or knot of anxiety in my chest that makes it a drag to get through the day. The nightmares and exhausted feeling that make me cry in a fog of confusion. And, right now, the sickening, shaky dread that I am forever condemned by those who will never understand and do not wish to. The powerlessness as evil triumphs! (Ah, you dramatic BPDer, you!)

Basically, I want to not feel so crap, and then I can quietly get on with my life. Apparently, this is irrelevant/impossible, and what I should be focussing on is “coping” with feeling dreadful, and honing my skills at covering it up so as not to bother anybody. Whilst a different label would mean I'd be sympathised with and encouraged, the unofficially-hovering-but-inaccurate BPD means I'm invalidated and blamed.

I am incredibly fortunate that I am able to see a therapist privately; the situation would seem entirely hopeless otherwise. Unfortunately, because of all this stuff filling my head (and torturing my soul, frankly, though that sounds melodramatic) the actual long-term in-depth issues are somewhat on hold whilst I try to deal with it. Having said that, there are many parallels to be drawn so it does shine a light on past experiences and the deeper issues. Which means mental health services have actively compounded the issues I needed their help with – I know others labelled BPD have had this experience too.

Well there we go, the mad, hysterical woman has spoken. (There there dear, take a Valium, etc.) I should acknowledge here, the lack of funding, including recent cutbacks, that contribute to my current predicament, but I know that's not the whole story. There is something in all this that makes me feel these problems within the mental health system are actually symptomatic of something deeper and darker in society, possibly even human nature itself. The feeling that I'm from another planet or something, where people make more sense and are kinder to each other.


Myrtle

Sunday, 12 October 2014

Hopelessness and loss of community

Everything's a bit bleughh now. Had to force myself to start typing this. Decided, in a desperate, scraping-the-barrel for ideas way, that trying to write on here more often might make me feel better (hollow laugh). Mainly this is because I have lost my number one mentalness confidant, but also because I keep writing mini-essays in discussions elsewhere on the interwebs, which would be good to have in one spot.

Bleughhh again. So, thing is, over the past few months... and especially the last six weeks... I've been increasingly more depressed. My usual thing is to be horrifically low when I wake up and feel a lot better by evening, but this is a horrible sluggish, dread-in-pit-of-stomach, can't concentrate on anything and no joy in the world bleughhhhness that barely lifts at any point. I've had enough. I cannot come to terms with how much of my life has been lost feeling shite, how I've been misunderstood, labelled and condemned, how I've now lost so much confidence I can barely talk to people at points. I'm tired of facing an increasingly bleak picture as time goes on, because the people who should help refused and gave me worse nightmares, and still try to twist things to cover their backs today. I'm tired of being practically ignored by the CMHT. I say “practically ignored”; they seem to think I need to learn Mindfulness and DBT skills to help me “tolerate distress”. The only way to get proper therapy to reduce the distress is to go private. (I'm very lucky someone else is paying for me; or I'd be without treatment still.) Anyway, the CMHT seem to have this idea that my problem is emotional instability, and that's what I need to work on (in a patronising, critical way, to boot). The fact that what cripples me is the depression seems to have entirely escaped them. They honestly seem to think if I can bottle everything up inside and not bother anybody, I'll be fine. It is so frustrating.
This is not working, I want to die even more now.

No-one has any principles they actually stick too. The aforementioned friend basically buggered off because his new(ish) girlfriend is ridiculously clingy and against him having female friends, it seems. For his part, he seems quite happy to pander to this, spending every possible moment with her and just clearly not giving a crap about anyone else (everyone has noticed/is annoyed at him for this). I have to keep pretending I'm ok, but I'm not; this is killing me. It scares me how I basically can't trust anyone, can't really be wanted or included. I mean – how do you tell if you can trust somebody? This was the last person I'd have thought would do this; it's like his principles and life outlook are just chucked out the window.

But what hurts most is: I don't matter. I'm expected to keep living, every fucking day, so people like him don't get upset, but nevermind that I'm in pain! If I killed myself, he might stop to realise that perhaps I needed a friend, and certainly not the
loss of a friend. But there is no actual way to ask for help, to explain. And even if there was, I don't fucking matter. But I really thought I did, so how do I tell? Why can't I really be wanted?

I need community. I spent my life looking for like-minded people to live around, to spend time with. I thought I'd found it here but it seems like everyone abandons their principles... or their
supposed principles... and just does the mainstream thing. It felt like there was community before, now it is gone... or I am just shut out of it to some extent, or maybe both. Or maybe the community wasn't what it seemed, but just a moment in time with various friendship groups that drift away over time. But I genuinely thought – because it was something people actually talked about, and there were so many people who would be viewed as hippy-types – that there was a desire and intention to live more communally than is the norm. I liked that... I needed it. You know, the idea that it's not all revolving around the 'nuclear family' or couples, but a real community vibe, supporting each other and living closely alongside each other, popping into each other's houses and eating together. But it seems it isn't real; others are someone not really into it, and people like me who are not firmly attached to close friends we've had for years are going to be alone as ever. I mean, I'm not completely alone or anything, just there really doesn't seems to be that firm sense of, and desire for community that there once was. It frightens me, it takes away the one thing that is the opposite of the pain, fear and dread inside me. The one thing that I'd been looking for.
I feel like a teenager again, like someone turned off the light.

There is a lovely man... Mr. Blokey from before, in fact. We're taking it very slowly. But, nice as it is, he does not replace a community. Hmm I sound really ungrateful writing that, but I'm not. I'm just very aware than a full community, not just one man, is what I need. I don't want to live the life I feared in my teens. I want to find a real sense of community, even if it's just a solid group of friends.

Ho hum.

Saturday, 26 April 2014

Therapy (part two)

Following on from my previous post...
Having been repeatedly let down by the unavailability of in-depth (ie. not CBT/CAT!) talking therapies in the NHS system, I am in the very fortunate position of being able to access private therapy. This is due to family members chipping in to pay for it – a situation I'm not altogether comfortable with, but I'd be a fool to refuse this opportunity. I hope at some point I can pay for it myself, and it is still under £40 a session as it's done on a sliding scale depending on income/who you see etc.

I'd also like to point out that this therapy really should be provided by the NHS (*unless mental health starts being treated within a new, non-medical paradigm – but even then treatment should still be 'free at the point of use' like the NHS). Even on a cost-only basis - especially taking into account money spent elsewhere eg. crisis care, policing and state benefits - the fact that it's not is ridiculous. Unfortunately it's a ridiculous thing that causes huge amounts of pain, distress, and lost lives as well as severely damaged lives.

However, I would hate it if anything I wrote was seen as an argument against socialised healthcare. Instead I feel the problems I have experienced within NHS mental health care actually relate to funding issues, political issues and the way in which mental health is viewed by society at large. I have met some horrible, deeply unsuitable so-called professionals in my time, but even that could be solved with better training, higher staffing levels (preventing staff burnout and increasing morale), and being able to treat people long-term so they actually recover rather than the 'fire-fighting' mental health care has become. A higher profile for mental health, and a more rewarding working environment would also mean dodgy professionals could be more easily weeded out and replaced.

Anyway, here I am, now pootling off once a week to therapy, affordable only because I have found somewhere that offers discounted rates, and family are willing and able to pay for a while. I'd like to pause for a moment and consider the last decade of sporadic involvement with mental health services, the police involvement, the benefits claimed, and the experiences that left me worse off mentally. There is a lot of cost there; financially it's staggering (I will try to estimate it one day!), and the emotional cost hasn't exactly been fun either (leading to more financial cost of treatment as my original problems have been compounded... perhaps they hoped I'd just go away and kill myself.)

So far, it seems to be going okay. Going well, even. The first thing that really struck me was that I felt better after the first couple of sessions. By that I mean I literally felt better right after each session, having expected to feel worse due to stirring everything up. I think the reason is the immense sense of relief at finally being able to open up in a non-judgemental and compassionate environment. Previously, within the NHS system (in particular with the therapist I saw last year) I always got the impression that I was doing something wrong, that they were annoyed with me for not understanding something, or having feelings rather than just 'correcting' my thoughts. It felt like they were missing the point, somehow.

Despite feeling better immediately after sessions, in general I have been struggling more the rest of the time. It actually seems to get worse leading up to a session, which I think is probably a sign that the therapy is digging in the right direction. Basically it's just the issues I have normally, but ramped up a few notches. Severe depression, fear and dissociation in the mornings. Dissociation in general more, as well as more 'staring into space' thinking. Thinking thoughts I am just daring to think, joining the dots, but leaving a terrible sense that although I know what is wrong I do not know the right way. I keep finding myself in situations where I have no idea what to do, or even what I want to do, because I am so used to overriding my feelings and trying to please everyone.

An odd and difficult thing is that I seem to be feeling things that are 'symptoms' of BPD. In particular, feeling empty (I've not felt this before), fear of abandonment and frequent urges to self-harm. It's really irritating, having spent so long pointing out that BPD was a misdiagnosis, only to find the moment I get some decent therapy I start displaying it! On the plus side, I do have a smug sense of satisfaction that the 'common-knowledge' symptoms (ie. not written in official diagnosis but attributed by psychs anyway) like being manipulative/attention-seeking/a complete bitch are utter tripe. I thought they were anyway, but if I'm in the 'BPD club' as it were, I speak from personal knowledge! On the other hand, I still don't actually have enough 'symptoms' to fulfil the BPD criteria, so perhaps not. If you take the diagnostic criteria at face value I have even less – it is written so it says 'X' behaviour happens, because of 'Y' feelings. I don't display 'X' but I do have the underlying feelings. So am I a good little 'regulated' BPD? Who has been crushed by the system into giving up showing my distress or asking for help? Probably...

* * *


Since writing the above paragraph, and another therapy session (this post is taking weeks...) things have changed a bit, at least if you were going to try and diagnose me. (I believe labels really shouldn't matter and are just an abstract concept but it's so hard not to think of them after being exposed to such stigma as the BPD label brings.) I've been experiencing severe depressive type symptoms – inability to concentrate or make the smallest decisions, lethargy, hopelessness, feeling overwhelmed and that others would be better off without me. The main thing is this horrible, horrible... sort of... arghh... everything's just there. All the things that have really hurt, ever, just in my mind. I could zoom in on the details if I wanted, though I don't. I'm feeling all these overwhelming feelings, of pain and fear and shame, and feel distant from others. This is difficult, because I want to connect so much. I want to say “I'm still here, please apply cuddles and normal service will resume... at some point!”

Finally, I've been thinking about issues to do with paying for therapy directly, rather than paying via National Insurance and tax for the NHS (yes, it is not 'free' and never, ever forget that!) The first thing is that after I was assessed they decided I needed to see someone with more training and experience than was offered at the cheapest discounted rates. The cynical part of my mind flagged this up, thinking of people profiting from others' misery. Another, larger part of my mind breathed a sigh of relief, thinking “finally someone understands”... knowing I wasn't going to be fobbed off with a simplistic and unhelpful therapy. And of course there was a part that thought “Shit! I must be really fucked up.” Anyway I was matched with a therapist who I do feel a certain sense of rapport with, so “so far so good” I suppose!

It is strange though, going over the most personal things, reliving incredibly painful times, discovering things about yourself... then handing over money. It sort of makes the whole thing seem a bit inauthentic. Like I wish there was a person who would do it because my pain matters – because I matter – not motivated by money. I suppose there's a feeling it's like buying friendship. Logically, I know that's not exactly how it is. Obviously, therapists working within the NHS are being paid for their time too, it's just that it's not as stark to the service user themselves. I suppose there's an element of 'administering angels' attributed to the NHS no matter how undeserved on the part of the individual professional. On the other hand, here I was 'matched' with a therapist who could quite easily refuse to see me, whereas in the NHS they would have to. Actually, that's not true – but they'd make up something about not being 'suitable' rather than just not see you, which is even more frustrating. Also, if I was a therapist, I would find it incredibly difficult to work in the NHS due to the limited kinds of therapies offered and being unable to work with the people who were crying out for in-depth therapy (and it's getting worse) – the people I'd really want to help. Then again, who, when their life and psyche is in painful turmoil, can actually afford to pay a private therapist?

All I can say is I wish this had come earlier. If someone had noticed how I was struggling as a teen – or rather, done something about it. If the mental health system had offered timely and appropriate help. If I'd been living here with these people earlier...
If... If...
But there's only now and onwards....

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Therapy (part one)

For some reason I'm really hesitant about writing this post. Mainly I feel really self-indulgent and sort of over-priveledged, moany, and like I should just crack on with living and leave all this stuff behind. The latter part is mainly a good thing, as it's been coupled with feeling a bit better and finding easier to get on with things. However, I do wonder if there's an aspect of wanting to shy away from sorting things out, as if my mind is going "I'm fiiiiine, look! Now let's sweep this under the carpet please!"

Anyway, continuing in the over-priveledged, self-indulgent (etc.) vein, I thought I'd write an update on where I've got with accessing therapy, with a few thoughts thrown in.

About three years ago, I briefly saw an NHS psychotherapist for an assessment period with a view to therapy. Unfortunately due to a recent life event, she decided I was too "unstable" to go through therapy then. I feel this decision was completely unreasonable. I mean, I can understand that you need to be able to reflect on things and have the time and head space to work through things, and some situations might not be compatible with that. But in my case, I was just very upset by something that had happened, and actually would have benefitted from talking it through with someone and examing the thoughts and feelings in relation to the wider picture. I could see that the reason I was so upset was because what had happened tapped into deep fears, and it left me emotionally open (vulnerable?) to exploring things that are normally locked away inside. Also, knowing that I couldn't have therapy – couldn't have a way to get better – contributed to feeling hopeless and unstable in itself. Majorly, in fact.

After much chasing up of referrals and the first step of a complaint about my (lack of) treatment, I was eventually assessed again, and put on the waiting list for therapy. During the assessment, the psychologist seemed to really understand, including suggesting there was a trauma-based reaction going on. I was told it'd be about six months on the waiting list until I saw someone. It was actually nine months, and then the therapist I saw did an "extended assessment" over about six sessions, which took another three months. So, a year after being put on the waiting list for therapy, and over three years after I'd originally been referred by by my GP, I still hadn't actually had any treatment at all. (* It could be argued, probably by the mental health team, that during this time I had sometimes seen a CPN, and occasionally the Crisis Team, and that every interaction is a little healing moment... but that would be utter rubbish in this instance.)

And then... the therapist decided I wasn't ready/suitable for therapy. Her reasons were outlined in a letter my GP printed off for me that I'm not supposed to have seen. I received an edited version of the letter through the post. Her main reason seemed to be that I apparently don't realise I need to change. On a basic level this is ludicrous – who would anyone go to therapy if they didn't want to change something within themselves? I would like to change the way I feel, to uncover the unconscious thought processess behind it all, and deal with the distressing memories and feelings. But of course that's not what she meant. What she meant was that I needed to realise I am bad, a fucked up person who makes things difficult for everyone else so no wonder I feel awful, and if I could only change and be compliant and not have feelings it would all be ok. Clearly, telling myself this/having this reinforced for years doesn't seem to have worked, but all that's needed is a therapist to tell me and I'll buck my ideas up and JUST BE FINE.

I suppose I might think she's spouting tripe precisely because she's right and I can't accept I need to change (a sort of catch-22 of inescapable condemnation, oh joy). However in the context of some odd things she said in our last two sessions, I really do think she was barking up the wrong tree. She basically seemed to think I must be doing something which makes bad situations happen, which in turn make me feel bad. She just couldn't seem to grasp that I just feel bad, unrelated to what is actually going on. I mean, obviously I'm affected by life the same as everyone else, and if my baseline is low then things will affect me more. I'm also fully aware that the bad feelings I have stem from past events. But she didn't seem bothered about working through this stuff, just wanting to know what crazy shit I'm doing right now that makes me feel bad!

She also seemed to think I must have massive problems in relationships/friendships. This misunderstanding probably stems from the fact that mental health workers assume every relationship in your life is the same as the relationship you have with them (gosh what a depressing thought!) I would agree there might be similarities, but only in relationships that are dysfunctional, even abusive. How else would you describe a relationship where the power balance is all one way, where one side can collude to have the other locked up, or alternately make the person feel like a waste of time, or cut them off altogether, and yet the other person keeps going back because there is something they desperately need from the relationship?

In hindsight, I suppose I can see I might have problems in romantic relationships. As I detangle all the thoughts and feelings associated with Mr. Blokey I can see that. But these issues are to do with being too submissive, desperate to please, and feeling inadequate – not me being crazy, demanding or otherwise a horrific person to be with. Yet the therapist would have me go futher down that road of submission and denying my own needs, rather than learn to feel worthy of being loved.

I think a large part of the problem is that the therapist could only offer/is only trained in short-term therapies, although I don't know this for definite. Across the mental health service, longer-term therapies are like gold dust, with funding diverted into the IAPT (Improving Access to Psychological Therapies) scheme, which provides short-term, quick-fix (supposedly) therapies like Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. (Even the name sounds chilling! We will modify your behaviour! Conform!) The therapist I saw seemed keen on using a Cognitive Analytic Therapy framework; CAT being the slightly more in-depth relation of CBT.

Having decided I was unsuitable for therapy, they discharged me from services altogether, because I'd previously decided against meeting with a CPN. I had started seeing one, but after the first few appointments began seeing the therapist, so it seemed a bit pointless to see the CPN too – after all, it was treatment I was after, not just a chat and going over the same old ground. The letter also advised my GP not to refer me back to secondary services because I feel let down by them! This winds me up immensely, a sort of perfectly-reasonable-on-the-face-of-it-but-subtly-passing-the-buck statement. It's not that they don't offer the right treatment or support, it's my issue of feeling let down by services.

Anyway, this post was started two weeks ago, after I had an assessment at a private therapy centre. The feelings I described at the beginning of this post are a bit different now; but sort of everything thrown in together. This post has got so long, and real life beckons, so I must leave further musings until next time...

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Miracles...

Almost six months ago I finished this post with the words "Waiting for a miracle... "

Well guess what! Nothing that could be strictly defined as miraculous happened...

... but other things did. Things that seemed like miracles because of their unexpected and apparently unlikely nature. Everyday miracles, perhaps.

The first thing was that I was facing a ludicrous shortfall between my rent and how much Housing Benefit I'm entitled to. This left me with about £26 a week to live on (inlcuding the 20% council tax I must pay which is around £3 a week). Obviously this was an untenable situation. Well... after speaking with my landlord, he put the rent down! (Miraculous!) There was still a shortfall, but £28 a week instead of £45. (Seems less miraculous now...)

Shortly after this, I found out that my Discretionary Housing Payment application had been successful. This meant no Housing Benefit shortfall at all, for the time being. I also passed my ESA (sickness benefit) assessment, which means even when the DHP runs out, I will still be able to scrape together enough to pay my rent. I passed the assessment without having a face-to-face interview, based on the information they'd sought from my GP. Anyone who's been subject to the ESA assessment process, designed to deny people the benefit, and outsourced to known disability deniers Atos Healthcare, will understand why this is miraculous – both seeking information from my GP and actually taking any notice of it!

And then... there was one more thing.

But first, a thought... The above events were, to me, little miracles that made my life easier at the point where it really mattered. By that, I mean I didn't know how to go on in the circumstances I found myself in. Having access to financial support when I really needed it, being able to keep a stable home, having the time to get better and return to work at a mangeable pace meant I could carry on. It meant there was a way forward, instead of a downward spiral. And it was an everyday miracle, an ordinary miracle, if you like, that made all the difference. The wonderful thing about this kind of 'miracle' is that we can make them happen.

It could be you who needs a miracle one day.

* * *

... And finally...

... I met someone. We shall call him 'Mr. Blokey'. Yes, a man! But hold the fanfare a moment, because we split up over a month ago. However... I am including Mr. Blokey on the general tally of miracles for two reasons.

The first is that he appeared as if from nowhere. I wasn't looking for a relationship; I'd suspended that whole area of my life until further notice. If you'd asked me if there was anyone on the horizon I'd have said no – I wasn't even thinking about it. At the same time I'd been seeing Mr Blokey around socially a lot more (having originally met him a couple of years previously) and always really enjoyed his company and loved seeing him... And then I'd go home and forget all about him until next time. The nice thing about this was that there was no build-up to the relationship in my head, no flirting or anything contrived... just me being me and someone liking that enough to suggest spending more time together. He also knew about my mentalness (from the grapevine, oh joy) and it didn't deter him; he just wanted to understand. He also doesn't view me as 'mental' and if I refer to myself as such, actually reminds me I'm just a person with experiences.

He too, is a person with experiences and sadly, what we shall call a collision of 'issues' means after a mainly lovely four months it ended....

... Leading to miraculous point number two... We are still friends. This might not seem a big deal to a lot of people, but it is to me. It means we have actually talked about why we split up, so it's not just horrible and frightening but something to learn from. Also, he talks to me about stuff. It seems Mr. Blokey is having a sort of life epiphany, in various ways, and this is lovely to see. And it is lovely to still be in each other's lives. I blatently haven't 'got over' him, but then it seems he feels the same way, from things he's said. Not that either of us want to get back together (oh ok, I do in future... some dim distant future!) but it's nice being around him and being me on my terms, knowing what would need to be different for it to ever work between us.

Not that it will.

Lather, rinse repeat..!

Hmm. Miracles...

Friday, 7 March 2014

Random connections and a brief synopsis...


A couple of days ago, I spent a huge amount of time reading this blog, specifically the mental health related posts from back in 2007-8. I'd been thinking about my experiences with mental health services, and surrounding events. Not intentionally thinking about these things, but lots of obscure memories and feelings were popping up and I seemed to be joining the dots and making sense of them. I was experiencing a lot of derealisation which wasn't exactly pleasant itself, but accompanied by a beautiful clarity that was alternately despairing and exhilarating.
Now that all sounds a bit airy-fairy and self indulgent, I know, and no doubt a psychiatrist somewhere would see it as the first signs of mania and want to prescribe me some heavy-duty meds. Or perhaps a mental health nurse could write some notes about me detailing how I refuse to accept I'm a terrible person who would be ok if I could just stop being such a damned pain in the arse, or you know, having feelings and that...
Conform! And please don't point out the discrepancies in this bizarre human society, the cognitive dissonance, the disjointed edges of our reality; do not peer through the cracks because therein lies MADNESS!!
RAAARRRRGHHHHH!!!

Moving swifly on..!
CalumCarr noticed that one visitor had spent all this time reading his posts on mental health (cue moment of paranoid embarassment that someone out there had witnessed my obsessive blog reading) and was reminded why he has kept the blog. In return, his post on the matter reminded me that I would like to blog here far more often, and why...

I ended up posting a comment that turned out to be very long, and as it summed up so many things, I thought I'd post it here too:

***
I found your blog because I was looking for others who had been through the same with the NHS mental health services as myself, for validation I suppose.

I was still in my teens when I went to the GP for what I believed to be depression (still do actually, psych diagnoses are simply a label on a cluster of behaviours that commonly arise together...) Long story short [ok, so it turned out not to be so short...], someone somewhere decided to label me with BPD [Borderline Personality Disorder]. I didn't have a formal assessment, just aquired the label somehow. I think it was the GP due to some of the outrageous things he said to me ("You're just one of those people" etc.) and the fact that I never got offered any treatment from the word go. [This was pre- 2007 when the NHS still turned people away for having this diagnosis.]

As things worsened, I was regularly being taken to the hospital under section by the police, usually offered no assessment, and always sent away as a waste of time. If I tried to stand up for myself they gleefully used it as 'evidence' of BPD, being disagreeable. I made a complaint and the extracts from my notes, the lies and manipulation they used, showed me it was a losing battle. To this day I daren't read my NHS records because it would break me.

I was also in an abusive relationship at the time, and living under threat of violence due to a separate situation (I reiterate: I was 19 at the time!). Because of the BPD label I was refused housing assistance from the council. The MH services colluded with my abusive (older) boyfriend and if I was ever upset at how he treated me I was accused of 'splitting'. He was offered sympathy and supportive phonelines.

The worst thing is, I have ended up with a criminal record (and loads more charges that were dropped/public order offences) due to standing up for myself (eg. refusing to leave until I'd got help) and due to being angry (non-violently) about the situations I was trapped in. I always wanted to be a nurse, and a few years ago should have begun training. However the place was withdrawn at the last minute once they'd seen my criminal and NHS records. The people who did this to me are probably still out there inflicting their cruelty on patients, but I am deemed too risky. All the caring careers are closed to me now, despite feeling I was placed on this earth to help people.

There were too many arrests to count, terrible things that happened but the police would do nothing, calling me a 'drama queen', I was terrified and alone so many times. I've been homeless and kicked out of the hostel for not being 'priority' as BPD wasn't seen as mentally ill. I've been restrained so many times that when it hurts badly in a warped way I want to be arrested because that's the only human touch I had in pain back then.

I was eventually given some therapy several years later - and properly assessed, so they had to remove the BPD diagnosis but the stigma remained. The therapist was lovely but there were constant issues coming up to do with stuff written about me that she was working from - rather than focussing on how I felt, it was all about 'changing behaviours' that actually only existed around the mental health team!!

I thought I'd escaped it all when I had another breakdown, probably because I was finally 'safe'. Then the nightmares and flashbacks started. It's been 3.5 years of chasing treatment now. I'm lucky enough to have been offered funds for private therapy (from family member) and I know this is what I have to do; no-one in the NHS can help because they will not be allowed to criticise the system.

It's almost 10 years since it all began. Whatever the original issues were, the stuff that affects me now is to do with what happened when I tried to get help, and the surrounding circumstances. I precisely fit the diagnosis of 'complex PTSD' - as yet not an official diagnosis.

I have NEVER fulfilled enough diagnostic criteria to be diagnosed BPD. But the layers upon layers of lies and misrepresentation have forever condemned me.
Not that it should matter, even if I DID have it.

***

So there we go. I hate to criticize the NHS; on physical health matters they have been excellent for myself and others I know, and the principle of a healthcare system free at the point of use is one I strongly defend. But really, the issues I've had with them relating to mental health aren't really to do with the NHS at all, rather a lack of funding (if properly funded, the money would be recouped from other areas eg. policing) and the way in which mental ill-health and human behavoir in general is viewed by society.

I used to think that the antipsychiatry brigade were aligning themselves with the tinfoil hat people in their views on social and political control; mainly because I've never been admitted to hospital under section or suffered barbaric 'treatment' like forced injections or ECT. And yet... I'm coming at it from the opposite experience, of being refused any treatment at all, labelled, judged and condemned... and have come to realise it's the same social and political principles in action.