(Originally published 15 Jan 2014)
This blog, albeit a little delayed, was inspired by some tweets I saw recently from the award-winning blogger (alright for some! ;-) Charlotte Walker (@BipolarBlogger). I've just had a quick look to try and refresh my memory but, man, she tweets a lot! Anyway, as I remember (which is no guarantee of accuracy) she was talking (tweeting) about her experiences with mental health services and it reminded me of my initial interactions with my local service, back in 2011. I don't mind saying it wasn't a great experience. If I went on first impressions, I don't think I'd ever have had anything to do with them ever again but times change..thankfully!
So fresh from my first suicide attempt, it's safe to say my head wasn't in the best place. I went from A&E, to a ward to my local mental hospital with the speed normally reserved for Olympic athletes (the really fast one,s not those strange quick-walking types). It's pretty vague now I try and sit and think about it. The memories are all disjointed and I don't think I could rely on them with any great confidence if I really needed to. One thing I do remember being asked on a number of occasions by all manner of people was "what would you like us to do for you?". I can't think of what answer I gave at the time, probably a mixture of tears, mumbling and shaking. One thing is for sure, it was never a question that I could answer with any certainty or clarity. I had no ability to even think straight, let alone try and reel off a solution from an secret menu of remedies that may, or may not, have even existed. Even so, it was a question that came up time and time again, even after I was released (for 'released' read 'kicked-out'). What could they do for me? I had no clue. I didn't even know what I needed, let alone wanted, them to do. Surely they were the experts in this kind of thing? Surely they would know what I needed? If they did, they kept it to themselves.
Even when I got home and I was assigned a Care Co-ordinator whose main job seemed to be to come once a week and promise to 'look into' things for me, only to come the next week and say exactly the same thing. But, despite the apparent lack of sympathy, empathy or even basic care he would always manage to ask me that question. Even when I answered that I didn't know - a truthful if not particularly helpful answer I agree - no further help was forthcoming to try and identify one of these mystery choices. Maybe there wasn't any! Maybe I was just another victim of cutbacks and there simply wasn't anything they could offer me. Perhaps it's just a case of being patched up enough to exist again before they move onto the next name on the list. I never did find out.
I'm happy to say that experience isn't the one I receive these days. I've spoken to many people with similar horror stories, so it would be easy to dismiss Mental Health services but please, if you find yourself in a similar boat don't take it as red that they are all like that, they most certainly are not. Thankfully I had family to fight my corner when I couldn't and it got better. It took time, but it did get better.