October Therapy Trip!

At the beginning of the month there was talks of this month's therapy trip being to a local farm (for the Hospital's confidentiality reasons I can't name the farm) and I realised that not being allowed to attend it was going to be another of the consequences of my overdose, until I found out they were going to run two trips to it and I realised I had a good chance of being able to go on the second one. And then, one of the girls meant to go today decided she didn't want to so I was asked to go. I had to get staff's permission because on 15 minute obs therapy leave has to be discussed but it was one of the lovely Charge Nurses' in and she agreed I could go!
I was like a little kid at Christmas; I was so excited! And, two of the three girls I'm closest to were going so we all sat in the back of the 9-seater Hospital vehicle and were singing along to the radio. It was the first time we'd been out together so it was nice to think our friendship was normalizing!
When we got to the farm there were some school tours going on but we seemed more excited than the children! We saw lots of animals but it was a rare breeds farm so they weren't the usual farm animals... there were goats, pigs and horses but there was also Llama, Reindeers, Meerkats, Leema, Monkeys and then more domestic pets like Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Chinchillas & a Tortoise. Then there were birds like Owls, a Hawk and Parrots. One of the people who worked there let me hold a rabbit... I was really nervous to just be in the same barn as them but my Mum had the brilliant thought that if I could have a good memory and experience with them then maybe the ones I hallucinate wouldn't be so scary any more. So, I was brave and held one of them. And then they were doing horse rides for £1.50 so one of the girls and I did that and on the way back to the Hospital we went to McDonalds!

Here's a few photos from the day:


The Institutionalized Debate

A couple of times recently, people on Twitter have had discussions about inpatient settings becoming institutionalizing so I thought I best give my view on it considering I've now been an inpatient on the same ward for 15months.
Before I came to this hospital, my longest admission was for five months. It was right at the beginning of my ill mental health (it was the third admission and only two months after my first OD) and they were trying to rule out psychosis so I was sectioned for walking down a main road but because of my behaviour I was put onto a PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit). I was on the PICU for three months and on an open ward for two... I remember that on the PICU I was being put in seclusion (the closest thing to an actual padded room) so often and given IMs (intra-muscular injections) of Lorazepam (a sedative) so often that the muscles around my eyes relaxed and I needed glasses. It felt like it took ages to build any kind of leave up even to just go down the corridor to the Hospital cafĂ© with staff! But they let me go home on Christmas day and I was allowed into the nearest town centre. When they discharged me from my section I was asked to stay for another month voluntary but I only managed two weeks before wanting to go home. It was so strange to leave after such a long time in Hospital and with barely any contact or experience in the community and with the public! I think, a part of me missed Hospital and the safety and security it provided as well as the constant support and company from other patients and staff.
My many admissions after this one have never amounted to anything beyond a month so the thought of coming to the Hospital I'm in now and knowing that the typical length of stay (according to their website) is 12-18 months was quite daunting. When I actually got here though and I found out some of the girls had been here years and there was still no sight of their discharge, I panicked. I think it probably took me almost a year to actually accept that I'd be here for the long-haul because I tried to appeal my section so many times when I first got here, so I guess I always thought I had the chance of being discharged at a tribunal. Also, I'd had so many admissions that occurred as an attempt to break my pattern of overdosing and as soon as I've self-harmed or managed to go AWOL the admission's been ended as it was realised it wasn't making a sufficient difference. So, whenever I would self-harm or run off here I thought (and sometimes hoped) that would mean the Hospital staff would give up and send me home. But they never did. And on my last overdose last week, when I saw the lengths the staff went to to keep me alive and save me from myself, I guess I finally realised that they weren't ever going to give up; they're in it for the long-haul too! That thought, as strange and new as it is, is so completely comforting and special that I think that, and the length of my admission so far would make it understandable for me to become institutionalized here and not want to leave. But that hasn't happened.
Some people, if they saw my bedroom, might say I've made myself at home here but this Hospital will never be my home. Although, I've started to refer to it as home e.g. "let's get home now" that's only because it really is my temporary home, base, address... Whatever. And the fact my room is covered in my things and that my walls are full of cards is more about making it a nice place for me to be rather than settling in. Also, when the staff have told you (as they have me) that you have at least another year in the Hospital... The best thing you can do is accept it and make is as easy as possible on yourself.
I've spent 15 months watching girls getting close to discharge and jeopardising it by self-harming or running away and I get it... Some of them have been here for so long that they only know there's a different life because they get home leave... And the majority are leaving to go into their own flat and even if it is supported accommodation it's a massive difference to go from living with up to 18 other people and having up to eight staff nearby to going a whole day without being able to talk to someone. As well, some of the girls recognise that the only reason they haven't self-harmed has been because they haven't had the opportunity to in Hospital...
At the moment, my discharge is so far away that I don't even want to begin to worry about how I'll cope when I get discharged; I have a lot more in the meantime to be panicking about that it makes no sense to worry about something so far off! But, I am encouraged by the fact this Hospital is pretty decent on arranging after-care with community services and ensuring you're in the right accommodation for your needs.
Finally, I think there's a difference to wanting to be in Hospital and needing to be in Hospital. As long as you want to be back in the community then there's no risk of becoming institutionalized, no matter how long your admission.

TV Review: 999 What's Your Emergency?

[note: this post contains discussion of self-harm]

I had debated writing a post on the previous episode of this series after watching them conducting an interview with an alcoholic. I was feeling really sorry for him as he explained he'd been at University studying Dentistry when his drinking spiralled out of control. I felt complete empathy for him as I felt life was going so well and normal before that first overdose. And then he said to the interviewer that he didn't want to be known as a 'self-harmer' and showed the camera his scars and then out of nowhere he grabbed a knife and did two more cuts. ON CAMERA! I talked to my best-friend about it and we both had a similar opinion that showing something like that wouldn't be helpful for mental health stigma. It made it appear that 'cutters' just impulsively pick up a sharp and cut without caring who can see. This is often the exact opposite and most people who I've met that self-harm, do it in private and enjoy the planning and organisation of it.
Anyway, as this episode stuck in my head it occurred to me they hadn't had an episode on mental health and then here it is...
It was interesting that the first callout featured was a man on top of a multi-storey car park, the caller called the call-handler 'duck' and then the boy called the paramedic it so it made me wonder if he'd called 999 himself because he admitted to the paramedic that something stopping him was the worry it would paralyse him and not kill him. In the end, a Police Negotiator talked him down from the edge.
I liked that one of the paramedics said these type of callouts include rich and poor people; it's helpful to show that there's no single 'set' of people who are affected by ill mental health.
It was nice (if that's the right word) to see this man's daughter looking out for him and then hearing the paramedic's personal experience of having a parent with ill mental health. I think when they have some sort of personal experience with MH it makes them that much more empathetic and understanding. Especially, as one of the paramedics admitted that the hardest jobs they get are mental health ones and that they don't get nearly enough training on it. It showed that sometimes, even though they're the first to be called- and often the first on scene, all they can really do in most situations is transport the person to the right help.
It really annoyed me when a call-handler was trying to  spell Schizophrenic because 'mad' isn't 'politically correct'... Perhaps that's for a reason Mrs Random call-handler! If someone was asthmatic you wouldn't call them a 'cougher' - why should mental health not have the right labels?
I especially loved this quote from Martyn who had Schizophrenia and was trying to describe his hallucinations:
"You can see them, you know they're not real, you know that no one else can see them but to you... They're the worst thing in the world"
I liked that one of the paramedics, in an interview, said that the fact someone can cause so much pain to themselves means things must be really crap. She joked that getting her eyebrows waxed hurts her enough and couldn't imagine picking up a knife to cut herself. It's nice to hear that sort of acknowledgement that you are in such a dark place when you self-harm.
It was sad (but not all that surprising) to hear that Martyn and the man who'd cut weren't admitted and both self-harmed within weeks of their trips to A&E. It makes you wonder if anyone really looks into that sort of thing. I mean, if someone committed suicide there'd be an enquiry into their death so why not with a repetition of self-harm or deterioration in mental health? I'd be interested to know how many cases of people assessed under the Mental Health Act and NOT admitted and then again self-harm or attempt suicide, have their assessors questioned? Because really, if they'd admitted the person at the assessment, the next episode of self-harm might have been prevented.
It was so interesting to see Martyn talking to his five year old as she told him she had an imaginary friend and straight away he panicked she had his same condition. I've always felt a bit foolish when a friend has said they were feeling sad or something and I've panicked they were going to self-harm or overdose because that might have been my reaction to the same situation, now I can see I'm not alone in that.
I liked Martyn's description of his ill mental health and that on a good day his brain is like a 'rainbow' and it's all lovely and colourful and everything's in the right place and order and when it's a bad day all the colours are mixed up and 'wishy-washy.'

1,711 mental health beds have been closed since 2011. That's one thousand, seven hundred and eleven people suffering, unsafe and alone.


I Put Some Thought Into The OD

[note: this post contains discussion of suicidal ideation]

So, I realise that the last blog post was basically just me telling you all what happened and in what order because I was too tired to think straight and I guess I hadn't even formed many thoughts that were worth blogging but I also realised how important it was to tell you all what happened so I wanted to a get a blog out as soon as poss.
I know it might seem overkill to do another post on the same thing but it's been such a massive event for me and I don't want people to misunderstand my reasoning and feelings.
I think I told the nurse what I'd done because I'd taken the pills for one of the voices and so it was me who wanted help, at first. And I think I begun fighting so hard on the Tuesday because I found out that I actually needed the treatment (not because the overdose was staggered, as I'd assumed) but because the paracetamol levels in my blood were dangerous. They told me it could kill me. And I realised I wanted that to happen. Although, a part of the entire situation felt like it was because of the way staff were reacting... I'm not blaming them, at all (in fact I'm quite grateful to them now) but sometimes a person can be banging their head and if staff just let them get on with it they'd stop of their own accord with no serious harm done. I realise it's a bit different and their 'duty of care' meant they couldn't let me get on with refusing treatment but I think the way they went about it initially (with the smart comments and pinning me down whilst sticking me with needles) just made me even more fed up and determined.
I've learnt a few things from the situation though. I learnt that I have three of the best friends I've ever had in my entire life; they each wrote me a note and had it sent up to the PICU and they bought me some lovely PJs. And then, as I was typing this I had a note pushed under my door from another girl saying that she's glad I'm alive and that when I smile it brightens everything up. It's so hard to take these lovely things from people because for so long I've been so sure that I didn't deserve love or to be cared about... And now, well I've come to realise that I've been through a hell of a lot and it's taken a lot of effort for me to be alive (although most of the effort was from others) and a bit of love is actually quite reassuring and comforting.
I also learnt that not all staff are the same, I once went AWOL from a psychiatric hospital back home and five hours later I got a call asking if I was going back any time soon. 

I think it's understandable that I developed the belief that overdosing and not just telling someone I want to die, is what makes people sit up and realise it's bad. I think I've always been scared that I'd try to explain how I felt and they either wouldn't be able to help or they'd think they were helping but would make it worse. And I guess, with all the leave I had here and how I presented outwards, I was worried the staff thought I was much better than I actually was. So, in a way, I don't regret the overdose at the moment because it did the job; staff have sat up and been like 'shit; she's not ok.' They took it more than as seriously as I wanted them to and I've never felt so cared for in my life as I have done this past week. Not only did they try their best to save me medically but every time I pass a member of staff I'm asked if I'm ok. So today, I took a chance and rather than acting on my first instinct in just asking for PRN when I was struggling, I sat and had a 1:1 with a Nurse and ended up not needing meds. I guess, I just have to give them the chance to earn my trust.
In Reflection today, I made my first joke about the ventilator and it seemed to make something click and it was like all of a sudden everything that had happened smacked me in the face. I explained to the Nurse after, that I thought making fun of it would make it easier to speak about it but it didn't. And I came to realise that I had complied with the final plan of putting me to sleep, not because I was too tired to fight or had changed my mind, but because I'd realised I wasn't going to be able to die (they wouldn't let me) so the best that could come from the situation was a break. At that point, I chose to be unconscious rather than feel any more pain or have another bad thought.
I also realised that all of the fighting wasn't exactly 'suicidal' ... It wasn't so much "I want to die" it was more "I deserve a better life so let me end this shit one" so I think that's why I got so upset when the staff were stopping me because it felt as though they didn't think I deserved a better life and/or didn't believe my current one was crap enough to end. The Nurse today, has made me see that I can change things without killing myself though.

And to everyone who stuck it out and read this entire post, thank you!!

The Admission For The OD

[note: this post contains discussion of suicidal ideation]

At 5:20am on Monday morning, Annie woke me up telling me 'today is the day' and so I began taking the tablets I'd saved. I was so happy going around the ward and going to groups with no one having the foggiest idea what I was doing in my bathroom. Then, I'm not sure what happened... I went and told my Key Nurse though. I don't know why. She read through the writings I kept during the time I'd been storing the tablets (last post) and said they were helpful in making her understand how I felt. Next thing I knew, I was being told to pack a bag and went with two staff to A&E. I remember telling the triage nurse and she got me rushed straight through to a cubicle. And I remember them getting blood and saying I needed the treatment (but I assumed it was because the overdose had been staggered) and then they had a job getting a cannula in for the treatment and then they started the treatment and I kept telling the nurse the needle wasn't in properly but she didn't believe me until my arm was all swollen where the treatment had gone into the tissue rather than the blood. I can't remember them getting another needle in but they must've because then I remember being moved to the Medical Admissions Unit and having two lovely staff with me through the night. I managed to get a bit of sleep and then got another two nice staff in the morning. As I was watching the Doctors doing their ward round ,I noticed the rabbits. And there was too many. I went to the toilet and took the sharp I had hidden and cut my arms. Then as I came out of the bathroom the staff tried to hold onto me and some nurses came and got my arms bandaged up before taking me back to my bed. I don't even know how it managed to spiral so far so I can only tell you what I remember.
I remember them deciding to restrain me the entire time it took them to put another cannula in (I must've pulled the second one out) and I had security, our staff and nurses and doctors holding me down but every time I realised where they were trying to put the cannula in, I fidgeted and eventually, they let go. I can remember having this sort of certainty that I was going to die. And it made me feel really peaceful.

And then they called the anaesthetists in, and it turned out I'd met one of them already so he knew how bad my veins were. He had me restrained to give me an injection of ketamine and it was horrible because unlike the last time they did that, I didn't hallucinate, I knew what was happening but I just couldn't be bothered to move or fight. In a way, it felt worse than the hallucinations. Anyway, they got a cannula in my shin and one in my arm and connected the treatment to my leg. I could hear them all talking by my bed about putting a cast over my leg so I couldn't get the drip and I just thought "you sarcastic arse holes" and it didn't help that one of the anaesthetists gave me the "children-could-be-dying-because-I'm-with-you" lecture. So I went for the leg cannula and they all pounced on me, but I managed to wrap the treatment lead around my other foot and pull it out and then they attached it to my arm and gave me some Lorazepam but I still kept trying  to get the cannula out and I remember this female Doctor  saying "shall I just give her all the Lorazepam? It's only 4mg?!" and then the drip stopped working.
I was told that since I was on a section three (which enables treatment to be forced) I could be made to have the anti-dote but I continued to refuse so I was taken down to the anaesthetic room (with the two hospital staff and two security) and they put a mask over my face and told me to take deep breaths.
I woke up Wednesday evening in ICU with tubes everywhere and holding the hands of the DBT Facilitator and one of the Charge Nurses. Apparently I said a few worrying things to them and then they left. The ventilator was removed, the NG tube too (apparently they used it to give me my meds) and the catheter. And then I had two cannulas in my groin. We eventually got back to our Hospital and I was told I was going to the PICU (Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit).
It was so scary, at first I was on 1:1 obs so I had to shower with my door open and then the nurse came and put me on 5minutes and finally a nurse from my ward came Thursday evening and said I could go back down. It was so overwhelming walking into Reflection! I cried my eyes out when I hugged my best-friend and didn't leave go of her hand the whole half an hour! My three closest friends bought me some lovely PJs too and even though I was put in a 'stripped' room (empty but for a few of your own things) I was so grateful to be back on the ward.

Since getting out of ICU I've done nothing but sleep until this evening when I started to pick up and got my appetite back as the vomiting subsided. I feel like I'd been to hell and back. I'm so exhausted from all of the fighting (physical and mental) that I just need a good long rest and a lot of self-soothing.

The Run-Up To An OD

Today is October 8th and I now have ten paracetamol hidden in the lining of one of my coats. I’ve decided to begin keeping a record of my thoughts so that if I do it, I can prove how hard it was and why it happened.

So, sometimes I’m not sure why I’m doing this; I can’t decide if I want to die… It’s as though I do and then sometimes I’ll just make plans for the future or get excited for something in the future and I have to check myself. Every time I ‘slip up’ I ask myself “is what I was talking about, a reason not to do it?” and the answer is always ‘no.’ But then I wonder if I was properly suicidal… Why would I still speak about the future?

I think a big reason I’m doing this is because recently I’ve had so little control over people’s views and comments made about me. I’m not sure if I’ve even decided whether I’ll overdose or not… I think that every time I get two tablets back to my room it’s like a little bit of control is back in my hands. Maybe I’m doing this to prove I can. To feel like I’m winning this game. Because that’s how I see it, sometimes. As a game. I guess I do say often enough about the ‘teams’ and that no one is on mine. Well, no one other than Albert, Annie, Harry, Henry and Allie. It’s us against you all and every time I do something to cause myself harm I feel like I’ve scored a point. The ultimate win would be suicide then.
Another factor in my decision and the ongoing mental debate is just how bad my head actually is at the minute. It’s not a nice place to be and I feel as though I can’t tell anyone because I’m now on such a high dose of my anti-psychotic and I’m worried if I tell people they’re still loud, I’m hearing more things, I’m having strange thoughts planted in my brain they’ll question why when I’m on medication. Or they’ll increase the medication. Some of the strange thoughts I’m having are that this isn’t really my life. This is just some sort of game and that I’m on a sort of Big Brother style show where people are deciding what happens to me so they can watch me fall apart and laugh. And when I kill myself, the show is over. I sometimes think that to get into my proper life I have to die.

I’m feeling fairly hopeless at the minute too; even the anti-depressant doesn’t seem to make a massive difference. And every time I think I’m making progress I take about three steps back. It’s ironic really, that while I’m storing tablets I can also think of myself as making progress.

Please say she’ll break, please say she’ll change – The Vamps, Can We Dance

It’s the 10th today and I now have twenty two tablets stored up. Yesterday, I had to pause and think things through because when I got two in the morning, my Key Nurse called me back to ask if I’d took them so I realised I had to be careful for taking any when she does meds. Part of me thought I should try and get more off her with a bit of hope that she’d catch me and put a stop to the plan… But in the end, I remembered how much happier I am knowing that I have some power now so I only got four yesterday.

Today, I had a really good 1:1 with the Psychologist and to be honest, it has made me reconsider my decision. She told me how well I was doing and how proud she was that I’d taken on board what’s been said about my attitude and that she was getting good reports from staff about me. It made me unsure that I’ve made the right decision about overdosing; it’s going to disappoint everyone all over again. I even went and bragged to my Key Nurse and my Mum about the 1:1 and found myself talking about my future with my Mum. But even after all of that… I still went and got two more paracetamol to hide. And I still carried on thinking of all the bases I need to cover for this overdose to go off successfully. It’s like the old days when once I’d made the decision to OD I didn’t ever back out. I couldn’t. Even if things got better or something went well… It’s like in some screwed-up way, I’d feel like a failure for backing out.

One thing that’s changed is that I now dread 1:1s with the Psychologist, the Doctor and my Key Nurse because all I want to do is tell them how crap I feel and that it’s so bad that I’m contemplating an overdose. But then I remind myself that they’ll take the tablets off me and if things get worse, I can’t do a damn thing about it.

At the moment, I’m also liking the idea that they’re all saying how well I’m doing, I’m going on overnight Home Leave this weekend and yet I’m hoarding tablets… I think it might be the ultimate proof that no matter how well they think I am, no matter how close they think I am to discharge; I’m not and I won’t be. It might be the thing that makes them all give up… And part of me thinks that’s the reason I’m still debating doing it.

Today is the 11th and I’m excited for going home this weekend! I had a rough 1:1 with the DBT Facilitator. I felt so let-down and crap… My brain was so confused that I was physically tired. But I showed the ultimate control when I went back to my room and didn’t go straight for the tablets. I proved how well I can control my overdoses and that though they appear to others to be the ultimate loss of control… It’s actually, the exact opposite. I don’t know if that’s worse though; if the fact they aren’t impulsive is worse than if they were… I guess, if it were impulsive then I wouldn’t put much thought into it or be able to stop them. Whereas, when I have the control I do… Well, I guess people looking in would say that if I’m choosing to overdose I can also choose not to. But maybe I’m not in control of the fact I’m going to overdose… No, because I don’t often feel like I have any choice in whether I do it or not. But I can control when it is, how it’s done… So, impulsively swallowing the twenty eight pills I have would be a loss of control. Again.

The one bad thing about going home for the weekend, is that I won’t be able to store any more until Sunday night!

Shit! I think the Doctor is onto me! She came in my room earlier and I basically told her I’ll be killing myself soon. And then I just went for meds and she’s wrote ‘liquid only’ on my chart next to paracetamol. . . Hopefully, people will just give me it without realising… Fuck. Now my mind’s racing with what I could do if they refuse to give me the pills now…  I could tell them I don’t like the orange one and that it’s just while they’re using that… Or I could tell the Doctor that I found out the pills are smaller than I thought and that I can manage them so she can take off the note on the chart… Or I could just ask the shitty staff when they’re doing meds; the staff who won’t notice or care… I haven’t got nearly enough to overdose on what I have… I need more!

Today is the 13th and I just got back from my weekend at home. I can’t decide how I feel. When I first got home all I could think was how I felt like a visitor and I worried that even if I got better here, I wouldn’t feel like I belonged in the community. It convinced me I really do need to take this OD and then I was feeling bad because I knew that I had to spend these two days without being able to save up any pills. I also was wishing I’d started saving them up sooner so that I could’ve overdosed on the home leave because I was triggered so badly with the High School year book and I thought at least if I did it then people would completely understand. But, not only did I not take the tablets, there wasn’t enough anyway so I totally played down how triggered I was and barely even mentioned it when my Key Nurse checked in on me. When really, all I wanted to do was break down in tears and hurt myself. A lot. But I did protect myself by taking my Zopiclone so that I was protected from nightmares. And even when I started properly settling in and enjoying the leave I was still thinking of the overdose and even found a sim card for when I do my running away plan and I found a sharp that I brought back. Then, once I’d unpacked it became my priority to get some paracetamol to add to the store. Although, I’ve started properly thinking about when I’m going to do it… I thought the sooner the better so that I could have leave back for Christmas but then I thought I should do it once I know if I’ve got the job at River Island because I’d hate to OD and lose the leave to get the job… People underestimate just how difficult this process is… Although, in the community it wasn’t like this.

World Mental Health Day 2013

This blog post is going to be a very big attempt at normalizing mental health. I know; it's a challenge... But I reckon I'm up to it.

So here are the abnormal things about me:
the scars on my arms, the scars on my thigh, the scars on my neck from central lines, the dent in my right arm from cannulas, that my veins are barely visible, that I have five voices in my head, that I can see four rabbits running around the floor in my Hospital bedroom, that I have no glass in my bedroom, my address on bank statements is a Hospital, my legal status (sectioned), that there's anti-psychotics in my blood, that there's an anti-depressant working on my mind, that a shelf on my desk is solely for files of therapy work, that I have nothing sharp in my bedroom or bathroom,  my medical records, that I need permission to leave this building, that my bedroom window doesn't open the conventional way, that someone is ALWAYS able to unlock my bedroom door, that there's a window in my bedroom door, that my shower only runs for about 90seconds before cutting out and having to be pressed again... Oh! And I have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.

Here's the normal things:
I have two eyes, I have two legs, I have two arms, I have eyelashes, I have finger nails, I have eyebrows, I have a nose, I have a mouth, I have brown hair, I've got ten fingers and ten toes, I have an iPod, I drink coke, I like reading, I love pringles and dairy milk, I have a cup of milk at night-time, I have a best-friend, I do my own washing, I like doing Sudoku, I have a CV, I love shopping, I spend time on my laptop, I sometimes make mistakes, I don't trust people easily, I've been in love, I have a mobile, I have a family, I have a cat, I have Uggs, I own lots of pink things...

My point isn't that there's more of one than the other (and both lists could probably be a lot longer). My point is, other than my external scars you wouldn't have known any of the other 'abnormal' things just by looking at me. And in a world where a book is judged by it's cover I reckon that makes me a pretty average person.
I have a mental health diagnosis and I take psychiatric medication and I'm a detained patient under the Mental Health Act 1983 and I currently reside on an open ward in a secure Psychiatric Hospital. But if you met me for the first time... "Hi my name is Aimee" and you wouldn't have a clue that right there, in the moment, I'm fighting to keep breathing.
I refuse to be defined by my mental health and even when I'm 'recovered' (because I will be) it still won't be the first thing you find out about me; not because I'm ashamed or embarrassed but because it isn't me. And I know this is an even harder point to argue because of my diagnosis and that people think your personality is who you are and therefore, if mine is disordered then so am I... But my diagnosis doesn't make me who I am. I make my diagnosis into what it is.

The GP System Rant

This is a bit of a selfish blog post; I'm writing it to get my frustrations out with little to no concern of whether it's appropriate to everyone or even if anyone else will care.
So, they have this habit in Psychiatric Hospitals. When it suits them they tell us to think about being in the community. What I mean by this is that if you won't get out of bed for groups they'll use the line "if you were in the community..." But then when that line doesn't fit with policy and safety issues it isn't used. For example, if I were in the community I would have my Blackberry on charge beside me and not a Samsung and there'd be razors in my bathroom and not locked behind two doors.
My point is, if we were in the Community and we needed to see the GP we would call up (granted it's sometimes a joke making an appointment and you're often left hoping that you're still ill in a week's time when you've managed to book the appointment for) and if it were deemed serious enough you'd be seen that same day. But when you're sectioned or at least, when you're in the Hospital I'm in... That's not the way it works. I remember when I first came and any physical issues were just taken to a Ward Doctor (the one below your Consultant) and they'd prescribe relevant treatment. But then there was a few problems with the Doctor not knowing what to do since it's not their specialism or over-reacting and sending you to A&E or not reacting and telling you you're fine and then you get really poorly. So, without asking our opinion on the matter (a regular occurrence, it seems) we were all asked to register with the local GP. This is where the rant gets going! So after we were all registered these were the steps taken to get a GP appointment:

1. Ask a Nurse to inform the Ward Doctor you need one
2. Tell the Ward Doctor what the problem is
3. Ward Doctor tells the nursing staff you need an appointment
4. Referral made to Medical Secretary upstairs
5. Referrals sent to GP (first come, first serve basis)
6. Appointments sent back to Medical Secretary for a Tuesday afternoon ONLY
7. Medical Secretary sends list of appointments to wards
8. Staff have to check ward e'mails and then assign escorts for patients to go to the GP

My point isn't just the amount of steps we go through to receive medical attention, it's the fact that all of the referrals have to be in by Monday because the only time we're allowed appointments is on a Tuesday afternoon and those slots are for the entire hospital. Staff try the argument that if it's an emergency you'll be taken to Hospital and A&E but it's not really the point. What if you notice on Wednesday that you have symptoms of a UTI? By the time you get a GP appointment (and it's not guaranteed you will be seen the next Tuesday because anyone still on the list from the previous week will  be seen first) the infection could be worse and require different treatment.
So, I raised the issue in our Involvement Meeting with management. I said we'd all like the system to be changed so that we tell staff we need an appointment, they check why (for those who go to the GP just for the sake of it) and then book the next available appointment based on what the complaint is.
Instead, I found out today that they've just added a whole new policy into it all! Now, our Ward Doctors can't even get advice from the GP over the telephone unless it's a Tuesday and between 4:30 and 5pm! You ask them to make something better and it just gets worse! And surely this has got to be wrong in terms of Human Rights and discrimination. Why should we, as patients in a Psychiatric Hospital, have such little chance of receiving the same medical care as those in the community?

TV Review: Inside Broadmoor, Episode 2

The way this episode was introduced got me very excited (if that's the right word) for it as it said they wouldn't just focus on the history but also on the debates around it's very existence.
It began where the last episode ended; with John Straffen's escape in 1952.
I found it ironic that they also discussed that stories on Broadmoor sold newspapers (especially considering my previous post) and promoted that the place was to be feared and that mental health was also to be feared.
I couldn't believe that the new Medical Superintendent brought his family to live on the premises! It was sad that his son had memories from the age of 7 at hearing a scream coming from the most notorious ward but I found it encouraging that his father responded by saying that the patient must be having a difficult night. Leading his seven year old son to acknowledge that it was a scream of inner pain and torment and not violence or danger. The son also explains how he saw concern and sympathy on his father's face. Setting him up to be surprisingly non-judgemental of the mentally unwell.
I'm always fascinated by the idea that there was once no anti-psychotic tablets and that the invention of it was thought a miracle.
The programme went on to illustrate how patient's behaviour can actually affect or impact staff when another patient managed to escape under the new Medical Superintendent's management. He went on to hire a Psychologist to try to better understand the reasons behind their actions.
One thing that I'm not sure I support is that it's still classed as a hospital in terms of their dedication being to treating the patients and releasing them. This stands, although I'm assured is rarely the case, that a patient could be released earlier than they would have should they have served a sentence in prison for their crime. I wonder if perhaps they should still serve their sentence relevant to their crime but while undergoing the treatment for their illness.
I was very shocked to hear of a fourteen year old being admitted to Broadmoor and managed to be released to go into a career that made it possible for him to repeat his original crime of poisoning.
The next shocking part was of the two twins who had only committed arson and were sent to Broadmoor because of their (undiagnosed) selected mutism. They were locked away with murderers and rapists when they had hurt no one. It was thought that for a time, patients were admitted to Broadmoor when a prison had no idea what to do with them. It reminded me of an experiment once when a number of students merely claimed they heard voices and were admitted and/or treat with medication.
Psychopaths... I'm not sure that I have an adequate understanding on this diagnosis to form an opinion but from what is said on the programme I don't think persistent anti-social behaviour, aggression and a lack of empathy for other people should warrant a very serious mental health diagnosis. And I am unable to see how Psychopaths also fall under the heading of a 'severe personality disorder.' The next is a direct comment from Professor Tony Maden, a Psychiatrist at Broadmoor from 2001 - 2012.
"People with personality disorders are at the extreme end of the spectrum; they're always aggressive. These people can be very dangerous The difference from a mental illness like schizophrenia is that your personality doesn't come and go. It's your personality and you're stuck with it until you die. "
Speaking as a diagnosed Borderline Personality Disorder sufferer I find that fairly disheartening. He made it sound as though there's no hope for those with PDs. It's a death sentence.
And then the government changed the law; severe personality disorders became viewed as dangerous enough to warrant an admission to Broadmoor.
And then to move Peter Sutcliffe to Broadmoor from a prison for his own safety? And they say now that he will probably remain locked away because of his crimes even though he's more mentally stable. The edges have blurred of the Hospital purpose.

would you like to know how many people Mental Health patients have killed?

Because the Sun will tell you!
In ten years.
The amount of people killed by the Police (in case you wondered) over the same period was  569. (http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2012/jul/19/deaths-police-custody-data)
Oh and five people A DAY die on Britain's Roads.
But I guess those headlines wouldn't sell papers.
As Rethink pointed out, the number of homicides by people with mental health problems has actually gone down.
The thing that's the most annoying is that apparently, the story inside was quite relevant detailing how those who had committed the murders were "high risk patients" and had been failed by services. That, didn't make the headline though. Funnily enough!
Criticism was raised as the Sun didn't make room for the statistics that those with mental health difficulties were ten times more likely to be hurt than to do the hurting. Alastair Campbell tweeted the point that the constant media linkage by the media of violence and mental illness actually leads to violence against the mentally ill and not by them.
The Sun's Managing Editor defended the paper by stating that called for better communication between agencies. The Director of Time for Change argued that it would the front cover that caused the fuel of the stigma.
It was explained those with a mental health illness are more dangerous to their self than another person and that 95% of homicides aren't committed by those with a mental health disorder.
I think the point is, how can we campaign for stigma to be erased when those with the most influence (the media) are doing things like this? If we all want to achieve this then we need to work together, work alongside on another and act as a team. You never know, we patients might have a bit of knowledge a journalist doesn't. After all, we're the ones living it.

The Long 1:1 And A Prank

At lunchtime I was telling my best-friend how we weren't going to the Hearing Voices group in the nearby city and that I was worried this meant the Ward Doctor would be wanting to see me. After lunch, we were waiting to go to group when she came along and asked why I wasn't at the group. Once I told her she said 'oh! That means we can talk?' My friend burst out laughing so we agreed on 2pm and I went upstairs to group to read my book (a book review will follow in good time) and then after, I hoped the Doctor would've forgotten about the 1:1 but at 2pm on the dot she was knocking on my door! We ended up chatting for an hour and a quarter about so much! We talked about the voices and my mood. We talked about my 'trauma' too. I've always said that what happened was more complicated than people realised but the 1:1 made me realise it was even more complicated than I had realised. She spoke to me about how the 'trauma' made me feel and explained that when the 'trauma' happened I lost a lot... Not just faith and trust in people of authority...
She also made me understand the blame game and that I was blaming myself for the entire thing because no one else was taking any blame. She asked how I knew that the other person involved in the 'trauma' wasn't taking any and I said as long as they weren't in prison or dead they weren't. She tried proving all of my 'negative beliefs' wrong and we talked a bit about hope because she said I appeared to have lost quite a lot of it. And she tried saying that they needed to help me make peace with my past and I said that I'd made peace with my future and the idea that I would end up dead. She asked how I could be at peace with something like that. I explained how everyone has the natural instinct to survive and so at first, I would overdose or self-harm and I'd get help or I'd stop the bleeding. But slowly, I programmed myself not to react in that way. When I was admitted to this Hospital I got my survival instinct back and now I'm losing it again. . . She asked how I could do that and I told her that every time I start to doubt my plan or feel happy, I remind myself of all the pain and badness. She told me that the new Psychologist will be starting next week and that they'll be rushing me through to see them.
After the 1:1, I felt very tired! It was actually physically draining to have worked so hard mentally! For the first time though, I had a bit of hope again. I always had this reluctance to believe that talking about the 'trauma' would make a difference. I always said that I'd talked about it and felt no different. But today made me see, that talking about it could help. Because the more I talk and the more I realise more about it, the more I can understand it. And if you can't understand something then you can't deal with it or accept it.
Finally, to cheer us all up, two of us played a prank on the staff... We ran round the ward with signs we'd made for all of the doors... The ward door had one on reading 'warning: may contain nuts,' the quiet room said 'the padded cell,' the activity room said 'let the games begin,' the security cupboard became 'staff's chocolate cupboard,' the staff office was 'the zoo,' the meeting room (where ward round is held) became 'the torture chamber, warning: Doctors roam free,' our Ward Manager's office was 'God's office,' the kitchen; 'may contain sugar,' and the bathroom was 'shit shed warning: may smell,' the laundry room said 'may contain stained sheets.' They were up for about two hours before staff removed them! We all got a well-deserved laugh though!
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