All content contained within should be restricted to those over-age. Occasionally, suicide and self-harm are mentioned and readers should take care to ensure they are in a safe place - emotionally and physically - before reading. Comments are welcome.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Two points - Better Access (1) and why self-injury isn't a suicide attempt (2)

I just looked up the phone number for my local public mental health service.  The number is disconnected.

Finally found the right number.  Woman on the other end seemed really nice.  Apparently there is a team of five (not sure of the profession make-up of team), no GP referral needed, and when I asked about waiting times, I was informed that there wasn't too much of a wait, that they would get back to me pretty quickly.

It all sounds so good, and maybe I'd be lucky and they would actually put me on the books.  Last time I tried, I got kicked out *shrug* - I wasn't "special" enough I guess.  Maybe I'd be really lucky and find someone else who is an amazing trauma specialist.  Time before last, there was a mixed bag between the very good and the fucking horrible.  Maybe I'd be really lucky and get an appointment straight away.

So - why not call back?  I mean, aside from the fact that people who have dealt with the system very recently, indicate that it is just as fucked up as it always was...

Because even assuming it's rosy as pictured by said receptionist (?) - I just can't fucking do it.  Fifteen years of knowing I've had a mental illness.  Twelve years of it being misdiagnosed.  Three years of progress.  I can't do that three years again - and that is assuming the experience is a good one (and there's certainly no guarantee's of that).  I am fucking stuffed.  I am tired beyond belief and I just want to sleep forever.  I can't entertain the thought of - well anything much really - other than the bare minimum of what is needed to get through the day.  And quite frankly, if it wasn't for my husband, the kids would have stayed home today.  And yesterday.  And possibly all of last week.

Thank goodness internet grocery shopping has finally hit our little town.  Even if it is frightfully expensive.

There is no way in hell I can entertain the thought of going through those three years again with someone new, just to get to the same point that I'm at now.  And what if they get transferred or choose to leave (which in the public system, is not out of the realms of possibility)?  Then I have to go through it all again.

Fuck off.

"We'll send you here, we'll send you there..." - and all the while, we'll act like we're doing you a favour.

I had to hang up the phone before, because the very thought of starting over with someone else was making me nauseous.  I would quite frankly, rather be dead.

All day, I have been trying to fight off this sense of impending doom.  The doom being my creating my own end.  Not that it would be all gloom of course - me being me, I have quite the plans... however that's not really the point...  Over the course of the day, it has been gaining momentum, despite my efforts to tell it in no uncertain terms, to fuck off - until I reached the point where it was manifesting in a rather dramatic physical way - not quite full-on panic attack, but the "death by a thousand cuts" style of panic attack.  The type that builds slowly - too slowly to even really notice at first - and lasts and lasts and lasts.  This one has indeed been brewing for a few days.

The effects a short while ago?  Couldn't breathe properly.  Tightness of chest.  Muscles tensed up.  Thoughts alternating between "I want to die now" and "Fuck off you do, just wait it out".  Thoughts which start off slow and get faster and faster until nothing else fits any more.  You get to the point where you KNOW something has to give and you're scared it's going to be your life - and at the same time, you're pleased that at least it'll be over.  Unlike the fast panic attacks, you know you can't wait the slow ones out - they have way more stamina than you do.  So it ends up coming down to two choices - neither of which are pretty.

On this particular day, I have chosen to self-injure.  Don't stress - it's not "bad" - just enough to do what I needed.  Ever felt morphine wash over your body, or had a gallstone attack subside on its own - and gone from massive pain, to no pain in a few seconds - and felt that relief?  That is what self-injury feels like when you're having one of these types of panic attacks.  And you can feel free to judge me for that the day they make Epi-pens legal for people with a mental illness.  Until then, some days, this is all we can do to keep from killing ourselves.

Of course, I'm not advocating self-injury as a coping mechanism.  Indeed, I am a big fan of the Happy Box - details of which are listed below.  However, some days...  Anyway - the whole idea of blogging for me, aside from ripping it up people who need a good bitch slap, is to write about what it's like to live with a mental illness.  This is what it is like for me.

I'm the first to say that if you want to emulate me, then you're next in line for a good bitch slap.

Update: Thanks to one lovely lady who e-mailed me earlier, a couple of good people on Twitter with laughs galore, the people waiting for me to nudge them (and thanks for understanding why I can't), and my husband and kids, who have to put up with me in the flesh.

The other ugly brain bitch isn't winning today.  Fuck that shit.  If only because I am one stubborn bitch who has much living to do yet.

The "Happy Box" is an idea founded by a group of people who self-injure, many years ago.  I still have my first happy box, given to me by one the members of this group.

For people who self-injure, feel suicidal, or have a mental illness, the Happy Box is a box of things to keep one occupied until such time as they feel "safe" again, or can get some help.  A Happy Box is personal to the person who it is for - what works for one person may not work for another.

If you are thinking of making a Happy Box, either for yourself or someone else, the following are some ideas of what to put in it - to get you started.

*  Phone numbers of people to call in an emergency, or to talk to
*  Favourite music
*  Favourite book - it could be a novel, or a book of inspirational quotes or a colouring-in book
*  Photo's of happy times, or of loved ones
*  Art supplies - either standard art supplies for art, or some people who self-injure find it therapeutic to scribble red on something
*  Worry dolls
*  Crystals (if that's your thing)
*  Small icons or figurines that are meaningful
*  Journal and pens
*  Things that smell nice - incense or perfume etc
*  DVD of a favourite funny movie
*  Rubber bands - some people who self-injure find that snapping a rubber band against their wrist can help relieve the pressure to self-injure
*  Play-doh, Lego or other manipulative toys to keep hands and minds occupied
*  Letters from loved ones (good ones)
*  A voucher to the movies, or a favourite restaurant or ice-cream place
*  Chocolate or lollies
*  Candles
*  Bath salts

Friday, November 4, 2011

So how SHOULD we talk about suicide?

On Twitter earlier today a rural psychologist wrote ... "My occupational hazard as a rural psych under Gillard gov cuts to #BetterAccess is a grotesque lottery of when & who- not if- suicides occur"

A couple of people on Twitter say this statement is irresponsible and sensationalist.

I say "right on sister!!!"

Damn straight it's sensational.  And so it should be.  We should be screaming this from every rooftop.  It should be plastered all over the news.  The people of this country should be uniting together and rallying around those who are suicidal.  We should be talking about it.  How it feels.  How it affects our lives.  How it affects our families and friends.  2200 deaths each year in this country from something that is essentially preventable?  65000 people who try each year to end their life?  And now the government has just drastically cut the support that these people get?

It's "irresponsible" to get this information out?  It's "irresponsible" to educate the public as to what the real cost of the Better Access cuts are?  It's "irresponsible" to tell the truth?  Really?  That is the sort of world you want to live in?

Do you really think that people are going to hurt themselves after reading something like that?  You really think that is triggering?  Let me tell you about triggers...

Triggers can happen any time, any place.  You remember the Harry Potter book and movie where he had to write lines on parchment and they ended up being engraved on his arm?  I was a part of a self-injury self-help, online forum back then, and boy, didn't it go off.  There are advertisements that are triggery.  There are books that are triggery.  And the first thing you learn when you find yourself being "triggered" is to go to a safe place until you're "safe" again.  Why?  Because the whole fucking world has the potential to be a trigger!

It would be great if we could put a disclaimer on the world, but we can't.  And I get why that scares some people.  I get why some people want to keep it all hushed up.  However, here is your reality check - Hushing it up hurts.  It does not help.

It does not help, because when you only talk about "good stories" of healing and shit, family and friends start to wonder why the hell YOU are not "healing and shit".  They see programs on television and read stories about people who had depression for a year or so and "got over it", they fail to realise that your PTSD isn't the same as their depression, and they get to thinking that the problem isn't the mental illness - the problem is YOU.  Because if SHE can "get over it" then surely YOU could if you really wanted to.  And they give up on you, and they go away.

The irony is that the organisations that are trying to eliminate the idea that you can "just get over it", are the same organisations that are perpetuating that belief by not being honest about what mental illness is like.

I have been a member of a few forums over the last decade, and in one particularly large one (so, good sample size) with people from all demographics, the thing that amazed me the most, was the general attitude that people had about mental illness.  They were generally stigma-free when it came to mental illness.  The problem was in how many of them thought that a) medication helped in ALL cases (SO not true); b) that help is available to every person who seeks it (SO not true); and c) that you CAN recover no matter what illness you have, or the severity of it (SO not true).

The flow on effect this has?  There are a few.  The first is that when someone first speaks of having depression (or any other mental illness), they are immediately advised to start medication because it will work.  Six months later, some of these people are back because it hasn't worked and they feel like failures.  They feel like it is their fault it hasn't worked.  They feel like they've done something wrong, or that they are in some way defective.  If they had been warned from the start that it may not work, then when it doesn't, they would be prepared.

The second effect is when people talk about how difficult is was to get help, they are told to try harder - help IS there, so they must not be trying too hard to find it.  The reality is that help is quite often either not there (particularly in rural areas, but also in low funded urban areas), or even if it is, it is not appropriate for the person's situation.

The third effect is that when some people do not see improvement within a certain time frame, again, they feel that it is their fault.  

Telling these people the truth isn't necessarily going to cause them to commit suicide or self-harm.  NOT telling them the truth, however, can lead to suicides, suicide attempts and self-harm, if it leads to them feeling like failures for not "getting better" the way they've been led to believe they should.

Maybe if there were more people telling the truth - that mental illness IS dirty, it IS dark and it IS fucking depressing - maybe these expectations wouldn't be put on us all to "just get over it".  People might start to understand what it's like to live with a mental illness, the term "worried well" would have been treated with the contempt it deserves, and we would be starting to actually find a real way to help the 65000 suicidal Australians.

These cuts are going to lead to suicides where suicides may not have happened if Better Access had been left alone.  That is the cold hard truth of it, people need to know, more than they need to be shielded from it, and if you think we don't need to be ramming that truth up the arse of every single Australian out there, then basically, you need to pull your head out of whatever sand dune it happens to be residing in.