Well, I did do a little sharpie scribble to mark today, but words are necessary too. I have messages to communicate across the interweb that require words. That’s because they’re important ideas. Visualise bubble writing saying “THIS IS IMPORTANT”.
Right, let’s begin.
Yesterday was day 1 of this….
Note**I scratched out mental-ness this morning and replaced it with a more dignified ‘distress’, as mentalness is not a word I usually use. It was just a word I used, on one day, to convey my state of mind, which was very much NOT GOOD yesterday.
In short, I had a bad afternoon. I reached a state of mental health crisis. My illness overtook me, and I took steps to act to hurt myself, badly and permanently, but was stopped by my husband who put an immediate end to my actions.
He blocked what I was doing, so I couldn’t and didn’t do it. I didn’t like him in that moment, because I wanted him to let me hurt myself. Needless to say he didn’t hold that same opinion.
He didn’t approve of my reckless impulsive act. It wasn’t planned and premeditated. If it was I would have waited till I were alone, but I behaved impulsively in the moment, and was stopped in my tracks by someone who loves me and wanted to keep me safe.
To say the atmosphere has been tense since then is an understatement.
That is the cost.
Another cost is friends.
This is because of a basic disconnect between what people in mental health crisis want and what people in crisis sometimes get when we say what just happened.
Why did I share with people what just nearly happened? The answer is there is no thought process involved, no careful weighing up of pros and cons. When I am in crisis I behave mindlessly, NOT mindfully. I have NO CLUE what I’m doing. I have NO CLUE how long it will last. I have NO CLUE how the fuck I’ll survive. I have NO CLUE how much my crisis may spoil or potentially sabotage my friendships with people.
The thing is, people don’t choose mental health crisis, just like people don’t opt in to cancer, diabetes, seizures, physical disabilities or heart attacks.
There is no tick list that we sign saying ‘If you are happy to reach a state of mental health emergency at some point in the future, please tick the box’.
There is no crisis consent form.
There is no planning of a mental health crisis in the diary, for the most opportune time.
Many suicidal acts are impulsive, done during the most brutally painful of moments, usually after a VERY LONG period of extreme distress.
I am four weeks into my relapse. It all began with the Recovery College issue, and since then I have spiralled and spiralled.
Yesterday was my GO STRAIGHT TO JAIL, DO NOT COLLECT 200 POUNDS moment.
(The jail is in my head. No-one can see it. So when people can’t see or touch something they have trouble imagining it exists).
Here are some mental health crisis reactions and FAQ’s (typically asked, in my experience).
What happened to make you do that?
What meds are you taking?
When did you last see your psychiatrist?
What about your kids? Think about them.
You are SO LUCKY to have what you have.
This is my response…….
Also this…..mental health crisis is usually little to do with medication. If a crisis is because your meds have changed, most crisis experiencers will volunteer this information to you. If we don’t, it is because we know crisis is most usually not about incorrect meds/dosing. Usually as well, psychiatric meds alterations are precipitated by a decline in emotional/mental functioning, naturally moving you towards greater likelihood of crisis. Meds don’t always automatically cause suicidality. That is a common misconception.
Another common false belief is that if you are on the right magic medication (s) then mental health crisis will never happen. People think if only someone can find the perfect medication for them then you will never contemplate suicidal actions ever, or self-harm, or reach mental health emergency where you actually act to hurt yourself. This is a fallacy. Medications DO help. They really do, for some people. But people mistake the symptom reliever (the pill) as the causal factor, rather than understanding that sometimes there is no pill that can reverse the desire and behavioural act to try to die.
I am stable on medication that helps a lot and takes the edge off my MH symptoms, but the illness is the problem, not the symptom reliever (the pill), and no pill can make it all ok. If there were magic pills that could do that, everyone would be on them, including all the doctors out there that prescribe them.
I am on good meds that work for me, but suicidality is a key feature of my illness. Self-harm is also extremely likely (a maladaptive but short-term effective way to cope with the distress), regression into dissociative identities is a symptom which I used to get, then it went, but now has come back with a vengeance, and my most severe and traumatic flashbacks directly cause mental health crisis.
This crisis happened because I have had a dissociative breakdown and fragmented into many separate identities. Strangly enough I didn’t choose to have a mental health breakdown, and equally I can’t choose an un-breakdown. There is no mental health equivalent of a reverse vasectomy. Once you’ve felt the snip of breakdown, you can’t be the person you were before your breakdown. That’s why it’s called break DOWN, and not break back UP if you choose.
As for the care team thing, I rang for help three times in ever increasing states of desperation explaining how poorly I was and there was LITERALLY nobody to speak to there apart from the bemused receptionists. So I did try and get help first.
I don’t have a psychiatrist, because I was doing too well to need one, pre-breakdown. I have asked repeatedly for extra support from the community mental health team in the last few weeks, and the best they can offer is a psychiatrist appointment in a months time.
And as for the kid issue, a word of advice DON’T GO THERE. Please refrain from comments reminding me about my children. For one minute THINK.
Do you honestly believe I don’t consider them everyday?
Do you honestly believe I don’t care about them?
Do you believe that focusing on how wonderful they are is enough to ameliorate and cancel out a mental illness?
This is where the differences between perceptions of physical and mental illnesses travel in different directions.
To someone who has just had a seizure, you don’t say, ‘how could that have happened, what about your children?’
To someone who has broken their spine in an accident and is paralysed, people don’t say ‘how could you have let that happen when it will affect your kids so much’.
To someone who has had a tumour appear, you don’t say ‘but what about your kids, think of them’.
NO BLAME IS ATTACHED TO PHYSICAL ILLNESSES.
But when your illness is psychological, caused by trauma that wasn’t my fault, the onus is on me to not be ill and not show symptoms.
For me, and many other people with serious mental illness, the propensity to self-harm and to consider and plan suicide (suicidal ideation) is a SYMPTOM of our illness. A symptom we are BLAMED for, JUDGED for, SCORNED for, DESPISED for, RESENTED for.
If you don’t resent the cancer sufferer, then please apply that same respect to me- the sufferer of a trauma-generated mental illness.
I’m fairly sure if the boot were on the other foot and it were you fighting impulses to badly hurt yourself, you wouldn’t want comments about your kids, as though you’d opted to not give a shit about the human beings you’d created and love and nurture daily. I’m fairly sure you’d just want someone you reached out to, to empathise with your extreme suffering and wish you well in your recovery from this crisis. You wouldn’t want to be reminded that your illness made you nearly act in a way that might have caused significant harm to the people you most love.
Separate ME from my ILNESS please. Understand that my illness and me are not the same thing; just as we say someone HAS cancer, not someone IS cancer.
Keep me out of this please.
This is not about morality. This is about uncontrollable and un-chosen CRISIS. This is a symptom of a real (though invisible) illness. Mental health crisis is as uncontrollable as a heart attack, a seizure, an ever-growing tumour.
It’s time to STOP judging the person having the mental health crisis and respond in the same sympathetic way you would if someone has had a heart attack, a seizure or the spontaneous growth of a tumour.
Change the record. Drop your blame and leave it at someone else’s door-not mine.
I do my absolute best to fight this. I don’t announce everytime I succeed at not self-harming when I want to, or every day I survive without attempting suicide. There are no medals for bravery doled out. But fucking hell, if you disclose a day when your mental illness got the better of you and you couldn’t stop your crisis, prepare for guilt trips and platitudes and bullshit in response.
I have to make it clear that it is not all people who reacted in this way….only a handful, and the majority of people who responded when I disclosed what happened were very loving, caring, supportive, without a hint of judgement, or emotive shit that will make my mental state and symptoms even worse. For those people, I appreciate you. For the others, please just THINK.
I cannot be me authentically. I am too honest. It hurts to be this honest. I must hide. That is the recurring lesson. Hide everything unmentionable and you’ll be OK because then you’ll be conforming and the status quo will be preserved.
It isn’t OK to say, if your illness is a psychological rather than a physical one.