Firstly, let me start off by saying that this article is in no way aimed at the individuals who work for the NHS. I am not doubting in any way, shape or form – that those individuals don’t do a fantastic job, 365 days of the year. This article is aimed at the service which I have received and the lack of support which I feel I have been entitled to.
I could go back many, many years with bad experiences. But let us go back to 2009 (so approximately ten years).
When I returned to the UK after my trip to New Zealand, my mental health almost instantly started to deteriorate. At this point in my life, I still didn’t quite realise what was meant by the words “mental health”. I just assumed if you had a diagnosis which had the word “mental” in it, you were destined to be shipped out to a mental asylum in a white padded jacket!
Around this time, life started to become very difficult for me. I went from having the best time of my life – travelling the spectacular New Zealand, meeting incredible people, and living life to the fullest – To arriving back in the UK and my own father telling me that he wouldn’t pick me up from the airport because he was “too busy doing nothing!” I came home because I missed my family, and I was instantly made to feel like it was the worst decision I have ever made! This was when severe depression set in.
I was sick of the way I was feeling in my head. It was like a constant ringing from all the overthinking about nothing. There was never a pinpoint reason as to why I would feel this way. It was just non stop torment going on all the time. The only coping mechanism which I knew how to use at home, was to retreat to my safe place. At the time, this would be my bedroom. Here I could lose myself in a video game or a movie. It was never that I was blaming my family for what I was going through. They just didn’t help when I needed help the most.
If I wasn’t at home, then I’d be with friends. This would always involve drinking alcohol. I would drink to ease the mental pain. It was the only way I could switch off my anxiety. Have you ever been in a crowded pub and felt like everyone in there is looking at you? Like the entire pub is talking about and making fun of you? Like you are the stand out character in the place, for all the wrong reason? Well my only way to switch off the negative thoughts was to drink, and sometimes heavily. Next thing I know, I’m waking up with a major hangover. This hangover would always lead me into the darkness and depths of depression… again.
I know now, that it was wrong for me to try and self medicate using alcohol and drugs, but I had no support network around me. It was the only way I knew how to cope.
I wonder if anyone knows how much it hurts to hear your own parents call you “weird” or “a bit odd”, or say something like; “I swear you’ve got bipolar” or “he’s just in another one of his moods!” It absolutely destroyed me hearing these things. The two people, who I missed most in the world when I was in New Zealand – and I come home to be made to feel like a piece of shit which they stepped in on the road.
Anyway, my apologies because I am making this about them again and it isn’t supposed to be!
So during the above period in 2009, I remember reaching out to the NHS for the first time. This was the first time in which I acknowledged I had a problem. The first time when I was ready to ask for help. Because I really fucking needed it right now. I went to my local GP and was told that I am experiencing slight depression and anxiety. This was most likely to do with coming home from the trip of a lifetime and getting back into the everyday rat race again. Okay, fair enough I thought. I will take the medication prescribed to me, and attend counselling sessions which were arranged for me via the NHS.
”But that sounds good to me?” I hear you say. Well it would be good if that resolved my problems. Unfortunately I am sat here writing about it instead of living my life in the way it should be lived!
I’d had counselling in the past but it was different back then. I simply wasn’t ready to accept the fact that I needed help and support. This time was different. I actually needed help.
I went to the arranged appointments a few times. I gave it a good chance, but I just didn’t connect with the therapist. There was something about her which annoyed me. She came across patronising and I just didn’t really like her. This was supposed to be someone I could trust entirely and really open up to. She sat there the entire time, writing down my each and every word. The killer sentence she said, which still rings out in my ears to this very day was; “Just talk to me how you would talk to your mother“. Are you being fucking serious? Do you have any idea how little I even talk to or confide in my mother? The same mother who describes me are weird or odd! Okay you should be able to talk to your mother, but my mother didn’t allow me to ever do that without judging me or making me out to be the the root of all problems. I’m sorry but this wasn’t ever going to work after she said this to me.
That being said, I had every intention of trying to see someone else. But this was when I first felt let down by the NHS. I phoned my local surgery and asked to see the doctor again, but was told I couldn’t see the same doctor as he was only a locum and was no longer working in the surgery. Therefore I had to book to see another GP.
** For those who don’t recognise the term locum doctor: A locum doctor is a doctor used by a hospital or surgery, when another doctor is off work or they are short staffed. **
In my experience, the hardest part about seeing a different doctor is having to start your journey and story again. You need to dig up those bad feelings which lead you into reaching out to a doctor for help, in the first place! It’s the hardest thing you could do when suffering from mental illness. The trouble is, there is not enough empathy shown to patients who are struggling. The computer says = prescribe them this medication, refer them to a counselling service, tell them to lose weight and exercise. Basically make them feel even worse about themselves. Someone suffering extreme anxiety and panic disorder, doesn’t need to effectively be told that they are a fat bastard!
Anyway the years have passed by (nearly 10 years to be precise). I have tried several types of medication. Several different counsellors/therapists (I’ve paid £40 per session for over two years). I’ve lost a whole lot of weight and got myself into a lot better physical condition, which helps my mental well being at the same time. I have had to do all this on my own. The NHS have done as good as nothing. Even today I walk away from the GP feeling even worse than when I walked in. What is the answer to this? Keep doing what I am doing to prevent further need to see a doctor? That maybe a solution for me, but for many, many others it isn’t. This is why people give up. This is why people feel alone. The NHS will say it is down to lack of funding from the government. I say you should still do everything you can to make the best of what you’ve got. Look after people now. Not later on when it’s too late. Mental illness is killing people. Fact.
I started writing this post back in August and never got around to finishing it. Love to know what you think. Leave a comment and let me know 🙂
Mr F x