The State of our Mental Health System

Having gone through a minor crisis this weekend, has led me to think about the state of our mental health crisis support, out of hours care and the general disparity between mental health services and physical care.

I felt a bit rough the whole day on Sunday, so I decided to head to bed early and  take my medication. I was really focused on staying in the moment and not losing time; as can happen with a dissociative disorder. But try as I might and no matter how tired I was, different alters clearly had other ideas, and we just couldn’t get to sleep.

Sleep is often an issue for us so we utilised all our normal strategies, reading, relaxing, grounding techniques, distraction… you name it we tried it, but nothing was working.

I watched the clock moving forward hour by hour and still desperately wanted to sleep. I use a journal to help us, so I began to draw, and then write in the hope this would help. Then suddenly without any warning I found myself in floods of tears, tears that seemed impossible to stop and tears for which I had no apparent reason.

By now it was gone 3am and my sobbing was so loud that I woke my son who lives with me, he couldn’t help and try as he might I knew we needed more help and yet I didn’t know who to seek it from.

I messaged my daughter who lives close by, in the faint hope she’d wake up and be able to help; but of course at gone 3am she was like most people fast asleep.

Now like many people with a mental health issue I have a formal care plan, and it has a list of things I can access in such times. But no one ever asks if I can use them easily or am able to actually make use of them.

So in such times as this, when I am clearly at a point of crisis, I can no longer deal with the distress or difficulty myself I am meant to access the local ‘CRISIS TEAM’.

Crisis support is only available by telephone, now If I could call then they might not be there, I’d get an machine to leave a message on, not in my opinion much use in a crisis. I actually find making calls difficult even on a good day, so at times of crisis calling a number and speaking to a stranger is impossible. I can’t even call the Samaritans and I have had to utilise their text service before now, when I felt like self harming or worse.

So contacting Crisis is always going to be a huge hurdle for us, and the reality is that like many service users, I know that this service is only ever able to offer a limited response even if I got through to them. You see the services are so stretched that basically all they can offer at night is a voice, who will ask questions like have you tried distraction, having a hot drink, what’s worrying you, and the like. I knew I had done everything they were going to ask or offer as a suggestion and I had no idea why I was so distressed, absolutely no idea.

I also knew that they’d ask did I feel like harming, had I harmed, and had I misused or taken my medication inappropriately.. and this was worrying me. I didn’t feel like harming, and I hadn’t harmed, but I hadn’t taken my medication appropriately. I’d missed them at least twice in the last 24 hours by mistake and I knew that they’d see this as a worrying sign. They don’t tend to understand dissociation or dissociative disorders, so wouldn’t understand that I had missed my medication because of my losing time and dissociating.

Failure to comply with medication or treatment doesn’t go down well and it raises more than an eyebrow. I also knew my state of distress which was bad wasn’t going to look good either, and together these things would set off alarm bells at the crisis team. The staff can’t come out to you in the middle of the night nor can they leave you if they think your vulnerable. So as I have been told on many occasions the only option left if they feel you are vulnerable or at risk, is to seek external help.

Now external help, basically means asking the police to undertake a safe and well check, and I have been told that the police have the power to then detain under a section 136 if they are concerned for my mental well being. I know utilising a section 136 is in fact illegal within my own home, but my care team clearly still can’t grasp this factor.

So at nearing 4am I had to make a decision, and with tears and sobs controlling me and feeling so so sad and down, I knew I wasn’t getting better I was worsening and before I started to lose any sense of rationality I had to act.

TO CALL OR NOT TO CALL….THAT IS THE QUESTION!

In my case I made a decision, the call itself would take so much effort, I knew I could predict the outcome, in my case a safe and well check… so as I knew that the Police had far better things to do with their time, and I didn’t need to deal with the hassle of all a visit would involve, not just the actual visit which I couldn’t predict the outcome of, but the village gossip later which in my head was going to be huge, I made a decision not to call. Now I know the police are very good and kind, this isn’t a criticism of them, more a realisation that I was saving us all time and in their case valuable resources.

Yet I needed to do something, nothing wasn’t an option…I decided that the least worst thing to do was to take extra medication to help settle me, well at least see if it worked. Now I don’t have any PRN meds prescribed but I knew I had missed some of the medication that I would need to use in this case and my dissociative episode in the previous 36 hours meant I had some spare.

So in the end I did take medication, out of line with my prescribed dose, to help me sleep and on this one occasion it helped. It’s not something I advocate others doing, and It is not something I would normally do myself. But circumstances gave me an option and I used that option. I did settle for about 3 hours which was never going to be enough but it got me through to the next morning when I could access help and support.

But the reality is that in a crisis the NHS seems to assume that all service users can access a phone.. that’s simply wrong. If you felt suicidal could you call and leave a voicemail and wait for a call back?

The Crisis service in most areas do not undertake visits in the evening or night time, instead relying on the police to do the job via safe and well checks. Now I know that the police are over-stretched and underfunded, and they don’t need to become the dumping ground for other services, but this kind of thinking does just that. It places a health matter, a medical issue into the criminal justice arena. Does anyone else think that is daft?

Crisis services and NHS staff who believe wrongly that section 136 can be used at home to detain someone, are again just passing the buck, and in the process they attempt to criminalise those who are mentally unwell. It’s the same scenario of course if there is no place of safety and the mentally unwell end up staying in a police station cell instead of a hospital bed. Would you like any of your close relatives who were unwell put in a cell instead of a hospital?

Yet the current system does place vulnerable people in cells time and time again. Even young children are placed in cells as places of safety – have we really gone bonkers. Is this called progress?

If the powers that be in central government and the NHS, actually want to bring about effective change in how we treat those with mental health issues it needs more than just hollow words or platitudes.

It is going require resources of NHS community services, a shift change in attitudes amongst staff and management. It needs more hospital beds not less, yes you heard MORE BEDS!!!

It requires more frequent visits from CMHT staff to vulnerable people in their care. I have had 2 visits since July, and its nearly December. Is that enough, the answer is simple, NO. Minimum standards of care should be established, that have to be adhered to and resourced.

The harsh reality is the Mental health services delivered by the NHS are failing, they are in crisis and until we tackle these issues people like me will either slip through the net, end up in a cell or take matters into their own hands and that may not always have positive results.

The police need to get on with policing, that’s what they are good at and yes of course there is an interface between the services at times around mental health but it should be a rare occurrence not a regular feature of every single police shift in the UK.

The crucial point here is this is a medical issue, and people should be treated by medical services, police cells are not fit to be places of safety. So central Government needs to change the law, prevent it happening. That is something we can all lobby our politicians to tackle, demand they bring about change.

In 21st Century Britain its time we delivered a mental health service that is fit for purpose, and treated those with mental health issues on an equal parity with those with physical issues. There are waiting times for physical issues, if I had to wait more than a year to access a routine treatment for Cancer, Arthritis, Epilepsy, there would be an outcry.

Why isn’t there an outcry over the waiting times for talking therapies, WHY?

Let’s stop this injustice, yes it time to talk mental health, its’ time we talked and saw action on equality, fairness, correct treatment, funding, adequate services, resources and a parity with physical health.

People like me deserve better, we deserve to be treated with care, with the aim being on getting us well, giving us back hope and a future not just writing us off.

I know so many people with Dissociative disorders who have to scrimp and save to pay for their talking therapy, there are organisations out there who because of their frustration advise of the pitfalls of the NHS and suggest paying privately.

If we do that, go private, we allow the NHS to get away without providing the right care and treatment for us, I know I am one of many who simply could not afford to pay privately, I have to battle the NHS system to get my treatment, I have no choice.

I will continue to battle for parity and for treatment and care, not just for me, but for others too, will you?  

INVISIBLE HANDCUFFS

The news that broke this week of three women being held as slaves in London has shocked many people, and as the media drip feeds society with snippets of information many questions are already being asked. One question raised today has been around the ‘Invisible handcuffs’ used to control and hold these women for at least thirty years.
 
As a victim of abuse I know like so many the strength of these so called ‘invisible handcuffs’, my main abusers managing to control me in so many different ways and sadly over many years.
 
Abusers come in all shapes and sizes, they might outwardly appear to be upstanding citizens, even respected pillars of their community, who well just wouldn’t do that sort of thing would they?
 
How many cases in recent times have we seen, were people have been shocked at the news that person A or person B could even be implicated in such abuse. The cases were everyone says after the charges are laid or the  guilty verdict given, ‘but they were just an ordinary family, normal, a nice person always willing to help anyone’.
 
In my own case I would never dare tell anyone about my abuse when I was a child, even when I was asked by teachers and professionals about home, I can so remember saying “everything was fine”. Even when I was asked once by a policeman if all was well  at home, I dare not tell the truth, for fear and control had been part of my abuse from an early age.
 
By utilising physical control, beatings, punishments for mistakes like breaching the restrictions imposed upon you, or even just implying a physical threat, abusers can control their victims be they child or adult. Add into that mix emotional abuse, the psychological trauma that so many victims suffer and you have even more control.
 
Psychological abuse can come in so many forms, in my case they made me feel worthless, that the abuse was my fault, I was bad, it was what I deserved. Such repeated soul destroying comments, threats and restrictions tear away at an individual and over time you believe what they say. You realise that they (the abusers) own you, and it’s just safer and better to do as they say.
 
My main controller, well she would have been high up in the chain of command with the Gestapo, such was her ability to control and dominate people. She would interrogate me as a teenager, quick fire questions so I made mistakes, and then punish me for them.  At one time I truly believed she knew what I was thinking, she could read my mind and to show me this she’d make; what I realise now where good guesses ,  but believe me at the time it played havoc with this victims mind.
 
She could inform me of what I was thinking without a second thought and her accuracy was terrifying, I daren’t even hate her for one second because she’d know, I daren’t think about escape for she’d know and then I would be punished.
 
I would follow her commands and instructions whatever they were, I was told once to run away from my school and despite fearing my teachers and the consequences of what would happen, I followed her orders to the letter. I walked along a beach as the tide came in, scared I might get cut off and drown, but still too afraid to leave the beach as she has instructed me to stay there.
 
Her control was such that I even told the Police who having mounted a huge search for me eventually tracked me down, that I left school because I hated it, when the reality was, school was my sanctuary. I took the officers lecture and the school teachers too and yet never once did I dare to break rank and tell them the truth.
 
I had so many opportunities as a teenager to leave my nightmare home, but it took me so long to be brave enough to seek the freedom I rightly deserved.
 
I know I am not alone, ask other victims of child abuse or domestic violence for their experiences and in many cases it will be fear that controls them into staying and often returning to their abuser. It takes a strong victim to leave, to break free and escape the so called ‘invisible handcuffs’.
 
Now I know that the full extent of the abuse, be it physical, sexual or emotional  that  these three women have endured may never be known, but please whatever you do, don’t judge them for staying. The reality is ‘invisible handcuffs’ can be used to control just as effectively as locking someone up, for the constant mind games endured by victims sadly do control them.
 
It took me years to leave my abusive environment and numerous attempts, I was 17 when I left that physical environment and I hid in fear for a while after, I was so terrified of the repercussions. But I still wasn’t free, in fact my abuser kept a check on me and in so many ways still controlled me and in turn guaranteed  her my silence, even though I was no longer in her home. For years after I would try and break free of her control, each attempt failed and without a blink she’d be back in my life and I would find myself trapped once again, no longer in her home now but married and with a family I was still unable to break free fully from those’ invisible handcuffs’.
 
People who are controlled through psychological abuse  are often trapped by the barrage of  insults, and mind controlling commands instilled upon them, repetitively and often over time, that weaken them and break them down into submission.
 
It took me a further 23 years to finally severe my links with my main controller, I was 40 years old and even then initially I lived in fear of her. I was supported by a loving family who by now knew more of the real person behind the fake facade that she was and yet I still feared this women.
 
Today thankfully I am a stronger person, but I am still on my healing journey for all those years of abuse, trauma and control don’t just dissipate overnight. But just like those three courageous women who bravely took the first steps towards freedom just over a month ago, I am free of the ‘invisible handcuffs’.
 
I hope society ensures these three vulnerable individuals  can be afforded the right help, support and care to allow them to heal. I also hope the media in particular doesn’t judge them, but instead can understand why they stayed, and the hold ‘invisible handcuffs’ can and do have on people.
 

 

If you are held captive today in any form of abusive situation, please seek help, you can break those ‘invisible chains’ and believe me, we all have the right to ‘FREEDOM’.

People’s attitudes towards suicide and self harm

Over the last few days I have witnessed what has been the worst stigma and lack of understanding of mental illness I ever encountered on social media. The target of this vile hatred and misunderstanding was those who attempted suicide, in particular the recent closure of a motorway in the UK due to a person who having reached the point of suicide had climbed onto a bridge ready to jump.

The tweets on social media were to be blunt vile, ignorant and selfish, some seemed more concerned with a delay in their journey than the life of the poor man concerned. At one point I tweeted that it made me ashamed to live in a country so ignorant of mental health,  but slowly the tide turned and people began attacking those posting such hateful tweets, this was in part due to the work of a few individuals whose wise words encouraged others to challenge the negative stigma. I wish to thank everyone who challenged the negative stigma and restored my believe that this country is changing attitudes towards mental health.

All of this made me think about the times I had caused disruption during my suicide attempts and self harming incidents and people’s attitudes towards myself at these times. I can still recall the hurtful words of countless mental health professionals telling me how selfish I was for wanting to end my life, or those that viewed me as attention seeking or time wasting when I self harmed.  I doubt I will ever forget those times that I encountered the dawning realisation that no one fully understood the pain I was in.

For me back then suicide wasn’t selfish it was my own selfless act of releasing those I loved from the burden that I then viewed myself as, it also offered me the release from the excruciating pain and turmoil I felt. Of course I couldn’t seem to express my pain clearly and somehow the judgement of others just added to my pain. My self harming was yet another means of physically demonstrating and releasing my inner pain. Of course not everyone’s story will be the same but in my case I just wanted someone, anyone to understand my suffering and help me stop the pain I felt.

Some people I met were more empathic they might not have fully comprehended how I felt but they never judged me nor criticised my actions.  Occasionally they might even ask why and for a short time I could try and explain what was going on inside my mind.  Looking back I know which approach helped the most and it wasn’t being judged or demonised by others.

I can still recall those individuals who cared and those who didn’t, for example once in Staffordshire I was stopped by the police, the officers concerned where kind, their actions were not to put me in a cell but to hold me in a room with 1-1 supervision whilst we all waited for my local police force to come and collect me and escort me back to hospital. They chatted about my reasons for leaving, for wanting to die, they explained people cared and wanted to help me. They de-escalated a very distressed and hurting individual to a more calm person who voluntarily went for my assessment.
But in Leeds whilst the police were helpful and non judgmental, the ambulance crew tasked with taking me from a & e to the local psychiatric unit criticised and complained about my wasting time and the use of valuable resources. I was in a unfamiliar location and had just been admitted to hospital and  it wasn’t my desire to waste anyone’s time, but suddenly I was made to feel guilty and a burden; it didn’t help especially given I was suicidal.

When I self-harmed there were often those who judged and criticised, sadly the NHS staff were the worst, even on one occasion saying I must be making up my reason for harming; the doctor choosing to dismiss that my Mother could be my abuser with the curt response of “mother’s don’t do that sort of thing”. I remember feeling so distressed that he didn’t believe me especially as I had always been told no one would believe me if I told, now that was no longer a threat but a reality.
Though on one rare occasion a doctor was gentle and kind, he took time to make sure I was mentally ok too, even though all he was tasked with was stitching up my wound. That extra care made me realise there was hope; he’d explained that my family didn’t think I was a burden, they cared, maybe I could get through this awful nightmare I felt I existed in.

So why do people respond in such different ways, perhaps its ignorance or maybe fear of the unknown,  or is it a lack of education and understanding of mental health.  I think even among mental health professionals the issues of both suicide and self harm are sadly not fully understood by everyone.

With 1 in 4 people suffering from some form of mental illness its time that education was given a more prominent role, and perhaps we should focus on targeting this education at those in the caring sector and the younger generation first.  If I have learnt anything from my time at breaking point it is that the least judgemental were in fact the younger generation, therefore we should look at more work in schools as well as within health, social services and the police. 
Of course the wider public need educating too and challenging when they demonstrate stigma and misunderstanding,  so more use of social media formats to positively challenge negative stigma as seen in the past few days can only be good. 

Looking back now I realise that the dark place that was my existence back then, was not a permanent place, for with the loving support of my family, the right diagnosis and time, I now see that I have a future. Yes there are days of anguish and pain, but they pass and I survive to face each new tomorrow.

To those professionals and individuals who cared and showed understanding and helped to keep me safe I want them to know that I am truly grateful. Their actions helped me on my journey and they helped me to survive.

To those who didn’t understand my pain, please educate yourselves; not for my sake but for the countless others who will come after me on this road of desperation and pain and believe me there are many.

Finally to those who feel they are in that dark place and there is no other way out, I know my words may sound hollow and misguided, but having walked in your shoes, I can tell you that there is a light at the end of that dark tunnel even though you can’t see it currently. You are not a burden to anyone and you are cared about. Whatever has brought you to this place of contemplating suicide it is never worth your life, there will be brighter tomorrows and you deserve a positive future. Keep searching for that light it will come in time.

Dealing with Stigma

Whilst I write this blog and talk of my experiences living with Dissociative Identity Disorder, I am in many ways invisible. I can express my views and be honest about my life, my experiences and my difficulties, safe in the knowledge that no one would actually know who I was.
 
This week I have been thinking about why I chose in some circumstances not to declare my diagnosis or indeed the fact I have been detained under the mental health act, I realised that my fears of rejection and the stigma of mental illness really do impact upon my everyday life.
 
I guess to the outside world looking in I may be seen just ‘normal’ whatever ‘normal’ is. I don’t carry a label saying I have a mental health issue, and I no longer carry my teddy bear everywhere I go, which only two years ago I held in full view of everyone.
 
I live in a small community where everybody seems to know everyone, and I am trying to rebuild a life after so long in hospital, in and out of that revolving door that epitomises the mental health system.
 
So when I meet people for the first time, I tend to skip over the fact I have DID, and the fact I have been in hospital sectioned, with no control over my life. I never lie, I just don’t expand on certain issues:–
 
          so I have been studying for my degree… true, the fact I started my studies in a secure unit is conveniently missed out. .
          I have three grown up children…true, the fact that for a couple of years I wasn’t allowed to live in their home due to my self-harming behaviour is never mentioned.
          My parents are deceased….true, rarely do I say I was a victim of child abuse and that one of my parents was awesome and the other one of my abusers.
 
Why is it that out of fear of rejection I chose to limit what I tell people, even if I have known someone a while I still might not be so upfront and open. The fact is I want people to judge me as a person and not a label, to see me as an equal who can contribute to society and can make a difference to this world that I live in. So I try and seamlessly interact with society, despite everything I work at me fitting in to a world that at times is alien and frightening, triggering and scary.
 
This isn’t easy for someone with D.I.D, I switch alters, my voice changes, my facial expressions change, my mannerisms change, so I have to work hard to try and plan and prepare for everything just to look ‘normal’, you see just being out there and being adult can take its toll on me.
 
I find it hard sometimes to justify why I am so forgetful, why I lose track of a conversation half way through, why I have to keep periods in my diary free; simply so I can either rest and recover or let younger alters play. Yet the reality is people don’t recognise instantly that we have D.I.D, they don’t realise when we have switched alters unless of course we react in a very clear physical way or the change is so drastic, they just assume I’m forgetful or perhaps pre-occupied with something else.
 
Of course those who know me well and know about my D.I.D they can tell instantly, and on many occasions will interact with whichever alter is out; whatever their age. At times these people come to my rescue and help me out of a situation if its overloading me and my system, they might prompt me, to help me remember what was being discussed, or conveniently remind me of the time and the need to get moving. in other words a quick exit strategy.
 
Fear and stigma surround us, while there are lots of TV programs about mental health, its often sensationalist and more entertainment than stigma busting.
 
Society views mental health with scepticism, many people think  it couldn’t possibly happen to them and well this 1 in 4 statistic that’s for other people isn’t it. But of course the reality is that we all know someone who is suffering from a mental health issue, indeed we probably no more than one person.
 
But will people know anything about D.I.D, it’s not the most talked about issue, there is very little coverage in the media of Dissociative disorders, in part I guess because of the underlying cause…trauma.
 
This leads me to the final reason I tend not to tell people, I tend to hide the shame and the guilt I carry and have carried since a small child. Being a victim of child abuse leaves a stigma above and beyond mental health, I was always told it was my fault, I was bad, I was to blame. The harsh reality is of course I was a child, who was hurt, who cried and suffered at the hands of adults who should have protected me or at least not done this to me.
 
I guess I tend not to tell people about having a diagnosis of D.I.D because I am ashamed, not of the diagnosis or my alters but of what happened to me. I carry the guilt and the shame that belongs to someone else, my abusers. This is my own self created stigma, for acknowledging the label acknowledges the cause and I so wish that this had never happened to me. I wish I had been loved by both my parents, cared for by them both and not seen as a object but a child, a person.
 
Telling people I have D.I.D also means admitting not just to them but to myself, that what happened to me as a child is a reality and as much I sometimes wish I could, I can’t deny my past. .I can’t wipe away the truth, instead I have to embrace it, take up the mantle of rebuilding a life out of the mess of my past.
 
All I want today.. is to live with this diagnosis, with all its difficulties and challenges and yet to be accepted as a person. Not a victim but  a survivor, not a statistic but a human being, who just happens to have a mental illness caused D.I.D.
 
So my personal challenge this coming week is to start to dealing with the stigma, so if people stop talking to me, cross over the road to avoid me, ignore me, judge me… that’s there issue not mine. I am who I am, Carol… and they can either accept me or reject me, but I am one of those 1 in 4, and no longer afraid to tell.
 

 

I’ll let you know in a future blog how it goes, being more open, more upfront  and as that famous mental health slogan says…..ITS TIME TO TALK. 

The minefield of triggers

(Please be aware content may trigger some people)
 
This week I feel I have been walking in a minefield of triggers, everywhere and anywhere I have gone they seem to creep up on me and when I am least expecting it, they catapult me into a place I would rather not be.
 
On Tuesday I had the dreaded dentist, now I thought I might be triggered by the actual place and was really pleased when I wasn’t. So imagine my surprise when in the early hours of the next morning with my jaw still sore, I suddenly found myself catapulted back to 1978.
 
My painful jaw triggering my alter Titch who was scared and afraid as she was gripped in pain. My stomach was in agony with a pain very similar to appendicitis, whilst my jaw was causing her to fear and remember the blows she used to take for me back then. I couldn’t move because of the pain and so for quite a while I had to just lie there terrified and unable to do anything to reduce our turmoil.
 
Eventually the stomach pain reduced enough for me to remember it was 2013 and I was safe, and these were in reality just memories. It wasn’t happening all over again, even if it felt like that. I realised it was Titch because of the pain, for this is her pain and hers alone, so I spent quite a while talking aloud in the hope Titch would hear me. I kept saying the same reassuring terms over and over because I knew she was still there, as my stomach was still hurting. Slowly and over time it all subsided and then I lay awake trying to figure out what had caused this to happen, it took me a while to realise it was simply because of a bruised jaw. That was my trigger!
 
On Thursday in the middle of doing some research on mental health; I was using the wonderful world wide web to help me, and there suddenly on the screen popped up a name I remembered, it was the name of a specific hospital; which for legal reasons shall remain nameless, it’s a unit in Sussex far from where I live. I stopped my research and backed off, it was a place I didn’t wish to think about, I took time out and then headed for bed.
 
But I just couldn’t sleep, my head was filled with the thoughts of my time in that place, the shortages of staff, the procedures that made me feel like a third class citizen. Try as I might I couldn’t settle, then I realised my thoughts were racing and that’s not good. I lost some time, and then when I came back to awareness I felt on edge and confused something was triggering me but I couldn’t figure out exactly what it was. I knew I had been angry, frustrated but it was just a hospital one I will never go to again.
 
Then I realised that place made me feel more vulnerable than any other hospital I have ever been in, and that was triggering a younger alter. They could recall feeling vulnerable and inferior to those who hurt her, she was in a different time period to me. The hospital name had been the trigger!
 
So imagine my surprise yesterday, when whilst I was out for the evening at an event hosted by a charity I truly passionately believe in, I suddenly started to feel light headed and not myself. It came on thankfully just as we were leaving so I managed to save myself from the major embarrassment of having to leave hastily. I got outside and had to be helped to stay upright on my feet, my head feel woozy and my hearing was all echoes, I felt disorientated and just not me. Luckily all the external stimuli of the busy streets and the cold air and rain helped me to feel more normal again, more like me.
 
The person who was with me knows me well, so as we made our way back to the car slowly and carefully we talked about what had happened. I suddenly realised that somebody’s random comment had catapulted me back 35 years and all in the space of a few words, a few seconds.
 
Triggers are a constant for anyone living with Dissociative identity disorder, but even if you think you can weave your way around them, avoid certain objects, sounds, smells etc. the harsh reality for me this week has been that no matter how much I try and plan, new things can trigger me without warning, be that a painful jaw, the name of a place or a random comment.
 
Life will always be a like walking in a minefield full of potential triggers, for no matter what I do something at some point will catapult me back in time. Maybe that’s my valuable lesson learnt this week.
 

 

Triggers aren’t great, they cause unpleasant feelings and emotions, but unlike most people I guess they also mean I get to time travel. I just need to learn to utilise these time travelling skills to my benefit, to take me back to those places and moments in time where I would rather visit…… well maybe one day. 

Four years of freedom

This week I will celebrate four years of freedom, freedom from Hospital, from the chaos that comes from being on a acute ward  or worse. This milestone is more than just an achievement, it is a place I never dared to imagine was possible.
In 2004 I began a cycle of acute admissions that seemed impossible to break, I was to be blunt, on the spiral of self-destruction which involved much anguish not just for me but for my family too.
This cycle lasted for five years and was relentless, in a period of 260 weeks I had my freedom for just 60 weeks. These breaks would often be for a month or so and then I would hit another bout of flashbacks and nightmares and I would end up back on yet another acute ward wondering why my life was in such turmoil.
This had all seemed so detached from the person that I was, a hard working wife and mum of three, involved in community life in the small rural hamlet where we then lived.
 I had very little knowledge of psychiatric in-patient care so an acute ward was alien and frightening. I had a plethora of different psychiatrists, community nurses and the like and my fair share of different diagnoses. All I knew was my head was full of absolute terror as I recalled trauma from my past, I kept losing time, felt detached from the world around me and so confused. Yet at the time I couldn’t explain much of this, nor how much I hurt and why I could see no way out but to die.
The nightmare journey to diagnosis took me from the relative comfort of mainstream psychiatry, to the more restrictive environment of secure services and back. When I was in the community it wasn’t easy, there would be regular appointments with the psychiatrist, the CMHT, and the nurses dealing with my wounds. I faced lots of restrictions which invaded my private life and dictated where and with whom I resided. In my darker moments I would meet lots of different crisis teams and when it all started to fall apart a number of police officers who were tasked in keeping me safe.
My old self had gone and I was now a walking drugs cabinet, with a body full of scars, finally after what felt like an eternity I was diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder. I was finally aware of why I felt the way I did, and that with the right help and understanding, there was a way forward.
In November 2009 I was discharged from hospital; for what I hope will be the last time, I still have moments of crisis, feel suicidal, want to harm, I  still suffer sleepless nights as I am plagued by flashbacks. I have to weave my way around the minefield of triggers and I lose time regularly. I still need support each day with daily living, and I am still in the process of dealing with my past.
But in the past four years I have achieved far more than I ever thought humanly possible, I realise that I am a survivor not just a victim.  My main physical scars have faded somewhat and I no longer rattle as I walk, deciding to reduce the drugs with help; so I could get some of my life back on track.
In 2004 I never thought I would be able to say thank you to anyone who had saved me from suicide, and In 2009 I felt glad I was still here, but I worried if it would last.
Four years on and I can honestly say that I am grateful to each and every individual who stopped and helped me when I was at my lowest ebb. I am especially grateful to the individual police officers from a wide range of forces across the UK; who apart from the odd exception, treated me with the utmost respect and dignity.
 But most of all I am and will always be, eternally grateful to my children and family for their continuing love and support, when I gave up on me, thankfully they didn’t. I know that my nightmare journey was theirs too, they endured the sleepless nights worrying about me, saw me self harm and deal with the consequences afterwards, they became accustomed to filing the missing person reports and they endured the long journeys to see me in hospital; sometimes hundreds of miles from our home. They have shared in my tears, my pain and yes my suffering.
 I am truly blessed to have such an amazing family, my children have now become adults and I am one immensely proud mum. I know that they are the most caring, selfless and dedicated children, they have made these last four years so worthwhile. They encourage me, motivate me, they have given me back my smile, and we all share in the laughter that now fills my brightest days.
If you have a dissociative disorder, or have been a victim of abuse, believe me there is hope.
 
If you are in and out of hospital, feel like life just cannot get any worse, and certainly can’t get better, believe me, but it can get better.
 
If you love someone who is in the midst of an inpatient admission, this nightmare time will end.
For as the last four years demonstrate people can and do turn corners, they can survive out of hospital, and they can; taking teeny, tiny steps, move forward in their life. It isn’t a panacea, we still have difficult times I won’t lie, but I am no longer on mission self-destruct and that in itself is one huge achievement.
Dare to dream the impossible, because the impossible can come true.