Being a mental health professional, or social work professional, who also experiences mental health problems. It’s tricky. People outside of services judge, and so do people within services. It raises all kinds of questions about shame.
I think this is something that has partially shifted for me within the last year. I’ve written before about not being able to sit in the waiting room at the eating disorder service because of the fear of bumping into my colleagues. Being in day service has forced me to face this fear, and now, I care a lot less if I do see someone from work in the building. I do see people, and it’s still uncomfortable, but I don’t actively hide anymore. Maybe it’s just exposure over time, or maybe it’s because I’m a little more accepting of my own difficulties, or perhaps it’s the ongoing acceptance of (and openness with) those who do know, love and respect me, that makes the possible judgement of others a bit easier to bear. Continue reading
The post below is from Liz. She describes her experience of a longstanding eating disorder and offers some helpful, compassionate suggestions for navigating the process of untangling oneself.
This post was submitted anonymously. The writer sensitively describes how she understands her difficulties with eating in the context of a wider psychological formulation.
This post was contributed anonymously. The writer describes how her GP went beyond the call of duty to support her recovery from an eating disorder during her time at University.
“For weeks, I’d been considering approaching a GP about my ‘eating problems’, but kept delaying it as I didn’t feel ‘sick enough’. I didn’t know any of the GPs at my local practice either. However, I went along one morning and upon enquiring about appointments, was offered a same-day appointment with a GP. I accepted it with mixed feelings. I remember walking into his office later that afternoon and promptly bursting into tears. This GP was very astute and immediately sensed that something wasn’t right. He took me seriously, listened to what I had to say, and was adamant that I was not wasting his time despite my protestations otherwise. He was very ‘switched-on’ to the dangers of anorexia and took great pains to emphasise these. When I came back to see him after two weeks with no improvement, he referred me to secondary services. Continue reading
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.
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.