It’s ok to feel angry

 

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This week I’ve learnt that it’s ok to be angry, to express anger in a positive way and that anger can have its uses, many people may already know these things, but for me it’s a bit of a breakthrough.  Whilst logically I know anger is ok, I tend to see myself as not an angry person and deep down I find anger quite a frightening emotion.

The breakthrough came as I talked in therapy, I realised I was upset and bothered about things and that yes I was angry, extremely angry at losing out on my past. Yet I tried really hard to just sideline the emotions as is my normal behaviour and so I belittled them as I tried to change the subject. But with a little help I was able to see that it’s ok to be angry, anger doesn’t have to be dangerous or bad in fact it can be a very healthy emotion to have.

Actually understanding how the anger I feel is helping to motivate me on my journey of recovery has been really helpful. It’s the first time I can accept anger might not be so scary after all, that if its expressed in the right way it can be a positive tool to help me. I still find this slightly weird and yet I can at least see that it may have a role to play and that it might not be so frightening an emotion.

I spoke to my Psychologist about how when I was angry before it always led to judgements and issues, and that as a child expressing any feelings was dangerous. In hospital staff would judge me based on my responses, so any sign of anger or even disagreement was seen in some way to be a big issue. I can recall so many incidents were my actions were misconstrued and I was labelled or judged in a totally unfair way.

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There was the time I challenged a nurse who had lost my medication tray from their massive metal cabinet, all I did was say it had to be there. This was construed as me challenging them, being aggressive and being uncooperative with staff. It was recorded that I shouted when I think the most I did was raise my voice a tiny amount and this was mainly because the nurse was shouting loudly at me. My records don’t show that the nurse failed to look for my medication, that they shouted at a patient or that they were rude.

Then there were times I declined my medication, now I know looking back it wasn’t the best decision I ever made, but then neither was filling me with so many pills that I couldn’t think. These times were construed as me being uncooperative and antagonistic, someone who failed to accept what was best for her. If I fought when I was restrained which I think any normal minded human being would, it was seen as aggressive behaviour. No wonder that I soon learnt that having opinions or showing signs of irritation, frustration or anger would just land me in more hot water.

Of course I wasn’t alone in being judged in this way and as I explained in my therapy session my hospital stays kind of made me hide my feelings even more. But now it’s different, now I can see that hiding away my feelings isn’t helpful, hiding away my anger is actually doing more harm than good. I’m not advocating people randomly go out and hit people or shout and scream, but anger when demonstrated in a sensible controlled way is actually beneficial.

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Telling someone I’m angry at them in a calm controlled way is ok, acknowledging I’m annoyed at something is fine too. Being able to request an apology, or ask for a time out, or for something to change these are all positive ways of expressing my anger. They can bring about positive change in a situation, as can channeling the anger that I hold from my past.

So from now on I’m going to try and allow my feelings to come through, no more blocking emotions for me, instead of slamming a door in frustration when someone annoys me I aim to tell people when I’m annoyed. My hope is that I can learn to no longer fear this emotion but instead utilise it to bring about change, change in others, in situations but most of all to motivate myself to change.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

 

The Blame Game

I’m really not too sure why it happens, I really wish I knew what it was that causes me to take the blame for things going wrong in my life. Yet it seems from early years I learnt to blame myself for the difficulties I encountered and it appears to have continued ever since. As a child I used to think people hurt me because I was bad, I’d disappointed them and it was all my fault. As an adult when I was losing time and struggling to keep my life on track I would feel a sense of shame at not coping, I’d blame myself and there would be lots of self critical words being spoken. In hospital it soon became the norm to be blamed for my behaviour, my reactions to situations and my self harm, people encouraged and proactively assisted me to keep on blaming myself.

Blame played a big part in my life, prior to being diagnosed with Dissociative Identity Disorder I had a range of ill judged diagnoses, none of which turned out to be accurate. Yet in those years preceding the correct diagnosis the blame game continued, I was labelled and judged as a nuisance, dysfunctional, attention seeking and emotionally unstable. It appeared that the medical professionals were saying that I was to blame for my mental health problems, it was my fault I was losing time, my fault I was depressed, anxious, forgetful and confused. The healthcare professionals played the blame game with me for a number of years and sadly I wasn’t in any position to stop it.

 

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Today with an accurate diagnosis there still exists a blame culture, many professionals don’t accept the diagnosis of D.I.D, they are sceptical about it. I’m aware of at least one psychiatrist who stated the fact I knew so much about D.I.D; which he didn’t believe in anyway, was indicative of me having a disorganised sense of self. In his opinion I was to blame for my carrying a teddy, for losing time and for changing personae. Of course I know it is he who was misguided and not me, but yet again medical staff placed blame were none was due, blame upon me.

This week in therapy I was undertaking some trauma work, it’s tough at times but I know it’s important too. As I spoke my psychologist made me stop and think, he made me reflect upon the words I was using because I was being self critical and negative. As I spoke of my past out poured the words ‘why didn’t I tell someone’ and ‘why didn’t I stop him’. Words such as ‘I let him’, ‘I never stopped him’, spewed forth as I continued to berate myself yet I wasn’t just berating me. In this case I was blaming the younger part of me who years ago took the abuse, of course at that time I had dissociated and so in reality I was blaming my poor alter.

My psychologist made me stop, made me think and I guess rationalise just how much I was blaming myself, and blaming my alters. He reminded it was a common theme in our work and that I do judge myself and my alters quite harshly. I couldn’t disagree with him because I knew he was right, I do judged them. I view my past and the memories of that time including the abuse I suffered through my adult eyes, I assume that I should have told someone, I should have hit out, screamed, shouted and fought to stop the abusers. Yet when I think of who I was at that time, a vulnerable frightened little girl who was being controlled through fear and betrayed by certain adults I ought to have been able to trust, I see things in a different light.

In truth at that time young me knew if I told I’d be in trouble, that no one would believe me, child abuse wasn’t talked about in my day it wasn’t recognised. The most safety advice I had received as a child was not to play with matches, and the green cross code. Younger me knew from experience that the aggression and violence that I had previously encountered would increase if I tried to fight back or stand up to my abusers. I had realised that it certainly wasn’t a safe option to object, or to tell, no in truth my alters did the best they could at the time. My alters, my younger me’s they took my pain and suffering so that I might survive to live another day.

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Yet here I was blaming them for what happened to us, how unfair of me and how wrong. My psychologist enabled me to think about who was really to blame and slowly I began to understand were that blame lies, it’s with those adults who betrayed me. I’ve no doubt it will continue to take time for me to accept I couldn’t help what happened to me, to accept I wasn’t to blame. This is a work in progress and I have a lot of alters and a lot of me to forgive.

Blame is an inherent part of our culture, of our society and we judge and blame others far too easily, in my case I direct the blame at me, either myself or my alters. I’m learning that this blame is about forgiveness, it’s also about grief. Accepting it wasn’t my fault, that I’m not to blame means acknowledging I was helpless in these situations and that yes I was hurt. It means accepting I was abused and I couldn’t stop it, it means acknowledging that certain people betrayed me. It also means facing up to the harsh reality that I hold feelings of anger towards these abusive individuals and that yes I am angry at them.

It is hard to understand the blame game, to understand I am playing it too and that at times I have blamed my alters. But that is the reality I face right now, these parts of me who have enabled me to survive don’t deserve my blame, my judgement. They deserve a future and a future filled with hope, acceptance and understanding, in turn I deserve that as well. So I’m trying hard this week to end the blame game, to repair the damage done and to work better with my alters. I’m slowly learning to forgive myself and to accept that actually I did ok, I did more than ok. I survived to live another die.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

Hidden truths -revelations of betrayal

Yesterday I realised just how much some Mental Health professionals have judged me in the past and how because of my Dissociative Identity Disorder I am at times seen as complicated and complex. You would think I’d be more able to deal with these kind of situations, but when the envelope arrived yesterday morning containing a few documents from my medical records I found myself quickly getting annoyed.

I had requested some very basic information, I wanted to know how many contacts I had had with my local community mental health team over a given period of time, and how many nights I had spent in psychiatric inpatient services. Simple you would think in this age of modern technology for any NHS trust to gather this type of data and forward it to me the patient. Well I thought it would be simple I was wrong.

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Firstly whilst modern technology exists it is only as good as the data entered into the system, my local NHS trust doesn’t keep at hand a record of such things. Instead 40 days after my original request they sent me some documents which didn’t actually give me answers to most of the questions I had asked. For instance they have no accurate record of my admissions to hospital, well they didn’t send me the data. In fact some data was withheld because despite the various documents being about me, I’m not allowed access to them if there are compiled by a third party such as the private hospitals the NHS paid for me to be held in.

But what I did receive was eye opening, in this small bundle of papers were letters written about me from various medical professionals. They contained the reasons I was sent to secure services and the reason I was kept detained in a medium secure hospital longer than the psychiatrist based there felt I needed to be. I found out how people have over time judged me in ways you just wouldn’t believe and being judged well that makes me cross. I also realised how financial issues have impacted upon my care and how little my views and wishes were taken into account previously.

In one letter it states the reasoning behind my being sent from an open mental health ward to a forensic secure service. It states that I was transferred to the forensic unit because I was struggling with depression and self harm related to remembering and subsequently disclosing childhood abuse. The primary thrust of the secure placement was to ensure that I could engage in the necessary therapy whilst being in a safe environment that I couldn’t walk out of. Of course there was no evidence I wouldn’t engage in therapy, in fact quite the opposite.

To think that my move there was because I was depressed, self harming and in need of talking therapy infuriates me. If depression and self harm really lead to me being placed in what I can only describe as a hell hole, then it’s scandalous. Talking therapies are available in the community, I really didn’t need to be incarcerated amongst murderers and other criminals. But I guess it was easier for the local team to just move me on and not have to provide any support, that and the funding came from a different pot of money so their budget remained in tact.

In another letter they talk of my being kept in that hell hole for longer than needed, it transpired that my psychiatrist at the medium secure unit felt I didn’t need to be there he felt I should be moved to a secure rehab unit and yet my local team and others over ruled him, not because it was in my best interests but for budget reasons. The local team needed time to put in place a funding request as lower secure services were financed out of a different pot of money.

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To think I suffered that trauma, that loss of liberty over a simple budgeting matter is hard, we never knew before. I took what they told me at face value, I guess I expected them to serve my best interests and my family trusted them to look after me and to ensure my needs were met in a safe way. It does feel like a betrayal, a betrayal of trust.

The letters that I now have talk of me having issues, being a nuisance, being complex, having flawed behaviours, having considerable contact with services and being detained. They seem at times critical of the fact I understand my condition, have insight and awareness, perhaps it’s more difficult for the Mental Health professionals to accept that.

Of course besides the letters, I still need the information that I initially requested and so I will have to pursue that over the coming weeks. It’s clear attitudes at times towards me have been misguided, professionals clearly unable to understand or consider my view point or feelings. It’s clear too that finance or rather the lack of it have played and continue to play a significant role in how mental health services are delivered. I can’t help wondering how many more people suffering depression and self harm are being sent to inappropriate placements for talking therapy when it would be far cheaper to deliver this in the community.

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The letters and documents I have received will now be filed away, I’m not going to focus on the past too much or let them upset and distress me. I know yesterday when I did get distressed and annoyed it affected my alters; the other parts of me. I had to spend time calming myself down and I did walk away from the paperwork and do other things. In fact one of my alters intervened she told me to stop, to put the file out of sight and not get upset, she was worrying about me. For once in my life I listened to advise and the file did get put down, I realised this could overwhelm my weekend. But I know now I am far better and worth much more than others silly attitudes and stupid judgements. Yes it hurts to think they misjudged me, to think they don’t understand but I can choose how I respond.

If I’m honest I feel sad for those mental health staff who have no understanding of what it’s like from a patients perspective, who feel threatened by patients who understand their condition and who have no idea of the impact of secure units on people. Most of all I worry that talking therapy for trauma and D.I.D is at times seen by medical staff as just impossible, whether that be because of funding restraints, time limits or a simple lack of awareness.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2015

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

D.I.D – doesn’t mean I have three heads so why was I ignored.

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There are times when I find myself bewildered by events and today was one of those days when I really wasn’t expecting events to unfold in the way they did. I had seen a few weeks ago an invite on social media to an open day at a peer led user support organisation in the city close to where I live. It immediately attracted my attention as I really feel it’s the right time for me to start engaging with such services in my own area.

The organisation were keen to promote their day and I was keen to attend, so this morning I ventured 14 miles from my village to Chester. After difficulties finding the venue which had resulted in my going around in circles for a good half an hour as I dealt with Chester’s roads and it’s one way system I managed to make my way in.

I expected I guess to be welcomed at the door, that people would be chatty and helpful. I hoped I would find out more about the services they offered and other organisations which use the venue. I didn’t expect to feel ignored, judged and isolated but that’s exactly how I felt within a very short time.

There was no one greeting people as they arrived and no one to talk too either, some people who clearly knew one another sat engrossed in conversations as they ate their lunch at the far end of the room seeming somehow distant. Whilst the professionals stood huddled together hovering nearer to the exits, as if service users and mental health and social care professionals couldn’t mix. They eyed me with an air of caution, I did wonder if I had three heads that made me stand out as they looked so concerned.

In the end after studying the display boards and looking at service users art I decided it was time to leave. I felt so upset that no one wanted to even talk to me, what was wrong with me that people couldn’t even say hello. As I walked down the street I felt the tears begin to flow down my face and had to try and deal with so many mixed emotions of various parts of me.

I sat on a nearby street for quite a while, trying hard to ensure that those parts of me who were clearly very upset felt reassured and safe. I also needed to feel settled and less distressed before I could venture home. If I’m honest I was quite shocked by how this situation had made me feel, why should the fact people ignored me make me so distressed. I kept trying to think had something reminded me of past events, was there any other trigger, but I couldn’t make sense of things.

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I thought perhaps people saw me as different, I mean I might not have three heads visible but I do have a complex dissociative disorder and most people I meet for the very first time, well they’ve never heard of this diagnosis before. I know I have found in the past that there is a fear of the unknown and part of the reasons behind starting this blog was to dispel the myths and scepticism that surround Dissociative Identity Disorder. But I didn’t even get chance to say my name, let alone discuss any mental health related topic. So unless I had literally grown three heads suddenly or switched in a very obvious manner I realised it wasn’t my diagnosis that had caused this situation.

As I made my way home I began to reflect on the split between service users and professionals, why is it that the two groups find it so hard to be seen as one collective body interested in Mental Health services. I thought about the service users who were in that room who didn’t engage with me either, were they struggling or feeling as isolated as I was. Most service users I have met have been far more friendly, more engaging, but I also know it’s not always easy if you’re feeling nervous or more vulnerable.

Perhaps some of the professionals lack of engagement is as a result of situations like today, I’m sure if people had encouraged and initiated an interactive dialogue between the groups of service users and professionals in that room today we’d see a change in attitudes. Professionals wouldn’t be so blinkered and service users like me would be less likely to fear the people, who many of us feel hold far too much power. The medicalised model of Mental Health has led me to fear many doctors, nurses and other professionals who at one point in my life controlled everything. I’m even anxious currently at facing my upcoming CPA simply because it’s being held on NHS territory.

Today’s events bothered me and they could have been avoided I’m certain of that, if only a bit more thought and consideration of people’s needs had been taken into account by those organising the event. If only I’d been welcomed, greeted at the door and even introduced to others in the room. Then I would have felt welcome and I’d have wanted to use this service week in and week out, I’d have contributed too. I’m keen to expand my involvement in such organisations not just to take out but to give back too. I’m sure those who run this service tried hard to organise their event and yet sadly failed to think about a simple greeting system.

I know organising an event like this isn’t easy, I’m a trustee of a charity and we make sure we welcome every new and existing member at each and every event we hold. It’s just a natural part of what the charity does and maybe that’s why it hit me so hard today when things went array. My expectations were perhaps of the same kind of welcome I know I give out to people who attend any event I’m involved in facilitating.

I doubt I will get the chance to go back to this organisation it will certainly be hard given parts of me feel rejected and judged by them. I doubt my tweets about what happened will even get a response as organisations rarely take criticism well, even if it’s constructive feedback. I feel that’s a shame my views are honest and fair and I’m not judging anyone, it’s just what happened and perhaps this was an oversight. But I can’t help wondering how many other people ventured into that building today as prospective new users of a valuable service and walked away feeling more isolated, distressed and hurt.

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

The impact of the Mental Health system on my life

 

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I sat this week just for a while and let my mind wander, wander back into that place I used to be, before I entered the mental health system. It was hard not to think of all those missed opportunities and long lost hopes and aspirations, those dreams I had of career promotions at a job I now no longer hold.

I also began to think of all the things I have learnt over this time and I realise how much I have changed as a result of my interactions too. I am far more sceptical of medical professionals, more willing to challenge and ask questions of those who are involved in my care. In truth I guess I’m a different person shaped by my experiences in a system that at times has felt more like an enemy than a friend who is trying to help me.

The reality is so much has changed since I first became unwell and so much of that change has been negative. I lost my job due to my mental health admission, it was it seemed impossible for my employer to employ someone who had been in a psychiatric ward. I can still remember being let go and thinking how unfair and unjust it was, I knew I wasn’t well and I knew it might be a while before I could work full time again and yet I so wanted to keep my job. It gave me hope and a future and something to hold on to and strive for and then suddenly it was gone.

I lost my dignity the little that I held, the first time I was forcibly restrained and held against my will – it didn’t feel good, it felt disempowering and it hurt. Here I was a vulnerable person being treated like an animal to be caged, no one spoke to me they just seemed to shout orders. I felt like no one cared and no one understood.

Before I entered mental health services I knew nothing about mental health law, sections, forcible restraint, forced medication, deprivation of liberty or locked wards. I’d never had to live by the law of a hospital ward, those that dictate when you can and can’t have a drink and even then it’s from a machine. I learnt to tolerate powdered milk and powered tea from machines that gave patients lukewarm drinks, some days I use to beg for a hot drink like normal human beings have. I just wanted to be treated like a normal human being not some second or third class citizen.

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Time off the ward was a luxury and one which once on a section had to be negotiated, pre planned and approved, suddenly I became adept at forward planning my entire life. That’s what being in a mental health hospital does for you, it makes you an automotive robot who is controlled by others rules and commands.

Before I entered the system, I didn’t realise how scarce talking therapies were, how things were time limited no matter if you were well or not. I can recall my first therapy was CBT and once I had the maximum number of sessions allowed, no matter how well I was it stopped. What a waste of public money to withdraw a service before it’s had the desired outcome, it’s a bit like taking a cast of a broken limb before it’s healed.

During my time in mental health services I learnt that good old saying that seemed to come from mental health nurses I encountered, “in five minutes” of course I soon leant that meant not now, go away. I often wondered why these people couldn’t be honest and tell me they were too busy.

I also learnt that people judge by appearances, so if you happen to look clean and tidy then they assume your mentally well and coping. Though of course that may not be the case, but they had their rule that tidy means well. The number of times I have been told but you look tidy and that equals well, I might not have showered in a month but because I didn’t smell they thought I was ok, they never asked they just assumed.

Just like they assumed if you challenged them or asked questions you were deemed aggressive and labeled as having violent tendencies. Of course it couldn’t be the case you were just asking a question or challenging archaic rules and regulations which made no sense to anyone but the hospital staff.

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I soon learnt about labels too the ones which medical professionals use at will and stick on a person like some kind of post it note. The very first label I got was actually wrong, yet it’s still on my file for all to see. The doctor who gave it me had seen me for just a few minutes yet his skill was such he could diagnose so quickly and as it turned out so wrong!

Labels, judgements, assumptions all seem to be things I have learnt and in truth they are negatives I’d rather not have seen. I guess mental health services are an eye opener for those who suddenly find themselves thrown into this world of chaos and confusion.

Before I entered this system I wasn’t aware of so much disparity between mental and physical health existed. I also didn’t realise so many things about myself, I have faced many negatives and yes they have changed how I view the world and how it views me, but I have also learnt much too. Not just about the mental health system but about myself as well, I know now that I am a fighter, I want to learn to cope with dissociative Identity disorder and one day in the future I will get back to work. But it won’t be in the job I once did, oh no my aspirations have changed and I like to think for the better.

 

Copyright DID Dispatches 2014

The Life Sentence of Being Sectioned

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The other day I read a comment on social media which asked approved mental health professionals to think before they section someone in order to get them a hospital bed. It was stated that being detained under the Mental Health Act remains on a persons file for life, and suddenly it got me thinking about the impact of my time in mental health services.

You see I had assumed that having not been detained under the Mental Health Act for over 5 years, I was free of that part of my life. Indeed I haven’t been in secure services since that time either, so again I had assumed it was behind me. Yet if the comments are true and these things stay on file for life, I am in many ways doomed.

Doomed because no matter how long I keep myself out of a mental health bed when people look at my medical file, my past will jump out and hit them in the face. The professionals will see that I have been sectioned for more than a year and that I have spent time locked in a forensic medium secure unit. Will they then assume that I have a criminal record, because most people think you only get sent to these units if you have committed some type of heinous crime. Furthermore will they wrongly assume I must be dangerous, because believe me that’s what some misguided people think.

When I was studying for my degree I had to challenge the course lecturer on the issue of forensic services, it was stated in course material that these units were for criminals with serious Mental Health issues. It also stated that they had to have demonstrated a high degree of risk to others to be sent to these places. I knew of course this wasn’t always the case, I was living proof of that and yet it took a lot of determination and challenges to prove to them their views, their facts were both flawed and inaccurate.

I doubt that I could change or remove these medical facts about my section from my file, they are truthful and accurate statements, the difficulties lie of course in people’s interpretation of those facts. I have always wondered what people would think of me having being detained, would professionals treat me differently.

I know in the early days post discharge I feared being re-sectioned, I worried that at the sign of any small crisis I’d be locked up and send miles away. I was certain if I needed hospital I would be send back to secure services and yet my then CPN told me I was being silly, no one would judge me. But that fear remained and I think that fear has led me to fight steadfastly to never need a mental hospital bed again. That’s why I find it hard to call for help when I’m struggling, I have self harmed before because I was so desperate and yet I wouldn’t, I couldn’t call crisis services.

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Now it seems that these facts will stay on my file for life and I can’t help wondering if that’s already led to changes in how people deal with me. Do professionals already treat me with more caution, do they pre-judge me when they see my history. Will they pre-determined who they think I am, instead of coming and seeing me as blank canvas and judging me on my merits.

What about if I seek employment will these facts be available to prospective employers and if so how will that impact me, I doubt it’s going to help. What if I want to volunteer and need a DBS check (police check), will these things come up in that. There are so many unanswered questions that I have, so many fears that my past will taint my future. The powers that be need to allow this data to be removed from a persons health file after a certain number of years.

To those Approved Mental Health professionals (AMHP) who now hold the power to take away a persons liberty, I’d ask them to consider their actions. I feel I was sectioned initially to off load cost implications of a specialist bed from one team to another. I know my later sections were done by the very people whose living depended upon me filling their beds, operating in the private sector that was funded by the NHS.

The fact AMHP’s today are placing people on a section because that’s the only way to find a bed is deeply worrying. Do they realise the impact they make on that persons life, not just at that moment of taking away someone’s liberty but the longer term implications. It seems now those implications last a lifetime, and my records are duly marked. As I said before it feels a bit like I’m doomed, this life sentence is hanging over my head forever and there little I can do to change that.

The sad thing is I was sectioned because I was unwell, I didn’t ask to be unwell it wasn’t even of my doing. Yet it seems being unwell is punishable in this country and probably many others too with a life sentence of being labelled, pre-judged, disadvantaged and treated differently.

copyright DID Dispatches 2014