TRIGGER WARING: Mental health, bipolar, crisis
It’s World Mental Health Day. Here’s my tale of being too mad to be supported by the standard services, yet not mad enough for crisis care.
Spoiler: I’m on my own and it hurts.
Last year I decided to engage with my shadow self and work on some psychological issues I’d had for the majority of my life. Working on them alone turned out to be a bad idea. After an intervention by a beloved friend I was diagnosed with Cyclothymic Bipolar.
I took this psychiatric assessment to my GP along with the recommendation for antipsychotics medication and therapy. I expected a discussion about my options and the choice of whether to accept a prescription. My mother in law, having worked within mental health twenty years ago, expected me to also be referred to community support teams.
This did not happen.
Instead I did what I’d always done. I tried to “do the emotional work” myself which alongside the huge bombshell of a diagnosis I hadn’t expected meant in this instance re-evaluating where every problem in my life had been “all my fault”.
I bounced from one crisis to another. The trauma of a diagnosis with no support meant I spent much of the next six months in mixed states – basically bouncing from depression to mania.
Eventually I met with an NHS Psychiatrist who asked me lots of questions about suicide (something I’d never thought about before) whilst I was in a vulnerable state. He declared I was fine, gave a few excuses about why I shouldn’t be on medication, and referred me to CBT.
I thought I was going to finally get the support I needed to function again. I believed medication was something I didn’t need.
When I spoke to the CBT team, they again asked me about suicide, and I answered honestly. Yes, I had spent a bit of time considering what sort of things would be likely to drive me to it. After talking to the Psychiatrist, it had been on my mind, in much the same way a film or book stays in your imagination long after you’ve read it. (At least I’m guessing it does if you’re a “creative cyclothymic type”)
The CBT team declared me too mad for them and suggested I went back to the Psychiatrist.
As a person who spent many years internalising my needs as a bit of a nuisance and better dealt with alone or ignored, I couldn’t bring myself to ask the GP to refer me back to the Psychiatrist. It doesn’t help I have an intense phobia of medical intervention. The effort I go through just to call and make an appointment is exhausting.
Instead I had a breakdown which resulted in me sitting three hours away from my home in a friend’s bedroom whilst she made call after call to crisis teams. The only option it seemed was to go to A&E or back to the GP.
The crisis referral line suggested I go private as services were so dire, I was unlikely to get what I needed quickly.
I tried private psychiatrists and each one said they couldn’t treat someone who had “active” bipolar or who was unmedicated. Yet I’d been refused medication without first trying therapy.
Every time a service spoke to me, I had to tell my story all over again. As someone who has never had therapy and has been taught from childhood to subdue basic needs,
I’m very unused to talking about problems. Explaining repeatedly with no therapy resulted in my mental health being in crisis point.
After picking myself up and writing a ton of assertive letters I found myself back with the Psychiatrist and referred to a therapist who didn’t return my communication. I was also (finally, after researching and finding them myself) referred to a community support team.
Six months later the community support team believed I should be medicated, have therapy, and referred me back to the Psychiatrist. I’m still waiting to speak to them.
A year on and I’m back to “You have Cyclothymic Bipolar; you need therapy and medication” and yet any attempts to access these things fails.
I gave up.
Half of me believed I was just so terrible at stating my needs I didn’t make it clear what emotional pain I was in. I didn’t fight hard enough. The other half believed I was an attention seeking drama llama and everyone in the mental health network could see this and wished I’d just go away.
Except I’ve just watched my friend go through the same thing I did.
It’s been brutal.
He’s been refused treatment from every angle. Actively suicidal and at huge risk, single parent to a pre-teen, and isolated by the pandemic he’s also been metaphorically declared Schrodinger’s Mad.
Too crazy for “normal” support, not crazy enough for crisis care.
And as I’ve watched his experience, I’ve realised the problem is not me, it’s the system.
High functioning but vulnerable bipolar people are falling through the cracks of the overburdened, underfunded services.
We deserve mental health care.
Something must change.
On World Mental Health Day, I’m speaking for me, for my friend, and for all the other Schrodinger’s Mad Bipolar people out there unable to access essential treatment.
Bipolar is a life limiting disorder.
I don’t want to hear anyone asking why I didn’t speak up; why I didn’t ask for help.
No one listened.
I love that you all share memes, pep talks, and telephone numbers. But the last time my friend tried to call the Samaritans it was so busy it rang out.
Telling me you care about my mental health condition is really moving. I mean that honestly. But what we Schrodinger’s Mad people need from those of you who are stronger than us is awareness in the lack of services and support.
Talk about us. Tell the world my story. Write to your MP. Sign petitions. Start campaigns.
Because we did ask for help and none was available.