This post is in collaboration with the Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (NUTH) who I’m helping and supporting in their creation of a Trust-wide Mental Health Strategy (which I’ve previously blogged about here, here, here, here, and here). Together, we’re marking Time To Talk Day 2024 which is a date where everyone is encouraged to talk more about mental health in the hope that it will tackle the discrimination and stigma held against the topic and that, in doing so, it will also improve the help and support that is offered or available for those who might be struggling with their mental health. We’ve decided to utilise the fact that whilst there is – rightly – so much content around encouraging conversations, there are too few pieces around the importance of recognising when a communication around mental health needs to be reconsidered whether by terminating it completely or changing the route it seems to be taking – something which is as equally important as starting a chat. Thankfully and admirably, it’s also something NUTH recognises to be an essential component to their upcoming Mental Health Strategy…

If you’ve read, I’m NOT Disordered for a while now, you may know that there was a point in my mental health journey where I was labelled an attention-seeker and actually even had professionals (mostly the Police and Crisis Team staff) regularly say it to my face! I remember this one time in particular when I had walked down the middle of a motorway and the Police had put me in their car and then called the Crisis Team in front of me and said “oh, this is just what she does for attention?”

This name-calling came not too long after I noticed ‘possible Personality Disorder’ on a discharge summary and sadly, I genuinely don’t think that was a coincidence. For some people who are more recently diagnosed with such a Disorder, might find it difficult to believe that in around 2009/2010 (when I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder) there was so little awareness, understanding, or compassion around it. I mean, I do see social media content regularly detailing a stigmatised experience of someone with a Personality Disorder (PD), but I think that – whilst it still isn’t good enough – the mental health sector or industry has massively improved from how it was all those years ago. And I think that often, this makes me grateful for something someone else may deem ‘small’ or ‘insignificant’ or ‘the way it should be.’

When I was sectioned in 2012, there was a discharge meeting with my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) and inpatient Psychiatrist where he mentioned that he would recommend the community team look into referring me to a specialist PD service out of the locality. And why would I have to leave my locality? Because there were literally no mental health services specialising in helping and supporting someone with a PD diagnosis! So, with the fact that between 2009 and 2012, my records showed I had over 60 admissions to medical and psychiatric hospitals, my CPN began arranging assessments with these out-of-area hospitals. On my first one with the nearest service, they concluded that they couldn’t accept my flight risk and that the community team should be looking to secure hospitals, so I had an assessment with a long-term specialist psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from home. Upon hearing that the medium secure ward/hospital operated on a very strict ‘therapeutic timetable’ and that the average length of admission was 12 – 18 months, I refused to go when they offered me a bed.

After another suicide attempt in the summer of 2012, the medical hospital used the Capacity Act to put me on life support and administer the lifesaving treatment which I had been refusing to accept. When I was brought out of it and taken off the ventilator, the community team told me I’d be going to the specialist hospital and honestly, being there a matter of hours, I ended up already feeling more validated than I had the entire three years between my first sectioned admission in 2009 to this one. I was never once referred to as an attention-seeker or a drama queen or any other derogatory and condescending insults. For me, this really illustrated the importance of mental health professionals being knowledgeable, appreciative, and understanding of particular mental illnesses which could mean that the service user needs more specific, specialist, and individual help and support.

Whilst I was obviously beyond grateful for this change in attitude and response, it was also kind of sad too. I mean, it really made me think about the fact that all those times I had been badly treat by my local psychiatric professionals, medical staff, and Police, could have honestly so easily (and I’d like to think understandably too!) led to me succeeding in a suicide attempt. Being treat poorly by the people – especially mental health teams because they are supposed to be the ‘right’ people to help in a mental health crisis – who were meant to be there to help and support you in your darkest and most afraid moments, left me feeling really alone and dismissed. And those thoughts and feelings can have such a huge power of anyone’s safety let alone someone – like me – who is already unsafe! This also led me to think about the fact that there were surely so many other people from my postcode and locality who also have BPD and are being treat poorly; and it left me wondering why I deserved to have this admission and receive the improved level of help and support.

Another difficulty in being treat so much better was that I actually also experienced a sense of frustration for two different reasons. Firstly, it came from the notion that if this specialist PD service existed and if their staff could have such a good response and understanding of this diagnosis, why couldn’t the NHS Trusts and services back home also provide these potentially life-saving qualities? I’ll never forget when one of the staff on the specialist ward said to me “if you’d lived nearer here, you’d have been admitted after your first suicide attempt.” Yet, because experiencing a good standard of mental health services is becoming a postcode lottery, I had made three attempts and had over 60 hospitalisations in the space of three years. It made me start to feel incredibly lucky to have made it through all those instances because if I hadn’t – and that could have been a very real possibility on a number of occasions – I would have never had this life-changing admission to the specialist hospital. And, in all honesty, this thought has me questioning why my community mental health team didn’t take the action to have me admitted to that hospital a lot sooner, and I’m left with two possible answers/excuses – either it was about budgeting and securing the funding or they genuinely didn’t know such services existed.

Finally – on the topic of ‘attention seeking’ – something I’m a huge believer of around this issue/name-calling that many people experience through their own mental health journey, is that even if you did have someone who genuinely had no other motivation to self-harm or attempt suicide other than for attention, they still need help! That’s still not a positive, productive, or safe attitude or mindset. In fact, perhaps they need a different level of help too because where there’s a more established rationale – like Depression or traumatic memories or hallucinations – to engage in such behaviours and actions, it can arguably lead to a much more straight-forward approach in terms of providing any treatment, help, and support.

A quality that makes calling someone an attention-seeker so awful and unfair is that it is completely invalidating. I mean, it comes pretty close to calling someone a liar because you’re questioning or accusing them of having either poor or just completely wrong, motivations that are causing or influencing their actions, thoughts, and feelings.

I think that a huge contributing factor to others being invalidating toward your mental health (in whatever aspect) can come from their own opinions of what you might describe to be the cause of your struggle. Something that can often be either a really helpful thought process or a really bad one, is putting yourself in another person’s shoes because whilst sometimes, it could help a person to have more empathy, it might also leave someone making comparisons and thinking “I wouldn’t be that upset if that happened to me.”

One time, when I was in hospital having the antidote treatment for something I had done, a Healthcare Assistant was asking me why I’d done it, and after deciding to confide in her and tell her about the abuse, she turned around and said, “I was abused when I was little, but I didn’t do what you have because I’m totally fine.” Honestly, initially I couldn’t really believe what she’d just come out with and was a bit dumbstruck before I finally made a – in my opinion – feeble comment of “well, everyone is different.” It was one of those situations where if you just imagined it, you’d think of a ton of points you’d like to make; but when it actually happens, you’re at a complete loss for words! And this was so frustrating for me – not just because I’m very rarely speechless(!) but also, because I worried that not calling her out on the comment would mean she might make it to someone else in a similar situation and what might they do to cope? Because it led me to refusing to have the rest of the treatment; just because I didn’t want to see that member of staff again!

Now, in case you’re unsure as to why I would react that way to her comment… Throughout the entire six months of abuse, I constantly felt weak – both physically and mentally/emotionally. I mean, there was the obvious way of being literally incapable and just genuinely not strong enough to overpower my abuser and actually prevent him from hurting me; but there were also the not so obvious ways…

The fact that my abuser was consistently providing me with examples that proved I was weak by telling me that someone strong and brave wouldn’t be crying when I was crying. Or that they wouldn’t be scared every time I was terrified. Thing is – I knew I very obviously couldn’t trust the man because not only was he doing all that he was to me, but he was also lying to everyone by being someone completely different in front of others. Regardless of this confidence that he was untrustworthy, I still found myself regularly believing and becoming convinced of all the false and untrue things he was telling me about myself. I think that this was largely because as a result of the abuse, I felt incredibly isolated – I mean, I had this huge secret (because for so many reasons I couldn’t report the abuse immediately) that left me feeling completely exhausted from the effort it took to keep it quiet when it felt like it was the most important thing happening in my life. And having to lie or omit things when talking to anyone meant I felt distanced from people and that, in turn, affected (in a bad way) my relationships with my friends, family, and all the other people who could have supported me had they known what was happening.

Another instance in which a professional was invalidating was when I was in the specialist hospital, and I had been given unescorted ground leave (I was sectioned under the 1983 Mental Health Act so your Psychiatrist has to approve and permit any time of the ward) for the first time since I’d ran away on my last one and ended up on life support. And I came back from it and said to one of the Nursing Assistants how proud I was of myself and that it felt like an achievement, and she turned around and said, “you don’t get a pat on the back or a round of applause for doing what you’re meant to and should be doing anyway!” Fortunately, my Key Nurse and the inpatients I was closest to totally agreed with me that it was a huge step in the right direction, so I felt that their support sort of counteracted that one invalidating comment.

That experience has actually ended up being really positive because it helped me to develop a sense of pride and an attitude that has meant I’m aware that sometimes in life, you might have to be your own cheerleader! I learnt that whilst validation from others can go a really long way for me, my mental health, and my safety, there are also times when my own thoughts and opinions of something I feel I have achieved or experienced really need to be sufficient enough to have that same positive impact. I can see now that actually; it should be more important that you show pride and acknowledgment of your accomplishments yourself than it is to rely on receiving that from others – especially when that means mental health professionals! I think that if you do focus on wanting that validation from others, it can be so incredibly challenging, disappointing, and upsetting if that doesn’t happen, and so, looking for it within yourself is a lot more reliable and productive.

One thing I think everyone can take from social media – and which I have especially learnt in being a Blogger – is that people are curious and, to be honest, slightly nosey when it comes to the lives of others. I think you could argue that really, wanting to know about the life of people who might be so different to yourself and your own lifestyle, is likely the fundamental reason why everyone is even online and using social media. I mean, I’d say that my primary rationale for using the internet is to help others through my blogging and content on my social media accounts; but I won’t lie – I absolutely love looking at the lives of others and especially seeing how other, more popular bloggers live.

It’s no secret that my ultimate idol and blogging career inspiration is Victoria Magrath who created (as well as her YouTube channel and social media!). I find her so influential because she seems to have a work ethic that I’d like to think I have too – she recognises and celebrates her achievements and successes, but she also always strives for bigger and better goals and opportunities. She never rests on her laurels – something which I believe a lot of bloggers do once they’ve reached a large number of readers or have done a specific collaboration or created and sold a product or published a book.

Similarly, to this quality in her work ethic and career, Victoria also never seems to stop putting her all into everything she does, and she never expects things to be handed to her on a silver platter. She works hard and so it leaves me with the feeling that she is really deserving of every single bit of success and opportunity that comes her way. And, again, this is something which I’d really like to think I also demonstrate – hard work that helps to leave it understandable to others when I secure amazing collaborations and reach huge milestones. I hope that readers and my loved ones who support me and I’m NOT Disordered, consider me as also being dedicated and as deserving of mine – and my blog’s – accomplishments.

Aside from my own admission of being curious of the lives of others, one comment that has been made a number of times when various people have asked which country my blog is the most popular in and I’ve said that the United States are usually that country – even more so than the UK on the many occasions I’ve looked at the stats! Even though the people who have asked me about this are from all walks of life and have hugely different roles in my life and in my blog’s existence, everyone has always commented that perhaps it’s been this way because the mental health care system/services are so different in America. They’ve talked about the idea that maybe the country’s residents are especially curious as to what it’s like to have the NHS when they’re having to pay for insurance and are often left to foot a huge bill for accessing their healthcare services.  

So, I think that when considering people’s genuine curiosity, it can be somewhat understandable for people to ask someone questions – this becomes a problem, however, when the questions become inappropriate (and this can be defined in a variety of ways as it can change from person to person). For me, though, I deem inappropriate questions to primarily be where someone is asking for unnecessary details on sensitive subjects e.g. self-harm, suicide, and abuse. And by saying ‘unnecessary,’ I mean that those asking for such details don’t really need to know them. I mean, it was hard and horrible, but I recognised that the Police certainly need to know a lot of very triggering and upsetting detailed description in answers to their questions when reporting abuse. I also, however, recognise that a random Social Worker assessing me in A&E or somewhere really doesn’t need to know that same level and amount of information!

As I talked about before, for so many reasons I couldn’t report the abuse straightaway and that meant having to tell lies or omit a lot of things when loved ones or people who cared about me asked questions. Going through six months of this silence and secret-keeping was so challenging – especially because I have always been raised to be honest and truthful about everything – that it meant I actually began to find being open and honest as a really strange concept and mindset. It was kind of contradictory thought because whilst the truth started to feel unattractive and unappealing, I was struggling so much with lying and remembering the story I’d told to one person and what I’d said differently to another. It was stressful; and that was definitely something I didn’t need on top of all the difficult thoughts and feelings I was already experiencing.

Just when I felt that I’d fully adjusted to this habit of not being so forward and open, I found myself really needing to be in order to be discharged from my detention under section 2 of the 1983 Mental Health Act. One of the Psychiatrists who made the decision to section me after my first suicide attempt, made it clear that a huge motivation for doing their decision to admit me to a psychiatric hospital (after medical treatment) was because absolutely no one knew or could even hazard a guess as to why I had done it. This meant that I felt really compelled – actually, it almost felt compulsory if anything! – to put into words why I’d made the attempt because I felt aware that without doing so, the admission could end up being rather lengthy and I was absolutely terrified at being there and surrounded by much older, very poorly, inpatients. So, I finally told a member of staff that I was experiencing hallucinations and after speaking with my Psychiatrist, I was finally discharged a week or so later.

 It seemed, however, that despite confiding this in them, it didn’t change things for me, and it certainly didn’t get rid of the memories of the abuse; so, I made another suicide attempt and found myself being sectioned again. When I kept escaping from the psychiatric ward, the staff made the decision to move me to the Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) which was locked and secure with an airlock at its entrance/exit and a walled outside area. One evening, I ended up talking to another inpatient for the first time and somehow, we got talking about our past and she told me she had been abused. This gave me some sort of… inspiration – maybe? Because I couldn’t help but think that I didn’t want to get to 40-something (her age) and still keeping this huge secret and having with my mental health continue to suffer. So, I finally told the staff what had happened to me, and they promptly called the Police who asked me such detailed questions that – whilst I don’t regret reporting it and would always encourage others to – I honestly felt like I might as well have relived it all over again! However, I do definitely recognise that the Police genuinely need to ask for so much information in order to achieve justice in the best, most appropriate way possible.

The other sensitive area of my life/mental health where I’ve found people asking for unnecessary detailed information, has been regarding self-harm and suicide attempts. I think that even if you have little to no experience of inpatient and community mental health services, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that they aren’t always the healthiest of environments in terms of service users influencing each other… The best (though obviously in a bad way) example of this, came when I was in the specialist psychiatric hospital and one of the other inpatients snuck a blade back in after her leave off the ward. I wasn’t aware anything had happened until the staff stormed into my room and sent me to the communal sitting room, where it turned out everyone else had been gathered. The Ward Manager came in and said that the staff had realised a lot of people were turning up with similar self-harm wounds and that eventually, one person had come forward and admitted a blade had been brought onto the ward but that they didn’t know where it was any more. It turned out, everyone (excluding myself and the girl I was closest to) had been passing this blade around each other for the last week or so!

So, the whole ward was put on lockdown, and we were all forced to sit in the sitting room whilst the other communal areas of the ward and our individual rooms were thoroughly searched by the staff with their metal detector. I remember the room felt literally so tense and on edge as we all began arguing to try and determine who’d been responsible for actually bringing the blade in and when the person, we all suspected swore on her children’s lives that it wasn’t her… Well, there was very nearly an actual, physical fight between us all! To be honest, her saying that was despicable, but the part of the entire scenario which I found the most disgraceful was the fact that all these girls who I thought I knew and cared about, had handed each other a sharp item; knowing full well what the next person would do with it. It came out that some had even given the next person ‘tips’ on how to ‘use it’ most ‘efficiently’ and ‘effectively!’

I genuinely struggled to comprehend how someone could live with themselves after having not only encouraged someone else to self-harm but also, who provided them with what they needed to do so! I mean, I’ll agree that sometimes self-harm has helped me in the massively short-term, but I would never – and will never – encourage someone else to use it as a coping mechanism because I recognise the potential of it having a hugely negative and dangerous impact on the person’s entire life and not purely their mental health and safety. And going through this horrible experience really opened my eyes to the potential, reality, and likelihood of mental health service users being a poor influence on one another.

This influence isn’t always so obvious or outright though. Before the admission to the specialist hospital, there were two other psychiatric service users who I’ve met as inpatients, who seemed to ask for details on self-harm and suicide attempts which – in my opinion – they really didn’t need to know. And, upon me answering honestly and openly, the next thing I knew they’d be messaging saying they’d done the same thing and were in hospital or that they had taken more tablets or hurt themselves more times that I had disclosed I had taken/inflicted. Fortunately, I didn’t seem to ever fall into this seemingly ‘competitive’ nature. I had no real need or urge to do something ‘worse’ than another person had.

Even though I experienced these things before the specialist hospital though, when my discharge after two and a half years as an inpatient was being planned, and another inpatient asked me what I’d felt had been the turning point for my mental health; I still answered honestly… I told her that when I’d been granted some unescorted leave, I had run away, made a suicide attempted, and ended up life support. Waking from the coma, I was then transferred to the PICU – which was in the news when a patient killed another patient whilst I was on the ward below it! – and spent days being sick, sleeping, showering with staff staring at me, and crying before finally being allowed back onto the normal ward. I explained that feeling so terrible sat there on the PICU on a plastic mattress and still wearing a hospital gown, I had come to the sudden mindset that – in a healthy and productive way – I did not want this to be my life any more. I didn’t want to spend it running away from people, being sedated, hospitalised, forced to stay somewhere I didn’t want to be, and feeling just genuinely rubbish. It felt like a reality check. Well, to be honest, it felt more like a kick up the bum!

Before I knew it, this girl was doing literally all that she could on the ward (because she had no leave, she could have runaway whilst on) to be transferred to the PICU. I stopped speaking to her because I felt so guilty, but then this one time, I was passing her bedroom door and heard a funny noise, and I went to continue walking but had this strange, sudden thought that if something was wrong and I had ignored it I would feel even more guilty! So, I peered through the observation window in her bedroom door and saw her basically in the midst of a suicide attempt. She had locked the door, so I shouted for staff whilst trying to kick the door down and when they finally came running, I was pushed out the way and the next thing I knew the alarms were going off and other staff were running backwards and forwards, bringing a blood pressure machine and a cannister of oxygen with a mask. Then paramedics came and I started crying with the genuine belief that I had killed her. That I was 100% blameworthy for her actions.

Later that day, in our ward Reflection meeting that took place every evening, this girl was well enough to be there too, and the entire situation was faced with me crying and apologising and the other inpatients assuring me that the girl in question was a grown woman who had made the decision to do what she did and was therefore responsible for it. The staff joined in by trying to reinforce the impact the girl’s actions had on everyone there and she ended up storming out with a member of staff shouting after her “we’re never sending you to the PICU when you aren’t genuinely poorly!”

After that experience, I found myself struggling to continue to be honest and open on I’m NOT Disordered and actually, even in my social media content! I worried that if I ever again felt that I’d been such a bad influence on someone else, I might not be able to live with myself. And I might find it challenging to recognise the other person has some responsibility if it happened another time. It meant that when I found a Facebook group which encouraged and supported utilising self-harm had taken a piece of my blog’s content and put it out of context to appear as though I agreed with their ethos, I was so furious! And I felt like a bit of a failure to have even just created a post that could appear to have a hugely oppositional meaning that what I had intended. And from then, I have tried to be so much more careful in the way in which I phrase information about sensitive topics to try to thoroughly eradicate the chance they could be misinterpreted and misused. I have, however, become adjusted to the idea that this might never be 100% possible. You can’t regulate the way every single person perceives your content – especially not when there’s over 1.2 million of them! And I find so many benefits to blogging that outweigh this risk, so I’ve come to terms with accepting it and always trying my hardest to not let it occur.

The first example of this point which – I think – would be the most obvious thought upon reading it, is considering the communication and online content which organisations or well-known individuals etc. put out about mental health related topics/themes. And, particularly, when they’re referring to specific areas of mental health which they have literally no direct experience of. Producing content on a perhaps socially ‘trending’ subject or theme that you have no real personal knowledge of, has the danger of really bringing into question your motives for doing so. It can leave people wondering whether you’re blogging about something to follow suit with everyone else with the knowledge that any content referencing a trend will have a heightened possibility for being popular than anything else. So, is an organisation or person ‘standing up for mental health’ because they believe in it and recognise their employer’s mental health or because they want to improve their brand awareness by any which way possible?!

So, I’m NOT Disordered and my online content in general is largely about being honest and open, so there was one year when it was an Awareness date around Diabetes and one of my best-friends has this, so I began creating content around it, but then I sat back and realised “do I really know what I’m talking about?!” Like, I could do all the research and write from the point of view of being a friend to someone with this diagnosis, but really; is that sufficient? Is that going to help as many people as it might if I share a post which is directly created by someone with Diabetes? And I think I have this mindset because I’ve seen the damage content can do when it comes from a source lacking in education, knowledge, experience, and understanding. I’ve seen posts about Personality Disorders by charities that are more focused on particularly supporting someone who is suicidal, and their lack of all these really important components had a direct impact (which I also personally experienced) on an increase in stigma and discrimination around those with this Disorder.

It actually reminds me a lot about that very first point in this post about attention-seeking, because I fully believe those in the mental health NHS Trust and Police who made such comments and gave me such labels, and treat me so poorly, did so off the back of having a lack of training and empathy around Borderline Personality Disorder. Like, I actually don’t think they were fundamentally terrible people, just uneducated and unwilling to recognise that they needed to improve on that before they should feel qualified and capable of having anything even remotely to do with the help, support, and care for someone with the Disorder that they knew – and seemingly cared – so little about. And perhaps, experiencing being on that other side, has really helped me to develop an appreciation and understanding about how important it is to involve those you’re communicating about.

This leads quite nicely into the second way in which this point is true; and that is when it is regarding professionals talking to one another about a patient or service user who has little to no input on their conversation. Of course, I appreciate that there are instances where speaking about someone without their presence is necessary or appropriate; but going into those communications the person should have already had somewhat of a contribution. And this is actually something I’ve struggled with recently when I was on the caseload of my local Crisis Team because I saw them one night and we discussed that my discharge from them would likely not be until the following week when my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) returned to work. The following morning (not even 24 hours later though!), I received a call telling me I had a Transfer of Care meeting the following day to be discharged from the Crisis Team to the Community Team! I literally couldn’t believe it! And the poor Admin lady on the phone didn’t have a clue what was going on; she’d just been told to ring me and give me the time and date!

After a lot of going back and forth on the phone, the Crisis Team apologised and voiced the concern that in their MDT (Multi-Disciplinary Meeting) service users were being discussed with very little involvement of the staff who have actually worked with the person. They said that the ‘higher-ups’ were looking at things on face value and thinking ‘she’s back on her medication, we can discharge her’ rather than considering the fact it takes time for the medication to build back up in your system and how beneficial for continuity of care it would be to handover to my CPN rather than a Duty Worker who would only then have to go and handover to my CPN when she returned! To be honest, it takes me to this thought I have that when you’re sectioned or restrained or sedated; these professionals make this massive decision about your life and then they finish their shift and it’s you who has to live with it.

I feel like making assumptions is something you should never choose to do in life; and especially not in any communication related to mental health. Now, I had actually been going to include another point of a ‘red flag’ being when someone flippantly uses a phrase or word that is important and valuable to you such as ‘duty of care’ or ‘capacity.’ But in starting to write about assumptions, I realised that actually, using such words without thought or care as to what they really mean to another person, is pretty presumptuous too!

When the abuse began, even though I had all these reasons why I couldn’t report the abuse straight away, I still desperately wanted to tell someone, so I changed things. I changed my behaviours. My attitude… All in the hope that someone would sit up and say, “this isn’t like Aimee, I wonder what’s wrong!” So, I started having daily showers that would last an hour or more because I felt like absolute filth after being touched when I didn’t want to be. I became rude and rebellious at school because I was so angry at everyone there for not noticing what was happening to me. Then I began engaging in self-harm, but literally everything was explained away as me being a typical fifteen/sixteen-year-old teenager going through ‘a phase.’ I was labelled a rebel, a drama queen, and an attention-seeker by other pupils and the teachers and those comments and the bullying that then started, just gave me more and more reason to slip further away from everyone and to continue to keep my dangerous secret.

When I finally reported the abuse to the Police a few years after it had ‘ended,’ they interviewed many of the people who had been around me during that time and literally all those who could have witnessed and stopped the abuse said either: “I wondered if that was happening…” or “I didn’t see it, but I can believe it happened!” Obviously, their suspicions and beliefs weren’t evidence enough to prosecute my abuser, but – of course – if they’d actually acted and stepped in when they were ‘wondering’ whether it was going on, then there might have been the evidence, and he might have not been able to walk out of that Police Station with just the ‘accusation’ on his record! In fairness, the Police voiced their frustration with the statements and even apologised to me for the fact that none of them had stepped in and protected me – but it obviously wasn’t their wrongdoing to apologise for, and all those who were actually responsible, didn’t make any effort to say a single word to me!

Aside from the attention-seeking labels from professionals when my diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder began being used in my notes and records, another large and detrimental assumption professional have made around a fundamental aspect of my mental health has been about the treatment for it. After numerous psychiatric hospital admissions and right around when I noticed my diagnosis being mentioned, the mental health professionals began stating that a pretty huge guideline on treating people with a Personality Disorder is to avoid hospitalisation because it’s found to have been statistically unhelpful. Ironically, I agreed that ultimately being sectioned and admitted to hospital had never been a fantastic experience – only in so far as short-term that it kept me safer that I would have been if I’d been left to my own devices in the community. However, even in those circumstances, professionals started ranting and raving about taking responsibility for my actions and that I needed to recognise the importance of managing my own safety and gaining control over the unsafe and risky actions I was using as coping mechanisms.

Around two years later, I had made a suicide attempt and had accepted the antidote treatment in A&E but the cannula that was used for the treatment to be administered broke and when they couldn’t find another good vein for a new one, the Doctor decided I needed to have a central line put in. Having previously had one, I knew everything that entailed – an incision in your neck, threading all these tubes and things right down into your body and stitching it in place – and so I refused to let them do it. Over the course of five hours, I had numerous Doctors come in and ask me questions before leaving and then another would come in, and another, and another… The next thing I knew, below the curtains that were drawn around my hospital bed, I could a ton of feet gathering, and the curtains were pulled open, I was restrained and was given an injection in my leg. After that, my memories are of a lot of whiteness and the notion that I kept standing on platforms and then falling off them(!).

When I finally really woke up and felt grounded, the entire thing was explained to me… Apparently the five hours had been because they were struggling to find two Doctors agree that I didn’t have capacity so that they could force the treatment and the only reason they finally reached the agreement was because I was becoming more unwell medically. Then, they told me that the whiteness and falling was all because the Anaesthetist – even unknown to all the other staff – had sedated me with Ketamine! The other Doctors and Nurses and Healthcare Assistants only discovered it had been that medication because I’d apparently gotten really aggressive!

The entire experience meant that when I was finally discharged and after chatting things through with my Community Psychiatric Nurse CPN) and Psychiatrist, they had me sign an Advanced Directive (basically a document that you can create and sign whilst you’re well to say what you’d like to happen if you become poorly). My CPN and Psychiatrist were concerned that because Doctors made assumptions as to what a person without capacity should/would say or do, I had become closer to dying purely because I didn’t really fit that status quo. So, my Directive states that because when I’m well I actually do love life; if I say I want to die and if I’m refusing potentially life-saving treatment, it should be assumed that I don’t have capacity and I should be treated against my wishes. It also states not to use Ketamine for sedation!

In all honesty, because professionals always adhered to it, I do think the Advanced Directive was one of the few things back then to have really saved my life and to have had a huge impact on my mental health journey on a whole too. However, it shouldn’t really have even had to have been created, because the Doctors shouldn’t have been making anything that even remotely resembled being an assumption in such an important and monumental situation. Like, if ever there’s a wrong time to do that; it was then!

The final example of an assumption being made in a pivotal moment/stage of my mental health journey, has been fairly recently and is in terms of my new diagnosis of psychosis. Last February, I was sectioned in the midst of psychotic episode, but when an increase in my antipsychotic medication was requested, the Psychiatrist’s response was; “people with Personality Disorders don’t benefit from medication; you just need more therapy!” Thankfully, my Mum was at the meeting where this discussion took place, so she gave me the support to not just run out of the room feeling totally hopeless and dismissed. She raised the point that in life – and particularly in mental health care/services – people shouldn’t be put in boxes and defined by some sort of majority-based statistic that is driven from a research study that took place at the other end of the country! It’s unfair and – in my opinion – ignorant.

Later that year though, I was put under the care of the Crisis Team and saw a different Psychiatrist who agreed I wasn’t struggling with Personality Disorder symptoms any more and he increased the antipsychotic medication so that within around a fortnight, I was better. I barely had the strange thoughts and beliefs (sometimes referred to as psychotic or intrusive), and when I did have them they weren’t in my head for as long and I felt they were more easily for me to ignore or dismiss them and recognise how unrealistic they were. And whilst I was obviously so grateful for that, I’ll always wonder; if that first Psychiatrist had increased it at that time, would anything I did between then and the actual increase have happened? Because in all honesty, I did many things that could have likely meant I might have died in that time. And when an assumption could cost a person their life? Well, that’s – put simply and honestly – dangerous and negligent.

1.       Recognise the difference between hearing someone and actually listening to them.

2.       Validate. Validate. Validate.

3.       Don’t pigeon hole people and deem everyone with the same diagnosis to be exactly alike.

4.       Be aware and cautious of speaking about a person within earshot of them.

5.       To be honest in writing your thoughts, feelings, and experiences; write like no one will read it.

6.       Always treat others how you would like yourself or your loved ones to be treated.

7.       Prepare yourself emotionally in case someone discloses sensitive details or information.

8.       Never make assumptions – even if that means asking a difficult question.

9.       Be mindful and respectful of people having different opinions on the same topic.

10.   Find inspiration and tips to talking about mental health online before you start talking about it.

For updates on the Mental Health Strategy and other news from Newcastle Upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, here are all their links:

Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (

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