Just keep asking for help

Just reach out and ask for help, that’s the hardest part. Talk to someone you trust. Go to your GP, let them know you’re struggling. That’s what we get told. Don’t suffer in silence. As if the second we ask for help we get what we need and everything is fine. I asked for help about four years ago.

I went to my GP and explained that I was seeing things. Hallucinating. Time was doing weird things, I thought my thoughts were racing and I couldn’t keep up. Things weren’t right, and I couldn’t function in my everyday life anymore. So I asked for help. And I got referred to the AMHT (adult mental health team).

I waited a few months for my assessment. I was assessed within about 5 minutes, and discharged from the service with a prescription. Cool. Except it wasn’t cool. Because nothing changed for me. I would go to A&E, back to my GP and nothing would change. Present with self-inflicted injuries at A&E, let them know I don’t remember doing it, or it felt like someone else was doing it to me. I’d get patched up, wait four hours to see the psychiatric consultant, tell them everything, and be sent home with a ‘low risk’ badge and another referral to the AMHT (who would then quickly discharge me).

Eventually I was put on a waiting list for CBT. I waited a year and a half to be put on that waiting list. I waited two more years to receive the CBT. And in between that I did not wait patiently, my condition at a nice plateau, hah. No. I got worse, I presented more often at A&E, I was scared of myself, of being alone, but I was on a waiting list now, so I was always told to wait.

So I waited. I’ll get that elusive ‘help’ soon. I just need to wait. And I did eventually get my 6 sessions of CBT. After about four I was not doing well at all and I was absolutely terrified for my life. I told the psychologist this, and that I think it’s safer for me to stop CBT and maybe try some other kind of talking therapy. I was then told that I was refusing treatment, discharged from the service and my GP told not to re-refer me for another year.

This is when I decided to try and get help privately. And I don’t know why I waited so long to do that. Asking for help is of course a very brave, hard thing to do. And if you ask the wrong person, the wrong service, it can be traumatising and make you less likely to keep asking until you find the right fix. I was lucky in the sense that I don’t suffer with depression, and my self worth seemed to remain at a level where I was able to keep fighting and keep asking for help. But I can’t imagine what would have happened to my condition if I were at all experiencing depressive symptoms - I may never have even gotten to the CBT, I may not have pushed to get on that waiting list, I may have stopped bothering to go to the AMHT assessments after being fobbed off the first time. I may have just given up.

But I didn’t give up, and the people around me didn’t give up either. Yes, I know that privately funded treatment isn’t an option for a lot of people - it was barely an option for me. The psychiatrist I saw though, and asked for help, and explained my problems to. Well, he listened, and he diagnosed, and he prognosed, and he changed my medication, suggested forms of therapy, suggested inpatient treatment to help. This man turned out to be the right person to ask for help and I am so glad I didn’t stop asking.

Everyone’s experience of asking for help is different. And please don’t let this put you off the GP or A&E or your local NHS mental health service, because for you they might well turn out to be the exact right person to ask for help. I just want to let you know that asking for help isn’t a one off thing, you have to keep asking, keep self-advocating, keep strong, and keep knowing that you do deserve treatment for your illness. You will find the right person to ask, and things will get sorted, it just may not always be as easy as you’d like it to be.