Still struggling with my mental health, a month after a ten-day psychiatric hospital admission (which I talked about here), meant that on March 28th, my Mum came with me to a meeting with an NHS Psychiatrist, and a member of the Step-Up team. The appointment has inspired this post which will provide insight and advice around psychiatric appointments/meetings, in the hope that it will help service users about to attend their first appointment, existing service users who still struggle with theirs, and others who might just be genuinely interested to know or understand what can go on in these instances…
If you find yourself in a waiting room with others in, and believe you’d find talking to someone helpful for yourself, I think you really need to be very intuitive around deciding whether to speak to another service user or receptionist – there’s no hard and fast rule.
The best way to make the decision is probably by putting yourself in their shoes; if you were sat alone waiting for an appointment like this, would you want a complete stranger talking to you? And, if you were really busy on the computer, would you want a service user chatting your ear off?! If you’re unsure on any of these, maybe play it safe and stay silent.
Personally, though, I usually like talking to strangers when I’m in such situations because I find it a welcome distraction, which was why it was really helpful having my Mum in the waiting room with me, because it gave me someone to talk to! So, maybe keep that side of things in mind too?!
Here are some links that I think provide decent advice around talking to others in a mental health service:
One difficulty in waiting for your appointment to start, is the feeling that your mind is going ten-to-the-dozen in terms of how many thoughts are going on in it, and trust me, I know how dizzying, intimidating, and exhausting that can be! The overwhelming nature of this can largely be caused by the anxiety of not knowing exactly what to expect in terms of the appointment. I mean – for this one of mine – it was set to be a discussion of medication and it was with a psychiatrist who I’d never even met before so it was like double the nervousness and uncertainty!
It ended up being another reason why I was glad my Mum was with me in the waiting room because it meant I was sort of distracted by my frantic worrying. When I’ve attended appointments alone though (which I usually do!), I have found some DBT mindfulness exercises really helpful in calming my thoughts…
Here's a few helpful links for this challenging moment related to psychiatric appointments:
I recently saw a video on Twitter from the ICU of the Western General Hospital (part of the NHS Lothian Trust), and it was in support of #WorldAutismAcceptanceWeek (you can view it here) so it detailed the reality of an Intensive Care Unit for someone with Autism. It highlighted just how over-stimulating and overwhelming the Unit could be – it kind of feels wrong saying all of this because I don’t have Autism, so when I say it was the ‘reality’ and that it's effective; that’s only because so many people who actually have the diagnosis have supported the video campaign! Also, as someone who has been in ICU twice, I’d agree that it is that busy, frantic, and noisy.
Anyhow, so after seeing that video it really reminded me of how I felt walking into the building I had this appointment in and how utterly thrown I was to find that the place I hadn’t been in for about four years, had massively changed their interior. I mean, it was pretty unrecognisable(!) and, with me already being so anxious and nervous for the appointment, it was really off-putting to walk into a waiting room/reception area that I had never seen before. And that notion – of not seeing what I had expected – was actually really dazing and confusing for me (and this was something I really didn’t need when I was already struggling with these… hallucinations and like, strange thoughts or beliefs that were coming into my head uninvited and completely irrelevant to anything and everything going on in reality).
Here’s some links to help ground yourself in scenarios where you feel less certain: