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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?

 

 

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

Out of sorts

There are too many days where I feel at odds with the world.

When you are out of sorts, you end up with a self-fulfilling prophecy: ‘I’m going to have a shit day’ turns into exactly that. People react well to good humour and a relaxed nature, less so to someone who is irritable, snappy, hyped up and aggressive, even (on a really bad day).

What is hard to get across is that if you have a mood disorder or PTSD it is really hard to know how you are going to wake up, or how things are going to pan out after that. Often you are also sleep-deprived, or the sleep you get is really poor quality.

It’s not so easy to cheer up, or snap out of it, or make an effort, or any of the other things non-depressed and non-traumatised people tell us to do.

No, a walk won’t fix it. No, I don’t want to go for coffee with a friend. Listening to music won’t fix it either, or going to see a film because both of those can clutter up an already cluttered head.

Those days where I feel at odds with the world, I stumble through not quite knowing what to do to make it better. I feel wound up and extremely anxious, overwhelmed and like seeing people is the last thing I want. I wonder whether I should avoid everyone altogether.

I was told recently that the avoidant behaviours that go with PTSD can be much harder to treat than the flashbacks, involuntary memories and dreams.

Is this true? It seems hard to believe. I always thought that as my flashbacks aren’t all the time, or nearly as severe as other people’s, that I was less severe in general.

But at a recent asssessment for non-NHS treatment (I’m weighing up whether or not to go for specific, targeted trauma work rather than the analytical psychotherapy I’m getting at the moment) I was told that I scored very high for phobic traits.

I avoid all the people and all the places to do with a relationship that ended in trauma. Unfortunately, that’s all my local places and many of my former friends. I don’t even go to my local supermarket. I feel like I haven’t been living where I live… it’s like I mentally moved out four years ago. This leaves me very isolated and unhappy. It’s also very hard to talk about with a therapist.

I suppose avoidant behaviour is learned, and as such is difficult to unlearn.

My attempts to manage my condition(s) do feel pretty ingrained. I have a ‘way of living’ rather than a life.

I really want to get my life back, and the person who went with it. She wasn’t perfect, but she was nothing like the distrustful, antisocial, exhausted and miserable old woman I seem to have become. And I’m not even that old!

 

therapy

Living with trauma

My head has been completely fragmented for a long, long time.

It makes it very difficult to function. I’m not currently able to work, and I can’t concentrate very well on anything. I also experience total, obliterating exhaustion. Viruses seem to hang about for months and exercise… well, what exercise?

I started psychotherapy last July and it is very challenging, as it should be. My main problem so far seems to have been getting up the courage to even trust my therapist, let alone share all that has happened to me.

I have talked about abuse, about really dark things, even about my habit falling in love with people who don’t love me back… but I keep being told that I am not connecting with my feelings.

This made me very angry when it was first suggested. What do they know anyway? But actually, I am starting to connect with my feelings and experiences, many of which have been buried for more than thirty years.

I actually cried recently. I cry at home but somehow opening up in therapy, letting down the defences I have built, is extraordinarily difficult.

Does any of this sound familiar?

Do you know what it’s like to walk about feeling slightly detached, like you aren’t part of things, like life is going on around you?

I seem to have become used to an overwhelming sadness, a numbness. For many years I just gave up and didn’t care if I lived or died. I think starting therapy is acknowledging that maybe I do want to live, and live better. It’s just that I haven’t found out a way of doing that yet.