About 18 months ago I got sick. Very sick. I ended up in hospital, and was to stay there for almost nine months. I was embarrassed and ashamed and felt that I couldn’t tell anyone where I was. I told some people I was on holidays, others that I was away for work. But the truth was that I was on a psychiatric ward fighting for my life. I say fighting because that’s what I felt I was doing.
It all happened rather quickly. One minute I was bridesmaid at my sister’s wedding and the next thing I was inpatient on an acute psychiatric ward. It all happened so fast and in a number of weeks I unravelled in spectacular style.
At first I was afraid. I was so afraid of the thoughts that were going on in my head that I didn’t tell anyone. I kept it to myself. I’m very lucky and have great friends and family but couldn’t find the words to tell them how I was feeling so as far as they were concerned I was fine. But I wasn’t. I was far from fine and was in such a bad place that I just couldn’t find the words to explain how I was feeling. I believed that I would be better off dead and that my friends and family would be better off without me.
I was ashamed that I was in hospital and that I wasn’t coping.
Over the course of the nine months my Dr tried me on loads of different types of medications. Nothing seemed to take away the deep feeling of despair I was feeling every moment I was awake and that haunted my dreams at night. Despite being quite articulate normally, I just couldn’t find the words to describe to anyone what I was feeling. I was hopeless. I felt like I was never going to get better and most of all I felt abandoned in hospital while my friends and family and everyone else went about their lives.
9 months is a long time in anyone’s life. But 9 months on a psychiatric ward is unbearable and feels like a lifetime. There is little to do during the day with just one hour devoted to occupational therapy or activities such as meditation, art, or yoga. The rest of the time was spent sitting on your bed or sitting on the chair beside your bed.
The only regular thing on the ward was the giving out of the medication at breakfast, lunch and night time. We’d all queue up in a line eager to get our next fix of drugs.
During my stay in hospital I was put on a waiting list to see a psychologist. During my 9 months there I did not speak to a counsellor, psychologist or anyone about how I was feeling.
Because my depression wasn’t responding to medication my psychiatrist talked about the possibility of trying Electric Shock Treatment (ECT) Thankfully I didn’t try ECT, but I very nearly did as I was eager to try anything that would help me get my life back again.
At the moment I am attending a psychologist but have only 5 more sessions left. I understand that appointments are limited due to long waiting lists, but at the same time I know that I will need support after the 5 sessions.
My experience of the mental health services over the past 18 months is that it is trying to keep me from dying but are making very little effort to help me live.
As a service user I am extremely frustrated as to how the Irish mental health service works. I think it needs to be totally revolutionised. We need to start by helping people recover from mental illness, instead of patching them up and sending them out until the next time.
There is such stigma associated with mental illness and even though things are much better than they used to be I feel that we still have a long way to go.
I feel that we need to talk openly about mental health and start to look at people with mental difficulties as ‘us’ instead of the ‘other’.
We need to have a more recovery focused mental health service. I am trying everything in my power to ensure that I don’t end up in a situation that I’m extremely unwell and taking my own life seems like an option again. But I will say that it’s difficult especially when the supports aren’t always there.
To start with we need to provide adequate funding for mental health services that both focuses on early intervention and recovery. I also feel that we need an authority that tackles suicide prevention like the Road Safety Authority does for road safety.
One suicide is one too many and although there is good work being done in the area of suicide prevention its not enough. We can do more!
I believe that we can reduce the high number of suicides in Ireland. It’s time we all came together and used our collective voices to let people know that suicide doesn’t have to be an option. We need to let people know that it’s ok not to be ok and it’s perfectly ok to have to ask for help.