Breakfast started off with another patient verbally attacking me. The same one who had a problem with me in group a couple of days ago. This morning she turned around and glared at me while I was in a conversation with another patient. She started saying something which I couldn’t comprehend. I was then accused of giggling at her. “No, I didn’t even do anything, I was just talking to J,” I defended myself. It was an unpleasant shock to discover someone has such a problem with me. I’m a quiet, meek person and I don’t usually find people have such strong dislike for me. As a result of this incident, I was reduced to a shaky mess and close to tears. Later on a nurse explained to me that it’s not my problem, she’s done this to other patients and nurses, she has schizophrenia and her behaviour is a result of her illness. Though it helps a bit to know this, it doesn’t stop me from being absolutely intimidated by her.
I attended art therapy group this morning. Apparently it wasn’t enough, as my nurse chided me, “It’s part of your treatment program,” when I didn’t attend the Optimal Health group. Instead I lay in bed out of exhaustion.
After two weeks of being in hospital, I’m really, really over being here. I want to leave, I want to leave, I want to leave. I am sick of being made to attend pointless groups. I do not appreciate being verbally attacked just for existing. My anxiety is worse as a result. I now feel as though everyone is judging me, hating me. Sharing a room with an eating disorder patient is not helping my own issues with purging.
I am a voluntary patient. I agreed to be admitted, I should be allowed to discharge myself. They have no reason to schedule me either. I’m displeased that Dr T didn’t turn up today like she said she would because it means at least another day before I tell her what I want to tell her: I. Want. To. Leave.
Twelve days now I’ve been here at H Clinic. I just feel drained. A couple of days ago I couldn’t handle the urge to self harm anymore. I managed to break off the blade of a sharpener. Made a cut on my arm. It’s not that deep, but deeper than the other cuts I’ve done on my arm in the past. Stupid stupid me. What happened to my resolve to never do it on such an obvious place as my arm?
Yesterday I was tempted to self discharge. Found it difficult to cope with being here in the clinic. This feeling was predominantly set off by a comment made by another patient in group.
I shake my leg repetitively when anxious. It’s just something I do to try to reduce that tension I’m feeling. Being in group isn’t the easiest at the best of times, and the fact that I was meeting with the Uni’s disability counsellor later in the day didn’t help my anxiety at all. And so, while in group, the woman sitting next to me made the comment to the entire room that she doesn’t like people shaking their legs. She even went so far as to use her folder to hold up to her face to shield me from her vision at one point. Another woman then put it out to the group that this is a mental health clinic and you do see a lot of [leg shaking] here. I was almost in tears and ready to leave the room right then. But I stayed until the end and as soon as group ended I bolted from the room and bawled.
I already have anxiety and social anxiety so having that comment made didn’t help at all. It served to make me insecure about what others and especially her think about me and apprehensive about attending groups.
I was dismayed to find the girl coming in whom I would next be sharing a room with has an eating disorder. I’ve spoken to her and she’s lovely, but two people with eating issues sharing a room? Really?! I walked out of the bathroom last night to hear her and the nurse talking about eating and purging. Couldn’t handle it so I walked out. I walk into the room again, I find her in the bathroom and I’m suspicious she’s been purging. Come today, and this time it’s me who’s throwing up the contents of my stomach down the toilet bowl. While my eating issues now are not nearly as bad as they used to be, I still do occasionally find myself purging what I’ve eaten. Which has happened three times in the twelve days I’ve been in hospital. So I don’t think it’s very good for either of us to be sharing the room, despite my not being on the ED program to seek treatment for it unlike her.
This morning I was still feeling fragile and found myself getting a bit emotional in art therapy. The afternoon was an improvement, as a friend came to visit, we went for a stroll and sat down to smoothies at a cafe.
Dr T came for a quick round today in the middle of my 5:30pm dinner and says she will be in to see me again tomorrow. My Pristiq has been increased to 100mg as of two days ago. Meanwhile I’m still unsure as to when I’ll be discharged. Fourteen days does seem rather long to have not slept in my own bed and eaten my mother’s home cooked meals. Hospital food has really lost its appeal to me.
Yesterday I went for my appointment with R. I was asked whether I had heard from Dr T. The answer was ‘No.’ R then told me she hadn’t been contacted back either, and the assumption is that Dr T’s on holiday. Either that, or she can’t be bothered.
R then dropped the news that she would be away for three weeks and she’s fully booked next week. This means I will not see her at all during the month of May and my next appointment is scheduled on the 4th of June. I’ve since realised that is the weekend before the commencement of my exams, thus I will need to cancel.
I was given the DASS questionnaire to complete, identical to the one I filled in when I first started seeing her. Anxiety was about the same compared to last time, stress had gone up a bit from ‘normal’ to ‘moderate’ and depression had jumped to the ‘extremely severe’ range. I was told she would send a progress report to Dr T, notify her that she would be away for three weeks and attempt to get in touch with her again to see what the options are and whether she agrees I should be admitted to hospital.
R consulted me as to whether I’d be okay with sending off a referral to the social anxiety group program she had previously mentioned. I responded something along the lines of ‘I don’t care’ and right now it ‘feels pointless.’ It’s difficult to find the motivation to want to conquer my social anxiety when I’m overcome with misery and just trying to get through the day. She’s sent off the referral anyway advising me that if I don’t feel it’s the right time I can just say no and ask to stay on the waiting list.
Tears had been silently falling at intervals throughout the session, but towards the end there was a spectacular show of me bawling my eyes out. Crying in despair as I had been holding on until this session, I’m going to be left without support for the next month, so now what am I to do? She told me she was concerned. Still, that didn’t stop her from kicking me out of her office, as time was up and her next client was waiting. I was told that if she has a cancellation next week she’d offer me the appointment time.
R gave me the business card of her colleague, whom I could call while she was away. Right. I’m unable to call even her if I’m in a crisis, what makes her think I’d be able to call a complete stranger, who doesn’t receive payment from me, and thus has no obligation to speak to me? I was also given R’s email, as she said she’d still be checking it even when she’s on holiday.
I’m hoping Dr T is back in office this week and hanging on for the possibility of more support. And if not…hmm…
I am absolutely disgusted with myself for doing this. Cringing with embarrassment just thinking about it. I know, lots of people cry in their psychologist or psychiatrist appointments. I could excuse myself if I had a justifiable reason to cry, as I did last August when I had an appointment with my psychiatrist right after I was discharged from the ED. But this, this was just pathetic. I was asked by Dr T how my mood has been. In response I said, “Not that good…” She inquired as to why. I answered that I was feeling alone and like no one cares, and promptly started tearing up. Stupidstupidstupid. I will endeavour not to display such vulnerability for something so trivial in the future. In addition to the tears, I also said more than I should have. Something along the lines of what I wrote in this post. Just to add to my mortification.
Towards the end of the session, Dr T spoke of the issues of being stuck, turning to those old behaviours of overdosing and self harming, the fact that she nor anyone else can make me stop self harming- you can put someone in hospital but eventually they’ll have to leave, medication can only do so much, I have to choose to want to help myself and I have to believe that things can change- all of which can’t happen if I’m dead. To which I responded that it’s hard to believe things can be different when it’s been this way for so so long and that I have no incentive to change these self destructive behaviours- I don’t care enough about myself to do that. A discussion that has generated lots and lots of tears as I’ve ruminated on it throughout the day. Why must this be so gosh damn freakin’ difficult???? :( :( :(
Last appointment with my psychologist R, she suggested attending a social anxiety group therapy program run by a colleague of hers. The program is apparently ‘really good.’ I mentioned this to Dr T today and she was rather keen on the idea. Refer to this group, refer to that group, don’t hear from this group, don’t hear from that group… Hmm…
I was asked by Dr T if R and I had discussed payment options after I’ve used up my allowance of eighteen subsidised sessions per annum, courtesy of Medicare. Umm no, I assumed that I’d just stop seeing her, until at least next year…
Upon presenting at the reception for payment, Dr T’s secretary informed me that my GP referral expires on the 28th of May. Having never stuck to a psychiatrist or psychologist for more than a year prior to this (heh), I wasn’t aware that GP referrals for a specialist are only valid for a year. Which is great because the GP I saw last year has moved practices, and seeing a new GP for mental health issues is always really fun. Though my Uni does have GPs, and Dr T has given me the names of two who are apparently good, and good with mental health issues too.
But geez, a year… One year has passed and I’ve made what feels like, and probably is, zero progress. That’s a fun realisation to make…
Whilst chatting in our groups in my Health & Occupation class, a fellow student reported that she’s starting on prac next week. She revealed one of her placements is at P Clinic and proclaimed, “I don’t even know what it is.” “It’s a mental health clinic,” I informed her. My friend has been admitted there a number of times, and though that’s not where I was an inpatient in December 2010, the first psychiatrist I saw practised in the consulting rooms adjoining P Clinic.
This got me thinking. How extremely awkward would it be if I came crossed paths with a fellow OT student, with them on prac and me as a psychiatric patient? I didn’t come across any OT students in the psych ward last year, but that’s because I was there during Uni holidays, just days before Christmas. During Uni semesters however is a different story. Oh well, I doubt my chances of being admitted to a psychiatric hospital again are very large anyway. And I could always just avoid the OT activities. Because let’s face it, pinning sequins to foam baubles is an activity I could do without…and incidentally I did engage in that particular craft in class when I was in um, Year 4. I’d like to think my cognitive abilities have improved a little bit since then.
Speaking of being an OT student, I don’t think I’m cut out to be a health professional. Which is nothing new. But I just don’t know how I’m going to get through this four year degree. Readings, assignments, tests, exams, study, learning, writing, memorizing… Which requires attention, motivation, time, energy, concentration, ARGH. Furthermore, I can’t imagine ever becoming professional enough to BE a professional.
Oh yeah, and three weeks into the semester, socially inept me has not made many friends at all. This week; two out of two lectures I sat alone, two out of two labs I did sit with people, but only because the desks were arranged in groups, and only one tutorial did I actually have a friend to sit with. Oh, and between classes in my breaks I’m also all by my lonesome. Which is making the Uni experience really enjoyable.
Part of the problem is that I don’t feel I have anything interesting to add to the conversation, and I don’t think I have all that much in common with the people in my classes. You love going to music concerts? Cool…I’ve never been to any. But it’s partly my fault too. I’ve not been making all that much effort, it’s my third time being a first year Uni student and I’m a little bit over it. Then there’s the social insecurities. I can’t help thinking that they don’t want me there, I’m imposing on them, they think I’m a boring person who has nothing to say, etc etc. And so I find myself avoiding the situation altogether and keeping to myself much of the time.
The last appointment with my psychiatrist was a month and a half ago. Which means it was a month and a half ago that I was given the phone numbers of two potential clinical psychologists. Whether I’ve made any progress from potential to current psychologist? Well… Does Googling their names count?
It would be somewhat easier if my psychiatrist just gave me the number of one psychologist and said, “Here, this is the person I want you to see.” Basically what she did last time. But no. This time she gave me two numbers. How on earth am I supposed to choose? By which name sounds better? By where they’re located? As mentioned, I’ve attempted to Google both. One has a website; the services she provides, her specializations, even a mugshot of herself. From the description she provides, I’m unsure as to whether she’d be the right person to me. Glancing at her photo, well…I’d prefer someone a little closer to my age. On the other hand, the other potential clinical psychologist does not provide a website. So do I take a chance?
I’ve thought about giving each of them a call, having a quick chat and deciding from there. The dilemma with this method is, how do I go about doing so? What do I ask of them? I imagine the conclusion of that conversation would be a little bit awkward, “Thanks, so I’ll err…call you back if you’re the uh…better person….”
Then there’s the matter of picking up my phone, punching in the numbers and physically making the call. One aspect of my social anxiety is a fear of telephone conversations. Just thinking about picking up the phone and calling; my heart beats faster, my throat constricts, and it gets a little harder to breathe. And that’s not even at the dialling stage yet, that’s just thinking about dialling.
I’ve put this off now for a month and a half, I probably shouldn’t delay any longer. Especially given my next appointment with my psychiatrist is less than two weeks away, I need to tell Dr T who I’m seeing so that she can send off the referral to enable me to receive Medicare rebates for clinical psychology sessions.
Someone want to save me the trouble, choose a psychologist, and make an appointment for me?
As some of you may know, I am a Youth Ambassador for ReachOut.com which is an initiative of the Inspire Foundation, a not for profit NGO that uses technology to help better the mental health of young people. Today I gave a speech to E&Y, one of the corporate supporters of Inspire, at their golf fundraiser day. There were about sixty people present, sixty of whom are accountants, advisory, businessy and tax people (clearly, I know nothing about the business and corporate wolrd) and whom I had never met before. This was my speech:
Thank you all for being involved in this fundraising day today and I hope you’ve all enjoyed yourselves. As you know, the money raised today will go towards ensuring that the Inspire Foundation can continue the work that it does and reach even more young people in the future.
Inspire combines the direct involvement of young people with technology to deliver online programs that help improve young people’s mental health and wellbeing. It does this through its programs, the main one being ReachOut.com. Reach Out is a web based service aimed at young people aged 14-25. The website offers a whole range of features, including fact sheets, personal stories written by young people, interactive forums and more. It tackles mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety, as well as other youth issues such as relationships, exam stress and sexuality which also affect mental health.
One in four people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, yet, only 29% of this one in four will receive professional help. When many feel as though they can’t turn to parents, friends, teachers or professionals such as GPs or counsellors, they turn online for help. This is where Reach Out comes in. It is there 24/7, it’s free, it’s anonymous which is what makes it so appealing for young people.
Speaking from personal experience, Reach Out has helped me immensely. I, like many other young people, was afraid to seek help for my mental health issues. I was afraid of the stigma associated with mental illness, I was afraid I’d be judged, I was afraid my issues weren’t serious enough to seek help for. Reach Out was my first point of contact. Through reading the factsheets, being inspired by the personal stories of young people and being encouraged by others brave enough to seek help, I too was eventually able to seek help for myself. Currently I’m still seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist and receiving treatment for my depression and social anxiety. Reach Out has definitely aided me in being able to make that step in reaching out for help. Because Reach Out has helped me I wanted to give something back and help other young people who may have been in a similar position as I. I applied and was accepted to become a Youth Ambassador which enables me to represent this organisation, promote it in the community and have a say in this service, so that even more young people like me are aware of Reach Out and are able to utilise this service. My Reach Out journey began as a young person seeking help, and I am now a young person who wants to help others.
So thank you all for your generous contribution. Every $11.50 raised today will help ensure one more young person has access to Inspire’s services for a whole year. If you’d like to find out more information about Inspire and its services, you can visit inspire.org.au or reachout.com. We look forward to continuing to work with you in the future. Your support ensures that Inspire can continue to achieve its mission of helping millions of young people lead happier lives.
I’m usually someone who avoids public speaking at all costs, so I’m quite proud of myself for being able to do that, considering one of the issues I struggle with is social anxiety. Proof that it is at least one aspect of my mental health issues that has improved somewhat? Revealing to sixty strangers that I have a mental illness and I see a psychologist and psychiatrist for it- that is quite an experience. I used to be so secretive about my mental health issues, not willing to admit it to anyone. It’s something of a comfort anyway, knowing that I will most likely never see any of them again.
Edit: I let my mother read my speech the next day… after reading it, she said nothing. Don’t know what I was hoping would happen, I’m not quite sure what my purpose was. Perhaps just to emphasise to her that I’m not ashamed I have a mental illness. Perhaps it is also my passive way of rebelling, because the impression I’m getting from my family is that mental illness is something to be ashamed of, something to be kept in the dark.
Last appointment with Dr T, as well as all that went on with my mother attending the appointment with me, we also talked about my social anxiety. One of the questions she asked me was regarding as to whether or not I find myself judging people. She explained that the reason she was asking is because sometimes people who have social anxiety are constantly judging who they meet. Therefore the conclusion is reached that people must be judging them as they do others and anxiety arises as a result. I told her I wasn’t sure. Since then, I’ve been mindful of whether I do this or not. The outcome is this- I’m ashamed to admit I’ve realized just what a judgmental person I am. It’s terrible. I will judge people on what they wear, how they behave, what they look like, their perceived level of intelligence… In fact, when I walked into my appointment with Dr T on that day, upon glancing at her particular choice of clothing, one of the first thoughts entering my head was, ‘What is she wearing?!’
What’s worse is that I’m not perfect, far from it in fact. So I really have no right to judge her, or him, or you, or anyone else I meet.
Of course, I’d never outwardly show or put a voice to these judgments. I’m too polite for that, and care far too much for others’ opinions of me. So if I was judging someone, they’d never have a clue.
I’ll hazard a guess that I’m not the only one who judges people, but like me, they also keep their judgements to themselves. So how do I know what level of judgement is considered normal, and what is excessive? And is judging people really a characteristic of having social anxiety?
When I look at my father and aunt as an example, they are far more judgmental than me. My aunt especially. Some of the comments she makes are outrageous. I’d give you an example, but I’m afraid I may indirectly insult someone as a result. I mean, her comments aren’t directed at me, and even I feel offended by some of what she says.
I’m not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, someone qualified to make a diagnosis, but I’d say that both my father and aunt most likely do not struggle with social anxiety. Unlike me, they have no qualms about making phone calls, approaching people, asking others for assistance, just to name a few.
So is there really a correlation between judging others and being socially anxious? When I look at myself, I may think, ‘Yes’. When I look at the examples of my father and aunt however, I think, ‘No’. So maybe that proves that after all, everyone makes judgements on others, it’s human nature. And it isn’t necessarily solely a characteristic of social anxiety.