I have been toying with whether or not I should write this post. It’s been giving me a migraine. Day 4 of head pounding, eye watering, neck aching, shoulder popping stress.
The migraine is caused by the fact that for someone with ‘mental health issues’ aka responding appropriately to circumstances beyond my control/ choice – for all of the memes, news features, magazine articles and days dedicated to mental health issues, when it comes down to it – there still isn’t any help available. Or maybe I am on a blacklist? You tell me.
I am 51.
The first 20 years of my life were spent in a combination of unsettling and unsafe situations.
I was fostered for the first 10 years and then given to my mother – without my foster ‘family’ giving me a backward glance.
Even at the death bed of my foster mother some 12 years or so later, I was greeted on my way to the ward by a member of that family with the words, “Oh, I’d forgotten about you!”
Just imagine that for one moment – that your sibling had totally forgotten of your existence, when (through no choice of your own because you were only a tender 6 weeks of age at the time) you had been brought into the family and were attending the final moments of a mother you shared.
I was sexually abused for 15 years from the age of 5.
It’s hard for people to get their heads around this one and it seems to me that at the mere mention of ‘sexual’ abuse, the people I know get squirmish and somehow feel that I am tarnished and grubby, despite being only 60 months old when cornered by a 40 year old, hulking, hairy Cypriot man who should have been locked up.
Imagine this now: you have been out with friends after work and get the train back to where you live in Surrey. The station is deserted and the exit steps are 200 feet ahead of you. As you start walking towards them, you notice a man has also disembarked from the train and is lurking close behind you. You speed up. He speeds up. You slow down. He slows down. You leave the station and cross the road. The man is still only feet behind you and the road ahead is dark and silent. The only thing you can now hear are his footsteps and your heartbeat that is now deafening you. You are holding your breath and breathing too fast all at the same time. All of a sudden you feel this man’s hands around your shoulders as he grabs you from behind and attempts to assault you.
I suspect that you are now terrified, fearing for your life and/ or of being raped.
Now imagine that instead of that being a dark road by a train station, it’s your 5 year old self’s bedroom, the living room, the kitchen, the bathroom – anywhere and everywhere – and you are living at that level of fear 24 hours a day – awake or asleep – and the assaults are constant.
Firstly, is there any reason at all that you can imagine why surviving that for 15 years, nay 51 years and counting (or even an hour) would not result in ‘mental health’ issues?
Secondly, would you imagine that once you bring these circumstances to the attention of your GP, the police and various other people who are in a position to help you, that the help would be forthcoming?
Let me share this little incident with you and then tell me how you would feel when the world is putting out the bunting for ‘World Mental Health Day’ and patting itself on the back when the reality, or MY reality is this:
Mum has dementia/ Alzheimer’s. She had been repetitively talking about wanting to swim in the ocean for years. You decide despite the knot (Cap’n Jack would be proud of) in your stomach, that you and your husband will take Mum away for a week to Greece (her homeland), so that she can have a holiday and we can all create happy memories (that at least James and I will be able to recall).
Mum’s a trigger for my c-PTSD.
The holiday was for the most part enjoyable and the photographs we were able to capture and put in a book for Mum to look at to illustrate the holiday that she will never actually remember, were stunning and full of smiles.
However, as every second passed I found it harder and harder to take in a breath as every cell in my body relived the utter terror and horror of years gone by.
I returned to London with a smile on my face but internally my ‘mental health’ was not good. Uh uh. It was definitely not good.
I went to a new GP and explained that my c-PTSD was really bad (btw – it’s ALWAYS really bad – you cannot ‘let go’ of your actual life, as so many unhelpful and unthinking people suggest) and was referred for therapy.
I also did something that I have never done before, I applied for PIP. I haven’t actually earned more than about £1,500 (not taking into account the costs of making that which will diminish that figure to nothing) per year, for about 4 years. My c-PTSD makes it really difficult to work amongst f*ckwits – and there are always some wherever you go.
It’s okay – I managed to write snippets for national publications and a regular gossip coloumn from the age of 15 (where I worked alongside Piers Morgan, albeit for a blip) whilst still being abused and beaten. I have managed to run a successful PR company (from the age of 19). I have managed to become a top celebrity booker/ producer. I have lived and worked in Hollywood. I have published books. I have become a Saatchi Art represented photographic artist of recognition and so on – all because I choose to protect my sanity by not working amongst people who will jeopardise my ‘mental health.’
BUT because I have learned how to project a persona that allows me to do these things (with many, many months when things get too overwhelming where I never leave the security of my four walls) everyone – including those who should know better – assume that everything is fine.
So, back to the story: I asked for therapy and during the following 9 months (that’s NINE months) I was subjected to 2 x TWO hour assessment sessions, which left me in a worse state than I started because I had to dredge everything up.
I was also required to attend an assessment with a PIP assessor.
The PIP assessor decided that I was absolutely fine. I did not (according to the assessor who barely spoke English and had no training in ‘mental health’ issues) seem ‘anxious.’ I am not sure what she expected my ‘anxiety’ to look like but that exact same me was diagnosed by both Consultant Psychiatrists as: suffering SEVERE c-PTSD, depression and anxiety.
No financial help for me then from the system that requires me to pay taxes etc. because a person who’s uneducated opinion is that I don’t need any help.
The educated opinion was – and I quote: “She clearly suffers from severe complex PTSD which impacts on almost every area of her life. Her predominant symptom is pervasive hyprarousal, so that she feels constantly on edge or openly fearful, to the extent that she spends most of her day indoors. She also describes flashbacks, triggered easily by a wide range of stimuli.” Yadayadayada.
At the end of the SECOND 2 hour assessment at the end of the NINTH month after I asked for help in dealing with my horrific symptoms, in literally the final three minutes, the Consultant Psychiatrist told me that in a further FOUR months I could join group therapy sessions, in order to then qualify for the treatment that I know will actually help me: EMDR. Those sessions would then be available to me in a FURTHER 12 MONTHS!
Of course, I refused. I refused angrily. Had I not been through enough that the educated professional who could see how traumatised I was thought that she would watch me bare my soul for 1 hour and 57 minutes, before telling me that I could ONLY get real help, if I agreed to sit in a room with a number of other traumatised people, a whole YEAR before any real help would be available to me.
The SAME educated professional who had already diagnosed this: “She clearly suffers from severe complex PTSD which impacts on almost every area of her life. Her predominant symptom is pervasive hyprarousal, so that she feels constantly on edge or openly fearful, to the extent that she spends most of her day indoors. She also describes flashbacks, triggered easily by a wide range of stimuli.”
The letter closes with – and this is where ‘World Mental Health Day’ really comes into its own: “I have no choice but to close her case.”
So, NINE months, FOUR hours of baring my vulnerable and traumatised soul, TWO acknowledgements that I have severe c-PTSD, anxiety and depression BUT NO HELP unless I am traumatised further and then wait a further YEAR.
C’mon guys – you must be having a laugh but none of us is finding it remotely funny.
This ‘WORLD MENTAL HEALTH DAY’ is what we sufferers are dealing with. Forget your flag waving, meme posting, patting yourself on the back PR offensive and just get down and dirty with the help that people need.
I am unable to earn real money because…well, you know why not if you have read everything above but I am not allowed financial help. My husband and I literally are living below the poverty line (way below, to be accurate) but who cares? No one, that’s who.
I feel like I have to earn my own money to pay to survive and to pay for appropriate therapy by selling my horrific story. I might as well dredge up all of the pain and get something in return for it.
In fact, if Piers Morgan or any other well known journalist (especially those who know me) wants to help me tell my story and get it published, do get in touch.
World Mental Health Day: it’s been giving me a migraine. Day 4 of head pounding, eye watering, neck aching, shoulder popping stress.
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