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Saturday, 2 July 2016

'Leave, or we will call the police' : My experience of A&E

*TW Self-harm and suicide*

Let me illustrate my previous post on stigma within the medical profession with one of my experiences of A&E. 

A few months after my diagnosis, I had some episodes of suicidal thoughts. I was very scared and I needed help. My GP told me that the only support he could give, was for me to travel to A&E and wait to be seen by someone. 

I didn't want to go to A&E. I felt that A&E was a scary place of flashing lights and injuries. But I was desperate, and if I didn't go, the GP would most likely call emergency services to take me, so I went.

Drawing by me

When I got there I waited and waited. I was then taken to a room not much larger than a cleaning cupboard. There were no windows. There were two members of mental health staff, nurses I think. Three chairs took up most of the room. Outside the room were curtains, behind those curtains were injured or sick people. 

I don't remember the conversation, but I remember the feelings. I was suicidal, on the brink of being actively so. The family member that was with me was so worried, they were asking for me to be admitted to hospital. 

I told them I had BPD and that I'd heard of a treatment called DBT that could help. The nurses told me they had never heard of DBT.

The nurses ignored what I was saying and told me that I had low self-esteem.  

Furthermore, I was also experiencing bouts of hypomania- the sorts of highs during which my self-esteem was actually very high.

Again, the nurses ignored what I was telling them. 

And here I was: begging for help, desiring for someone to understand this incredibly confusing set of mental experiences. Understandably wanting something like support. 

They told me I could join a a seven week waiting list for a self-esteem course that was starting in a local GP surgery. 

I reiterated how I was feeling right now. And again, they told me I could join the seven week waiting list. I said that I needed urgent help right now. Again, their response was, well we are offering you a seven week waiting list for a self-esteem course, so sign up. 

It sounds like I am making this up. It sounds like it cannot be true. But it is. It is not fiction, it is not exaggerated.  This is the dire state of NHS funding from the Tories right now.

Drawing by me

And so I begin to shout and scream to let out huge waves of distress and terror. I crumpled to the floor, sobbing, begging for help. It was the epitome of being 'completely beside myself'. I frightened, I felt abandoned, completely beside myself. 

The overwhelming sadness and fear, the suicidal me, had turned to raging anger. I was shouting, 'help me, please help me, help me' over and over again .

I remember their stern voices, towering over me: 'we have ill people in here, you are frightening them. You are not cooperating.' They told me to leave or they would call the police. 

What about me? I was suicidal. I was frightened. Where was the compassion? Where was the support? Where was the safety for me?

Drawing by me

It has taken me years to come to terms with this trauma. I'm not alone in how I've been treated whilst suicidal, unsafe and incredibly distressed. Things need to change. No one who is suicidal should be treated as unworthy of help.