New Year, New Crazy Me; My first inpatient experience

I was really struggling to find a way to describe the experience of my first day at the priory retrospectively. I found it not only hard to remember the facts, but also remembering how I felt at the time was incredibly difficult. I couldn’t convey the experience truly through my normal style, so I decided to write it as if it was an ongoing inner monologue from 2013. You can read this article here. The process of writing it and the feedback I have received made it a therapeutic and cleansing experience, enhancing my connection to and understanding of my younger self.

I stayed at the Priory Hospital for 2 weeks. During this time I explored some of the therapy groups, beginning to recognise the same people day after day. There were many staff members that I encountered daily, the majority were not in my favour. I have to emphasise that I hated the staff and the therapists because of where I was standing mentally and emotionally. I later discovered that they are all caring, kind and supportive people who are brilliant in their fields of work. One staff-patient confrontation sticks in my mind. Months before, my family members had booked a trip to the theatre. For some reason, I believed that I would be and should be allowed to go even if it was only two days after my admission. Numerous emotionally heated conversations culminated in a one-to-one meeting with the ward manager. He told me I would not be allowed to leave the ward, and I replied with nothing less than raw, unfiltered anger and disgust. It was so bad that I wasn’t able to properly look at him for the rest of this or any of my other visits.

I remember having an influx of visitors, almost every day. They bought chocolate and clothes and anything else they imagined would make my experience better. I feel like both parties in these meetings were ignoring and denying the blatant fact of where I was and why. Jokes were made (mostly by me), I would dismiss the importance of everything that was happening there. Although I was grateful for the company and the distraction, this probably wasn’t the best line of attack for two weeks in a psychiatric hospital, and maybe contributed to my lack of immersion in the therapy offered. During my second admission a while later, I put some boundaries on who could visit and how often.

I met my doctor after my first weekend; Dr Woolley. I wasn’t entirely sure what to make of him, a middle aged man with facial expressions and a demeanour like an awkward teen boy, but with marks of his age on his skin. He had a way of talking and looking at me like he was observing a dangerous animal, but with fascination rather than fear. At the time it is likely I was misinterpreting interest and concern. We talked with, and without my mother. I sat up straight with my hands neatly folded in my lap, nodded and smiled where appropriate and answered all questions with a considered and clean cut response. During my time in therapy I frequently confused observations about my detached demeanour and apparent logic based ideology as complements. I distinctly remember a point in one of our early meetings when Dr Woolley said something along the lines of ‘you appear rigidly rational’, my instinctive response was to politely say ‘thank you’ and smile, returning my gaze to my hands. This moment stuck with me because I found his response intriguing; he was quiet, looking invasively at me, amusement visible on his face. He asked why I assumed it was a compliment, I don’t remember my response.

I spent a lot of time watching Breaking Bad and reading the books family members had brought from my bedside, but at least 2 times a day I was expected to attend group therapy. Group therapy at The Priory involved sitting in a cold and slightly damp room, with paint or wallpaper peeling from the wall. Chairs were placed in a circle around the edge of the room, just the normal plastic chairs usually found at schools. Most of the rooms had a flip-chart whiteboard in one of the corners, rarely used, with the same old scribbles never wiped or cleaned away. There were rules for the groups, such as no leaving once the session had started, no talking over people and no hot drinks. Mostly the same people would talk each session, possibly the most confident or veteran patients in the hospital. It sometimes felt like you had to search really hard for something to share on topic, just in case they picked on you and thought you weren’t cooperating, when actually you couldn’t think of an example to share. During this first admission I found group therapy boring and pointless, and usually too early in the morning to fit in with my sleep schedule.

As I was admitted the Friday after boxing day, I spent New Years as an inpatient. New years eve was a strange event to experience in hospital. I did not want to leave my room and ‘celebrate’ with the other patients in the common room, despite the repeated invitations and coaxing from staff members. Not because I thought myself better than they were, I wanted to be on my own, I suppose to allow myself to forget where I was, but also out of some misguided protest. Speaking to friends on New Years, happy and drunk from the parties I should have been at, was the only memorable experience from that night. The few friends who knew the truth about where I was showed a great deal of love and patience by speaking to me that night. I was bored, angry and frustrated, and coming to terms with the fact that I would simply have to drop out of university. I stayed up late into the early hours of the morning, reading books, magazines and listening to music. I didn’t want to sleep, in hindsight the symbol of waking up in a psychiatric hospital on New Years Day was probably too much to handle.

 

Two weeks after my arrival at the Priory, my doctor and I had agreed about my withdrawal from university and my discharge from the hospital. The plan was to continue as a day patient, I was to be under the hospital care during week days in order to undergo therapy. I left that day still detached and in denial, remaining a day patient for 5 weeks before my second admission.

Thank you for reading,

Borderline Bella xxx

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A Day In The Life Of BB; Waking Up In The Priory

I wake up from a long deep slumber, I’ve been sleeping in a large comfortable double bed. I’m not at home because my room is only home to a childlike single. The room I’m in is similar to a medium starred hotel room, the kind I imagine that business men and women crash into after a long day of city work. It has a desk and an ensuite, and a beautiful large window. Theres not a feel of ‘ikea’ about the furniture, so it must be a nice place. I didn’t sleep well, and feel quite drowsy. Frequent interruptions from the staff disturbed me at regular 30 minute intervals. I soon learned that this inevitable annoyance was less invasive if I slept with my face uncovered by the blankets and facing the door. This way had the downside of the hallway light hitting my face every time the door opened, but at least the stranger night staff felt no need to gently peel the cover away from my face, and peer their own right against mine. I did consider whether I would rather have a pulse monitor on, at least then the rhythmic beeping would announce my ‘aliveness’ for me, and I might be disturbed slightly less. However, this is not a hotel, or even a hospital with heart rate monitors. I am sitting in a private psychiatric hospital called ‘The Priory’.

Evidently, I have slept passed breakfast, but this causes me no disappointment. I am thankful that the nurses allowed me to sleep in as I have very little motivation to leave the bed, let alone the room. I faintly remember being roused in the morning at the change of shift, to ask what I would like for breakfast. I replied nothing, I wanted them to stop waking me up and disturbing me. Beside me, rather disturbingly on the bedside table furthest from the door, is a tray. There is a banana, an apple and a pastry. I don’t remember anyone bringing this. It feels violating that anybody and everybody can walk into my bedroom. I make a point to remember where I am and try to forget the idea and the comfort of personal privacy.

I am nervous to go to the bathroom, as I haven’t yet checked whether there is a lock on the inside. I also must time my shower perfectly. Based what I learned about the staff behaviour last night, I doubt anyone would think twice about barging in while I am in the shower, and I am not sure whether a verbal affirmation would convince them that I am, indeed still alive.

I walk back into my room and change as quickly as a pubescent high school student in the filthy crowded P.E. changing room. I wish people would knock. I make my bed. I don’t eat the food, but contemplate what I am supposed to do with it, would the mystery room service person return to take it back? I am not smoking at the moment, currently I cannot remember what drove me to stop as there is nothing I wouldn’t do for a cigarette right now.

The day is passing slowly, nothing eventful occurs. I am beginning to recognise the faces that pop through my door, there appears to be a repeating pattern. A few of them make half hearted attempts to rouse me out of the door, to meet the other patients. I have no interest in doing so, I would not know how to behave around them. I am not depressed, I am disgruntled at being here. A nurse comes in to visit me and have a little chat. Ive been having a lot of those over the past couple of days. He’s a middle aged man, with a face that I cant read. His lips are slightly too large for his mouth and it affects his London accent more than mildly. Im straining to understand the questions, but he seems friendly if not a bit patronising. The conversation is inconsequential. My doctor is not working this weekend and nothing about my treatment and care can be changed until he returns. I am not allowed to leave for any reason.

There is nothing to do here, I have spoken to my mum, or she came to visit. There really is no difference. I could get my books out and start revising, but i’m not in the right mind set. I’m agitated and stressed, this would all be a lot easier from home. Lunch has come and gone, I snuck downstairs and picked at a salad. I sat on my own and exuded no signal of wanting the people around me to join. Dinner is going a similar way. The food hall has such a mixture of smells it’s making me feel unwell, like all the bright and beautiful colours mixing together to form sludge. Nobody stays here for dinner unless they are inpatients. There is a long table opposite me, reserved for the eating disorder patients. Its empty, but I am here early. There are small bundles of people who appear to know each other, some are talking and some are simply using other peoples company to guard themselves from prying eyes and loneliness. Its not busy here, and mostly women. There are a few people who visibly appear unwell, through the pain on their faces and the outfits they have managed to put on, but mostly the people here appear like I do. Entirely normal.

Theres a television in my room that I am looking forward to getting back to, so I eat my meal quickly with my head down and make my way back to Upper Court, my ward. In order to get inside I have the press a button on the intercom, and wait while it makes the most grating and inconceivably annoying noise. Eventually the noise will stop and I will step inside, turn up the stairs and then into the first door on the right. My room. I am lucky that I don’t have to walk past the nurses station, or any other door in order to get back, I do not want to talk to anybody. Not today.

My first day has ended. How many more?

Christmas, a Sharpener, and a Pair of Hospitals.

In the past week I had spent a day and night at hospital on a drip, talked to a handful of psychiatrists and revealed my struggle to friends and family. What happened next was the beginning of a journey that put me on the path to recovery. I have been avoiding writing this part of my story, concerned about the reaction of my friends and family who were involved at the time. I have written about the suicide event in a fair bit of detail and therefore it would be triggering to read for anyone with a history of self harm or suicide attempts.

Merry Christmas, and Goodbye!

My family has always had the tradition of alternate christmases, each year we would spend the real christmas day with either my mum or my dad, and usually a ‘fake’ christmas with the other. For christmas 2013 we had boxing day celebrations with my mums side of the family. My memory of events here is a little blurry, but the day involved dinner and drinks, everyone was having fun, although my recent stint in the hospital had everyone a little on edge.

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I went to bed that evening fairly drunk. I was also quite frantic, the thought of how low I was and how hopeless my prospects were came into my head very suddenly. I remember considering my options, landing on cutting my wrist, and then trying to find an implement in my room without disturbing anyone. I found an old pencil sharpener and used tweezers to pry the blade out from the plastic. I don’t know how I managed to get so far, I don’t remember really feeling any pain or distress. I was disconnected from my surroundings. I had a blanket on my lap to reduce the amount of mess I would make and listened to music through my headphones. Writing this down I realise how far away I was in my thoughts. At the time I honestly believed that I was acting completely logically, but the series of events I have just written are not the actions of a girl behaving rationally, instead of a girl who was confused by and lost in her own mind. I’ve also just noticed how fast things seemed to escalate, it reads blunt and shocking, but as thats how it occurred for me I cannot find another way to write it. For some reason, my mum came into my room to check on me, it must have been after 2am. She walked into my bedroom. I had placed the blanket over my arm to hide the blood while I was playing angry birds on my iPod. I think I was just waiting for something to happen. I must have looked very strange, as she lifted up the blanket and immediately ran into my sisters room to wake up my Uncle and his girlfriend who are police officers. They talked to me while my mum called an ambulance.

Just Another Emergency Department

The ambulance arrived and luckily didn’t wake up anyone else in the house. They put my arm in a sling and let me change into clean pyjamas. My mum and I travelled to the hospital in the ambulance while my Uncle and his girlfriend followed behind. The emergency room was empty, it was early in the morning over the christmas period and it seemed like a small hospital. A doctor gave me stitches and I was moved to a bed to sleep and wait until the psychiatric consult was available. I remember my mum asking whether it would scar, and finding it a ridiculous question. How could a scar effect me if I was dead? I remember my mum being incredibly distressed and upset, but I didn’t feel the same way. I didn’t really feel anything about the events that had just occurred. The talk with the psychiatric consult was much the same as before, I was asked the same questions and pretty much gave the same answers. During this time, my mum was on the phone to a psychiatric hospital in London called the Priory. She got the hospital to refer me there, with the intention to travel immediately. I insisted on first going home to have a shower and change. I didn’t want to go.

Welcome to The Priory

I arrived at the Priory wearing a jumper I had opened as a christmas present only days ago. I had chosen it because I wanted to appear to all the staff as a young girl who had her shit together and didn’t need to be there. I wanted them to think that I had over protective family, and that I was just going to stay there while I continued to work towards my exams in order to make them happy. The building was beautiful but scary. There were locked doors and people all around me that I didn’t know. My bag was searched when I arrived, my chargers and glass makeup containers were removed. I was interviewed by a nurse and then a health care assistant, and then left to settle in. I stayed in my bedroom pretty much the whole time I was there, I didn’t want to be there and behaved accordingly. My mission was to get out and convince everyone around me to let it all blow over, to essentially get over it and let me carry on the way I wanted to. I left the Priory a fortnight later to continue as an outpatient.

My next post will talk about the two weeks I spent at the Priory during this first admission. I imagine that I will take much less time to write it as the worst part of the story is now over.

Thank you for reading
Borderline Bella xxx

BorderlineBella Vs Freshers; Round 1

Hello everyone and welcome to BorderlineBella!

I have decided to start a series of posts that tell my story from the beginning. I hope this will be somewhat enjoyable to read, and that it will provide an understanding of the kinds of treatment you receive when you have a mental illness. If you are worried about triggers around mental illness, self harm activities, and suicide I advise that you don’t read posts in the ‘My BPD Story’ category. This particular post has a trigger warning for suicide and overdoses.

Under Pressure

For as long as I could remember, I wanted to be a doctor. I was pretty obsessive about it, putting extremely high expectations on my grades from GCSEs and felt devastated when I got 2 less A*s than the school had predicted. I wanted to prove to everyone that I was clever and that I was going to be successful, I suppose because I didn’t feel like I would ever be pretty or popular, it was extremely important to me to achieve highly.

After quite a long fight, two interviews and one offer, I did much worse than anyone expected in my A Levels. I might have been over stressed and unhealthy but I don’t know for sure. This meant that I had to put this dream down and apply for clearing places. I was lucky to get into Newcastle University to study Biology and Psychology, however there were not enough places in halls, so I ended up in a shared house with 6 other people who had also come through clearing.

3 Trebbles for a Fiver! (your dignity, reason, self control.. and a fiver)

It became very obvious pretty soon that I was not well, university was not what I expected it to be and I was having problems bonding with my new housemates. I frequently felt anxious about the future and thought that I would always be alone. When we went out together I frequently drank too much or created drama. At this point I didn’t really think that I had a mental illness, I just thought that people didn’t like me. I believed that everyone had the problems I did, but nobody talked about it. Eventually, the first semester culminated in me stealing one of my housemates medication and taking it all, then pretty much immediately calling a housemate to tell them. There was no real danger to my health, but we went to the emergency department for observation. Nobody from the psychiatry department questioned me or my housemate that accompanied me, even though I was clearly trying to tell people that something wasn’t right. I was ignored by the NHS. Unfortunately a few days later I took a more serious overdose, and at this time unlike before, I truly believed that I wanted to die.

“It will be the best time of your life! Make the most of it!”

Moving to university is an extremely hard time for everyone, and this was enough to trigger the start of an illness that would effect me quite extensively, and probably will for the rest of my life. I was showing signs of being unwell from the start of the first semester, but other freshers like I were not and should not have to be equipped with the knowledge and ability to know what to do in this difficult situation. Shame and embarrassment stopped me from telling anyone from home about what I was going through, which was a massive mistake. I did not want to admit that university wasn’t ‘the best time of my life’ as everyone told me it would be.

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Me at Carnage Newcastle dressed as a cat or a leopard or something. See the whiskers? I coped by drinking too much and partying all the time, I wanted everyone to see that I was just another normal ‘fresher’, when in reality excessive drinking was just making me more unwell.

Secrecy, Shame and Suicide

I did not tell anybody from home what had happened. A day or two after I arrived home for christmas I took a much more serious overdose that required an admission to hospital for treatment. I was so confused about what was going on with me, I didn’t know why I felt the way I did and needed to do the things I was doing. My family were completely shocked when they found out. I had climbed out the window in my pyjamas in a panic, realising the seriousness of what I had done. I knew that I would become extremely unwell and eventually would die if I didn’t get treatment (what I thought I wanted) but I would have to look my family in the eye and behave normally until then, and I didn’t know if I was able. I called an ambulance to pick me up from the street away from my house and thought up a plan of how I could get treatment and back to my house without my family realising that I had gone. This included calling a friend from home in the morning and asking them to pick me up, and waiting until 7am to send a text to my mum telling her I had gone out for a run and didn’t know when I would be back. I called pretty much everyone I knew that had a car, I can’t remember exactly what I said to all of them but luckily I told one or two of my close friends the truth. Together, the people who knew what had happened told my mum to find me in the hospital. I felt so ashamed and embarrassed for putting my family through this. They were all so awkward, and obviously had no idea what to say to me, or ask me. Everyone was in shock and confused, including myself.

Attention Seeker

About 30 hours after I had arrived in the emergency department I was physically healthy and discharged from medical treatment. I was seen by the psychiatry department and didn’t know what to tell them. I just wanted them to stop asking questions. My mum and I waited hours to see another psychiatrist but there was nothing helpful that they could offer. Again I felt let down by the NHS and their lack of care for mental illnesses. I was wrongly referred to the CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services) which shouldn’t have happened because I was 18 at the time.

I’m Fine, I Promise

I was in complete denial about the seriousness of my health at the time, to the horror of my family I went out drinking with my friends almost the night after I was released. I thought that everyone around me was over reacting. I now know that I was dissociated; I had split from my emotions and reality, nothing felt like it was really happening, essentially I was detached from my surroundings. I didn’t feel depressed or anything really, I mainly just felt ambivalent about my life.

I attended a short meeting with CAHMS and was asked questions that were so transparent I could have easily decided what diagnosis I wanted and answered accordingly. It was frustrating and a waste of time. At one point the psychiatrist told me to make a cup of tea next time I felt sad. This is patronising advice that belittled the struggle I was going through. They gave me some contacts including a crisis team number, which I was informed would not be operational 24h a day because it was short staffed over christmas. The next time I was in crisis was boxing day night, I did not make a cup of tea and I did not call the probably unavailable crisis number. All the signs pointed towards me being unsafe and confused about what was happening to me, but nobody acted on these signs. No healthcare professional took me seriously, I was frequently asked if I hurt myself because a boy had broken up with me and silly things like this. They didn’t see a woman who needed help, but a stupid little girl who wanted attention.

Luckily I had and have a strong family around me, that were able to get me the help I needed, but this wouldn’t be until one more crisis. I am grateful for everyone who helped me through this stressful and scary time.

My next post will talk about how I ended up in a hospital for mental illness, and started on a 6 month long journey to a diagnosis and stability.

Thank you for reading

BorderlineBella xxx