My thoughts on ‘Bedlam’

As I commented to a fellow blogger recently, I was left feeling angry and anxious after watching last week’s episode of ‘Bedlam’. Bedlam is a four part Channel 4 series currently broadcasting about the South London and Maudsley trust’s mental health services (including Bethlem hospital). The first episode was about anxiety and OCD, while this second episode focused on the subject of ‘crisis’ and was all about a short-stay assessment unit. The unit staff decide if you go into a longer term inpatient ward or if you can go home after a short stay.

I think some things about the programme were good – that they showed some of how prison-like an inpatient ward can be, and having to deal with other people in difficulty when you are feeling so low yourself. They also, perhaps inadvertently, showed breaches of human rights that actually happen in hospitals: like voluntary patients being told they have to see a doctor before they can leave and being threatened with sectioning.

I found this really upsetting to watch because not only did I have that familiar feeling of claustrophobia and fear of being readmitted ever; it is also the case that I didn’t learn until recently how much ‘voluntary’ patients are lied to and not protected. As a so-called voluntary patient I should not have been told I had to see a doctor before I could leave. I should not have felt the threat of sectioning hanging over my head, stopping me from trying to leave despite what they said. I was not advised by anyone else involved in my care of my rights under the human rights act.

Because the way the system supposedly works is not how it actually works. If you sign in voluntarily you should be free to leave with no threat of sectioning and at any time of your choosing. This is a million miles from the reality. The nurses act like bullies and also all tell you you must see a doctor before you’re allowed to leave, won’t let you off the ward unless it is agreed by a doctor (even though legally they must let you through that locked door) and the doctor makes it clear that if you try to leave before they advise you you can, you will be sectioned.

The programme portrayed some things that I felt were misleading: it is a specialist unit that is not widely available in other parts of the country and the facilities look a lot newer and cleaner than places I’ve been. I also felt that it is told more from the staff’s perspective than the service user. The staff were on many occasions deliberately cruel (I witnessed them swearing at patients) when I’ve been an inpatient and in this they are all on best behaviour, it is not true to life. I also noticed that they dodged using the term BPD and only touched on personality disorders very briefly, which I thought was typical. Like Dominic, I was also originally given the diagnosis of bipolar disorder and this was changed when I did not respond to medication.

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Home from Hospital

Was discharged yesterday, thank goodness. I hate that place.

My individual MBT session yesterday was a weird one. Focused very much on trying to figure stuff out in my head rather than emotionally. It’s like I’m trying to reason through the emotional progress I (hopefully) made on Tuesday at group.

I had a really helpful meeting today with my occupational therapist. We have made a plan to keep my eating up and to get through the weekend. I’ll be seeing her again on Monday. I feel very lucky to have so much support.

I’m under home treatment team again and I was really anxious about that but the person that talked to me today was super nice so I’m a bit less worried and a bit more hopeful now.

Last night was difficult, I felt very anxious and sad but realised I was exhausted so I just took my sleeping tablet and put myself to bed. Other than some very bad anxious dreams I slept much better. When I woke up panicking I managed to listen to some music for an hour to try to calm myself down, and even went back to sleep for a little while.

This fight ain’t over.

Inpatient again

MBT Group Week 19
I was admitted to hospital again yesterday evening, exhausted after battling suicidal thoughts all weekend.

Thankfully I was able to attend MBT group today. It gave me a chance to get away from the ward and to talk about some of the things I’ve been struggling with.

I talked a lot today, about my dad and my family in general and how I feel that they blame me for the conflict with my dad when I was a kid. That I was a bad kid. That I believe this, I start to believe it when I have spent a lot of time with them, as I have recently.

I cried and the other members of the group were so lovely and supportive. I felt exposed and vulnerable but now, after, I feel glad I went and grateful I opened up and got that support.

Now I’m back on the ward. I hate it here. I think I needed something but now I am over the peak of the crisis it is not good for me to be here. There is no care here. There is only hostility from the nurses and support staff.

I didn’t sleep because I had no meds and a lady in my dorm was snoring her head off. Talked to a doctor today so should have meds tonight. Hoping to be out on Thursday. Friday latest. Going to struggle to get through that time. Want to go home now now now.

MBT Week 9

Trigger Warning: Descriptions of abusive behaviour

Group

I was discharged from the inpatient unit on Tuesday afternoon, since I seemed able to keep myself safe after the group therapy session. I was able to talk a little bit in the group, and I was quite impressed with myself for that.

I said I had been feeling very suicidal last week and that on Friday I was admitted to hospital and that I had to return there after the session. I felt embarrassed, and it was horrible knowing that everyone else could go home and that I was going back to the ward. I didn’t know then that I would soon be discharged.

I explained that one of the reasons I felt so bad was that a lot of painful memories had been raised for me when I listened to others’ experiences of having violent and abusive fathers. I told them how it made me feel small and helpless. I told them I was scared of feeling that way all the time if I talked more about these memories.

Individual

Then yesterday I met with my individual therapist. I felt ashamed because of everything that’s happened since last week. She said she had been very worried about me then. She talked about it kindly, and put me a little more at ease.

I told her I’m still feeling awful all the time and I described to her (to anyone) for the first time the memories I’m feeling about my dad.

When they happen, the memories are in my body and in my mind, unlike my usual memories which are just replayed in my mind. It feels like they are physically happening now, like a flashback.

I remember my dad’s hand gripping all the way around my skinny upper arm. He’d grab hold of me like that when I tried to get away from him hitting me. I can feel his hand on my arm now. It is also the place where my worst scars are. Was I trying to cut him out of me?

I remember making a triangle to hide in behind the door of mine and my sister’s bedroom: the back of the door made one side and the wardrobe and the wall the second and third.

I’d run up the stairs and bolt into there, pulling the door wide open to hide behind it. It was hopeless though. He’d be thundering up the stairs right after me, and it only made him angrier that I pulled the door in front of him. He’d grab my arm and pull me out and hit me.

The hitting wasn’t even the worst part. The terror beforehand was; trying to get away, and his sudden mood changes.

I can feel his hands where he’d hold my two little wrists in one of his big hands so I couldn’t get away.

I remember once we were all in the living room and he suddenly snapped, lost his temper. He grabbed me and pulled me to the kitchen door, and pulled it open. He picked me up and threw me across the kitchen and then shut the door. It was cold and dark in there.

They used to tell me I was so bad and so badly behaved (that being hit was my fault). I still feel like I am bad inside, that people will find me out as being bad really.

They used to tell me I would be sent away to a school for bad children because I was bad, and I believed them. Perhaps they were just saying it to try to get me to behave, but I was just a kid so I believed them. I didn’t question this belief until really recently, maybe last year sometime.

When I said that last part to my therapist, I was pressing my hand against my chest. That’s where the badness is, in there, inside me. My therapist said she felt sad for me then, that she could really feel the pain I was feeling.

I felt guilty I made her sad but glad she cares about me. I haven’t had that empathy as I haven’t talked about this stuff much and when I have I haven’t always had a very sympathetic response.

She said not to feel guilty because she can cope with her own sadness. That was new to me too. I always feel like I have to protect other people from my feelings, especially my mum. Lots of guilt there.

I still feel depressed and like I’ve decided not to kill myself but I don’t know how to live either. I’m in limbo.

Back as an inpatient

MBT Week 8: Individual Session

TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE ATTEMPT

I was still feeling very agitated and upset when it came to my individual therapy session on Thursday morning.

My therapist was concerned about my hopeless thinking and thoughts of suicide and said she’d talk to my occupational therapist on the phone.

I went off to volunteering that afternoon in a daze. I was tired and I felt like a robot. The racing thoughts of suicide have continued, especially at night, all week.

Yesterday I decided it was time to put my plan into motion. I got up early Friday and headed to the tall multistorey car park at the top of town.

I went in on one of the top floors and wandered around. I peered over the edge and dared myself to jump. The ground swam up and down under my gaze.

My legs turned to jelly. My heart started racing and I got really scared. I walked just outside the car park, still level with one of the higher floors.

I sat on a bench in an ornamental garden and texted my occupational therapist, asking if she could phone me.
To cut a very long story short, she wound up talking me round, she stayed on the phone and almost step by step talked me into going to the CMHRS. It was a very emotional conversation.

She came in to work because I couldn’t talk to anyone else. I burst into tears when I saw her. There was a long day of waiting around to be seen and lots of people asking me questions.

I got given an apple from my occupational therapist and a cup of milk from the home treatment team, because I hadn’t eaten anything.

Eventually a guy called Thomas assessed me and found me a bed on a local inpatient unit. I got brought here and everything had been a disorganised mess. I spent most of yesterday evening crying. I’ve got no key to get into the dorm room where all my stuff is. I feel like I have died and now I’m in hell.