I’ve been struggling with the symptoms of my bipolar disorder since I was a pre-teen, despite only being diagnosed in my mid-twenties, so unfortunately, I’ve had plenty of experience with crisis services. I’ve experienced crisis services in hospital, through emergency services and through having a crisis team after my diagnosis. Some of these experiences have been absolutely horrendous and some have been literally lifesaving; sadly, the latter is in the minority.
Stigma has been something I’ve faced regularly
My experience with crisis services before I was diagnosed and when I lived in England was abysmal. I’ve had so much stigma, misunderstanding and ignorance when I’ve been at my lowest point from professionals. Despite myself and my family literally begging for help when my life was in danger time and time again, we were dismissed and not taken seriously. I’m very lucky that I am still here today, that I survived long enough to get my diagnosis and the treatment I needed to live a stable and happy life; that survival is down to me and my support team alone.
The system must change
The experiences I had with the emergency services after they had been called by either my family, friends or sometimes strangers when I tried to die by suicide or hurt myself badly, was being treated as an inconvenience. I must say that the nurses in the hospital were absolutely lovely to me and went above and beyond to comfort me, to keep me alive and to treat me with compassion, but the doctors and paramedics in all of my experiences that I am able to remember, were lacking in compassion towards me. I would like to think that this was lack of education and appropriate training on their part rather than a reflection on their character, as I don’t feel that they were bad people; they simply didn’t have the tools to know how to react to me, how to talk to me on a human level. This is something that without question must change.
Ineffective treatment can be dangerous
When in hospital either after going to the emergency room to try and get help when I was at risk, or after having hurt myself or tried to die by suicide, there a mix of pity, ignorance and simply shocking ‘treatment’ from doctors. Despite having my parents with me who were coherent and trying desperately to advocate for me, we were often sent home without even a psychiatric evaluation (side note here, I didn’t even lay eyes on a psychiatrist until I moved to Scotland and was 26, which is still shocking to me to this day). When we did get an evaluation, it was brief and ineffective, and we were sent home to deal with things ourselves. One thing a doctor said to my parents after we had been in hospital overnight that stands out to me to this day is that “she’s just a bit depressed, keep an eye on her”.
Finally finding a wonderful crisis team
Thankfully when I moved to Scotland, I found a doctor who really listened, and I finally got to see a psychiatrist who was wonderful. Over time I worked with a mental health team and got my diagnosis and treatment, they have been simply wonderful. The crisis team I have now, have been there for me time and time again, and have literally saved my life. They are understanding and kind, I can call them anytime and I know that someone will be there to listen; often if I need to see someone in person they will come to my home or arrange to meet me and my husband somewhere to evaluate me properly and see how they can assist. They are always there to give advice, guidance and plan my next steps. Above all else, they are extremely compassionate and no matter who I see, they really do care; that is ultimately what makes the biggest difference.
If you are reading this and you have struggled with crisis services, I understand; without a doubt things need to change in the health care system, both in this country and in others. I don’t want you to feel that you need to give up hope though; even though help is scarce it is out there, whatever form it comes in. Don’t give up; the world needs you and it just takes one doctor who will really listen to what you are going through. Persist, survive, you CAN do this.
This post was written as part of a collaboration with another wonderful writer, Hazel.
You can find the wonderful Hazel and more of their work over on their blog www.thepatchworkfox.com
You can find Hazel over on twitter at twitter.com/thepatchworkfox