"My Journey from Crisis Through to Recovery."

About: Brooker Centre / Weaver Ward Halton and St Helens PCT

(as the patient),

At first, I was concerned about side effects from the continuous use of large doses of medication, for over twelve years. So I decided to come off my medication completely. After several days I visited my GP, to let him know about my decision, and during my first visit to the GP he warned me that I was likely to relapse within 3 to 12 months. He told me to contact my psychiatrist, and come off the medication slowly by taking a reduced amount of the dosage.

I followed this up, and stayed in touch with both my GP and psychiatrist. My visit to the GP on the second visit I felt became unpleasant. I think he was less than sympathetic, and asked a member of his team to take a look at me, to consider their opinion of my mental state (someone who incidentally barely knew me). I then felt as if my GP’s annoyance with me was beginning to show by his abrupt manner, and I was beginning to fear all of the negativity in attitudes towards myself. So I hastened to tell him that I see my self as the expert, after 30 years of experience of living with manic depression.

Several days later, I started to feel the warning signs, life felt too good, sleep was unachievable, and I had far too much energy. This was followed by a total surrender into a deep fear. There had only been a limited amount of time, in order for me to reach out for help, and that help was my closest friend. She stayed with me that evening and through the night, right up until the next morning. By this time, I could no longer, make any decisions for myself.

During the middle of the night, I remember being visited by a Locum , and to my annoyance he said to my friend, oh no one wants to look after a manic depressive and turning to my friend said do you? But sadly, I believe this remark can only be scathing and extremely very unhelpful for someone like me. Why couldn’t he have said something reassuring? Instead of also criticising the mental health system why couldn’t I have said these things to him myself, and more besides, so he knew what it felt like being totally dependant on others to make decisions for you.

Without any sleep for 5 nights, and my friend’s sleepless night, by late morning my friend still couldn’t leave me, I was trembling with fear. My friend made repeated calls to the crisis team, while I was too afraid to even get out of my chair. My friend told me the crisis team had been vague at first, as members of the team were taken up with other calls, and some time was needed, in order to sort out an available bed for me. By now I was totally dependant on my friend, during the time taken, to wait for the crisis team. By early afternoon, the CMHT (community mental health team) arrived to see me, so that an assessment could be made by the team. It was reassuring to see my CPN (community psychiatric nurse). It was only my friend who could answer their questions, and when the other member of the CMHT, said to my friend, “couldn’t you leave her on her own”. This seemed to me like an incredulous remark. However, sometimes remarks from staff like this one can be ambiguous, as this could have been asked to estimate the depth of the problem. Thankfully my CPN made the decision that I had to go into hospital. The crisis team were notified and by the middle of the afternoon, two young ladies from the crisis team arrived. In credit to these two members of this team, they were extremely patient.

When I arrived on the ward I was warmly welcomed by the reassuring words, you will be okay with us, you will be looked after, and I felt instinctively, perhaps I will get well soon.

Life from day to day can be boring on a psychiatric ward and I think the best way to pass time is to talk to the other patients, if they feel well enough, or talk to the staff. I found the staffs pleasant enough to talk to, some was too busy. The inpatients seemed to me unhappy about staff not spending enough time to talk privately with them, so I saw inpatients talk to each other about their problems and I felt this would be a release for them, providing they weren’t burdening others. Fortunately, I became well quickly, I had responsibilities on the outside of the hospital, so I focused on being active outdoors rather than being confined to the ward everyday. For me, staying on the ward continuously could have inhibited my recovery because I needed to be busy. I feel as if the helplessness of being trapped in a day to day existence would have been more of a setback to me.

I believe a common theme in all of this is the right communication, not patronising, not routine, a wishing to understand someone’s distress in difficult circumstances. After all, aren’t we all victims of this to some extent or another?

My third visit to my GP I felt was yet again negative. The doctors at the hospital had reduced my dose by half, saying this was a therapeutic level. I was relieved, as the large dose had worried me for some time, so I was happy to tell my GP. The first thing he said was it won’t work. For five months now, I have been well on my new dosage, and at times suffered high amounts of stress. So I am determined to prove my GP wrong this time.

Thoughtlessness from professionals I believe is anything but, the right way forward for the service user. The impact is felt, and has to be dealt with by people who are already finding it so difficult, if not impossible to cope. Sadly, I remember my first meeting with professionals back in 2002, and mentioned the work necessary to be done with GP’s. I would like to see my GP receive some training in how to speak with and receive service users with dignity.

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Response from Katherine Earlam, PALS Officer, 5 Boroughs Partnership NHS Trust

Thank you for sharing your journey with us, all comments and recommendations will be passed onto the ward/team managers.

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