#TimeToChange – Revisited

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When I first suffered from mental health issues in the UK, back over two years ago, I joined the campaign “Time To Change” because I felt it was important to talk about mental illness to end the stigma, which is the group’s main mission.

When I checked out the website and the blogs though, I was fairly quickly put off.

I saw stories of people telling us how well they are coping with their mental health “illness”, some were “bipolar”, some had anxiety disorders – ALL seemed defined by their “illness” – that really put me off because at the time, and still to this day, I didn’t believe I was, or had, whatever term is PC these days, “Bipolar”.

I am sure to have spoken about this somewhere in this blog previously, but my diagnosis came five years ago, an hour after speaking to a psychiatrist, in full psychosis mode – although I had no clue I was as it was my first -, drugged on to the eyeball – from medication I was given the previous night when I was taken in/sectioned although again I had no clue I had been sectioned, to make me sleep.

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Some four months after a very good friend of mine had killed someone, about three months after my husband had left me and about two months and 29 days after finding out he fancied my best friend instead and about two months after quitting alcohol and pot straight after over 20 years of abuse.

You could say I had had a lot going on in a short period of time that may have affected my stability somehow.

Oh and to top it all, I was literally homeless then too. My husband wanted me out of the house and the house I needed to move back to in a different country wasn’t vacated. In between houses and in between countries. In between life would summarise it well.

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The psychiatrist who examined me – I have yet to file my complaint against him and mark my words I will – asked me a very simple question:

“Do you know why you are here?”

The floodgate to my repressed emotions opened: I started to tell him all about the crap that had happened to me, since I was a child. I felt I had limited time to fit it all in so I was talking 12 to the dozen, ie, extremely fast. [I have since realised that what I do when I get excited and/or feel I have limited time to make an impression.]

After the hour, I sat back and relaxed, fully expecting some answers. How do I deal with this trauma, or this other one, how do I move on from this event or this other one – type of answers.

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His? “Clearly you have Bipolar”.

“Huh? What the hell? What? Huh?” were my first thoughts (my mind was pretty foggy don’t forget too).

My seconds were “Cool, so what is Bipolar then?”.

He wasn’t interested in replying, he had his diagnosis which gave him the green light to prescribe any old shit he felt like (and he did).

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So off I went on the internet finding out all I could about this “new” me.

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This was my very first experience of a psychosis. Since then I have had five psychosis and two depressions, fitting in nicely with the diagnosis (to be diagnosed you need two episodes of depression and at last three psychosis, although that may have changed since).

That psychiatrist was clearly a clairvoyant.

Anyway, back on the subject at hand, I eventually started to realise “The Truth” and decided I wasn’t bipolar. Too late though obviously, with my five psychosis, it will never wash.

My two depressions I am not too worried about because the first was due to going back to the UK to an empty house, two suitcases and a savings account in my name. Nothing else.

No income, no car, no insurance, no friends, no anything else. No dog too to start with, then a few weeks later a dog whose health had started deteriorating since the split, becoming more and more blind (and a liability).

No life in effect.

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The second was when I was signed off work for six months to a psychosis where I was sectioned,and realising I was getting no income from work sick pay (I hadn’t been permanent long enough, despite having worked there as a temp nearly three years), my driving licence had been suspended (making me stuck at home with no money), and I was suffering from a massive heartbreak (from a relationship that could be best described as friends with benefits and feelings).

I dare anyone to try either situations for size and tell me if they don’t suffer from some kind of depression too ;-).

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Time to Change being mainly focussed on the illness, I felt the site wasn’t for me. I wasn’t about to go brandishing banners saying “Bipolar rocks”.

Mental illness sucks – big time.

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Just go and visit a mental health ward and tell me what you think.

Just for the record, and in case this isn’t clear, those people in there are your siblings, or parents, or relative, or friend, or workmate. NORMAL people.

You may see them rock back and forth against a wall, or on the floor doing weird shit, crying in a corner somewhere, away from everyone. They might be unable to sit still or they might be staring at you blankly because they are unable to focus on what you are saying.

Worst of all, you may see their arms all stitched up after they cut themselves.

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The biggest tragedy of all is that one day,

you might not ever see them again.

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So no, I will not say having a mental illness rocks.

It sucks, it sucks big time – it can very well fuck up your life enough that you have no choice but live with it, because no-one wants you like that, no-one truly understands what you are going through – and most just shy away for fear of making things worse.

That’s what living with a label does for you.

I am Pascale, not a label.

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When a quarter of the youth suffers from mental health issues, we can no longer call it a label. More a way of life – and that is scary.

Whilst on the ward, and this is where I saw each and every behaviour I mentioned above by the way, I saw a display dedicated to Time To Change.

It seems Time To Change is changing in the right direction for me. I now really want to get involved: #lets-end-the-labelling.

The name of the people I mentioned I met above are:

Pam (So sorry I saw you where still “in position” when I came to visit),

Ray (so sorry you had a heart attack),

Lee (sorry I missed you my last visit, looking forward to catching up),

Simon (I saw one of your carers on the way to the hospital, I mentioned how much 70s music brings you back to earth, she seemed to take it in),

Pascale (crying in private is the best way to be if you don’t want to be diagnosed as being too emotional when you are sad, the happiness though, spread that shit everywhere ;-)),

Andrew (I will save you I promise),

Matty (crazy adorable monkey despite all, I will send you a post card from Canada),

Jo (I want to experience your candle massages!),

Amanda (Amanda, the state of your arms the day I was discharged will forever be engraved in my mind, I love you so much girl!),

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Lisa (oh Lisa, I won’t forget you I promise),

Harvey (A great reminder of my friend Wade, thank you, I love you despite your toughness ;-)),

Trish (Sista’, sorry I missed you my last visit, hope you enjoy the CD I brought in for you),

Ema (so shocked to see you back in after we were both discharged last week!),

Yvonne (I can’t wait for you to get better to help me with the website),

Bill (missed you my last visit, hope you were discharged rather than hiding in your room),

Glen (so glad I caught you, you were amazing with enabling me to release the pressure),

John with an H, (you were out sorry I missed you),

Andrea (sorry I missed you, hope you keep spreading those wonderful hugs),

Emma (so glad I caught you, can’t wait to meet you in the outside world),

Roger – one day I will show you, it’s not about money or heritage, it’s about Love.

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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.