There was an article in yesterday’s Guardian that revealed that many anorexic patients from England are being sent to Scotland for treatment due to the lack of available facilities here.
The article said that, “Mental health experts voiced deep concern about the trend and said it could damage patients’ chances of recovery, increase their sense of isolation through the separation from their families and even increase their risk of dying.”
Now I know from my own experience that I would have found this practice devastating. I was an inpatient at the YCED for nine months in 2011 and it was a terrifying and, at times, lonely experience. There were constant injections, humiliating experiences like being accompanied in the shower, having to be in a wheelchair despite having legs that were functional and that’s not to mention the terror of mealtimes. Yes, there were some brilliant nurses there to talk to and yes, I made some brilliant friends on the ward – but not having my family close by to support me and remind me of my ongoing life outside the hospital? Unthinkable!
The YCED was an adult ward and had 20 beds and a long waiting list. I know how fortunate I was to have been given one of those beds. The policy there was that if you were above a BMI of 13.5 (I think) and you didn’t try to help yourself get better, you’d be asked to leave so someone else could have the bed who was more willing to be saved. There was often a lack of nurses as critical or violent patients needed round-the-clock supervision by two staff. The focus was on refeeding but also there was talking and body image therapy along with dietetics lessons and occupational therapy. I am in no doubt that being there saved my life. I was so, so lucky to have a bed.
The idea of being sent so far away from my loved ones is devastating. Anorexia is a vicious illness that affects your whole way of thinking, not just the food you eat. You think of yourself as unlovable, not worthy of attention and entirely unremarkable without your thinness to help you stand out. How abandoned you would feel if your family struggled to visit? It could only confirm your suspicions about yourself. And more – so much of my motivation to get better was not for myself (at the start at least) but because I could see how upset my family and friends were and I wanted to not be the cause of that. Take that away and I would have had to have admitted I deserved to get better for myself – a hard first step for tackling a mental illness.
Of course not everyone on the ward was as lucky as me. Not everyone had the warm, support that I had. The visitors and the people trying to understand how I was feeling – but for God’s sake – we need to do something to tackle this situation. The lack of facilities for mental health care can’t go on like this. We’re putting people’s lives at risk…just in the same way as if they were being sent hundreds are miles away to get treatment for life-threatening physical illness.
The sooner people understand the importance of mental health care, the safer the next generation will be.
I just wanted to share an update. Since I wrote my last post about my therapist not being there for me, I’ve had a lot of feedback and encouragement about letting her know how she’s making me feel.
The next week she cancelled on me twice and so, with you guys’ help in mind, I spoke to another therapist there about what was happening and how I was reacting. She strongly persuaded me to tell my therapist how I felt but said there was no pressure if it was too difficult. So when we did finally meet, I did tell her how rejected and uncared for I felt (OK, maybe I slightly sugar coated it but I think I got my point across). She apologised and explained what had happened from her point of view – and I totally got where she was coming from but I guess I still wish things had been different.
The whole thing was horrendous – I was outside of my comfort zone and wanted to weep constantly for upsetting someone by putting myself first. She also kept calling herself ‘rubbish’ and ‘a shit bag’ so I felt horribly guilty. Sometimes I think she and I might be too similar for this relationship ever to have worked! We could have been friends perhaps, but not
BUT it was totally worth it because I have now had my therapy extended! I’m going to have sessions with someone else in the new year to look into the issues and traits that I struggle with most that I feel haven’t been tackled thus far. So hurrah! And thank you so much – I wouldn’t have had the courage to say anything without your help!
My schema therapy trial (which started over two years ago) is coming to an end next month. To be honest, I don’t feel too sad about it. It’s not that I don’t think I’ve taken anything out of the process (although believe me, I will have a lot of feedback to give in the debriefing) but because…I’ve stopped trusting my individual therapist.
She’s great when she turns up but she’s constantly cancelling and delaying sessions and it makes me feel so unimportant. When I was really struggling recently and finally felt brave enough to reach out for the first time between sessions – she never got back to me. Last Christmas she gave me a present which was meant for a different patient – I mean, surely this isn’t what a therapist-patient relationship is all about?
What gets to me most is that the Schema Therapy model promotes almost familial relationship
s so that the therapist becomes a parent figure. This means she tells me how much she cares about me and wants me to be happy…but when she’s not there for me when I need her, well, I sit there thinking ‘bullshit’. So I’ve stopped trusting her. If she says my actions, which I’ll beat myself up over, aren’t that awful then I find it hard to believe her now. Ultimately I feel that even someone who is being paid to care about me can’t.
And the one thing I really wanted to tackle and overcome during this therapy, she’s promised over and over again that we’ll get to and never have. And I don’t think the remaining two sessions will cut it…if she turns up to them. Maybe if the therapy had worked better I’d be assertive enough to confront her about it…but I’m not. I’m just not.
So the question is: do I just end my therapy here and put it down to experience and try and tackle my demons by myself, or do I try something new and learn to put my faith in someone else?
It’s been a long time since I wrote. Indeed so long, my name has changed from Mason to Ford!
Basically, I’ve not written because I thought I was coping well and I was happy and could think of nothing worth writing about but the build up and aftermath of my wedding have shown that maybe that’s not quite true. Don’t get me wrong – the wedding was everything I could have ever dreamed of and my husband is the most wonderful man in the world but the stress leading up to the day and what it represented really got to me.
First of all, I stopped taking my medication because I got it into my head that if I was taking them, I wouldn’t experience the day to its emotional maximum. Not my smartest ever idea because I forget that my anxiety rockets whenever I decide to wean myself off them.
Secondly, with my fear of giving up independence stemming from many things in my past, including an abusive ex, I guess I was afraid. I kept drinking too much and generally acting like an idiot for a couple of months beforehand. My heart was pumping too fast constantly and I really began to dislike myself and feel I didn’t deserve the happiness my relationship was giving me. But my husband is worth the fear and helps me battle my negative self. My BPD had me mood flipping like crazy between approval seeking, impulsivity, self-hatred, vulnerability and disassociation. I could feel my healthy self (much like my dress in the pic below) unravelling and I was clinging on to my sanity by a thread. It proved to me that I’ve not been taking my therapy seriously – I’ve not been working hard enough to actually improve myself between sessions and I think I’ve been quite flippant about the whole process. Now I know, at least, exactly what I want to tackle but this therapy trial I’m on is nearly over. I think I’ll look for something more afterwards.
But the wedding was amazing and I’ve felt so much more secure since. But I need to learn from how badly I was feeling and realise that I still have a lot to tackle. I’ve also struggled with my anorexic thoughts of late. On the build up to the wedding, the stress caused me to lose weight, and putting that back on since is a battle I’m winning but with a loud anorexic voice screaming at me for being greedy all the while.
I’m getting there – I’ve come far – but I do need to be more aware of my triggers and my pitfalls. I’m just so lucky to have married the man who can help lead me step by step to a healthy future.
Today was the first of my 18 month of schema therapy for BPD assessments. I know I’ve mentioned before how odd I find this whole part of the trial. I think it’s because I’m not sure what they are measuring and how I’m coming across.
Because I feel a little depressive at the moment I feel like I really struggled with things today – it all felt a bit sluggish and in slow motion. This assessment consists of hundreds of questions ranging from how often you’ve thought about killing yourself in the last three months, if you walk in front of traffic irresponsibly, how much alcohol you drink, how lonely you feel, if you prize yourself above others, if your friends are supportive, if you can see things other people can’t, if you think you’re a bad person who doesn’t deserve kindness, if you hurt yourself, if you forget large chunks of time, if you forgive yourself your mistakes, if you purposefully destroy the good things in your life…and this goes on for two hours, the same question rephrased and it pokes and prods at every weak spot, emotional issue or insecurity you might have. It’s exhausting. And without any feedback or explanation about this, it’s really unnerving.
We get the same questions every six months and I suppose the idea is to see that schema group therapy, as a therapy model, is improving our mental health and quality of life. Except sometimes I feel like I answer the questions the same every time – not deliberately, just that maybe things haven’t changed for me.
Then after this avalanche of questions, we’re asked to draw a complex shape, which is taken away and then a while later have to redraw it from memory. Mine sucked. If my memory was supposed to have improved, then I’m not the participant patient they were after!
Basically I’m just expressing my dissatisfaction with this assessment process. I know I signed up for a trail and I’m part of research – but I’m also a person and I’m always left feeling a bit shaky and disillusioned about my progress. I think I’ll have to suggest a debriefing session for future participants.
Today marks the start of Mental Health Awareness Week – so come on folks – get talking.
There are plenty of us out there with mental illnesses and so many people are made to feel ashamed because of it. Well, it’s time to stop that. Please. Be compassionate. Be empathetic. Try to understand what someone is telling you. If someone seems sad, ask them why. If someone seems lonely, give them the time of day. If someone seems scary to you – maybe try to understand what is causing them to behave like that. We’re all people. We all do stupid things and we all struggle with the burden of our own thoughts. Some just more so than others.
This week I’m trying so hard to battle my ‘problems’. OK, it’s not something to be ashamed of but I want to be responsible for myself. I want not to hurt people and I want not to hurt myself. It’s hard to admit it but maybe I want to be happy and maybe that’s OK. So that means really focusing on my BPD – why it’s there and how I can learn to live with it better. It means not wallowing in it and taking control – owning my feelings and learning from my past.
Fancy joining me?
It goes without saying that mental health problems are going to affect your relationships. They change the way you see and interact with the world so it’s inevitable. And obviously it’s going to differ massively from person to person and lately I’ve been interested in how other people have maintained friendships with their own problems and if relating at all is difficult – for me, I’ve always found it hard.
Looking back to when my problems really became apparent: anorexia. With my anorexic voice in my head there was very little room for anyone else’s and people getting in the way of my routines coupled with my lack of personality due to a lack of energy, I found friendships hard. Some people battled to stay in my life. Others less so. What was interesting though is that it must have been seen as a very ‘glamorous’ illness. When I was in hospital people came to visit and vowed to love me and be worried about me that I barely heard from again since once I became healthy. Yuck – who needs friends like that?
Now, with my ongoing BPD, there are people who I have drifted from. My anxiety can get in the way, I can be flaky with arrangements, I can feel dull, inferior and like I add nothing to a relationship. I feel selfish and like a ‘bad person’ unless I put everyone else first. And then I get overwhelmed and so cancel everything and feel disgusted with myself and too ashamed to press the friendship further. I have friends that are safe and those who aren’t and I totally don’t blame people for losing patience with me as I can do too.
And although I may have lost friends to my problems, I’ve also gained many. Through my various treatments and in other walks of life, I’ve met other people who struggle and it’s always such a relief to be able to talk to someone who understands first hand where you’re coming from. Sometimes these friendships can become unhealthy or difficult if your issues clash or are too similar, but often they are rewarding and some of the closest friendships I’ve made.
Anyway, that’s my ramblings but I’m interested in what other people have felt about friends and mental health too. 🙂