Them and Us – The battle lines of Mental Health

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This week has been busy, on Monday I faced yet another Care Plan meeting; my CPA, I wasn’t looking forward to it as I particularly dislike having my meeting at sites that I regard as the medical professionals territory. This meeting instead of being on neutral turf was at the Community Mental Health teams base and so I felt at a disadvantage somehow.

I had to literally force myself to go, I felt so stressed and so wound up about going there, the CPA meetings are bad enough but on their turf it felt like a mountain I didn’t want to climb. I don’t think things were helped by the fact I had not had therapy for 2 weeks so that made me feel somewhat distant from my psychologist who I knew would be there. It’s funny how such a short gap can leave me feeling less secure and at ease with people.

The meeting went fairly well given my mood, it felt as though everyone was pleased at what I was achieving and they said the usual kind of things that are familiar at these events. I found it hard to give eye contact at first which was silly really, but happened to be a phase of that day, the meeting was by far the quickest I have ever had. I was thankful for that and couldn’t wait to get out of the venue and that building.

Looking back I can see my feelings are a little skewed, I mean it’s just a building, it’s just a meeting with people who I’ve met so many times before. I knew the format, who would chair it and I even knew what I wanted to say and had written it down in readiness. So why was I so bothered?

I grew up in an environment that wasn’t always safe, and people would challenge me with questions I couldn’t win no matter what I said. When I first became ill and ended up in secondary mental health services I truly thought these individuals could help me. Instead I felt judged, penalised and worthless even more so than before I entered the system.

That generated a growing feeling of fear and mistrust, a feeling of them and us developed and I suddenly became the person who I felt they all wanted to hate. They certainly controlled me, where I lived, my medication and my observations levels. Even when out of hospital they still had a heavy presence in my day to day life, they decided if I stayed free or was sectioned, if I needed more meds or had to attend things. It really was a surreal existence and a life I didn’t expect for me, I never thought I would be detained against my wishes, restrained or forcibly medicated but it happened.

Those experiences tainted how I viewed these professionals, they no longer had individual identities they were a collective, and in my eyes they were at times the enemy. Just like people from my past they controlled me, they would ask questions all the time often intrusive ones and it felt that I couldn’t answer them right no matter what I said.

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Over the years those feelings of mistrust grew and my attitude towards these medical professionals hardened, the more I felt undermined or belittled the more I responded just as I wish I had done in my past. But of course in my past I didn’t for fear stopped me, as an adult I didn’t fear so much, instead I became belligerent and annoying. I’d challenge people, demand responses, expect answers and object at every turn of events that led me to feel belittled or treated unfairly. I’d ask so many questions as it felt unfair to be treated the way I was and yet looking back it didn’t help me or the staff. Instead it allowed the battle lines to be drawn, further barriers to be erected creating an increasingly them and us culture.

I don’t think I was unreasonable, I was merely trying to express my opinion at a time when everyone was making wrong assumptions about me. If I had stayed quiet and complied, I’d have just felt like a puppet such as I did as a child controlled by my mother. That wouldn’t have helped either and I would most probably have still endured all that I did within the mental health system anyway.

However I had a bit of an epiphany moment after the meeting on Monday, one of my PA’s and my psychologist have helped me to reconsider my thinking. To see things in a different context and understand that the so called enemy isn’t quite as it seems.

I realised this week that these people, and in particular the community team are just doing there job. They are trying to understand me and my rather complicated diagnosis, they are operating in a system that’s all ready defined for them by the people at the top. Most of all they are trying to help me and now they treat me with respect and listen to my views, they don’t judge and they are not overly critical either. In fact they reinforce positive beliefs, telling me how well I am progressing and helping me to remember just how far I have come.

My fears on Monday were based on the past, on the reinforced thinking from my youth and the way some Mental Health staff treated me in hospital and secondary services. Yet it’s wrong to judge them based on someone’s else’s behaviours, it doesn’t do me any good either as I live in a state of fear. I ended up building a barrier between these people instead of learning to trust and develop mutual respect.

Today I can see that the healthcare professionals involved in my care now are not a collective enemy they are caring individuals who work hard to ensure I am treated with respect. They are trying to ensure I am treated as an equal and have a right to express my views, most of all all of us are working together to keep me moving forwards and making progress.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

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