On 23rd January 2017, my best friend drove me to the doctor.
I am broken: my legs won’t walk, my brain is off. I am having overwhelming intrusive thoughts about ending my life in different ways, and I am fighting a battle against them. I cannot tell anybody.
Doctor Harriot increased the Sertraline that I was taking and told me to “come back in four weeks.”
But Jack drove me back the next morning.
We saw a locum. She prescribed Diazepam and referred me to the Crisis Team at Amity House. Crisis Teams care for you if you are having a ‘mental emergency’ in the community. A mental health practitioner visited me every-other-day at home after that.
I feel muddled by all of the different appointment times. Every day a different face, but the same punishing questions. I have been promised an appointment with the psychiatrist, but unfortunately he is off-sick. It’s like being on parole: they’re just checking I haven’t killed myself, but no-one is helping me get better.
In March, I got my appointment with the psychiatrist, Dr. Quick. He was intelligent and direct. He interviewed me for hours. He increased my Sertraline to 200mg and augmented that with Quetiapine. He gave me Zopiclone to help me sleep. I was diagnosed with Depression, Anxiety, OCD, an ‘unspecified trauma disorder’ and potential Autism Spectrum Disorder and then I never saw him again.
Each ‘label’ feels like a heavy suitcase that I am just supposed to carry around without anyone noticing. No professionals are helping me open-up and unpack them.
Two days later a man called Christopher-from-the-Crisis-Team knocked the door.
He looked like Bill Oddy. He was wearing baggy jeans and an un-ironed shirt which was too small for him. His hands were juggling disorganised paperwork about me. He was talking, but I could not hear him, because my eagle-like senses were exceptionally heightened and circling and merging and all of a sudden, I was Sherlock Holmes: he’s a smoker. He just smoked a couple of cigarettes on his way here and is probably thinking of his next one right now. He is also thinking about stopping off at the shop on the way home to collect a bottle of red and a bar of chocolate because he, himself, is depressed, and these are the things he self-medicates with. The circles beneath his eyes cast a shadow on his face that not everyone can see, but I can. I feel sad for him and his sadness, whatever it is. One thing is for sure… he does not want to be here with me.
I sat there, battling the chronic side-effects of my new medication, trying and failing to focus and remain awake through the loud-cloud of depression. I felt royally-sick, lethargic, spaced-out. I wanted to help Christopher help me, but he just needed to tick-boxes on his worksheet.
Jack told him about our visit to the psychiatrist, and the Autism services referral.
“I knew it was going to be some kind-of ‘learning dis,”’ he said.
I went cold. It was like he had forgotten that he was talking about my life.
“The waiting list for an Autism assessment is six-months to two-years” he said, as if discussing the delivery time for a pizza. He transferred me from the Crisis Team to the Community Mental Health Team and cut my appointment short.
It took three weeks for my notes to be transferred to the Community Mental Health Team.
When your mind is vulnerable, three minutes can be a lifetime.
In those weeks alone, with no professional support and increasing worthlessness, I made fourteen desperate calls to The Samaritans. How can I be having these thoughts, I pleaded, when I have been bereaved by suicide myself?
Finally, the CMHT told me that I needed a consistent care-co-ordinator and that they would be in touch by phone to arrange this. I felt relief bleed-through the chaos. But two long weeks later, I receive the phone call: they tell me that despite [my] complex mental illnesses and suicidal ideation, [I] will not be able to receive help from any mental health services until [I] have the results from [my] Autism Assessment.
This disjointed-messy process happened to me twice.
They don’t want me.
My GP tried to speed-up my Autism assessment referral, but she sent the chase-up letter to an Autism charity by mistake. Due to a lack of help, I decided to try and ignore my sickness and integrated back into work several times… and moved house. Working was my obsession and my only purpose, until, devastatingly, I was twice signed-off by occupational health.
One bad-mad night, my friend had to contact the crisis-number that CMHT had given us, and was told to “take her toA&E if you want, but unless her leg is hanging off, there isn’t a lot they can do.”
Something black-and-ugly in my brain calls me unrepeatable names; flashes violent thoughts and images through my mind insistently; drains my energy; tells me that everyone will be better off without me.
I went from crisis-to-crisis. I tried to escape it but it followed me. It told me things. I believed it. I listened to its’ instructions. I made an attempt on my life and was taken to hospital.
It isn’t me: it is a monstrous, mind-consuming beast-illness that takes over me. I don’t even believe I have the right to take my life, but I do believe that ending my life is the only cure. Everyone will be relieved because I will be at peace and they can continue their lives unburdened, I thought. I want to communicate. Please section me, please take me away from myself before I take myself away.
Before being discharged from the hospital I had to be “assessed” by mental health to make sure I was “medically fit.” I wasn’t allowed anyone with me. The lady told me that I “didn’t look autistic.” The lady asked me if I had wanted to die and I said no. I was afraid. The lady seemed to be in a hurry.
She told me not to do it again.
You didn’t try hard enough. You didn’t try hard enough.
I was discharged with a ‘care-plan’ of self-help websites and a plan in my mind to try harder next time.
Overall, the NHS complaints team have identified, and are carrying-out, twenty-three separate investigations following my path of experience through mental health services. Despite everything, I am on their side. It is a flawed system, filled with genuine, hard-working, knowledgeable, professional people who are too often unable to do the job they desperately want to do.
I worry for them.
I worry for the patients that cannot turn to private counselling. I worry about the financial strain on local mental health charities. I worry about the lack of support for the family and friends caring for the depressed, the anxious, the suicidal, and I worry about what I can do to get myself better so that I can help.
In England, about 70% of people with Autism have associated mental health disorders and have recurring suicidal thoughts, or have made attempts to end their lives due to combining-factors such as anxiety, social-isolation, self-persecution, sensory-stress, miscommunication, misunderstanding, burnout etc.
I have found therapy in my invaluable friends and family, my animals, my choir, my writing, my music and The Red Lipstick Foundation.
What’s your therapy?