Collateral Damage


Treatment of more complex disorders is expensive and patients often find they are put on a cocktail of drugs and left to it.

This is what happened to me in 2004 and it took years for me to get off all the meds they carelessly prescribed. Plus, some very dubious diagnoses were flying about when I was on a combination of behaviour and health-altering drugs.

How on earth can an accurate assessment even be made when you weigh less than seven stone because the meds have destroyed your stomach lining? Yes, I’m sure I was ‘challenging’, but I think that was due to the trauma and malnutrition I went through at the hands of services, and because of all the botched treatment along the way.

My health never truly recovered, and I remain unable to work. Here are some of the questions I’d like to put to psychiatric services:

  • Is it not much more expensive, disabling people, than providing effective long term treatment?
  • How much does it cost the UK economy, turning previously productive individuals into walking corpses with multiple health issues caused by side effects?
  • And when they are trying to slap on another label, as they are at the moment, who is that for? Me, or them?

Sometimes I feel the labels they dish out are little more than a form of scrapheaping, with no hope of recovery. Worse than this, I fear the labelling has at times been a form of institutional abuse, a means of covering up past clinical negligence by pointing the finger at the patient and their dysfunction.

Paranoid? Don’t think so. My adverse reaction to medications is clearly documented. And so are all the attempts to label me ‘hard to help’ and ‘difficult’.

I am relatively fortunate in that I am now receiving another round of NHS psychotherapy. I’m not convinced it is entirely addressing the PTSD symptoms I struggle with every day, and there aren’t what you would call any practical measures in place. I sit in a room once a week and talk about the difficulties I am going through.

Would I be better off away from this system altogether? Having just watched a programme on psychosis, I do wonder. Mental health services have certainly done immense harm in my family, and it would seem many others experience harm as well. The best input in the documentary came from patients turned academics, who were obviously best-placed to research and lecture on a condition they have experienced themselves.

I know people receive good treatment, but I haven’t, not consistently. And neither have so many other people. Lives are left blighted, and vulnerable people are shattered and left to pick up the pieces.

daily life

Family meltdown

What do you do when everyone in your family is mentally ill?

My sister and I have tried to support our mother our whole lives. When she becomes ill, though, the stress can become too much for us – and for my sister in particular, the pressures of caring for someone make her ill.

We have fallen out, as we always do, because I feel I shoulder most of the responsibility. I tend to get stuck in when a problem arises, but because I have chronic ill health, I burn out very quickly. The cycle keeps on repeating and the answer I am given by observers is ‘Well, don’t do so much, then.’

It’s difficult to pull away if you suspect your mum isn’t taking her medication regularly, or is at risk of a fall. So I want to be there for her when she is not well.

I sent my sister a couple of plain-speaking emails about how I see things panning out over the next ten years as mum gets older and more frail: how both of us need to find ways to cope better.

As she pushed back and became defensive, I got irritated. I told her I was tired of her always putting her needs first, over anyone else’s.

Her response has been to block me. I am no longer able to call or text, and she enlisted my own partner to channel emails through him, something I have put a stop to as it is completely inappropriate.

She has also accused me of being abusive. Her accusation is excessive and unjust. Having read my emails back several times, I know I’d be happy to show them to anyone to demonstrate there is no abuse there whatsoever. Frustration, yes. Impatience, definitely. A lack of respect, absolutely. I told her I’ve lost respect for her, and she continues to demonstrate why.

Am I supposed to go from here as, effectively, an only child?

I feel that during exhausting family situations, my sister only makes things worse. Am I better off not dealing with her?




I miss him

Have you ever loved someone so much it physically hurt? Well, five years ago I started hurting like that, and I’m still hurting now.

It hurts most late at night when I can’t sleep.

I am hurting because I lost him. Losing him was just unimaginably painful, even though I knew all along we couldn’t be together. I cut him completely out of my life when I lost him because even though I could see him around, the pain of seeing him would be too much.

I lost a lot of friends at the same time because I feel I can’t see anyone connected to him.

I actually fell apart over this. I’m trying really hard to put my life back together but I miss him. I talk to him when I go to bed. I cling to a handful of memories and replay them in my head, over and over and over.

I avoid everywhere I might see him. I try to think of him as dead, to get some closure… but of course, he isn’t dead. He’s very much alive and living not even half a mile from me.

When I asked him years ago if we could meet, to end it all properly, he told me he couldn’t give me closure. Why did he tell me that? Did he want to keep me as a future option in case his marriage didn’t work out? Was he actually in love with me? I will never know. We never even slept together. We did the right thing for many months, seeing each other as friends (albeit friends who admitted they had feelings), and then he nearly died, was in hospital, and it all had to stop.

I am told, in therapy, that I fell for him because I wasn’t loved as a child. I didn’t get what I needed, so I projected all my needs onto him. I’ve been hurt by men, so an infatuation that was unreciprocated was safe.

I don’t know so much. It feels like I fell in love with a man who was, for a time, a kindred spirit, a lost soul, an angry and confused person just like me.

It feels like I grew up when I fell in love. So how can that be me being a child? What if he wasn’t some reenactment of everything I never had?

What if he was just the love of my life?


daily life

Sunny day

Trigger warning: I’m very depressed. If you are too, maybe read something more uplifting elsewhere. If you want to join me in my black hole, read on…

It’s beautiful outside today.

Spring is here, but I feel like I’m not invited. There have been many times I’ve emerged from winter with no enthusiasm for the sunshine or the flowers that start appearing. I see daffodils, crocuses, buds on the trees, and none of it registers.

The birds sing away, but it feels like they are singing despite my existence, and, of course, they are. The whole point of Sebastian Faulks’ bestselling novel Birdsong is that birds are oblivious and sing on through war, through birth, through death. They just sing, on and on and on, with no regard for humans or the terrible things they get up to. So I can’t hear the birds and feel like they symbolise new life or anything. I put food out for them though. On a good day, I enjoy seeing them arrive at my bird feeder. I know they aren’t my friends, but I can enjoy their pretty plumage from afar.

Spring makes people happy and I tend to go around in a daze because I can’t be happy, or share happiness.

When depression and dissociation is this bad, I wonder what can be done.

Do you keep forcing yourself to go out into the sunshine? Is there a moment when you feel the warmth move from your skin to your heart?

I’m not feeling it. I’m not feeling anything. I tend to stay inside because it’s a nothingy sort of a space, and it suits my emptiness.

You can’t force happiness. You can’t force joy.

There is, though, in everything that lives, a stubborn drive to continue, no matter what. I am reminded of a crocus that used to appear every year by our front door when I was a child.

It grew through concrete.

daily life

Stronger together

Today I put on my red shoes.

I thought about the men who abused me: men who were violent, bullying, manipulative and cruel. Not all men. But enough. Enough to drink together in a bar and laugh at what a pushover I was, how weak I was, how easy it was.

I looked at my red shoes, my favourite shoes, and I looked in the mirror.

I imagined myself standing before a group of women at the next table in that bar, and I said to all of them – the girl who was abused, the student who was raped, the young woman bullied at work, the mother just trying to cope, the disabled woman on her own, the older woman with a broken heart, the writer, the survivor:

You  will never, ever let a man do that to you again.

You will heed the warning signs next time.

You will stick up for yourself.

You will fight.

You will be strong.

And all of them, all of those women, young and old, raised their glasses.

And the men fell silent.

There are millions of women who don’t feel that strong today; women who may still be in a terrible situation. Let’s think of them. Let’s be strong for them. We are stronger together.

Happy International Women’s Day.