Fighting to survive in the gaps in mental health services

Many clocks displayed to show a lot of time being passed.

As a university student, I was aware I had easy access to mental health therapists on campus.  But, I never wanted to, or felt that I needed to take advantage of that opportunity.  I remembered how much I hated it as a kid, and I didn’t want any fellow students, or instructors to see me walk into the clinic.  So I refused. I’d walk by the wellness services every single day, I’d look in, and think… I should try it, but fuck it, I couldn’t.  Till, finally, in my last year, I couldn’t handle it anymore.  I was in a bad place, I had really been struggling with the loss of my sister, I had been fighting myself constantly, I didn’t want to do anything, I never wanted to hang out with friends, talk to anyone, I’d just do my own thing, in silence.  In class, I’d sit in the back, in the corner of the room, and hope to go unnoticed; I’d bury my head if I had to, just to avoid eye contact, and conversation.  I knew I needed help, but I was too scared, too ashamed and embarrassed to get it on campus, even though it was right there. 

Finally, I went.  I had no idea what I was supposed to say, ask, or even do.  I just walked in and said to the receptionist, “I am not feeling well lately, I need to see someone, talk to someone, a therapist,” They asked if I’d prefer a male, or female.  I don’t care I remember saying.  She booked me for next week… what, I needed help now. I thought we had this easy access to help, I guess that just didn’t mean immediate. I didn’t think I would survive another week on my own without help, I really didn’t.  A week had come, I met with this lady… and it was just as I remembered.  A waste.  Not five minutes into our session, she was trying to pry everything out of me, though, she’d never look at me, she’d ask me these typical questions I’d been asked before, and she’d write down my mumbled responses, and proceed to the next question on the list.  I remember thinking, is she really listening? Or is she just going off what was in her studies? I left angry, disappointed, dejected and feeling hopeless.  I never went back.

I continued the same fight for another couple of years trying to find my own ways to cope.  Until March of 2012, I had sunk into a new low, I finally called the mental health hotline, and asked to meet with a psychiatrist, or speak to someone, however this process worked, of which I had no idea.  She asked me a few questions I’d been asked before, and then told me they’ll get in touch when something opens up… what do you mean I asked, she replied due to volume there is a 6-8 month waiting list.  My heart sunk again. I remember feeling the same way I did that day the lady at school told me a week.  No chance I would make 6-8 months. I couldn’t even see 6-8 months down the road; I didn’t think it would exist for me if I didn’t get help ASAP.

I counted down almost each week, waiting until someone would call to help me get better. In the meantime, I continued dealing with things the only way I knew how: alone.  I had recently found writing to be therapeutic, but a challenge to do so consistently.  So, I drank, almost all summer.  More than I ever had in my life.  At first, I thought it was just a normal summer fever.  I partied, drank, I was mean to everyone that was there for me, my family, my fiancé, everyone. I had just shut off.  Then I realized all I wanted to do was drink, because it took the pain away, it made me feel different, allowed me to avoid.  I could see I was hurting everyone around me, but it made me feel numb, so I kept on, thinking I had it in control.  Until, one night, I lost control.  I have some faint still images of the night, and some recollection, but not much.  I remember leaving the bar on my own, passing out in a dealership across the street downtown, and then somehow I woke up passed out in our kitchen in a pool of my own vomit.  This was it. I was done.  I couldn’t take it anymore, I lost, and my mental illness had won.

My fiancé had picked me up from the dealership I had passed out in, I had screamed at her the whole way, and was a complete asshole. She did absolutely nothing to deserve this, but I continued being a jerk, and coming home, I fell more and more into a disaster and told her I wanted to kill myself, I had enough.  After waking up in my own vomit, Amanda moved me to the bed, I woke up a few hours later again, and my mom was there, and Amanda.  Intervention.  Lovely.  I couldn’t move, I didn’t want to.  I didn’t even feel hungover, I just felt defeated, exhausted and empty.  I knew I wouldn’t make those 6-8 months. I made it to 5 months, all I could do.  My mom and Amanda took me to emergency, demanded I see someone to help me, I was reluctant, avoidant, and wanted nothing to do with it.  I had already quit.  It was already over for me.  Finally, after hours of waiting, they took me in.  Put me in this tiny room with a cot, and interrogated me, asked me over and over the same hundred questions I’d been asked before, asked me if I wanted to kill myself, I lied.  I was too afraid of what would happen if I told them the truth, I’d get locked up in a straight jacket somewhere, I had no idea.  I didn’t know the process. I was there all day, and all evening.  Met with two or three different doctors, had hospital dinner, which was terrible, it was one of the worst days of my life.  I just wanted to go home. I was sad, I was sick, tired and I needed help, but I didn’t need to be in this dungeon.  Finally, they let me go after declaring that I was fine, I was simply sad, that was all.  Great diagnosis, I am glad I spent twelve hours there just for someone to tell me I was sad. I knew that. I still can’t believe they let me go that night.  I was in no shape to be anywhere on my own, but somehow I survived and saw the next day. 

Ironically, the next morning, I got a call from a lady who had a date and time for me to see a psychiatrist.  Thank God.  I had to wait just another two weeks. I told myself, I can wait two weeks, I’ve barely survived, but I’ve survived this long, just make it two weeks.  I swear to this day, had I not received that call, I wouldn’t be here to tell you this story.  I suddenly had hope, something to hang on to. Help was on the way.

I met with the doctors at the hospital on the psych ward, I didn’t care for the psychiatrist, I thought he was a pompous prick.  But, I felt a connection, and found solace in the therapist I talked to.  I could just relate to her.  She was younger, still a med student, but she just listened, she looked me in the eyes, listened when I talked, she took her time asking questions, she gave feedback, and more than anything, she didn’t sit there jotting down every single word I said and nodding sure sure.  She seemed genuine and actually wanted to help me, I wasn’t just another patient down on his luck, and she wasn’t just another doctor reciting what she learned was the right thing to say.  It seemed real.   I continued to see Sara once a week for the fall, winter and most of spring.  I looked forward to our meetings, they were great, we worked on different exercises to help fight my monsters, she gave me answers to what I was feeling.   I’ve always thought of myself as a failure, and a letdown to my family because I haven’t become what I expected myself to be, but she gave me things to read on these life traps, unrelenting standards, and failure life traps.  It was so comforting to learn these things I was feeling were normal, it wasn’t just me not living up to my own expectations.  It was part of the disease, other people had them too, and we read several case studies regarding these lifetraps, many of which were eerily similar situations, and thoughts.  

Unfortunately, In June, Sara, as she was a med student, was done school, and heading back home to Ontario.  She was amazing, a savior.  I’ve never met someone that I could talk to about anything, and she just listened.  I felt so much better, life just felt easy.  One of the last things she asked me was, if there was one word you could use to describe your life from when we first met, to now, what would it be… I replied quickly…  “Brighter”. It was.  I had clarity.  I hadn’t had clarity in a long time. All I used to see was darkness and emptiness.  Though I’d made such tremendous progress since being admitted to the PAS program.  It was sad, and well, terrifying sort of that I was done, and I’d have to go back to learning to cope on my own.  Though, they did ask if I wanted to continue coming in and speaking with someone else, I just didn’t want to go through it all over again, I had such a good experience, I thought… Let’s leave it at that, and try this life thing again. I was ready to tackle things on my own again, I had learned so many new exercises to combat certain feelings, emotions, and struggles, but just like that, the help I had waited for so long for, had just ended not even a year later. 

Talking to Sara changed my life, it saved my life, gave me hope in a time where I had no hope, in a time where I had made up my mind that I was at the end of the fight.  It’s terrifying to know that, even though I have survived, and made such tremendous improvements in my mental health, and I’ve learned many different coping techniques…  What happens if I ever lost it again?  I couldn’t afford to wait that long to get the help I’d need.  This is the unfortunate, and dangerous side of mental health services, and getting help.  You have to be patient, and not always does depression, or bi-polar disorder, or any mental illness agree to wait with you.  Mental illnesses are not patient, they are not selective to who they combat, and some people just don’t have enough fight left in them to wait that long to receive proper help.  A week can seem like an eternity, half a year can be seen like never for someone who feels sick, depressed, alone, scared, and empty.  I can remember exactly how I felt when I was told how long I had to wait, I thought it was over, I was frustrated, angry, sad, I was every negative emotion you could imagine.  But, when I finally made it six months later, I can remember the feeling of elation I experienced when I found out help was on the way. In hindsight, it was well worth the wait, it kept me alive, and came at the perfect time.  I was able to find hope, find new life. 

You just have to hang on; you’ll find that hope too. 

via mindyourmind : reachout get help, give help

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