This is the latest post in a series looking at the impact mental health services can have when they are working well. The writer powerfully describes how a range of staff and services have worked together to support her over a number of years.
“So where do I start? Maybe with the fact that I’m one of the lucky ones – and I know it, I really do. So I’d like to speak out; to recognise the properly-professional professionals. I‘m talking about Avon and Wiltshire Mental Health Partnership, and the STEPS Eating Disorder Service based at Southmead Hospital in Bristol.
I always say no one chooses an eating disorder, but a part of me definitely thinks it’s somehow ‘my fault’. I especially think it’s my fault for still being stuck with it at this stage. I know better, I should be able to do better. I am sure at least some people in my life think this too. I thought recovery would be relatively easy. That the reason it hadn’t happened so far is because I chose not to rather than couldn’t. Once I acknowledged to myself – and others – that actually, I’m not ok, I expected I’d just be able to drop the restriction, manage the guilt, the thoughts. I’ve discovered over the last few months that (even with great support from professionals, family and friends) it really doesn’t work like that. Recovery seems to be less about ‘letting go’ and more about wrestling your way out of something you’re so entangled in you have no real idea where you end and it begins. Continue reading
The following contribution is from Ellie. She described how her local eating disorder service and her GP have played a valuable part in her ongoing recovery from mental health difficulties:
“The best bits of mental health care I’ve had have been under the eating disorder service. It’s not easy to get referred to them but once you’re in they are so supportive. I was so lucky to have been given the opportunity to go to day service (even though I was reluctant at first) because it changed my life. For the first time I felt like someone cared about me and about recovery but at the same time they weren’t going to do it all for me. All the staff members there took the time to get to know me, and knew me so well. They have also done their best to support me when things fell outside their remit with my general mental health and without them I don’t think I actually would have got the referral to the CMHT that I needed.
The story below is from Laura, describing her experience of obsessive compulsive disorder and the process of accessing services both via her GP and at University. She describes how CBT therapy played a part in her recovery, and how the input of a mental health mentor at Uni provided her with the support she needed to complete her course.
“I was diagnosed with OCD and anxiety when I was 17 (so about 5 years ago). I was referred for CBT and while that took a while to come through and my experience with the initial social worker was less than pleasant, my actual therapist was absolutely amazing.
This is the third in a series of blog posts written by guest bloggers responding to a request to share positive experiences of mental health services, both statutory services and the charitable/voluntary sector.
The story below was submitted anonymously. The writer described how the support and compassion she found through the organisation Overeaters Anonymous helped both with her anxiety and eating difficulties.
“I suffer from severe anxiety and agoraphobia. This includes panic attacks and my responsibility in my work life and personal life (I have children) meant I had to force myself to do even basic daily tasks. This stemmed from a childhood with mentally ill parent and continued damaging relationships. Another symptom was eating disorder. Binge eating, compulsive overeating. I was frequently suicidal.
Have another story from someone who has experienced positive mental health care. This is from Jenna, showing the impact of the small gestures and a positive therapist-client relationship.
“I was extremely anxious about meeting my Psychologist for the first time. There’s always that fear of not being “believed” resulting in you not receiving the help you need. When I first met him he spent time telling me about himself, how long he had been a Psychologist which is actually longer than I’ve been alive and how he struggled when he first moved to the UK for his job because he knew nobody. This really put me at ease, knowing that the person who I was about to confide in had just confided in me. He also told me he’d prefer me to call him by his first name instead of Doctor as he wanted it to be a relaxed atmosphere.
As anyone who follows me on Twitter will be all too aware, I’ve recently been banging on about the aspects of mental health care that are working well, and asking people to share their experiences. Maybe the people I follow on social media just grumble a lot, maybe we only hear stories of fault and failing in the press, but whatever the reason, we need to correct the balance. Good things do happen, every day, we just don’t hear about it. And when we do, it’s all too often through an avenue that makes us sceptical.
To begin, I’ve gathered together a few comments I received yesterday. This reflects one day, a couple of Twitter requests. They aren’t dramatic but they reflect the difference services (both statutory and voluntary) make and the commitment and care of staff who often work with extremely limited resources and are individuals, like anyone, with their own lives and ‘stuff’ going on too.
If you have had a POSITIVE experience of mental health services, I really want to hear from you. It might be that you were seen quickly for assessment and were offered therapy soon after this rather than being stuck on a waiting list, maybe you’ve had input from a service over a number of years and the quality of this has fluctuated – what were the good bits? Maybe you’ve been working with a particular care-coordinator, social worker, OT or psychologist who has helped you to move forwards. Perhaps you’ve received care from a service who go ‘above and beyond’ the call of duty and you recognise this and want to highlight it. Perhaps your GP, or a voluntary sector organisation have made a difference to you.
I’ve been having a bit more support for my eating disorder recently. This means more time away from work, absence which will definitely impact on my colleagues. I feel I owe the people I work closely with an explanation about where I am disappearing to and why. I also won’t see many members of my team for a while, and (if all goes to plan) I’ll look noticeably different when they do next see me. I am still fairly private at work (and in general) about my ‘issues’, but during the last year conversations about food and weight have gradually become part the normal fabric of life with my partner and close friends. Not so long ago I couldn’t say the words ‘eating disorder’ or ‘anorexia’ without becoming overwhelmed, so the talking is definite progress, even if I do feel ashamed and guilty, hate that it is necessary and feel horribly embarrassed that I find certain things so difficult the stage of life I’m at. I don’t know if anyone actually gets how embarrassed I feel every time I try to ask for help, help I don’t think I should need, can’t judge how or when to ask for, and can’t always say what I think I actually might need.
I’ve been a bit ranty about the ‘clean eating’ thing recently because it bothers me a LOT. Dieting isn’t good for anyone. Especially not someone with a history of an eating disorder. It is generally accepted that any form of dietary restriction increases the risk of developing an eating disorder in vulnerable individuals, and once recovered, strict […]