Humanity V Power

Last week, after a manic episode I was admitted to hospital.  Even in my extreme throes of a manic episode I knew that the psych ward was where I needed to be, thinking back it was more a case of needing an escape, needing somewhere where being manic, being depressed, suicidal, etc was the norm, needing to be somewhere I felt was safe, away from responsibilities and the routine of life, I was not thinking of my family only of my own self preservation.

Now, almost a week later I sit, looking around at the other “inmates” and see how unwell I must have been, I read with horror the messages I sent to friends and to my therapist and all I want now is to go home.

Going home can be scary after spending time in hospital, after 2 or 3 days you have become institutionalised, the outside world is a scary place. I have been “allowed” out on my own for a couple of days but today was the first time I ventured out in to the big world out there, It felt noisy, people seemed to be staring at me (although I fully realise that actually no one was interested in me, its my vulnerabilities arising) It felt rushed, it felt unfriendly.

The psych ward, although not the friendliest place is a haven for those who need it, we all have a common bond, and even if in the outside world we would have no contact, no life experiences binding us together in the ward we are all as one.

There are constant fights, there is constant bickering, coupled with manic laughing and the inability of some patients to stay still, is all part of what anyone admitted will experience, we don’t ask the others questions about their lives, not until we are on the mend, we do not know what they do for work, their relationship status, what has bought them to where they are now but we all support in our own way the other.

That is, excluding the staff, As I look around the ward now, the nurse next to me is reading the football scores, another is watching Tv, two are in the office arguing about something and so it goes on, I wonder about the level of training given to staff on a psych ward, especially night staff, they seem to be lethargic, ambivalent and cold, they give the impression that they would rather be anywhere else than here.

Having “tried out” a few different psych wards, the one I am in at the moment is better then others, in fact it is one of the best I have been in. The rooms are cleaned daily, there are bright pictures on the wall, inspirational quotes on the walls, there is a big TV room and an occupational therapy room, the dining area is clean and hygienic.

It amazes me though, the way the staff change as soon as a family member or friend enters the ward, they seem to suddenly have all the time in the world to talk to you, to explain what is happening etc.

I would like to give an insight in to what it is like for a patient, and the lack of humanity shown, and (I feel) the power trip being staff in a place such as this brings.

A regular night, a lady who believes she has demons inside her, and Jesus also inside her is walking back and forth, she preaches to anyone who will listen and has caused a lot of terrible fights between patients, the staff tell her to leave people alone, she raises her voice, 3 staff members grab her, they drag her to her room, she fights them, scared and confused, we (the patients ) sit in shock, she was not threatening anyone at that time, she was searching for help.

8.00pm, it is announced that it is time for medication, now, for most of us this means that we will be asleep within 20 minutes, as the meds knock you out, meaning that we will be awake at 4.am, we state that we are not prepared to take our medication at that point and will take it in an hour or so…we are not children and refuse to be treated as such, The ward is understaffed, the nurses want a “quite” night, hence early medication, quite patients.

A girl knocks on the office door, wanting to know when she will be receiving her antibiotics as she has been admitted whilst having a chest infection, she stands at the door for a long time till anyone acknowledges her, she is then brushed off with “I’m busy ask someone else” except there is no one else everyone is “to busy”

I ask to go outside (as is my right) the nurse looks at me as if I have not spoken, she turns her back and walks away, I approach her again, and ask her to unlock the door, finally she answers me “I’m busy ask someone else”, this happens 5 times before someone eventually opens the door for me, all the while rolling her eyes at the inconvenience.

Two staff members stand together, the are laughing, hysterically, speaking in their own language, we sit and look at them in disgust, yet it is as if we are not there.

The list goes on and on, I must stress, that there are some nurses who show more care, who will sit and chat to you and be truly interested in what you are saying, they will encourage you to go to a therapy group, they will ask you how you are and want to know the honest answer.

I ask for my inhaler which I have bought in with me on admission, I feel short of breath and I need it as I have asthma, I am told that it is not on the chart therefore I am not allowed it, after begging for 30 minutes I am finally allowed it.

When a person is mentally unwell, they as a human, with emotions, worries, fears, love, happiness, care disappear, we become as animals in a cage, our basic needs are catered for but the support we need to recover we receive from other patients and not from staff members.

The system of mental health care in hospitals needs to be urgently reviewed, nurses ought to be doing the job because they care, they actually want to help not because it is an easy job which anyone can do.

15/16 years ago, the psych wards were scary places, places that friends and family feared going in to, that has changed, as I said the wards are bright and airy but the care has tragically fallen in quality.

There is no humanity…there is only a feeling of power over others.

Lots of love

Sara

speaking of statistics

I know some people when writing their blogs like to research their chosen subject, quote facts, figures and statistics, but in general I like to write from the heart, my own words and thoughts, which is why, there may be a few  grammatical errors and spelling mistakes ( I do check and re check my writing, but it has been mentioned that I miss some at times sorry folks) but this evening the urge compelled me to hop on to Professor Google and acquire some facts and figures, and here my dear readers is what I have learned.

  • According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) ” One in four people in the world will be affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives. Around 450 million people currently suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.”
  • Currently, more than 33% of countries allocate less than 1% of their total health budgets to mental health, with another 33% spending just 1% of their budgets on mental health. A limited range of medicines is sufficient to treat the majority of mental disorders. About 25% of countries, however, do not have the three most commonly prescribed drugs used to treat schizophrenia, depression and epilepsy at the primary health care level. There is only one psychiatrist per 100 000 people in over half the countries in the world, and 40% of countries have less than one hospital bed reserved for mental disorders per 10 000 people.
  • According to the Care Quality Commission (CQC) “Mental health problems account for almost a quarter of the total burden of illness in this country – more than either cancer or heart disease – and one in four of us will experience at least one such condition in our lives.Amongst the most common mental health conditions people seek treatment for are depression, anxiety disorders, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) and panic attacks.
  • The British Journal of Psychiatry writes the following ” There is evidence that the vast majority of people who die by suicide have a mental disorder at the time of their death, and up to a third have had recent contact with mental health services (Foster et al, 1997). For the latter group, the period of greatest risk for suicide is in the first few weeks following discharge from hospital. Data on over 2000 suicides among people in contact with mental health services from the National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide reveal that a quarter of all deaths occur within the first 3 months of discharge from psychiatric hospital (Appleby et al, 1999b). It is estimated that almost 1% of those discharged from in-patient psychiatric care will kill themselves in the year following their discharge (Goldacre et al, 1993). Such deaths account for 10% of all suicides in the UK (Lewis et al, 1997). The rate of suicide is highest in the first few days after discharge from hospital, with 41% occurring before the first follow-up appointment (Appleby et al, 1999a).The relationship between admission to hospital and suicide has been studied in greater detail among people with schizophrenia. Rossau & Mortensen (1997) examined the characteristics of 508 people who were admitted to hospital for treatment of first-episode schizophrenia in Denmark between 1970 and 1987. The rate of suicide was found to be highest in the 6 months following admission to hospital. It was higher following the first admission to hospital than following subsequent admissions and was also noted to be higher after discharge from general medical and surgical wards.

Everything I have read tonight has made me ponder, where are we going wrong? why are the provisions for Mental Health issues so poor, the care so dire that we have a third of people who commit suicide being in contact with Mental Health services up to 3 months before?

Even if we bring the stigma and lack of understanding of Mental Health in to play surely medical science has developed to a level where Dr’s ranging from professors to GP’s would have a basic understanding of how the mind works?

I feel, having experienced first hand the travesty that is Mental Health Services it all starts with the hospital, if hospitals were better staffed, If hospital staff were better trained, qualified mental health professionals the lives of those suffering would be so much more valued.

My last hospital admission was approx. 2.5 years ago, the room was covered in filth, bed sheets stained, the staff were cold, distant people, who carried themselves with the arrogance of one who knows he has all the power, one member of staff would sit with us, and bemoan her lot in life, telling us (the patients) how she hated her job, we were treated as subhuman, people would have to beg to talk to a staff member, to be taken out for a cigarette ( the only joy that some in the ward had) or to see a DR.

Of course some hospitals are better than others, but the fact remains, even if a Psych ward does not look like a prison, even if the doors do not have bars on, even if they can go for a walk (accompanied ), have visitors, bring in their own items from home ( most of which are confiscated on arrival) they are not an equal, their illness is not seen in the same way as for example a cancer patient is seen.

 

Until Psychiatirc issues are addressed by government and the funds poured into resarch and development the amount of people suffering with mental Health issues will keep growing, and the age range will widen.

Until Psych wards are run with the respect, cleanliness, care and kindness that is a must in any other hospital, nothing will change, people will leave a ward and do as a girl I was once in hospital with… walk to the nearest train station and jump on the tracks, people will still suffer in silence, until, at their darkest moment they will jump.

 

A life in the day of

I have until now been very hesitant to write about my bi polar, happily noticing that more and more people are reading my blog ( thank you !) I was unsure if it was a good plan to disclose something so very personal, something that has led  me through the greatest personal discovery journey I have been on, along the journey there have been many stops, some break downs needing emergency work, some happy stations some stations have been in the darkest towns , empty and lonely, ( picture tumbleweed and creaking swinging doors ) and the journey goes on, continuing, showing me new ways to travel new ways to choose the path to take .

For many years there has been “something” always there, always lurking, whether it was being the class clown in school to being way over sensitive as I grew older, from the times when I sat , so many years ago in the corner of a room rocking back and forth having an animated conversation with my grandmother whom had passed away A long time before, to the time when I tried, desperately to dig up the graves in a cemetery belonging to children who had died approx 100 years ago as I was convinced they could not breath. All of these “episodes” went untreated, they were viewed with horror, with silence, with dread of what the neighbours would think. Until at last, after a severe breakdown being diagnosed with BiPolar.

Usually I’m not a great lover of labels, but having the label of BP has given me a lifeline, I no longer feel alone, I no longer worry that I am a crazy, unpredictable person, someone to steer clear of, I accept who I am and acknowledge that even though hundreds of thousands of people are on the same team as me, battling the same mental health issue as me, there is sadly a stigma attached, a stigma which will never go away, a stigma which will stop people living the fullest, happiest life they could be.

Being a person with BP ( not a BP person!)  to me is like having a little extra part tucked away in my brain, if you are so inclined give it a name, let it take on a shape, usually it sits, happily. Quietly, minding its own business, not really disturbing you, but it’s always there, it has an effect on the way you think as a person, things that people may innocently say become mountains in your mind, you replay every word, your sensitivity levels tend to be much higher then other people, and in general you feel more, so, for example you are walking down the street and see a parent yelling at a child, most people will tut, they make shake their head, have some empathy for the child but you, with your Bi Polar brain will become obsessed , you will see every detail of fear on that child’s face, you will go home and your mind will become full of possible scenarios, will the child be ok? Is he being abused ? What is happening to him now? And as these thoughts overtake, the little blob , sitting comfortably at the back of your mind grows, and it keeps growing…. eventually leading to an episode.

So we need to be extra careful, we, need to take care not to listen to horrific news, see disturbing videos, read highly emotive books etc.

On the other hand, this extra sensitivity gives us the ability to be more empathetic , more understanding, more caring and loving.

Bi Polar episodes are different for every person. They can happen weekly, monthly, a couple of times a year or not happen for many years, they also all differ in severity, for example over the course of the approx 16 years that I have had my diagnoses there have been a few hospital admissions, some for a few days and the longest over 6 months, but some only an hour or two.

I tend to experience my Bi Polar with highs, I will go through a highly stressful time, and I will know ( and it takes years to come to the point of knowing ) when an episode is coming, the free-falling, all consuming, erratic thoughts, the inability to concentrate, the fantasy that becomes my reality of being the queen, a secret agent etc etc are all warning signs. Sometimes I can stop the episode before it consumes me, I go to a safe place , I sleep , I take extra medication, but sometimes there is no stopping it, and I am in my ” happy place” in no time at all.

For the people around me it is very difficult, though somewhere, deep deep down I know that something is wrong it is them who have to deal with the consequences. When I steal the car keys from my husband and try to climb out the bedroom window to drive down the motorway, to when I disguised myself convinced I was an Mossad agent and those around me were my soldiers. I know now who my safe people are, those who know from the tone of my messages or voice that I am on the verge of or in the midst of an episode, those 3/4 people are always there and they know what to do.

Bi Polar is NOT a choice, there is no point telling us to stop, to pull ourselves together. We can control it with medication, but still, at times the medication will stop being affective or will not be a strong enough dosage and a manic or depressive episode will occur.

Please know, we do not as some may think commit terror attacks or drive planes in to a mountainside because we have a mental illness, and when such an event happens we are saddened when the media will immediately fall back on the ” mental health issues of the perpetrator ”

We are you, we are me, we are your family and friends.

If someone you know has a mental health issue, do not be ashamed, make sure they are on the correct medication, that they know they are loved and that you are there … no matter what.

My last point is the importance of therapy. Personally I feel everyone should have a therapist, but for the person with BP it is even more important as we have all the anxieties, stress and unknowns that come with it.

My jouney is ongoing, I hope to be able to somehow in my own way stop along the way and open the eyes of those who are blind to the reality of mental health issues and how it affects all of us in one way or another.

Lots of love

Sara

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