Sectioned: An Update

A couple of years ago I made a short video with Fixers about what it’s like to be sectioned for an eating disorder. This came about after I saw a comment online saying, “I wish I could be sectioned so that I could have a hug” I was utterly shocked by this. Being sectioned is not something I have ever wanted to happen to me and hugs are very rare when you are in hospital. After reading the shocking comment, I made ‘sectioned’ which can be watched here.

My life has changed a lot since then, a lot has happened and when I watch the video now I wish I could update it so I thought I’d do it in a blog post. In the video I had only experienced being sectioned under section 2 of the mental health act. I have now been detained under section 3 of the mental health act since 2015 and this is still on going.

In the video I talk briefly about the two weeks I spent on level 3 which is where a member of staff remains with you at all times, this includes in the shower/bath, on the toilet and whilst sleeping. I have now been on level 4 2:1 for 2 months and this is also ongoing. This means two members of staff are within arms length of me at all times. So now it’s not one pair of eyes on me while I sleep, go to the toilet, shower etc but two pairs of eyes on me. I haven’t gone to the toilet unsupervised since May 2016.

My ‘choice’ remains the same. I have to drink sickly, gloopy supplements or they go down the tube I have up my nose. The difference is that now I can’t bare to let it touch my lips and so everything goes down the NG tube. I say ‘choice’ because I don’t really get a choice, I have to have the supplement drink one way or another. Some days I am restrained whilst they pump the feed down my tube.

I still feel my skin crawling with calories, itching, bubbling. Maybe this sensation will always remain with me around food, maybe it will never go away and that scares me.

In the video, I say “The final section, I hope it was” and I am gutted to say it wasn’t, I have a few more to add to this list. I wish my update was that I was living a normal life and the facts of the video had not changed. I wish I could say I was well rather than wishing I could remake the video to fit with my current circumstances.

My message remains the same: Mental illnesses are not fashion accessories, eating disorders are not glamorous and being detained under the mental health act is not something to strive for. This is still my life and I would not wish it upon anyone.

The Prospect of Spending Another Birthday in Hospital

Four weeks today it will be my Birthday and I will still be here on a general ward being tube fed with two staff either side of me. I’ve asked for leave, to go out for the day and I don’t know if that will happen but even if it does I will still wake up a year older in my hospital bed. I will still go to sleep that night on a ward instead of at home. I will most likely still have staff with me if I go out and I will be in a wheelchair.

It makes me feel sad that I’m spending yet another birthday in hospital. It symbolises another wasted year that has flown by. It’s another Birthday with sad memories attached to it like the Birthday I couldn’t stop crying and the day out in London that was ruined by body image and obsessive body checking. The Birthday I overdosed on. There will be no Birthday cake yet again this year  because I’m too terrified to be around it let alone eat it.

Years are flying by, the clock is ticking and I am wasting it all to mental illness. So many Birthdays have passed where I’ve been unwell. So many years spent stuck in this whirlwind and I still can’t find my way out. I wonder if next year I’ll be home and if I’ll be able to celebrate my birthday normally with friends, going out, eating cake but I still see myself being in the unit in Coventry miles from home.

The prospect of spending another Birthday in hospital is overall quite upsetting.

I Need Some Alone Time

I’m on 2:1 level 4 observations which means I have two members of staff (one qualified nurse and one nursing assistant) within arms reach of me at all times. It has been like this for nearly 2 months. I am never on my own. They are with me when I’m using the toilet, shower/bath, when I’m sleeping, when I’m changing clothes, washing my hands, blogging and tweeting. They are always there and I get no privacy.

Right now I just want to be on my own, in a silent room to let out the tears I’ve been holding back for so long. I want to be able to tweet, blog, Facebook, instagram without staff watching over my shoulder.

Alone time was always so sacred and important to me. I enjoy silence too. It’s nice to be in a field with no one in sight and the silence is only broken by the sound of your own footsteps. I used to sit on my sofa with no TV on, just total silence and I enjoyed it. It calmed me.

It will be this way until I go to the new unit in May. I will then have done nearly 6 months with two people either side of me at all times. I don’t think I can do it, but then again I don’t have a choice. This is how it has to be.

The Importance of Visitors

Being in hospital can be a very lonely and isolating experience. I know this myself having spent the past 18 months in hospital, I haven’t seen my grandparents, aunts and uncles, my goddaughter and most of my friends and most days I really, really miss them. I understand that seeing a loved one so poorly can be heartbreaking and many people don’t know if the person is even up for a visit.

This afternoon was lovely, I saw my ballet teacher, my friends and their four year old son and my parents and not only did it make the afternoon fly by but it brightened up my day. I feel like I am a part of the world around me, like I’m connected to society again and people haven’t forgotten about me.

My message is this: visitors are so important during long inpatient stays. I really miss a lot of people who were in my life 18 months ago and it means the world to see their faces even if it’s only for a few minutes.

So thank you to the people who have visited me and to those of you considering visiting a loved one in hospital, please do. It makes the world of difference.

Re-Integrating With The World Is Difficult

After spending quite some time in a psychiatric ward, I am finding it difficult to re-integrate with the world around me. It’s like the volume of the world has tripled and I struggle with the noise of a supermarket. There’s too much noise everywhere I go. It’s cold everywhere too, I’m used to the warmth of the ward and my legs get tired walking because they haven’t done much for so long.

I’ve been away for a while and I wonder if my friends are still my friends and if people will remember me when I return to ballet and ice skating. Does anyone even notice that I’m gone?

Nothing feels the same anymore. It was summer when I went into hospital but now the seasons have changed and it’s Autumn and there’s Christmas trees on the shelf where the paddling pools were the last time I was in the shop. It’s overwhelming. A world I struggle to recognise.

My bedroom at home just feels like a room rather than ‘my bedroom’ as months of post and items my mum has tidied up are placed around the edge of the room. Things in places where they don’t belong. It’s as though the life has drained out of my bedroom like it drained out of me.

I don’t feel I belong anywhere, I hate being in hospital but I don’t belong at home yet either and I worry the slot I had in life has gone. The reasons for recovery have slipped out of view and are covered in spider webs and dust along with my shoes and dresses and make up.

I only have hours off the ward at the moment and overnight leave occasionally but it’s so difficult. Leave is hard work. A challenge. I can’t believe I used to do it everyday and every night at one point with no problems. I’m at the bottom of the mountain again with the entire monstrous hill to climb.

There’s Nowhere For Me To Go

I haven’t been well lately, my mood has crashed completely, the flashbacks are overwhelming and anorexia has been screaming at me. The past five weeks have been a downhill spiral of self harm, suicidal thoughts and no energy to do anything. Unfortunately it is also summer meaning that my psychologist, dietitian and psychiatrist have taken big chunks of leave.

Last Monday I can barely remember, according to my friend I was extremely withdrawn and not well and she took me to hospital to be assessed. We phoned the psychiatric ward at 6:15 pm and I was not assessed until 4.30 am. Waiting so long in an acute mental health crisis was really not helpful. Hospital was meant to help but the entire stay was horrific and stressful. Some of the staff were incredibly rude to everyone. My friend was crying and they opened the door and said, “Off you go!” and left her crying on the curb outside.

I ended up with the wrong medication most of the time and when I went to correct them it didn’t sort anything out. I actually had to explain to a qualified nurse the difference between tramadol and trazodone. I was given one out of my seven tablets at nighttime and when I explained the nurse didn’t return with the right dose and so that was a pretty sleepless night.

I was put in a two bedded room and I accepted that was the only bed even though I struggle hugely with sharing. The staff assured me that as soon as a single room became available it would be mine. The next morning I was put in the four bedded room when single bedrooms were available. I couldn’t help but wonder if they were deliberately trying to wind me up but I just left it because the staff had caused so much stress by that point that I simply gave up.

One patient threatened to kill me with their bare hands and strangle me. It was extremely distressing for me but the staff didn’t seem to care. I came into hospital to get better and feel safe and I felt anything but.

The last straw was when I tried to use the skills we are taught in DBT to distract myself from hurting myself. I asked the occupational therapist if I could do something and her response was, “Usually people with low mood don’t want to do anything.” Her comment put me in a place of guilt, shame and wanting to give up on DBT.

I decided the ward was too stressful and was making me worse and so I asked for leave until ward round and they allowed it. I got home and sat in a chair and cried for hours. Home wasn’t the right place. If I broke my leg then my mum and dad couldn’t x-ray it, diagnose it and put it in a cast. Neither can they fix my broken mind. I silently struggled until ward round and then explained the situation to which they had no solutions and I decided discharge was the only option.

I am now at home with no energy or motivation to do anything, very poorly with depression, battling with self harm and suicidal thoughts, hating myself and struggling with my eating disorder. Home is not the right place for me at the moment but hospital is too stressful which leaves me with nowhere to go…how can that be right?

Stop Criminalising Mental Illness

As someone who has been in the mental health system for years, something I have noticed happening a lot is the similarities between being a mental health patient and being a criminal.

When someone becomes unwell with a mental health problem then there is often a lot of blame. That blame can be directed in different ways, outsiders may blame the unwell person or their family, parents may blame themselves and the patient’s upbringing will be questioned. Whilst trauma and difficult upbringings can be a factor in someone’s presentation, it is completely possible for someone with a caring family and a positive upbringing to become unwell and this is not a rarity. When someone commits a crime then the person is blamed, their family is blamed and people will assume they had a bad upbringing. Notice the similarity?

In my experience, I have not always received caring care. Sometimes there is very little compassion or understanding and I have on occasion been treated as an annoyance or like I have done something wrong. When I needed a hug and someone to wipe my tears I was restrained, injected and shouted at. I have often felt like a naughty child. A criminal is treated much the same, not often are they met by a smiling, compassionate police office

When there is a ‘criminal crisis’ and an arrest is made then the criminal is taken down to custody, stripped of belongings, searched and put in a cell. When there is a mental health crisis and the police detain the patient under Section 136 of the Mental Health Act then the patient may be taken down to custody, stripped of belongings, searched and put in a cell. Do not assume that this happens only to patients who are violent. I was taken to a police cell at the age of 19, frail from my eating disorder, hopeless, suicidal and painfully shy. I was a risk to myself, not to anyone else. Most criminals are held in a cell for a maximum of 24 hours, this can become 36 hours in serious cases. A mental health patient can be held in a cell for 72 hours.

Inpatient can feel like prison, some even look like a prison! A sentence I often hear from other people is, “What are you in for?” just like you hear on TV series set in prison. What am I in for? I’m in for an illness that is not my fault, or anyone’s fault!

Criminalising mental illness comes down to stigma and lack of understanding. The language our society uses does not help, for example ‘committed suicide’. People commit fraud, murder, theft but people do not commit suicide because it is not a crime and it hasn’t been a crime for a very long time. People die from suicide.

Mental illness is criminalised but I don’t think it is done deliberately. It’s just another habit of this society but let’s start changing our language, re-phrasing what we say and put mental illness in the same place as physical illness rather than leaving it in the same place as criminals.