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Dear Miss Chouette

Due to unforeseen circumstances the appointment for you to attend the
Dr OtherRandomDude
Monday 1 August 2011 at 10:00 am

has had to be cancelled.

A new appointment has been arranged for you to attend the
Dr OtherRandomDude
Monday 15 August 2011 at 12:00 pm

I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Yours sincerely

I. DontGiveAProverbial

Patient Services Manager

As before, letter verbatim, names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent.

Perhaps I should open a book on when this appointment will actually occur?

How to Turn Six into Eight

It’s a good job I don’t need my medication changed…

Dear Miss Chouette

Due to unforeseen circumstances the appointment for you to attend the
Dr GetAJob’s clinic
<date in June>

has had to be cancelled.

A new appointment has been arranged for you to attend the
Dr OtherRandomDude
on <date in August>

I apologise for any inconvenience this may cause you.

Yours sincerely

I. DontGiveAProverbial

Patient Services Manager

Letter verbatim, names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent (?).

Seeing All Sides of Me

Seems I’ve imagined Him all of my life
As the wisest of all of mankind
But if God’s Holy wisdom is foolish to man
He must have seemed out of His mind
Even His family said He was mad
And the priest said a demon’s to blame
But, God in the form of this angry young man
Could not have seemed perfectly sane

God’s Own Fool, Michael Card

For me, my religion is part of me, it defines who I am, it affects the choices I make, the opinions I hold. There is nowhere God is excluded from, no relationship he is not part of, no time that he’s asleep or on the loo (if you ever doubt that God is above a bit of potty-humour, check 1 Kings 18:27, or for that matter 1 Samuel 5:12.).

Yet, almost without exception, I’ve found that mental health “professions” seem to have slept through all their RE classes at school, not to mention all those “equality and diversity” drives that the NHS seems to like putting up posters about.

Some of the corkers that most stick in my mind, are the nurse who told me it would be preferable if I talked to my family rather than people from my church, as my family “would be there for years to come”, as opposed to the people with whom I actually had things in common, who were just “a bunch of strangers”. I think quite a few concepts had flown right over his head, but the most glaring was the fact that my familly don’t believe in a life after death, which kinda shifts the “sticking around” balance back in favour of church folks.

Then there was the worker who, while assessing me for their service, asked me about social contacts etc. I told her that I wanted to go back to church, and get involved in my bible study group again. “Oh no!” she said, sounding a bit confused. “You can’t talk about that yet, religion’s at the end of the form”. Which left me wondering if, not social, were those needs… unsocial? anti-social? non-social?

And then there’s the ones who never even bother to ask, even though faith and my expression of it is a very good indicator of my mood. When I’m down, God is still there, and my faith is too, but the gates are down and the blinds are closed – I lose my ability to pray in “words” and my ability to remind people that these things are important to me. When the illness speaks to me, and tells me things, I may easily mistake it for God, who has spoken to me in the past. An easy mistake to make, but a potentially deadly one. When I have strange experiences, I may not be sure whether I need an exorcism rather than a psychiatrist. The ironic thing is that over the past few years, I’ve suffered from having very puzzled (and seemingly unconnected) people randomly telling me Jeremiah 29:11 is a significant verse for me. But then, I never am quick to take a hint when it’s really needed.

To be honest, all that these experiences have done is to make me feel stigmatised, part of a minority – that if I talk about anything related to my faith, it’ll be written off as not-appropriate, or a load of rubbish, or that I’ll be deeply offended during vulnerable times.

But apparently it’s not just me… pages 14-17 of this paper strike a lot of bells with me.

I guess that some of you guys might not be able to relate to this post, but if you do then I’d be really interested to hear what your experiences are.

Medical Evidence

Please describe health problems and diagnosis.
Recurrent depressive disorder

Medication prescribed:
Venlafaxine XL 150mg od
Trazodone 50mg nocte

Please indicate main symptoms
Loss of interest & enjoyment, lack of motivation, recurrent suicidal thoughts, depressed mood.

In your opinion was Ms Chouette continously unfit for work between 23/11/09 and the 7/6/10
Yes

Any other comments:
Currently recovering from depression. An occupational therapy assessment has been done and she is being encouraged to return back to work. Physically well.

Thanks for the support Ms Psych, that’ll look great when my ESA is reassessed next month.

I guess I’d better procure a copy of the “occupational therapy assessment” so I can highlight the section that said I wasn’t fit for work…

Late Nights Make Me Thoughtful

First off, a little note – if you’re reading this, then I’m not talking about you. I know that sounds a bit odd, but the people I’m thinking about are people I met through my normal life activities.

Why…

… do I have to make the first move?

… do I have to put in all the effort to have a social life?

… did you never get in touch after you moved?

… do I have to follow everything up?

… do you assume I’m just being polite when I say I’d like to come round?

… when I call you, do you always say you were thinking about me?

I know what my reasons for not being good at staying in touch are, and yes, I share part of the blame. It’s difficult to deal with this stuff when you’re “ill”. But I don’t understand why you do it.

I really really miss you. I just wish you were missing me…

|Respect for Psychiatrist| ≡ 0

When I heard their outcry and these words, I was very angry

Nehemiah 5:6

Last week I had an appointment with my psychiatrist, but it’s only now that I’ve calmed down enough to write about it. I’ve always had issues communicating with my psych – she has the power to clear my mind of everything I had prepared to say – leaving me with just ummms, errrs, and a desire to leave the room as soon as possible. I’m not sure why I find her so intimidating, but I do know that she makes very little attempt to alleviate this, and that responsibility for making conversation falls entirely on my shoulders.

The last time I saw her, this culminated in being discharged, just after I had been accepted by the CMHT. Apparently this “is very unusual” – all I knew at the time was that noone seemed to believe I had really been discharged, and I was even asked for the punchline – it took some effort to persuade other professionals that I really wasn’t joking, and she really had discharged me.

Perhaps some background would help here – during 2009/2010, my psychiatrist was failing to acknowledge letters being sent to her (with my consent) by my YP-place worker, detailing her concerns, and my psych appointments were proving to be slightly less common than hens’ teeth. My worker was concerned enough to discuss my case with her manager, who wrote (another) letter to my psychiatrist threatening to make a formal complaint.

This appeared to have been the magic phrase, as a couple of days later my psychiatrist made a phone call to my YP-worker.  All I know about this call is what I’ve been told by my worker, but I’ve been told that she sounded very “defensive”, and said that as I didn’t have a “severe and enduring mental illness”, there was nothing she could do. Luckily for me, YP-place stuck to their guns, and she eventually agreed to refer me to an occupational therapist, insisting that there was no point as “they won’t see her”.

Needless to say, the OT disagreed, and agreed to see me for 3 months, which stretched into 6 months, after which he had to discharge me as I’d only been referred for “short-term intervention”, but he encouraged us to push for a re-referral to the CMHT in the near future if we felt I needed it, and re-referred me to my psychiatrist to discuss issues of “risk and function” that had come up in the time he’d been working with me. My worker thought this was a positive step forward, and offered to come with me to help me explain how things were.

Suffice to say that, we need not have bothered preparing for this appointment.  My worker and I discussed “risk” in some depth beforehand,  and I was very honest with her, as I believed that this was my only chance to be honest with my psych.

Instead, my words yet again deserted me, so my psych started telling me that she “thought I was better”, and my venlafaxine was going to have to go up – oh and I should take my sleepers at 6pm to avoid the pill hangover in the morning.

My worker tried to bring up the subject of risk, but my psych didn’t really take the bait. Instead, she told me that “we’ve tried our best“, and that I’m “not a child any more“. Apparently, I need to “behave more like an adult“, and “take some responsibility for my choices“.  If I “motivate myself more” then my problems will be solved, and I need to sort myself out because “with the new government” it will be really hard for “physically able people like myself” to prove that they’re incapable of work.

If my worker hadn’t been there, I think I would have taken that advice much more to heart. After all, when I go to see a doctor, they’re in a position of authority, see many patients like me, and (generally) tend to know their stuff – it’s hard not to listen to what they say.  In one fell swoop, she would have set me back about a year with respect to the progress I’ve made on asking for help when I need it, and not trying to take responsibility for everything that happens to me.

You see, what my psychiatrist doesn’t know, is that if I were still a child, I would not be in contact with mental health services, I would not be on antidepressants, I would not be trying to turn my life around. I would be sat on my own, in a bedroom with no working light, trying to end it. There was noone who would sort things out for me and see that I was ok – instead I was routinely ignored and just left to be weird, as if I were the proverbial elephant in the room.  I only managed to tackle my teenager issues once I became old enough to drag myself up by sheer force of will, and encountered some perceptive sixth form teachers who gave me the space I needed to put myself back together, and the approval that I needed to build my self-confidence.

My psychiatrist also doesn’t know (and hasn’t asked) that I’ve spent the last 6 months putting a lot of energy into doing the “adult” thing, and fighting the DWP, that I was preparing myself to represent myself at a tribunal, and thus trying to do the responsible thing and stand up for my rights as a British citizen.

I am painfully reminded of my adulthood every time the council bill me for my council tax.  I pay my bills (mostly) on time, I make sure I have a roof over my head, I give my seat to elderly ladies on the bus (if I’m not feeling too ill myself), I gave half my DLA Christmas bonus to the guy who sells the Big Issue.

So, what gives my psychiatrist the right to remind me that I can’t be childish anymore, that my lost childhood is, well, lost? And to then twist it around and make it my fault?

I am not a child any more, I am an adult, who understands adult things, that the people in authority aren’t necessarily right. An adult, who has room for feelings like “righteous anger”.

She gave me another appointment, for June.  I’m fully expecting to be discharged again at the appointment. I’m staying on the same venlafaxine dose, and I’ve stopped taking anything at night. Ironically, I’m feeling much better in the morning now, and I suspect that I was suffering more from the side effects than I had been benefiting from it.

Bonus points to anyone who can explain the title of this post.

Students and Benefit Entitlements

As a follow-up to the previous post, I was really struck by part of this BBC program on benefit fraud, which covered a loophole that I fell into myself when my depression forced me to take a year out of uni – I had to live off my savings, and my student loan (which they later told me I wasn’t entitled to during the time my studies were suspended, but thankfully haven’t bothered asking me to pay it back) because I couldn’t claim any benefits, a situation which noone around me could believe, any more that the people in the film could. It also made mention of the “6 months” that we have to wait before we can claim contributional ESA.

It makes me sad that it has to be “cancer” to make it onto the telly, but I’m still glad I watched it. It expires next Tuesday, the 18th January, it might be interesting viewing if you have a spare fifteen minutes, as you can fast forward past the benefit-fraud part of the programme.

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