Mental Health Revolution: Open Letter to Trustees

I am finding myself sectioned again. This is the letter I am going to give to all the people in charge of my “wellbeing”/”recovery”:

Open Letter to the Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust

My Name is Pascale Taylor and I am currently sectioned under Section 2 at Southgate, Wedgwood, Bury St Edmunds, a facility that comes under your remit.

From personal experience, observation and listening to the feedback of most Patients whose primary consultant has been Dr Michael, this is the style Dr Michael seems to have adopted to treat Patients under his care at Wedgwood – which is quite common in Mental Health Institutions, in the UK but also quite common Worldwide, from personal experience in Canada and accounts from the US model:

  • Diagnosis, in Doctor Michael’s case: on the whole Schizophrenia for males, Bipolar for females, often with side diagnoses, such as borderline/split personality disorder, disassociative disorder etc
  • Medication
  • Discharge
  • Sectioning again
  • Medication
  • Discharge
  • …. To Infinity and Beyond….. And Back Again.

This has resulted in Patients being discharged before their mental health “dysfunction” has been dealt with.

Dr Michael, as the Primary Consultant of Southgate, Wedgwood, is generally seen as the “Monster”  by Patients, someone who doesn’t listen – rather than the “Enabler” – as he tries to get you “bettersolely through Medication.

As a result, most Patients found at Wedgwood are serial “Offenders” and require to be sectioned over and over again and are unable to function in society as we know it, often claiming benefits too as they are unable to work due to their mental health issues and/or Medication Side Effects, costing society a lot of money paid through Taxes and funding for mental health is ever decreasing whilst mental health issues are increasing.

Quoted from “The Myth of Mental Illness: Foundation of a Theory of Personal Conduct” by Thomas S Szsz:

“the entire psychiatric enterprise hinges on [the notion] that human beings diagnosed as “mentally ill” have a brain disease that deprives them of free will”.

Dr Michael – and all Psychiatrists I have come across since experiencing mental health issues some five years ago following a Trauma I suffered then – appears to re-inforce this Notion: that Patients aren’t able to think for themselves. Which indeed, pumped full of Medication, they are mostly unable to do so and rely entirely on the Psychiatrist getting it right.

I believe most people with mental health issues have suffered a trauma left unresolved and their inability to get to the core issue(s), and/or dealt with, has resulted in repression of said trauma, causing shame, guilt and/or anger, which can result in “hearing voices”, disassociation (personality disorder), or being on an emotional rollercoaster (bipolar), extremely angry or, worse still, so depressed that people feel they have no options but take their own life to end the suffering, all of which has become uncontrollable enough that they need hospitalisation, or prison – some may say same difference as both result in loss of freedom.

My suggestion:

  • Get to the root of the core issue(s) – “Listen
  • Understand how the issue(s) has shaped/is shaping their lives – “Think/Analyse
  • Find a way to “de-programunwanted behaviour, using medication if necessary in the short term with a view to dealing with the core issue(s) and its (their) effect(s) in the long term – “Resolve

I believe Human Beings are made of Essence (core being) and Personality (life experiences/circumstances).

The goal of mental health care should be for Patients to understand what their essence is and how their personality has been shaped by their experiences and influences in life since children, with a view to bringing more of the Essence to the forefront and correct unhelpful behaviour from their Personality.

Influences come in all shape and sizes:

In early years, Influences will have come from parents/family (including family friends), school, friendships and later from their working environment/social life as well.

As a person grows, influences come from all sorts of environment the person choses to find themselves in, particularly, in this day and age, influences from TV, the media as a whole (including social media) and the information available on the internet, as well as friends, as it is drummed into us that to thrive one needs a big social network.

The bigger the social network, the bigger the influences are, and the more damaging this can be, providing many people whose standards one “needs to live up to.

A Patient needs to be guided to understand that as an adult, they and they only, have the choice over their environment.

I believe labelling someone with a mental illness is a sure way for Patients to believe they have no choice in how they conduct their lives and this is very damaging to their recovery – ie, they believe there is no recovery possible, only medication will help them and they often aren’t able to function properly in society and often live on its edge.

Taking my own example, last year around February 2015 time, I decided that I needed to deal with my issues once and for all after I had fallen into “bad habits” again: drinking and a total lack of self-respect.

Two books allowed me to start this journey whilst many others enabled me to carry on this self-discovery journey:

  • One called “Attached” which explained attachment issues in relationships, after which I realised that I had suffered attachment issues all my life steaming from childhood issues, being the middle child with two disabled brothers and the pressure I had been put under from my parents being the only “normal” (abled) child. As well as an unfortunate first sexual experience at aged 12.

I was also quite a boisterous child and this “over protectionresulted in my mother and grandparents – who had a big hand in my care as my parents’ time was taken up looking after my two disabled brothers – being over protective over me, this in turn resulted in my cousins, who I spent a lot of time with on holidays in Morocco where I spent most, if not all, my childhood vacations as my grandparents lived there, resenting me or keeping me at a distance for fear of reprisal if something was to happen to me.

  • The other called “You Are Not So Smart”, a book on learned behaviour and biases every human being “suffers” from.

In that book, I found myself in so many biases it started a quest to understand who I was – “Know Thyself”- through self-inspection, observation and then introducing new positive habits to change my core “Personality”.

From Attached, I started the process of detaching myself from as much as I could in my personal life to give myself space to re-discover my core “personality”.

From You Are Not So Smart, I became aware of the automatic behaviour(s) I had acquired whilst being shaped by events outside of my control which resulted in the personality I had developed, and I started a quest to change myself as a result.

With those two realisations, I started an intense period of self-study which resulted in quitting alcohol in December 2015, out of choice rather than need, as I had realised I had used alcohol to “escape myself” for over 25 years.

In short: I hadn’t liked who I had become and used alcohol in order to function with this dislike of my persona.

Through this self-study, I found my true Essence (or core values) and worked on bringing them to the forefront.

Best of all, I started to take personal responsibility for the human I had become and corrected as much of the learned behaviour I was able to, particularly away from “friendlyinfluences I had allowed in my adult life, as well as family influences, which were the basis of the Personality I had developed throughout my childhood/teens and also adulthood.

I tried and tested various methods too, finding the ones which worked best for me.

Example: I had had weight issues since my teens and decided to try and find a way to resolve this and I decided I needed to try and eat healthier food and exercise more and so I introduced a lifestyle change in my diet and exercise regime which resulted in losing 2.5 stones in a little over a year.

Unfortunately finding myself sectioned, I found I have put on four kilos so far through comfort eating. I was 56 kilos, close to my target weight, when I arrived at Wedgwood, two weeks later I now weigh 60 kilos due to unhealthy eating habit via comfort eating and lack of exercise due to being restricted in the amount of exercise I can do as I didn’t have the right shoes to exercise, due to being tricked into being sectioned – which I am addressing via the  and Care Quality Commission (CQC), a UK company which protects the rights and interests of people who are detained in hospital under the Mental Health Act, nor do I have the freedom to go for walks on a regular basis, something I have found works well for me in the “outside” world, following a no explanation abrupt restrictions on my leave, which were luckily recently lifted.

I am also concerned about my diabetes as the diet I had adopted at home resulted in lowering the level of diabetes to below the diagnosis level 7 consistently over the past year, following two checks in the past six months.

Here, with the comfort eating and lack of freedom to exercise, I fear the rate is going to increase and so I have to try to be extremely self-disciplined in my eating habits, which is proven to be hard due to my circumstances: being sectioned under a regime I don’t agree with and surrounded by Patients each with varying degrees of mental health issues.

Lack of freedom is a major issue for me being in Wedgwood as I process my thinking best at night (I started this letter at 1:30 am and it is now 4:00 am), as I find this time of day (night) more peaceful and quiet.

Unfortunately at Wedgwood, night becomes a time when most freedom is restricted, ie, I cannot make myself tea and need to rely on staff to keep me “watered”. I am also unable to smoke freely as the courtyard is normally out of bound at this time.

Smoking helps me process my thinking by taking a break from it, some kind of mindfulness best achieved when no-one else is around so it allows for little distractions.

Recently there was also talk that access to the Ward laptop, that I use to write my thoughts on as I didn’t bring any electronic devices with me apart from my kindle (to read and listen to saved music), was going to be restricted to be used only between 7:00 am to 10:00 pm.

I believe, quoting The Myth of Mental Illness: “hospitals are like prisons, not hospitals; and that involuntary mental hospitalisation is a type of imprisonment, not medical care; and that coercive psychiatrists function as judges and failers, not healers”. Again a model Dr Michael and the staff, or at least the ward manager, seem to have adopted here.

The quote continues to say “I suggested that we view and understand “mental illnesses” and psychiatric responses to them as matters of law and rhetoric, not matters of medicine or science.”

Medication having a purpose to “correct the brain chemistry”, subject we still know very little about, particularly when it comes to Consciousness, I am very reticent to be pumped full of medication, which Dr Michael has imposed on me since I have come here, even injecting me with medication not recommended for diabetics.

Let’s also not forget not so long ago, lobotomy was used to correct the brain’s perceived imperfection(s). Now we could say the equivalent is ECT (Electroconvulsive therapy), which scares me as much if not more than lobotomy.

All this is messing with the brain, an extremely powerful organ that we still know very little about, despite science’s progress to understand its functionality in what makes us “human”.

I am a great believer the answer to one’s mental health dysfunction, as I prefer to call it, lies within.

To quote from The Myth of Mental Illness again, Shakespeare had a similar view.

Referring to a dialog in MacBeth with a Doctor:

Shakespeare’s insight that the mad person “must minister to himself” is at once profound and obvious- profound because witnessing suffering calls forth in us the impulse to help, “to do somethingfor or to the sufferer, yet also obvious because understanding Lady MacBeth’s suffering as a consequence of internal rhetoric (the “voice” of conscience, imagination, “Hallucination”), the remedy must be internal rhetoric (self-conversation, “internal ministry”).”

It is therefore very difficult for psychiatrists to truly understand what is going on in someone’s Psyche, unless the psychiatrist himself has experienced similar mental health dysfunctions.

Psychiatry seems too focussed on medication and not enough on understanding what brought the Patient to the state he/she find themselves in.

of the observer’s construction and definition of the behaviour of the persons he [the psychiatrist/staff in a mental health institution] observes as a medically disabled individuals [patients] needing medical treatment.”

I believe this is wrong, and I am not alone in this thinking.

The author of the book I am quoting from states: “[…] it taught me, at an early age, that being wrong can be dangerous, but being right when society regards the majority’s falsewood as truth, could be fatal”.

This is the exact situation I am finding myself in, totally at the Mercy of a psychiatrist whose techniques (medication) I disagree with, despite the fact that I have proven my techniques work better.

Again, I believe one can only get better by self-enquiry and starting the process – which doesn’t bring overnight results and is an ongoing process – of correcting unwanted, detrimental behaviour to live a more fulfilling, balanced life.

The book I am quoting from agrees:

“Persons said to have mental diseases, on the other hand, have reasons for their actions that must be understood; they cannot be treated or cured by drugs or other medical interventions, but may be helped to help themselves over the obstacles they face.”

Not something Dr Michael seems to understand and/or agree with as his main purpose appears to be Medication.

This unfortunately seems to be endorsed by society because it sanctions easysolutions” for problem individuals.

So I am finding myself going against the grain of the accepted psychiatry model and since Dr Michael is my Primary Consultant, I cannot see how working with him can help me and, as I am under Section, I find myself completely at his Mercy.

A very unsettling and scary thought for obvious reason: my freedom depends entirely on his say so, so does my brain.

 

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Quit Smoking Day is Nigh

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As I had been otherwise engaged having fun and also dealing with starting a new job, I realised some time last week that I didn’t have long to prepare for Quit Smoking Day – which I elected to be the 15th February back in December.

No time at all!

As much as I had started the preparation pretty well back early January- downloading an App which was supposedly designed to help you reduce your smoking until D-Day, which I abandoned after running it for a couple of weeks – dealing with the “stress” of starting a new job – a cigarette was a welcome break, particularly fun meeting the smokers there – and then enjoying a little sexual fantasy with some stranger, eventually put any preparation by the wayside.

So I have been spending this past week trying to concentrate on getting ready. I am not sure how this short preparation will work out – I’ll soon find out – but I seem to have managed to change my mindset somewhat about cigarettes.

I started to restrict my smoking to a 10 cigarettes pack a day and for the past six days, that pack has lasted me two full days.

When on occasions my mind thinks about smoking, particularly at home I am pleased to report as this was the time I had showed less resistance, the thought just doesn’t appeal much.

There may be one or two cigarettes I really enjoy during the day, however none particularly comes to mind. So I am hoping there are none that I “couldn’t do without”.

I am also hoping to quit before D-Day (Monday), ideally on Saturday instead, so I don’t go to work on Monday feeling a bit weird that I won’t be smoking – Mondays can be a bit of a downer as it is (although so far in this new job, they haven’t been, I am pleased to report).

It’s funny, when you set yourself a Quit Day, at the start, you want the period until D-Day to last as long as possible; closer to the day however, you can’t wait for it to come – to get it over and done with, and see what you are made of.

I will admit I am a little scared I can’t do it – even though I know I can, having done it twice for long-ish periods of time (two years the longest). Still, addictions can be suckers, quitting them, or at least the idea of, can feel quite daunting.

Still, needs must. My heart (literally) has been telling me it needs me to quit. I really have to listen to it.

I just hope quitting smoking will be as easy as quitting drinking 🙂

The Man who Broke me

A few weeks ago, I had my first ever Reiki session. I had been looking for various ways to help me process, chill out, meditate, sort myself out in other words and I thought I’d try Reiki.

The experience was pretty unexpected, I will admit. The night that followed the session, I broke down in tears when I got to bed, even though I had been feeling fine up to then, and as I found myself in the fetal position, I soon realised I was starting to connect with my inner child.

The lady who carried out the Reiki told me after the session that something bad had happened to me a long time ago and I had spent all my life building a wall to protect myself from pain and to be able to function, and that my wall had started to crumble. She said I needed to take it easy as I was very vulnerable at the moment.

Straight away, I thought she was referring to my first sexual experience, which had been really bad. But soon after I realised that I had it wrong. The experience I had tried to forget and protect myself from was my first love.

His name was Pierre, I met him on holiday with my parents in Spain. We had a magic month together in August when I was 15.

I don’t remember much of that month truth be told. All I remember is the heartbreak I felt when we went our separate way and the way he treated me after.

For a year and half after we parted, I wrote to him many times, 13 if my memory serves me right and not once did he answer my letters. My heart broke in millions of pieces.

I became obsessed with him. I even started to write a book of our story, my journey.

I found out a couple of years later when I managed to get his number, quite by chance, that the reason why he ignored me was he had decided we were too young to stay involved and we had to take our own paths in life without the interference of love (we lived the other side of each other in France) and so thought ignoring my letters was the best way for me to forget about us.

I have kept a folder I used to write my thoughts into when I was that age and recently decided to read it again. My heart broke when I read how 15/16 year old me struggled to make sense out of his abandonment at the time. I actually teared up and desperately wanted to hug the old me, a nice big tight hug and let me cry in my arms. This is when I realised it was this that broke me. Going through this immense pain and no-one to understand. Who really takes notice of a heartbroken 15 year old?

And so after this terrible experience, I started to protect my heart. I would never let anyone close enough to do this to me again. Except I did, many a time, because I was desperate to be loved. I looked for love in all the wrong places. I now realise it was because I didn’t love myself. If He, Pierre, could abandon me after such a powerful love we felt, I cannot have been lovable. So I wanted someone to prove to me I was by giving me love.

I now know you cannot love someone who doesn’t love themselves however, and so my search was futile.

My heart recently got broken into million of pieces again, when my husband and I separated and he chose to see my best friend instead.

This is going to be the last time my heart gets broken…because now, finally, I love who I am. I don’t need anyone to make me realise I am worth it. I know I am.

The next person I choose to give my heart to, will hold it til death do us part as I shan’t settle for less. And I am quite prepared to be alone for a long time til this day come that I meet my soulmate. I am using this time wisely. I am re-discovering who I am every day, working on rebuilding that person who Pierre broke. Bit by bit.

One day, I shall be ready to meet him again. One day, I will be whole again. This is my journey.

Happiness is a mental illness

I had a doctor’s appointment booked tonight for something and I thought I would mention that I was feeling slightly manic recently and that I haven’t really managed to get more than 5/6 hours sleep a night since I became a tea-total.

I also explained to her what happened to me after my husband and I split up, when I stopped alcohol and drugs straight and went into a big manic phase which got out of control and for which I had treatment to give her some background as to why I felt I needed to mention my current mood.

Well, she is referring to a psychiatrist for assessment and talked about possible mood stabilisers (apparently much better than they used to be). She said when someone says they are happy all the time, it rings alarm bells to her. A friend of mine said something similar recently “No-one can be happy all the time”.

Well, guess what? As I am sitting here typing, tears are filling my eyes. It seems being happy is a mental illness.

I know I have been manic recently, but for the first time in my life, I am living free from addictions (dope, alcohol and toxic relationships) and re-discovering the world in a different light.

I have everything I need to be happy. I have a job I truly love, I have good friends, I have two lovely kitties, I have a nice house which doesn’t cost me a fortune, I have a car, I earn enough money that I don’t have to need for anything. I am closer than ever to my family, I am having healthy fun in my life. I have started successful worthy projects, I have reconnected with people I had neglected during my depression, I have made up with my husband and forgiven my best friend for being with him. I am now starting to turn my attention to what I can bring to the world and people who may need help and it brings me great pleasure.

Yet I should be on medication.

Funny thing happened when I was starting to type I was feeling tearful. A man, a Rastafarian, knocked on my door. He was looking for a house on the estate, No 8 something Close.

He said as I opened the door, “I know this isn’t the right place because the number is different but I don’t know where to look”.

I offered to look up the direction and asked him to come in. I showed him where he needed to go and as he left, he said he was going to visit his grandchildren that he hadn’t seen for a long time, you could see the happiness on his face, mixed with some sadness in his eyes. I smiled, feeling happy for him, and happy that I was there to help him find his way.

How many people would have opened the door to this man and told him he was at the wrong house and sent him on his way?

That little moment of connection we shared when he told me about his excitement of seeing his little ones was all I needed to make me realise I am not going crazy: Life really is wonderful and full of special moments.

Three times during our little encounter he said “God bless you”. I am not religious, but I felt what he was telling me. I realise he probably wasn’t expecting the welcome he got. This warmed my heart and left me with a big smile.

I am learning to appreciate life now I have nothing to worry about and sometimes I get a little over excited. After 23 years of repressing my feelings, I’m not surprised sometimes, all this processing gets a bit much.

And now to convince the “experts”. Perfect timing actually since I have been wondering what my contribution to the mental health issue could be.

And anyway, that doctor gave me something serious to worry about: apparently, I am one kilo in the obese zone. Bummer.

Cannabis

Something has been bugging me big time recently and I just don’t know what to do about it.

At the moment, I am learning to “choose my battles” carefully. As I mentioned in my Post about the challenges of staying positive, I cannot change the world, I know that and so I try to do what I can in little ways to better my little world, hoping that if everyone starts doing the same, eventually, it WILL have a ripple effect and the world may start changing for everybody (my world is already changing for the better). L’espoir fait vivre.

However there is a subject that I feel extremely strongly about and I just don’t know how to approach it to make a difference, and it is starting to sadden me: Cannabis.

I used to smoke pot, a reasonable amount. I used it only in my private life and went about my professional life without it. I became a master at it, I knew how long the buzz would last so I was “back to normal” before work started for instance, or was able to drive home after a meet up with friends.

I could take it or leave it, and had many years without and then I would start smoking it again and for a few months, then stop again,

When I lived in Canada, it became part of my everyday life. I was happy to smoke it alone (my husband had knocked it on the head after we had a bad experience whilst having a dinner party), and I would have a few drags of a joint before taking my dog for a walk before work.

Smoking it was actually a very uplifting feeling for me in the morning. I would set off with my dog for long walkies by the river and marvel at the beauty of the world. I loved hearing the birds tweeting and watch the Sun rise, with my heart full of hope and joy to be alive and living in this wonderful part of the world (Alberta, CN). I took some amazing pictures too during that time.

I could walk for hours in that wonderful state of mind, I’d meet people along the way and have chats here and there, I really felt so good.

In the evenings, I would use it to level my moods. If my husband came back from work and things didn’t go well, I’d go and have a few drags and come back all relaxed and happy. And so the evening could start again on a better footing.

With friends, I smoked it to replace alcohol, I much preferred being stoned than drunk. When Drunk, the truth would spurt out of me, often without care or tact, and I could often upset people. When stoned though, I was a very different person. Everything and anything interested me, being around me then was a whole different experience.

All this stopped for me when I went to share a joint with a friend after my husband and I split up. I had two drags on it, and hoped it would “take me away” from the turmoil my life had become (as two weeks earlier my husband told me he didn’t want to be with me anymore and then told me he wanted to be with my best friend). Things were complicated at the time and that girl was not the best choice to have that joint with (she was also one of my best friend’s closest friends).

There were issues between her and I and within minutes of having had those drags, I felt threatened and wanted to leave. She wouldn’t let me (trying to make me stay by force) and I suffered a panic attack, my first.

The experience freaked me out and I decided I had to stop smoking pot to deal with what was going on. So I did. That was two years ago. And I haven’t missed it at all since.

So it’s fair to say, apart from the last one, I had a very positive experience smoking pot, and it doesn’t appear to be addictive.

Yet, I have a problem with it now. I have a problem with anything that alters your mood that isn’t natural, and Cannabis, to me, comes under that category.

I have no doubts that it has its benefits, any natural product does, and yes, maybe it can help with pain relief, some say even help with Cancer. Fine. But let’s be honest, it isn’t what the majority of the people campaining to legalise it use it for.

The worst of all, it is being used by people with Mental Illnesses, proclaiming it levels their mood when nothing else has worked. And now, I see some top doctors are coming out saying it’s ok to use it.

It worries me.

On the Mental Health side, to me, it’s a chicken and egg situation. I have a feeling deep down that Cannabis actually creates a lot of the mental health issues there are around. Most sufferers I know are smokers, or previous drug takers and so it’s hard to see what came first.

Now, I also understand the financial side, as most campaigners seem to have latched on to that aspect of it = if it’s legalise it can be better controlled. I am actually rather amazed that Governments haven’t jumped at the chance of making more money out of people’s misery (I guess maybe they are happy with the income they get from cigarettes and booze already).

I also understand the argument about how people can get sent to jail for possession and sometimes the sentence is inappropriate compared to other crimes, when really Cannabis is not a big deal (its effect on behaviour being far less damaging than the effect of alcohol), and people should be free to do what they want.

I just don’t understand why people don’t see that smoking pot is yet another way to mask reality: they feel they are unable to cope with life without it.

I will admit I was a bit worried when I stopped that I would loose this wonderful feeling of well being I experienced walking my dog. Soon after I stopped, I also suffered from depression (for the first time in my life) and so it made me think maybe I should have carried on smoking pot as I never felt depressed then. But instead, I faced my life. And eventually came out the other side.

These last few weeks, I have started to feel the exact same feeling of well being I had when I was smoking pot.

I have started to love doing the exact same things I used to love doing while stoned. Walking a friend’s dog, marvelling at nature, snapping away anything that catches my eyes, chatting to random strangers, and best of all, I have a great big smile on my face when I do these activities.

How did I get there? I believe it’s because I sorted out the issues I was previously hiding thanks for the pot and alcohol.

Yes, I guess this is what is bugging me about smoking pot. It’s another form of escapism. Is your life really that bad that you need pot? If so, deal with your issues, because they won’t go away until you do, Pot is only helping you cope better. It’s just another crutch.

Wanna be happy? Learn to live without crutches.

[I will talk more about Mental Health and drugs in the future]

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