This blog is going to be incoherent, I can tell you that now. I’ve had all of my meds as instructed, about 7 cigarettes in a row, and some very intrusive but necessary therapy in which I outlined any trauma, dip in mental health, symptom, drug use, deviant behaviour, law-breaking activities, drinking habits, sexual habits, unresolved issue, housing situations, abusive experience etc, since I was 11 years old. It’s weird to think how not one thing necessarily precipitates a mental illness, but how all the clues line up and piece together a jigsaw of a really insane woman crying and laughing at the same time, with a bottle wine in one hand and bandages spiralling up the top of the other arms, held together by sparkly stickers and sellotape like the young girl in Virgin Suicides. I guess I have a lot to say today but I don’t know how much sense it’s going to make so I’m just going to start then finish, then hopefully by the time I’m done, it will be time for my daily therapy.
First thing I’m sad about is I was thinking a lot about my ex boyfriend yesterday. I couldn’t shake the thought of him out of my head. Suddenly I could hear his voice, I remembered very vividly the times we were happy. But at the same time, I imagined he comes into the kitchen when I’m cooking for him. He would stand around and maybe taste things from a wooden spoon I’d point at his mouth, or I’d go into the living room when he was sitting there and offer him small tastes of whatever I was making. I liked cooking for him, it felt like I was expressing love for him in the best way I knew how (that, and our sex life of course). Yesterday, I could see the images bright as day, and I didn’t cry, but that’s because recently I’ve forgotten how.
Yesterday I took a walk into town, they trusted me with some petty cash so I could buy food, and – as I’m not a suicide or flight risk – I was trusted to go about my business like a normal human. The walk to and from the shops is quite long, so it took a while. Maybe a 3 and a half mile round trip. Lovely weather, needed it. So I called the Jobcentre when I got back explaining I couldn’t get back to my own suburb to sign on, as I was only allowed out for short bursts of time and rambling miles away is a no no. I was told that because yesterday was my sign-on day, I would have my benefits stopped if I did not go to the nearest Jobcentre and fill out a form. The form takes three working days to process. I asked if I could put a member of staff here at the facility on the phone, they said no, that’s not good enough. I wonder what the protocol is with someone who is in hospital for breaking their leg? Do they crawl to the Jobcentre? Absolutely ridiculous. Thanks again, Government! 😀
Also I found out today that if I’d have turned down treatment at this facility, I’d have been sectioned. You know how I know? The day I got referred here, a psychiatrist and two social workers arrived at my house without an appointment, just told me they’d be there immediately. They also asked me for the contact number of my next of kin. They then politely asked me to take treatment here, and I said yes. I was chatting about that to my therapist today; why did they arrive without an appointment? And why suddenly so many of them? I was told: this is the protocol we have to abide by when someone is detained involuntarily under the mental health act. So thank fuck I consented to treatment. It really humbled me and scared me to learn that. To know, that if I’d said “No, I’ve decided I don’t want to go”, I’d have had to go through the sectioning procedure. It was on the cards, they’d planned it. My cries for help were noticed, and it seems they actually really were looking for beds near me, and really couldn’t find them.
Which brings me neatly onto my last point. I know a lot of people living with mental illness right now. DISCLAIMER: WHAT I AM ABOUT TO SAY DOES NOT INVALIDATE YOUR EXPERIENCES IN LIFE, YOUR DIAGNOSIS OR YOUR DAILY STRUGGLE. So here goes:
Stop heaping your problems onto me. Normally, I’d listen, but seems that since I got into here, people are finding it an appropriate time to tell me how much worse their lives are. I just narrowly avoided a sectioning, I’m meant to be recovering. I’ve met people in here who have had so many traumas, trauma upon trauma, breakdown after breakdown – this is real, this is the real shit. We’re all at crisis point. We’re all at a stage where we can’t cope. Given that, do you think you could all just give me a little space? Mental illness is hard but my friends have a bit of a habit of seeing me as someone to offload onto because I’m so open and empathetic. However, I can’t take it all on at once and I’m here to get better. So let me, please, because if I come out here and nothing’s changed – I’m getting sectioned. That’s that.
And FINALLY – people who google their symptoms and diagnose themselves? I’ve got no time for you. You’re not busting the stigma, you’re trivialising the experience of those who are really suffering. Just because it’s cool to be mentally disturbed and you think it will add a layer of excitement to your boring life, doesn’t mean it’s okay. Being severely mentally ill is horrible, and I hate it. I don’t want it again. The crisis I’m having now tends to last a few months all in all, and arrives about once every 2 years. It makes me shake and tremble and the meds make me forgetful and fat, I become frantic, impossible, I no longer know who I am. My thoughts and behaviours are external to me, I am no longer me, but a puppet being guided by a dark monster that flings me out across heaths, roads, cityscapes, it tricks me, concerns me, and now, hospitalises me. There’s nothing sexy or cool about being mentally ill, and as my good friend Max once said to me: “Your mental illness is the least interesting thing about you”. I feel for you if you are mentally ill, but right now, I can’t. This also isn’t a game of top trumps. If I talk to you about my experiences I’m needing someone to talk to, not a game of one-upmanship. Whilst we are all in this together, we’re sort of also not. I sympathise and empathise with every sufferer of mental illness but it gets to a point where I find myself closing off mid-conversation with people telling me how hard life is compared to mine when their only complaint is 2 or three days a month of feeling a bit off. In exaggerating your own symptoms or diagnosing yourself based on watching that Stephen Fry documentary or reading Wikipedia, you are not busting the stigma but instead perpetuating it. Using the mask of illness to excuse bad behaviour is not acceptable and the truth is if you were very worried about your health, you’d see a doctor. You’d get wrapped up in the services of psychiatrists, therapy, social workers, crisis team, early intervention, constant trips to A&E. I’m not saying that it should be lik that for you but it is for me. Would you tell someone who has been raped that you once got drunk at a party and consensually had sex with someone but woke up in the morning and didn’t fancy them, and equate that to their experience? Would you complain constantly about your recent yet resolved chest infection to someone with lung cancer, and equate your experience to theirs? No, you wouldn’t, so you shouldn’t with mental illness, either. If you are high-functioning, low-medication, I’m happy for you, I really am. I don’t wish my suffering onto you. But god, stop treating this like a competition because it exhausts me. When you’re mentally ill, you do talk about yourself a lot because if you’re anything like me, you’re constantly under assessment, so you have to learn to be open. Your doctor needs to know every minute detail of your past in order to treat and diagnose you. However, don’t let it be your whole life. I have one friend in particular who has this amazing spin of turning all talk of anything back to herself, how her suffering is far greater than anyone else’s – yet she lives a freer and happier life than me, and functions extremely well. I don’t think it helps me for people like that to be telling me they know what I’m going through, because they don’t.
This issue has been on my mind a lot recently and I feel I’m being a twat in saying it, but this behaviour has to stop. We’ve all had traumas, and that’s not a competition either. In here, we’ve all been swapping stories, but it feels necessary and relaxed. Nobody is trying to story-top the other, we’re just sharing. That’s how it should be.
Okay one last point. A few people I know have stayed on mental health wards via the NHS. I know that because i’m in a private facility, it’s fun to joke about how chilled it is here, and it is – but it’s by no means a fun or pleasant experience. I’m still alone in the world in this room, on a lot of meds, I have to spend every day talking about things that make me anxious. I’m having lots of panic attacks. I’m around people who are constantly triggering because they’re as low as I am. This isn’t a holiday I’m on and I would thank some of you to appreciate that.
As I said, this post was incoherent. I have to go now, I’ve got my therapy session.