My grandson has suffered a variety of mental illnesses since, at the age of fourteen, he fell off a rope swing and landed on his head. Prior to that accident, he was the sweetest child you could ever wish to meet. His character changed completely.
I won’t list his every diagnosed and undiagnosed condition here but, if you list your idea of the top ten most prevalent mental illnesses, you probably have it.
He is twenty-seven now. Over the years, he has been in and out of hospital, often on an enforced, secure section. Sometimes, he was the victim of what is now called ‘inappropriate out of area placement’, which meant that we had to travel miles to visit him. You can imagine how much distress this caused, both for him and for his family. At one point, he was held in a distant remand prison, alongside murderers, because there were no available beds in NHS mental health facilities.
Before he was released back into society, often with minimal support, the psychiatric team would hold an assessment meeting. I attended a few.
Memories of one such an occasion still trouble me.
The lead psychiatrist was very arrogant. Only her opinion mattered. Despite many conversations that I’d had with the nurses who treated my grandson on a daily basis, they kept silent in the meeting as I challenged the psychiatrist’s opinion. They had agreed with me and had informed me, before we entered that room, yet they refused to back me up. It was obvious that they were scared of her.
The main reason that was given to us for that particular section was so that his medications could be stabilised. In my opinion, and the opinions of his nurses outside of that room, the job had not been completed. He had only been there for ten days and was still showing many alarming signs of his illness.
I dared to tell the psychiatrist, “The problem is that he is a half-baked soufflé. Just when you are doing a great job of producing a satisfactory result, you remove him from the oven and he collapses in a horrible heap. This is a cycle of dismal failures.”
Her response was, “No! The real problem is that this is the difference between the opinion of a layman,” pointing at me, “and an expert,” pointing at herself. How arrogant!
With that, she excused herself from the meeting as she had another meeting to get to.
Incidentally, in the same meeting but no less relevant, that psychiatrist brusquely informed me, when I proposed that my grandson exhibited the majority of the well-documented symptoms of adult ADHD, that “There is no such thing as adult ADHD.”
# # # # #
A few years on, and I am suffering my own mental health problems.
For most of my life, I have been considered to be inspirational, a great motivator and the person to go to with any problems that required empathy and resolution. I would always be able to help. You only need to look at the recommendations on my LinkedIn profile to confirm that this is true.
I have also always been massively self-motivated. I would wake up early in the morning, full of enthusiasm for the coming day. I was excited about my work, my running, my writing, my interactions with the people who would fill my day, and many other things. I couldn’t wait to leap out of bed to get on with my day.
Now, I lay awake, worrying and thinking too much. I sometimes cry before I get up. During the day, when everything seems to go well, I suddenly feel sad and start crying for, apparently, no reason. I have panic attacks, but I have learned to control them.
Recently, I have started talking therapy with a very experienced and capable psychologist. She is wonderful. We struck up an instant rapport. She is very kind and is able to talk through my issues without making me feel under pressure of interrogation. He understands me and is non-judgemental. She has taught me some coping techniques which work. We have talked through the traumas and issues in my life, going all the way back to the beginning. I never knew that I had so many! It is a long list.
After about eight sessions, when I thought that we might be getting to the most significant issues and might soon start to address them and get be back to being the man that I once was, she has decided to refer me to a specialist. She believes that the most significant factors in my dark depression are related to sexual abuse and traumas that I suffered in my early life and in my adult life. She could be right. This is not her speciality.
So my sessions with the therapist who was my great hope for recovery have suddenly stopped. My company’s private healthcare insurance will find me a psychosexual therapist. It could take weeks. Then, I am going to have to start therapy from square one. It will be difficult for them, as my therapist has to be female. Because of what happened to me as a child, I can only speak with a female therapist. Even the thought of speaking with a male therapist makes me feel ill.
I am scared!
I have fallen over the edge of a cliff. I am a little boy lost, I want to curl up in a dark corner and cut myself off from this horrible world. Having descended the snake to square one, I don’t know how long I can wait to start climbing the ladder again. My hope has evaporated.
Today, I am not even a half-baked soufflé. I am a sloppy, cheesy, eggy mess, sitting in the bottom of a cold baking dish in the middle of an oven which the chef forgot to turn on. Eventually, somebody will come and scrape me out and tip my mouldy remains down the waste pipe.