Saturday, 29 September 2018

FIVE LESSONS MY MENTAL HEALTH RELAPSE HAS TAUGHT ME





1.     To ‘self-soothe’ more

      Self-soothe is probably one of my favourite – and most used – Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) skill. For so many years I was hard on myself and blamed myself for everything that went wrong in my life. Even the abuse. I thought that I was a bad person and had deserved all of these bad things in my life; the abuse, the bullying, the self-harm, the hallucinations… everything! For a while, I believed that I didn’t even deserve to be alive. So – perhaps – understandably, self-soothing was a particularly difficult skill for me to put into practice and even harder to eventually master. But being nice to myself felt so good that I fought the voices in my head that were trying to convince me that I should be hurting myself and not helping myself. I told them that I’d punished myself enough and that after all these years of self-harming and attempting suicide, I deserved to enjoy simple things. And that’s what my self-soothe techniques are; simple things. Like, lighting a candle, having a shower, doing my makeup or my hair, playing with my pets, spending time on The Sims, writing, reading, watching America’s Got Talent on Netflix… little things like that can sometimes make all the difference when I’m struggling with voices telling me that I’m useless and worthless and deserve to die.



2.     The importance of medication


The catalyst for this relapse has been that I stopped taking the medication I’m on for my mental health (Mirtazapine, Lamotrigine,
Fluoxetine and Aripiprazole). It wasn’t like I thought I didn’t need it any more. It was more about the voices telling me that professionals were trying to poison me with the tablets that had suddenly changed manufacturer (which meant they were a different shape, colour, and size). I didn’t notice any changes – mentally and physically) for a few weeks when things started going a bit… ‘pear shaped!’ First it was my mood. I’d feel on top of the world at one point and within the hour I had crashed down to feeling suicidal and making plans to end my life. As a result of my constantly fluctuating and overwhelming mood, my auditory hallucinations seemed to develop and change,



3.     To appreciate the people around me more


I began hearing a new voice. Sally. Sally tells me to hurt other people and my pets. To give you an idea of just how over-powering voices are: my pets were actually removed from the home to ensure their safety. The Vet who took them was very understanding and told me that if anything, it just showed how much I love them that I’m prepared to put myself through the heartache of losing them if it means that they’re safe. I was also really grateful to one of my best friend’s in this relapse as she visited me every day in the psychiatric hospital. And then there’s my Mum. I don’t even know what to say! There will never be enough words in the world to thank her for all that she has done for me.


4.     That there’s still miscommunication in Services


I’m not going to lie; this relapse has been a bit of a nightmare with miscommunication between Services! I feel like me or my Mum have constantly been on the phone being the go-between for everyone. There was an instance where the Crisis Team had prescribed me some medication but when I was admitted to the medical hospital their Psychiatric Liaison Team didn’t realize and refused to give me it. I think it’s unfair to have put my Mum through all of the fuss of ringing around repeating herself to everyone when they could have just read it in my notes. In my work with Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust, I’ve stressed to staff the importance of communication between different Services because often, when someone is in a mental health crisis then a few different Teams need to be involved in their care and this can’t be done efficiently when those Teams aren’t communicating with one another.



5.     That there’s still mental health related errors in Northumbria Police


I was unsure as to whether to write this one or not but as you know, I’m NOT Disordered is all about transparency and honesty and the fact that I work with Northumbria Police shouldn’t mean that I don’t talk about anything they do wrong. So, the incident was that I’d collapsed after an overdose and was in the Ambulance refusing to go to Hospital. I’d been reported as a missing person, so the Police came along and I was told that if I were to get off the Ambulance I’d be arrested for Breach of the Peace! I asked how me silently getting out of an Ambulance would be Breach of the Peace and the Officer said, “because we’ll restrain you and you’ll fight back.” I told him that I wouldn’t, and he said, “you will because we’ve been in this position with you loads of times.” I asked when we’d met, and he told me that the last time he’d seen me was about two years ago when I facilitated the mental health training for the new Police recruits. It was one of those situations where; if you don’t laugh, you’ll cry. So, I laughed. I told him that either I hadn’t done a good job, or he hadn’t paid attention because I would never advise using Breach of the Peace when a Section 136 is clearly the most appropriate course of action in a mental health crisis. And in all honesty, it made me wonder whether this is why our statistics are improving – that the amount of 136’s is dropping because they’re arresting people instead of sectioning them…? Just a thought.