Panorama: 26th October 2015 – Britain’s Mental Health Crisis

After watching Panorama’s recent documentary tonight, I’m appalled at the state of mental health care. Of course, this is not the first reminder of the terrible state the government cuts have reduced the trusts to, but it’s an imperative reminder to all of us that we need to raise awareness for those vulnerable citizens silenced by their psychological disorders.

Firstly, the assessment of those “less ill” to free more beds for furthermore patients. Sickening. A patient who had the intention of committing suicide at a train station shouldn’t be “assessed” on whether or not they’re worthy of a bed: this is nonnegotiable. Vulnerable citizens are silenced due to their psychological conditions which is the most shameful fact of all. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: a cancer patient or a terminally ill patient ill not be refused a bed, neither will they be “assessed” on how unwell they are. They’d be given a bed as soon as possible, with the professionals working as hard as they can to get them on the road to recovery, or at least to make sure they’re not suffering as much. Why aren’t mental health patients treated with the same urgency?

How can patients, who are assessed to be suffering from their health conditions to a great extent, but not as great as other patients, say suicidal, be cast out into the community with no social help or support system to rely on if they relapse? Where’s the security that they’ll be helped if they ever feel vulnerable or have a bad day? This isn’t just a disgrace, it’s an atrocity and complete disregard for mental health sufferers.

Fundamentally, patients are judged on their suffering. As someone who’s been rushed to a&e 11 times over the past two years with multiple health conditions, I know that patients are assessed on how much pain they’re in. The more pain you’re in, the quicker you are treated. As a sufferer of anxiety which almost crippled me to not leaving my house for weeks on end, my parents and I felt I had no choice but to receive private help as my condition was too serious to be thrown onto a waiting list, which could take up to six months. This is where the problem lies, and where it will continue to lie until the stigma attached to mental health has dissolved. Most people cannot afford private healthcare, let alone private mental healthcare. How can the government expect a patient to pay £1000 a day to receive help and support which needs to be offered free, and is easily accessible?

I urge as many of you as possible to sign the petition below, which, if 100,000 signatures are received, the parliament will be obliged to take action and debate the bed crisis.

https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/109889

This is an increasingly concerning situation and we are all ambassadors for those in need of our support and help. Together we can make a difference, and we will.

A x

World Mental Health Day 2015

A couple of days ago marked World Mental Health Day, a day of showing awareness and support for those suffering from mental health conditions. As an anxiety sufferer, I believe mental health is grossly belittled and not enough is done to support those who have to live with harrowing mental health conditions.

It took me nearly two years to fully understand what I suffered from. Having both general and social anxiety is a pain in the bum; it affects literally every part of your life. From getting on public transport to walking into a doctor’s waiting room, and even walking into a room full of family and friends, it’s a dreadful thing to live with. And that’s just the social aspect! When my therapist told me the feelings I was suffocated with on a daily basis were related to anxiety, I was confused, scared and ashamed. I didn’t tell anyone for months, not even my parents or family. In my head, anxiety was a weakness and I was simply a weak person who couldn’t control her emotions.

The first person I told was, at the time, my best friend. He helped me through the worst periods of anxiety and rescued me when I felt like I was drowning in my thoughts. Having someone there by my side whilst my brain exploded into a million thoughts was a blessing. In fact, without him, I would not be sitting here today; he saved me from myself. Anxiety in a nutshell is overthinking every little part of your life until, to use the cliche phrase, a molehill becomes a mountain. You end up worrying over everything, thinking you’ve done something wrong or there’s something wrong with you; you feel like no one will understand what you’re thinking and in most cases, sadly you’re right. Not many will understand you. But it’s finding the support systems and networks out there to help those who feel completely isolated by their conditions which is so imperative. The fact that many people feel the need to see professionals privately is absolutely absurd and a complete failure of the government in supporting their vulnerable citizens. The idea of someone, or someone’s parents, paying £70 for a professional to help one through an ordeal as traumatising as their own psychological disorder is shameful. No one deserves to be given the ultimatum of private professional help or being dismissed onto a waiting list.

I’ll ask you a question: if a cancer patient, or a terminally ill patient was told they needed to wait to seek treatment for their condition, is that considered acceptable? No. There would be a public outcry at the injustice of forcing an unwell patient to wait. So, what makes mental health any different from physical health? We may not be hurting physically, but we are hurting mentally. Cries of pain can come from within, unnoticed by others. Mental health is JUST as important and life-threatening as physical health. I suffer from both myself and can confirm that my physical suffering, which has been rather intense and at times, unbearable over the past three years, was just as painful as my mental suffering. So throwing someone under the carpet with the insincere promise of a “waiting list” is pathetic.

More needs to be done to support mental health sufferers. More needs to be done to help sufferers come to terms with what they have, so they can move forward and control it.

Right now, it’s explicitly clear that the government has failed us. Now’s the time to make a difference, with or without Cameron’s help.

Dissipate

They’ll ask me: “what’s wrong?”

with the expectation of hearing “I’m fine”
to which they accept
and move on.
And so do I.
Inside, I’m far from fine;
I cry at everything
not knowing why.
I sleep a maximum of four hours a night.
“I’m fine.”
The offers for help are vacant.
“It’ll be okay” soon becomes
“maybe you’re overthinking things a little?”
You can help me with my maths homework
but you’ll never help me solve
the puzzles in my head.
One plus one doesn’t always equal two
up here.
You can’t help me get rid of the monsters under my bed.
“I’m here if you ever need a shoulder to cry on”-
fucking liar.
That offer is far too soon retracted.
I’m here for you if your boyfriend dumps you
but that’s all I can offer you.
My problems are not as shallow as that.
The depth of my problems compete with the ocean;
what will drown me first?
I guess I’ve learnt over the years
there’s only one hand that will reach down for you
into the abyss,
whilst you’re drowning and gasping for air.
Trying to gasp hold of the last fragments of sanity
as they dissipate between your fingertips.
That hand, my friend
is yours.

How to Help Anxiety Sufferers

Suffering from anxiety means that a lot of small things can escalate into bigger things: it can range from something as minute as a picture you see on Facebook to catching someone’s eye on public transport, and the intensity of the anxiety attack can be incredibly overwhelming. It’s all very well giving advice to those who also suffer from the condition, but today I thought it might be worthwhile giving advice to those who have people in their lives who suffer from it – siblings, boyfriends/girlfriends, parents or even just friends.

Anxiety attacks are usually brought on by a trigger and as mentioned before, it can be a wide range of things. Of course, you’re not expected to analyse every single detail of your life in order to avoid triggering attacks in your loved ones, but sometimes it’s wise to be precautionary:

1. Think – think about what you’re going to say or write or do before you do it. As mentioned before, sometimes things can escalate out of control and the fundamental cause was a simple misunderstanding. It doesn’t hurt anyone to show a little consideration for those who suffer from a destructive illness.

2. Act – Do what you can to support those in need of a little love and care. Go to therapy sessions with them, help them get answers if they’re unable to find them on their own. Acts of kindness do not go amiss.

3. Listen – If it’s a shoulder to cry on, let them tell you their problems. More likely than not, they will resolve the underlying problem if they are able to talk to someone about it aloud to willing listeners. Also, if you notice that a certain thing can upset them, avoid doing it! It sounds so simple, but surprisingly, repeating mistakes is a habit some have trouble breaking out of.

It’s most certainly not easy living with or being close to someone who suffers from anxiety. There’s no forewarning as to when an attack will come on, and it may be over something so frustratingly small that you don’t see the logic in it. But understand that this simply cannot be helped; some have it bad, some have it mild. There’s no cure for it either, just working alongside it and living with it.

Anxiety is like a black cloud looming over one’s shoulders all day every day, so even the smallest act of kindness or consideration will go a very long way.

A x

Anxiety

Recently, I have realised that many people have a misconception of what anxiety is. As a sufferer of such a destructive illness, I find it very insulting when people belittle it by using it in their day to day conversations. For example, I have overheard on a number of occasions, people making passing comments such as “you give me anxiety”, in a humourous light. I am fortunate enough not to suffer from a severe anxiety disorder which prevents me from executing my day to day activities, but nevertheless, it is extremely difficult to live with from which a variety of problems stem.

I had my gallbladder removed in January 2013 as a result of extremely unbearable abdominal pains, thanks to a great amount of “sludge” in my gallbladder which, over time, would turn into gallstones. Being in constant, severe and acute pain for such a long period of time can be unbelievably traumatic, which was the case for me. It took me over 6 months to recover from the surgery alone, and I have not fully recovered from the trauma I endured whilst in hospital. This is where the anxiety fits in. As a result of being in such severe pain for a long period of time, where painkillers didn’t make a dent in it, and where I was forced to endure some of the worst bouts of pain alone (NHS hospital visiting hours are ridiculous), I developed anxiety. I was, and still am, constantly worried that I’ll be put through what I went through last year, again. Although that part of my life is now long over, I am still haunted by the pain which will stay with me for the rest of my life.

This anxiety is also reflected in my daily and personal life. For example, I over-think and over-analyse the simplest of things, which lead to conflict, arguments and unnecessary tears and a lot of the time, others (outsiders of the condition) will not understand where I am coming from, which leads to more problems and disputes.

Since secondary school, I have suffered from very mild social anxiety, too. This somewhat worsened after my operations and society can undermine how troubling social anxiety can be; for example, simple things such as getting off the bus can trigger panic attacks and nervousness as you’re constantly paranoid about who is watching you as you make that small trip from your bus seat to the doors. Walking into a room full of strangers can trigger panic attacks as you feel as if everyone is watching you. Making new friends can seem almost impossible as you’re afraid of others judging you, hence why we see so many facades nowadays. Social anxiety should not be dismissed as a minor thing because, despite the fact that I don’t suffer from a severe form of it, it really affects your life in ways that others would not understand unless they experienced it themselves.

I have learnt that the most important way to deal with and overcome the problems that come about as a result of my anxiety is to have a strong support network. I have friends who understand my anxiety and help me through it when it gets bad, by getting to the root of the problem and then working my way out. By recognising the primary factor which has caused a panic attack or over-analysis of a situation. I am fortunate enough to have incredible parents who are there to listen to my problems if I can face them out loud, or just stay silent and stand by my side if I can’t bring myself to discuss it. They help me get to the bottom of what is causing my distress and help me come to terms with what is bringing me down. The relief you feel when you tell someone what you’re going through is unimaginable and I am so glad I told my close friends and family about what I was going through. If you think no one will understand you, you’re wrong; other sufferers can relate to you, and if you let in the right people, they will not judge you, only help you. I was terrified when I told my friend about my anxiety; I was afraid they’d never understand and label me as weak but they helped me out in ways I cannot explain. My parents did not judge me or write me off for feeling the way I did. And because I had such a strong support network, I will carry their advice, love and commitment to stand by me for the rest of my life.

Telling someone about a condition which is controlling your life will not make you vulnerable or weak or stupid. It takes strength to do so, and it makes anxiety a lot more bearable to live with.

And that is all that matters.

A x