4 months late
This blog post was going to be posted in January, but life and politics got in the way and I actually thought I had posted it. It was only when I went to write the post on essential oils that I discovered it was still unpublished.
So here is the missing January blog:
New Year blogs are supposed to be about plans, ideas, looking forward and even making resolutions.
But what happened just before Xmas 2017 has crept into the New Year and will impact on our lives for some months and maybe years to come.
Part way through December my partner Eve, had a mental health crisis. The worst is now over, and she is doing well. But the outcome could have been very different.
Eve has been vulnerable to depression all her adult life. I had noticed that she had been getting increasingly “down” and was sleeping very badly. I presumed most of this was down to a foot injury that had caused Eve a lot of pain. But once her foot was better her mood did not improve. She had a lack of energy, little enthusiasm, no motivation and her sleep pattern got worse.
We received a difficult email to which Eve totally over-reacted, she plunged into what I can only describe as a dark, murky pool.
This is how she described herself:
“I was furious and frantic. I could not eat or sit still. I had to visit my GP premises that afternoon to make an appointment. I realised when I got there that I was in a very bad state and the receptionist arranged for me to speak to a GP then and there. We spoke and she made a regular appointment for me the following Friday.
The weekend was dreadful.
From this point on I had a constant dry mouth, very poor sleep and appetite. I saw a friend on the Saturday and again on the Monday morning – I could not speak to Fran, though I wanted to, it was so hard.
The following Monday afternoon I went back to the GP practice to ask for the antidepressants that had helped me a few years previously. The GP prescribed Prozac 20mg.”
For the rest of that week Eve continued to be profoundly depressed.
We were able to talk and Eve said more about how she felt. That was good, but Eve was not sleeping and found it increasingly hard to distract herself with reading or listening to the radio.
By Friday when Eve saw her GP she asked for some sleeping tablets. Unfortunately they were useless.
This is Eve’s description of the next two days:
“Friday, Saturday and Sunday night were pure nightmare.
I woke in the very small hours bombarded by intense negative feelings and associated thoughts. Grief and despair. I tried to block them by reading the ‘easy reading’ books that had been all I could cope with all week and by trying to listen to the radio. Nothing was effective.
Friday night almost technicolour, black, red, flashes of bright yellow. Saturday night, dark browns and purples. Sunday night, paler colours, but the thoughts clearer. Definite suicidal thoughts. I blocked myself from thinking about how I might kill myself.
Later in the morning I’d be tired but relatively calm. In the afternoons the anxiety would build up. I’d pace up and down or sit and twitch. Sunday night I managed to eat two mouthfuls of banana, Monday morning, one bite banana, one of bread.
During the weekend I’d talked with Fran about how I might need a hospital admission.”
First thing Monday I phoned our GP and she gave Eve an appointment at 10.30am.
It turned out that the only way to get urgent mental health help is via A&E. The GP gave us a letter, explaining she wanted Eve seen by a Psychiatrist to review and possibly change her medication. We drove straight to St Thomas’s, and after a 15 minute wait got a car park space, and rushed quickly inside.
A& E were brilliant. Very helpful and caring. We must have seen about five people before we got to the liaison nurse, they found a quiet room for us to sit etc.
The liaison nurse was empathic, helpful, and clearly very expert.
She referred Eve to the Community Mental Health Team and the Home Treatment. team. She advised against admission. Even the elderly people’s ward is very disturbed – not a good place unless you are really out of contact with reality.
As Eve recalled;
“My thinking was distorted, rational but not reasonable, but I was not hallucinating or delusional.
Unfortunately it was too late for the teams to see me at the hospital that day, but they would visit me at home the next day. The hospital also gave me stuff to help me sleep for the next two nights.
I felt reassured and a lot less desperate. I slept. I ate a little.
Unfortunately after that things fell apart.
The following day, after Fran phoned to chase them, two people from the CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) and HTT (Home Treatment Team) arrived late afternoon. They appeared to be uncaring and unprofessional, were very reluctant to give us their names and we never were told their job titles.
They asked me if I was actively suicidal – I wasn’t and my partner was protecting me. I would be ‘reviewed’ by their teams some time that week. Then they might do something. No possibility of a medication review or charge of prescription. Nothing to help me sleep.”
I was so angry. I tried to explain how ill Eve was, but they didn’t want to listen to me, and actually told me not to join in their conversation.
Luckily Eve had enough savings for another option to be available. I had previously worked at the Priory in Roehampton. One phone call later, we were told we could have a next day appointment and all that was needed was for our GP to email a referral over.
Within 24 hours we were sitting in the waiting room at Roehampton.
Eve explains what happened next:
The Psychiatrist was good. A careful and sympathetic assessment. I could stay on the same antidepressants, plus a prescription for a small dose of an atypical antidepressant with some sedative action. I was given a second appointment in January when the psychiatrist said he would recommend therapists.
I slept that night. The nightmare rapidly receded. The antidepressants kicked in.
I continued to feel a bit shaky and very tired for a few days.
I’m staying on the antidepressants, and I’ll be looking for a councillor soon.
Without Fran I dread to think what would have happened. If I’d depended on the NHS entail health services, I’d have been in serious trouble.
As it is I’m OK thanks to my partner, friends GP A&E and private psychiatry.
No thanks to NHS mental health services!
Thankfully Eve is continuing to do well and she is enjoying life again.