Tag Archives: sectioned

World suicide prevention day 

Imagine that everything is black. You open your eyes and you can’t see anything. There’s a heavy weight pushing you down. It hurts. You’re being pushed down and down. Even sitting up is too hard. On top of that there’s a million thoughts bashing around your head.

You’re a bad person

Everyone hates you

You’re a burden 

You’re better off dead

I can’t.

It takes up every thought, every moment. You need a way out and suddenly suicide offers itself up. You gnaw on the idea obsessively. It’s almost a comfort at time. I feel awful but there’s a way out. 

The first time suicide entered my mind I was 14 and being bullied at school. I woke up dreading each day and then, one day, online i found a hate page about me. Someone had written how I was better off dead. That sentence got stuck for many years. It was years later that I made my first suicide attempt but I’ve been living with the spectre of suicide for 11ish years.

For a very long time after being sectioned I fought so hard to end my life. I spent 8 months on 1:1 being watched around the clock but I still tried and tried over again to take my life. I felt hopeless, I felt too broken, too damaged by my past to continue living. 
But things did change. I had my friends, my family, my boyfriend around me, holding my hope for me when I couldn’t hold it my self. I haven’t attempted suicide since January and I no longer feel suicidal. I am lucky, I’m genuinely glad I was found every time I attempted. At the time I was furious but now I feel differently. 

I wish I could say the same for some of my friends. Beautiful, kind souls who saw no way out. I think of them every day and I live my life for them. These women were failed by a system that leaves you falling on your own until crisis happens and you make an attempt. Where is the support to prevent these deaths? Because they are preventable. 

Imagine if we had a system that offered support before crisis? If we listened when someone started asking for help rather than sending them away to get sicker before they qualified for help. Or we never saw the ‘it was attention seeking/ a cry for help/ manipulative’ attitude from the professionals. Imagine how it feels to reach out only to be told ‘if you were serious you wouldn’t tell anyone’. Too many people are silenced.

 Suicide is such a taboo subject and it shouldn’t be. We put our hands over our ears and eyes and pretend we can’t see it. As do the mental health system. But it’s there and it’s taking too many lives. 

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A long journey

On the 2nd May 2015, I was sat in a car park, on the way to work, and I had cut my wrists. I had phoned my mum, terrified I was going to run into traffic. As soon as I had hung up, I realised I didn’t want to be saved.

I cant remember much of the next 18 months. I know that I was desperate, that my sole intention was to kill myself when I could get the chance. And there were times I nearly succeeded. I stopped eating and drinking and was taken in and out of hospital for glucose and fluids. I remember fighting that, I didn’t want them to help me. I couldn’t understand why the staff didn’t just give up on me. I spent hours head banging, trying to escape myself. I still have two ridges in my forehead and I spent a long time with an open split on my head where I had gone too hard.

My mental health story started long before that. Aged 14 I was being bullied at school. It wasn’t just name calling, I was pushed over a wall, slammed in a door. There were comments made on a bebo page- one of which stuck with me. That I was better off dead. That was the first time suicide entered my head. By the end of year 9, I was self harming and bulimic. I felt so alone.

I moved schools for sixth form and found my  feet, still suffering from an eating disorder and self harm, but I was feeling happier. I had a group of friends. For the first time in a long time I felt like people liked me.

The same came when I started university. For the first term, I loved it. My eating improved, I mostly stopped self harming. I was feeling well. But then I was raped and my world fell apart. Almost immediately my eating disorder took over. My depression clouded me. By second year I was anorexic. I’ve never felt so isolated. We lived in a horrible flat. I remember sitting there trying to persuade myself that I could cope. I managed to finish second year with a 2:1 but I didn’t feel any sense of achievement. I was completely in the grips of failing mental health.

In December of third year I was admitted to an Eating Disorders Unit where I spen ten months. I came out still struggling anorexia but then months later I suddenly flipped back to bulimia. Horrendous bulimia. I was binge purging on 1000s and 1000s of calories. Once my bank even rang me as there had been so much use of my card. I was falling apart and was admitted to an acute unit, twice. I came home, relapsed and that started this admission.

I’ve spent too much time in hospital. I’m tired of living by a regime. I want to be able to wake up when I want. I want to work.

And suddenly I’m getting there! This Wednesday I had my section lifted! It’s been the best part of two years since I was free. There is no better feeling that sitting out in the park knowing I can sit in the park enjoying the sun and not being limited to 1 hour. I can walk as far as I want. It’s such a weight off. I’ve worked so hard to get this far and I’m going to keep working.  I have the most incredible family, friends and boyfriend, even when I’ve felt alone, I haven’t been. They’ve been there, every step of the way. I have a 2:1 degree in microbiology and I’m going to use it.

My mental health story doesn’t end here, it keep going but changing course. Two years ago, I was desperate to die. Now? I’m desperate to live.

World Mental Health Day: Dignity

This years theme for World Mental Health Day is dignity in mental health care. This is something I’m quite passionate about and have had such mixed experiences. 

Having a mental health problem makes you vulnerable. When you’re in crisis or at rock bottom it’s hard to keep yourself safe. And that means safety from poor treatment by professionals too. 

As someone who self harms I’ve had a large number of experiences in A&E, some of which left me feeling calmer and cared for, others which left me even more distressed. I’ve had some brilliant health care professionals in A&E who have gone out of their way to ensure I was treated well- the doctor who stitched my cuts so carefully and talked to me as a human being last year whilst I was in hospital, the doctor at another hospital who sat me in a side room with a 1:1 nurse and who came and persuaded me to stay the night rather than them having to call a mental health act assessment. He came after the end of his shift just to check I was okay. It was one of the most distressing nights of my life but he sticks in my head as someone who really cares about my welfare and dignity. I’ve also had some horrible A&E experiences- sent away after being told yes I needed stitches but because it was self harm I wouldn’t be stitched. Or being brought over in a wheelchair unable to walk and semi conscious after loosing too much blood only to be stitched and sent away- I remained unwell for the next few weeks before my GPs did a blood test and I was called in for a blood transfusion. Or the time they stitched me without adequate anaesthetic. 

Then there’s dignity involved in being brought into hospital. This is a tricky one because I honestly believe there is no right way of doing this other than making it as least distressing and public as possible. When I was hospitalised for the third time the crisis team were visiting my and I refused to go into hospital with them. They told me that they would have to call 999 but I tried to run so they promised they wouldn’t. Next thing I knew the were four police officers and a paramedic banging on my door and coming into my flat. They were kind but there was no dignity in screaming and crying and finally being persuaded in a state to walk to the police care and be taken to hospital where I was later sectioned. It was humiliating, my flatmates had to see me screaming at the emergency services and everyone on the street outside and in A&E got a sideshow of me being half dragged into and out of the police car. But there was also no better way they could do it, I was too unwell and my health was at risk and I guess that’s the same with many incidences of being brought into hospital. But it certainly lacked dignity. 

My biggest experience of dignity in mental health care has to be as an inpatient. I have such varied experiences. The hospital I was in last year had no concept of dignity. The ward wasn’t really designed with patient privacy in mind the beds were in a H shape with the communal area and nursing office in the middle. With the exception of wardroubd room there were no side rooms that could be used for private conversations or deescalation. At the time I was struggling with head banging and self harming but all the would simply happen would be I was restrained to the sofa with all the other patients watching and left in a crying heap with no option of talking to staff.  I remember one night I was so distressed I couldn’t sleep and spent the entire night awake in the communal area but not once did a member of staff check on me. My current ward is much better. Even when I’ve ligatured and they’ve had to pull the alarm they always ensure there’s as few people present as possible. And when I’ve been restrained and injected they’ve always tried to talk my down first before using the injection. I did have one incident where I was face down strip searched and my knickers removed as part of that which left me very distressed especially with my history but I put in a complaint and it was upheld and the policy adjusted for when to use strip searches . The other times I’ve been face down restrained and injected although highly traumatic and undignified the staff have been kind and given me the opportunity to talk after. 

Mental health is not dignified. I’ve been found in various states of undress after ligaturing with an item of clothing or vomited in front of staff when my ED was in control.I’ve  spent three months showering and toileting in front of staff. My medication causes me to suffer from hyper salivation causing me to dribble a lot. 

There’s little dignity in mental health crisis but with appropriate care and caring and supportive staff  you can be treated with dignity and respect. Something I strongly believe improves recovery, when you feel you’re being treated with dignity it goes a way towards improving your self worth and ultimately self esteem. When you’re treated with no respect and dignity it destroys your feeling of self respect and self esteem. Dignity  shouldn’t be something we’re surprised to find in mental health (and physical) care but something that is a given. But whilst it’s not we need to celebrate the staff who treat us with dignity and respect whilst educating those who don’t. 

A letter (Trigger: rape)

Dear X,

I don’t really know where to start this letter. I think you probably know what it’s going to be about though. Or maybe not? Do you even remember that night? Or has it faded into the background of your life like any other normal day to you?

Maybe I’ll start by telling you what I was like before that night. I was bubbly; not just cheerful but joyous. I loved to laugh and spend time with everyone. Every morning at 10am I’d go to the library cafe with the biology girls intending to work and every morning work would fall by the wayside in favour of lattes, cake and funny YouTube videos. I would laugh until my sides hurt. Yes I had bulimia and self harmed but I felt like a young woman whose life was just opening up for her. I loved to wear nice clothes and dressed to flatter my body. I dressed up for nights out, wore heels I couldn’t walk in, got drunk and danced with my friends until I could barely stand! I was young and relatively carefree. My whole future was ahead of me. I wanted to study graduate entry medicine and specialise in tropical disease. I enjoyed time with my family and days out pretending to be tourists. I loved to sing and play violin, I was part of the the choir and ICSE, I loved concerts and the sheer joy of making music in beautiful venues.

Now let me tell you who I became after. I withdrew, nights out became fraught with fear. I felt tainted and dirty and any male attention sent me into a panic. I drank to numb rather than enjoy. My eating changed, suddenly my stomach was too full of poison for food and I began to obsessively restrict and lose weight. As my body became smaller, more angular, more protected by anorexia the safer I felt. And then there were the binge purges where I desperately filled and emptied trying to squash the poison down. By the middle of third year, the week of Christmas, I was admitted to an eating disorders unit with a BMI in the critical range. I spent ten months there, I had to defer uni, I lost the trust of friends and family. My mood crashed and the badness I’d always felt was inside of me intensified and the only way I could get it out was by cutting, deeper and deeper. Landing myself in A&E more times than I can count, arms covered in scars. In January 2014 my anorexia morphed suddenly and violently back into bulimia. I remember walking the streets at all hours- day and night- to the supermarkets multiple times a day, stuffing it all in and making myself sick up to 20 times a day. The sheer desperation I felt. I remember multiple overdoses, rarely seeking help, hoping this time it’d work. I remember losing my music, I still can’t play the violin or sing without feeling panic. Then there were the admissions, 2 to a general psychiatric unit in 2014, one under section, day hospital after that and another day hospital admission earlier this year. And then this admission, sectioned, on my 5th month in hospital, into my fourth month on 1:1, feeling hopeless I’ll ever get my life back. Too scared to move forward in case I fall even further. I should be starting an MSc, I have a place, but here I am, not even able to shower or piss in private.

I have flashbacks to that night you know. I can feel you on top of and inside me and how much it hurt. I don’t remember most of what happened but I have flashes and they are too traumatic to verbalise here. I remember the sickly, dirty, unclean fear the next morning and the way it’s stayed with me ever since. I haven’t felt clean since, no matter how hard I try to wash you away.  I should hate you, but I feel tremendous guilt for letting you do that to me. I feel it’s all my fault. And yet at the same time you ruined my life. You took everything that was good about me, everything I valued and everything I wanted from my life and ruined it, spoiled it, made it twisted and negative. You’ve turned me from someone who had hope to someone who feels the only way out is suicide. I hate that I let you win. You took my virginity, my dignity and my future and made a joke out of my life. And there you are; making a living, building a life for yourself, laughing, happy and ultimately victorious. I don’t know what you wanted to achieve that night but I feel you killed off the Becca I used to be. I’m not dead but I might as well be because I can feel your poison running through my veins and it’s destroying me. I can’t even enjoy the time I have with my partner because every time he touches me I feel you doing the same and the clutch of panic and disgust inside me is so real and overpowering.

Youve put a millstone of guilt around my neck and it’s dragging me down. To quote Stevie Smith ‘I’m not waving but drowning.’ I’m drowning in guilt and fear and disgust. I feel completely detached from my body, I punish it by cutting, burning and my ED. I tried to starve and overdose and ligature it away but none of it’s worked and I’m stuck in a body which let me down so badly, which you invaded. It’s an object which you used and I now need to punish.

Youve got a life and I’m not going to take it away from you, but know that on January 18th 2011 you took my life and made a failure and laughing stock out of it and I can never get the Becca I was before back. And I hate you for that.

Becca

ECT 

Tomorrow is my third session of ECT. I’m not going to lie and say it’s a treatment I feel particularly positive about or one I’m 100% dedicated to. But I’m doing it and that counts for something. I wanted to write a post about what it’s really like. 

When I was told ECT was my next line of treatment I was terrified. In my head I had images and descriptions of the type found in The Bell Jar. Descriptions of a barbaric process which is painful and undertaken fully conscious. 

The reality couldn’t be further from the truth. I do not like ECT and I am terrified before every treatment. But it is now a clinical and controlled process only used where clinically indicated. 

On ECT days I do not take any medications in the morning and am nil by mouth. A nurse or HCA takes me over to the ECT suite about 9-10amish with my thick ECT folder. We wait together in a pleasant sitting area watching TV until I am called through by one of the ECT nurses to the prep room. There I am settled into a trolley and all my observations taken. As always my pulse is high. My nurse/ HCA is with me throughout as memory tests are checked and then I am wheeled through to the ECT room. There a cannula is inserted and jelly and monitors stuck to my temples and forehead. An oxygen bag valve mask is placed over my mouth as the anaesthetic and muscle relaxant are injected. I quickly lose consciousness. The next thing I know I am waking up in recovery with a cracking headache feeling woozy. Because I am not drinking or eating I always awake to a bag of saline being pushed through. I am slowly re orientated and then taken through to the recovery sitting room where I have the option of a cuppa and something to eat. Whilst in the sitting room my obs are repeated multiple times before I’m taken back to the ward by my HCA / nurse to sleep and have my obs continued. And then that’s all repeated a few days later. 

If I’m honest, I hate ECT. I do not trust that it will work and I hate being unconscious. Then there’s the side effects- memory loss, headaches, muscle pain, disorientation and fear. But neither is it the draconian torture method so frequently projected. 

What does mental really look like?

I’m sorry for the long absence in posting, being in hospital makes every day monotonous and I’m pretty sure none of you are interested in the days I manage to get in the shower.

I wanted to post some misconceptions about inpatient treatment. When I used to use Instagram I regularly saw people wishing the could me inpatient on a ‘nice safe ward’ away from the stresses of life. I’ve been in hospital four times, some have been excellent, some awful. None of them (perhaps with the exception of the Priory) were safe little retreats. There is nothing safe or comforting about being restrained and injected to calm you down. There is an escape from real life but the ward is a world of its own, often more chaotic than your own home. Psychiatric wards are last resort places, when all else has failed to help. 

That said, neither are they places portrayed in films like Girl, Interrupted. Most have single rooms and staff monitor patients carefully. I’m on 1:1 and I can’t even sneak a hair band from the bathroom without questioning. The patients are not all obviously unwell, we all have our moments and there are some who are highly confused but most are quiet and reserved or sit in the living room watching TV and laughing, interrupted only by the call of ‘meds! ‘ yes one or two of us will be on one to one but even then you wouldn’t know we have life threatening mental illnesses. 

The staff are not the draconian strict staff of 90s psych movies but instead do their best to run a ward whilst often understaffed. They make time for 1:1 sessions with their named patient.

I am a patient currently in my 12th week of stay, half of which on section 3. I have a 2:1 in microbiology and an offer for two masters courses. I have a loving family and friends. I wear clean fashionable clothes most days and jewellery. If you saw me on the street the only sign of my battle with MH is the scars that stripe my skin. All in all I look pretty normal. And yet I’m diagnosed with severe depression with psychosis and on heavy duty psychiatric medication and on Tuesday will be starting a course of ECT. A terrifying prospect but one that everyone agrees is the right decision.

So there you go, we may be on hospital but many of us, you wouldn’t look twice at in the street. 

Sectioned

I feel it’s important to be open and honest about my struggles with my mental health on this blog. I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and kindness shown to me by readers of the blog and whilst I’m terrible at replying I do read and appreciate every one. 

Currently things are far from easy. This time last year I was on section in hospital. Today was my 20th day on the local NHS unit and it did not go well. My mood has been on the slide since my last week at the priory about four weeks ago and as a result I have begun to struggle with ligaturing and self harming once again. Today things came to a head. I was desperate to leave the ward and harm myself and as an informal patient spent a good part of the morning arguing my rights with the staff. I’m on level two here which means 15mins checks and means no leave. As I continued to struggle to move away from the ward doors I was placed under a section 5(2) and restrained to the deescalation room. The rest of the day was spent in fear of and waiting for the Mental Health Act assessment I knew was coming. At 4pm I was called in to a meeting with three doctors and questioned as to why I was so desperate to leave and how my suicidal thoughts had become so strong. I basically cried my way through the meeting. I was sent out of the room to find the ward in lockdown as some gardening scissors had gone missing so we were all individually searched and secluded in the lounge whilst all our rooms were searched. During that time I was called out with a nurse from the ward and told I was being placed on a section 3. I was gutted and still feel it was intensely unfair. The staff and patients on the ward were wonderful and supportive mostly and my family and boyfriend have been absolute stars. Those are the positives I have to hang on to.