CW: Brief mention of suicidal thoughts & self harm.
Disclaimer: Don’t let this post put you off seeking help for your mental health. I have had many good experiences with doctors and therapists over the years, this is just my recent experience.
We all read day in and day out that the NHS is in crisis. They are understaffed, underfunded and can’t cope with the volume of patients presenting to them. When writing this, and when you read this, please keep that in mind. This is in no way a rant about my GP or even the doctor I saw when I attended the surgery because I understand the pressure they are under but this was my most recent experience.
Toward the end of October I began experiencing crippling anxiety and guilt. I struggle with obsessive thoughts about real life events that are in the past that I can’t change. This crops up every so often and I normally deal with it pretty quickly, accept it and move on again but this time I got stuck. This resulted in days spent ruminating, getting myself in to a deeper pool of despair each time. On top of this my general anxiety was pretty bad and things were deteriorating rapidly. I got to the point where I felt like the only way I was ever going to feel better would be to not exist anymore. I didn’t explicitly think of suicide, it was more like just wanting to have never been born. The feelings became so intense that I hurt myself just to see if it would help, but it didn’t, it was the wrong kind of feelings for that.
After a particularly bad weekend (Bonfire Night Weekend) I told one of my friends how bad I’d been feeling and he urged me to make an appointment to go in and see the doctor in person. This followed a terrible experience with an online consultation the week before.
On the Thursday (2nd November) I filled in an online consultation to speak to my doctor. I had to lie on the online assessment because my anxiety and depression scores were so high a pop up kept coming up about calling 111 or making an emergency appointment/going to A&E and it wouldn’t let me submit it unless I made out the anxiety was less than it was. Once I submitted this I got a message to let me know that someone would call me back before the end of the day on Friday. The call came at around 10.30am on Friday morning, not from my doctor, a CPN or even a practice nurse, rather it was a receptionist from the practice who couldn’t even fully read the writing of the doctor and even mumbled “something, something” when reading out the instructions. The instructions themselves were not exactly life changing. They suggested that I refer myself to counselling locally and if I wanted to wait a shorter time I’d have to go private. Meanwhile my crisis continued and I wasn’t able to ask my doctor some questions I had like whether or not to resume taking my pill or whether it could have caused the anxiety spike.
The following Monday I phoned to make an actual appointment and was given one for Thursday morning. My friend James went with me for moral support and because he wanted to make sure I went and was honest with the doctor. The doctor we saw was standoffish and didn’t put me at ease at all. He didn’t seem to understand my phobia at all and prescribed me an SSRI without any anti-emetics. I left the appointment feeling like I hadn’t been listened to and still felt as though nothing was going to improve. You’d be forgiven for thinking that it was my mental state rather than my experience that was the issue but James was also really annoyed by the way the appointment had gone.
I took one half dose of the medication I was prescribed but it made me nauseous which caused a huge panic attack so I never took it again. There was no support put in place to get me through the initial rocky spell of side effects. Considering the fact I have really bad emetophobia and my anxiety was already terrible I felt the least they could have done was offer me anti-emetics and advice on how best to counteract the side effects but they weren’t interested.
Since then I have got a little better on my own using self led Acceptance and Commitment Therapy but not everyone is in a position to be able to do that.
What has your experience of NHS mental health care been? Let me know in the comments.