New England

The welfare and NHS reforms are making people suffer. I’ve recently been caught up in this net, and if you follow my blog you’ll know that recently, I’ve been struggling with a mental health “crisis”. This means that your mental health state has rapidly deteriorated and you are experiencing exacerbated symptoms which may include, but are not limited to: self-harm, intrusive and distressing thoughts, suicidal thoughts / attempts, thoughts of harming others, paranoia, psychosis (this is when you see, hear, taste, feel things that are not there), delusion (this is when you believe something that isn’t true), disturbances in perception, panic, depression, mania (this is where you feel as if you cannot slow down and need to constantly keep moving. You may also present with delusions and psychosis). My current crisis is what they call a “mixed episode”. They also call it “agitated depression”. This means I am currently in a state of mania and depression at the same time, my moods are refusing to settle, I am forgetting to sleep, forgetting to eat, forgetting to take care of myself, and no matter how hard I try my brain is refusing to let me slow down and rest. In terms of psychosis, feelings of paranoia are creeping back into my life and my sense of who I am is rapidly eroding to the point where I do not recognise myself when I look into the mirror. It’s like a dark presence has arrived in my house and won’t leave, but I have started to become part of it, and so it cannot leave. 

I’ve been admitted to hospital as a matter of emergency assessment a few times this past week, each time I’ve been left in a room on my own for 10 hours whilst they try to find someone to talk to me. I’m given a pill called Lorazepam which just about takes the edge off the pain of waiting. Recently, whilst waiting for assessment, I used the bathroom. I thought little about the implications of walking to the bathroom and back to my allotted room, nobody had told me it’s incorrect protocol to be even slightly autonomous when you are in a mental health crisis. The repercussions of this were that when I finally returned home, my back door had been broken into and the Police had left a kindly note on my sofa saying they had forced their way in because the hospital had told them I had absconded mid-assessment. This is in no way true. This happened days after my first emergency admission to hospital, and my mental process were – and continue to be – really unravelling very fast. I’d been told a few days previously by a doctor that admission to hospital was necessary, and I’d get the right treatment there. I was also told that two years ago when I was initially diagnosed by the Complex Care Treatment Team, I had in fact been put on the wrong medication, or at least a dose that doesn’t work as maintenance therapy for bipolar disorder. That made sense to me. Whilst with Complex Care I saw a psychiatrist a grand total of three times ever, and even when I was getting distressing side-effects from the new medication, he dismissed me. A week later I was discharged from the service and told to go to my GP should I need help, and really, all GPs do is hand out cheaply made antidepressants, the occasion week’s prescription of zopiclone so you can just sleep it off, or the very addictive and difficult to obtain diazepam, which you may know as Valium, which is supposed to take the edge off your moods. These are temporary measures, but they cannot fix the problem. I was relieved when they told me in hospital I needed further treatment, that I was right when I told them my medication had outright stopped working. 

It’s been a week now since I was told I need hospital admission, and the nearest bed available to me right now is in London, which I declined. I’m not saying I was made to feel bad by declining, but it was gently hinted to me that if I was really that ill, I would have gone and jolly well taken that bed, and so I must be doing okay in reality. A  friend recently said I’m not okay, but I’m presenting well. I’m not running around screaming; I’m not what the media would have you believe a madwoman is like. The thoughts in my head, I’m keeping them in my head. I’m smiling at people with my mouth but not my eyes. I’m either never sleeping, or sleeping all day. I have a persistent voice in my head telling me how to go about my day and its suggestions are unpleasant. Right now it’s like I have on my shoulder a little devil, who kills my impulse control and makes me reckless, and on the other a depressed little angel, who has long since given up and gives the devil free reign, but occasionally checks in just to remind me quite how hopeless life is right now. 

So, whilst I wait for a bed, I’ve been told to look after myself. Make sure I eat, make sure I sleep. Going out at night is a bit of a no-no in case I become “overstimulated” and another little mania kicks up and fucks me over (this is what happened after my book launch recently – what should have been one of the best nights of my life ended up in A&E when my thoughts became uncontrollable and made me quite wild). The come to my house and give me 3 pills of diazepam daily to keep me quiet and indoors. I’ve been told it might be nice to visit friends during the day, or even family. I’d been given a giro from the Jobcentre a week ago for £40.58, covering the 24th to the 28th June. Silly me, I assumed that meant I’d be paid again soon. But I asked today, and apparently I won’t get paid now until a week on Wednesday. Because you can no longer get Crisis Loans, I’ve had to apply to Manchester City Council for a short term loan (as a single woman I’m only allowed £30). Their decision will take up to 5 days. 

So. What the fuck am I supposed to do? I can’t go into hospital because there are no beds and I can’t take care of myself because there is no food or money. I am having to rely hard on the kindness of friends and even strangers, which isn’t helping my mental state at all.  The last thing I want to be doing right now is begging people I love for money. I’ve been reading horror stories about the reforms and about austerity, and counted myself sort of lucky that I was doing relatively okay. However in this past week especially, things have gotten really out of hand. This is the reality of the situation and if I’m in this situation, that means at least hundreds of others are too. I wonder what’s happening to those who are low-functioning right now? Those who are like how I will be a couple of weeks down the line when my insight disappears (this is the nature of the beginnings of psychosis / mood extremes; you have insight but that insight slowly slips away day by day until you no longer believe there is anything wrong with you, and THAT’S when bad things happen)? How are they being treated? As it is now I’ve been told to admit myself as a voluntary patient is very sensible and the right decision because if I don’t, or if I suffer any more set-backs, it might get worse. And if it gets worse I will be sectioned instead. And if I am sectioned I will be given treatment often against my will. The drugs that treat bipolar aren’t pretty. Lithium can kill you, most of the anticonvulsants can severely affect liver function, antipsychotics make you fat and sluggish and twitchy and sometimes cause irreversible problems that involve clenching of the face muscles. As a voluntary patient, I’m allowed some say in how I’m treated and what my care plan is. Under section, I’ve got no say in the matter at all. 

So this is where I’m at right now – holding onto the smallest of hopes. But please just remember, when those e-petitions demanding change go around on Twitter, just click and sign. If you are served by someone in a shop who is rude or seems downtrodden, don’t shout at them. They could be going through a similar thing. And if someone you love is struggling with mental health problems, be there for them and listen. Try to be near them as much as possible because trust me, they are not getting the help you think they are. 

UPDATE: Just now, at 1:41pm, Crisis Team called me. I had an appointment at 6pm with my social worker but instead they have said they’ve had a meeting about my current situation and instead a doctor will be visiting at the earlier time of 3:30pm. I can only hope this is good news. Maybe a medication review, or maybe a bed has become available? My bag is already packed, if so.

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