Tag Archives: depression

Mental health services are shit

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TW: Suicide, Suicidal ideation

If you’ve had to use mental health services in the UK, you’ll probably know this already.  I have several mental health diagnoses: depression has given me a whole heap of trouble, despite the fact it’s one of the minor mental health ailments I live with.

In January 2018 my doctor sent me to Casualty after I told her I was suicidal. I was referred to the Home Treatment team, and that was where the nightmare really began.  Over the course of a week, I was seen by 5 different people, most of whom hadn’t read any of my notes, so I had to start from the beginning with them.  Each one said they would return, or that I’d see a maximum of 2 people from the team.  That didn’t happen obviously.  What really made this all even more horrible was when I was seen by a black woman who ended up being very biphobic and queerphobic, and could hardly look at me after I spoke to her about how biphobia affected my life in a negative way.  To get this behaviour from a professional in my own home felt truly awful.

I was also encouraged to attend a support group at a day centre.  Again I was met with bigoted and racist views from a Clinical Psychologist who ran the group.  I finally wrote a complaint letter in February.  I met with 2 of the senior staff (one glared at me the whole time).  They said they would review how things were done, but nobody apologised.  In fact it was December 2018 before I got an apology from the head psychiatrist.  She told me she would get an Occupational Therapist and a Psychologist to contact me after the Christmas period.  I heard nothing until 4 months later, I phoned the mental health centre to discharge myself.  I had barely ended the call when I got an incoming call from the Occupational Therapist apologising for the long wait.  “Maybe you’ll think about staying with us,” she said.  “I’ve been thinking about this for 4 months, and the answer is no,” I replied.

I love the NHS, but when it comes to mental health, things are chronically bad.  There is no consistency of service, no awareness of multiple marginalisation, no LGBT+ training.  The only thing in abundance is the volume of lies I’ve been told.  There are no other services for suicidal adults in my part of London.  I can’t get seen by another borough on the NHS.  I have precisely zero options when it comes to this.  Being suicidal is bad, but the way I’ve been treated has magnified that into being intolerable.  These people are supposed to help, but they’ve made things far worse for me, and what tops it off is that the next time I’m suicidal, I’m supposed to go to Casualty where the only thing they can do is refer me to the same people who treated me like shit.cropped-tumblr_os67y3q7tk1qd3j1wo2_1280

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Lyrics to Walking Wounded, by Everything but the Girl

What do you want from me? Are you trying to punish me? 

Punish me for loving you, punish me for giving to you 

Punish me for nothing I do, punish me for nothing 

You punish me for nothing, for nothing.

I’ve had the same two choices for my entire life: violence or isolation.  To be part of a family or relationship meant pain.  To leave the pain meant loneliness and desolation.  This has always been  the only two roads I could take.  I have lived in this part of London for over twenty years, but I have no local friends at all.  Strangely enough, most Eastenders don’t take well to bisexual, black, disabled survivors.  Most of them seem to think people like me don’t exist at all, and when they discover who and what I am, any outstretched arms of friendship wither away as they step back and keep on going.

Most folk think when I ran away from my family, all the pain stopped.  Some think that time and distance from the abuse and violence has faded, and I am left as an everyday, ordinary person.  Sure I flinch when a cup shatters on the hard floor, or freeze when the rare person tries to hug me, but I must be better by now surely?

The truth is only part of me escaped.  Only part of me survived.

I often wish I were Asexual.  I often wish I could live without sexual desire and all the problems it brings up for me.  But asexual people still have hearts; they have friends they snuggle with, and sensations their skin enjoys.  There is closeness, warmth and comfort that sing them to sleep.  What I want is to feel nothing, to protect myself from being hurt by denying I can feel at all.  This is not asexuality.  This is sadness.

Pic: a piece of beachglass and silver jewellery I made in 2005.

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Fat, black, nonbinary.
I have christened myself a monster:
People shrink from me.
Few want to know me
Unless it is as a curiosity.
I am pitied, a target on my slouched back to see.

But in my despair I am somehow free,
When eyes despise me regardless.
My head is bare to the heavens,
An elegant freak without the fuss.

People spitting at me is no less painful.
Stares from strangers hurt just the same.
My existence of shame, forever shameful
Now I have learned to play the ‘normal’s’ game.
My freedom stabs bigots like a blade;
I no longer desperately want to be like them.
I drop my pretence at longing to be human
And embrace my monster like they embrace
Fashion trends.

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They don’t need to kill us, when we want to kill ourselves

They never think of me when they say LGBT.
They spy young and thin and so, so white
And if their vision widens to invite my body, big and brown,
I will never be named:
I am not one of the queer crowd.

My human shell contains a beating bisexual heart.
But my sound and my shape are scrubbed
Until only a white dream remains,
And bisexuals are left at the back of the Pride parade.
We will never be named.

Whose tears are these?  Whose dreams are gone?
Are questions never asked.
Bisexual erased right off this planet
Gay rainbows as a mask.
The very last thing to cross your mind
As darkness and silence puffs out my flame:
My identity is hated first and last;
A terrible mark of your shame.

Who will listen when I am gone,
To discover an echo on the microphone?
A smudge where a human might have sat:
Bisexual and alone.
My old words will form an image of me.
Incline your ear to my remains.
The silence is never ending now.
Marked in stone, yet never named.

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Trigger Warning: Rape, Suicide, Abuse

I’ve had depression for most of my life.  I have a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Distress Syndrome.  But chronic anxiety was something new to me; until 2014, I’d never experienced it.  Anxiety for me wasn’t simply feeling nervous or on edge.  Anxiety felt like a blazing fire behind me, and barrels of oil around me, just waiting to explode.  Anxiety makes me want to run as fast as I can.  It makes me grind my teeth and clench my fists.

I’m invited to give a talk for a panel on LGBT hate crime at a small London police station.  I’m surrounded by white police officers, most of whom are wearing body armour.  Multiple radios crackle on the table as I clear my throat.  I speak about racism of the police, of how biphobia is different to homophobia.  There is a strange silence around me.  I feel very nervous, but once I start talking I don’t stop until all I’ve wanted to say is done.  The police officers are positive – they ask a lot of questions that show how little they now about biphobia.  I’m happy to answer them with a smile.

I was raped in 2014.  It was not a first for me.  I am a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, which carried on into adulthood and only ended when I ran away aged 22.  Shortly after the assault, I got sick.  I had severe abdominal pains that landed me in hospital twice.  The first of these admissions into Casualty happened on the first day of my new job.  I lost my job whilst in hospital.  I also had a breakdown.  Everything seemed to be happening at once.  Chronic anxiety shoved its way into my life, and it hasn’t left.

I lead a workshop for the British Psychological Society on mental health and LGBT people.  I print out webpages from a few organisations who claim they can help.  Most of these pages only ever use the word Gay.  Any illustrations are of white people.  Bisexuals are never mentioned.  People of colour are never mentioned.  Intersections of oppression are ignored.  I ask the group to look at the sheets and tell the others what they want to see changed; how these organisations could do better.  The participants have lots of ideas.  I’m happy to see their enthusiasm.  As soon as the workshop ends, my stomach bunches into painful knots.  I want to hide in a corner.  I do exactly that until someone I know spots me.

I blame myself some days for being raped.  I feel like I should have known what to do.  I should have been able to stop it.  I should have pushed them away.  I shouldn’t have been frozen in place.  I shouldn’t have waited until they left and I knew I was safe before I started crying.  Anxiety makes it difficult to breathe when I think that way.  Anxiety makes me want to step in front of a bus.  Somehow I keep on living.

Twitter and Tumblr have been lifelines for me; when I was in hospital, it kept me in touch with people I know who live thousands of miles away.  Tumblr in particular lets me see images of people similar to me, all of whom seem to live in the U.S.  Twitter is great, but it is also chock full of mean people who slip into my mentions with racist, biphobic and sexist trash.  My block hand is strong.  But my anxiety is stronger.  I dread clicking on the little bird symbol most days.  Sometimes I want to smash my computer into pieces.  The only thing stopping me is knowing I wouldn’t be able to watch Steven Universe otherwise.

I was a survivor before I started writing this.  I’m a survivor when I speak in front of hundreds of people.  Reading my smutty stories out loud in the past has prepared me well for public speaking.  But when I’m alone, the anxiety barges in to the front of my mind.  When I’m in crowds, I want to disappear into the shadows.  Bisexual activism makes me feel like a confident, competent human.  It also fills me with despair when I see how aggressive it makes (mostly lesbian and gay) people.  I stand on the edge of a knife, trying to balance the positive things my activism can do, with the hatred it exposes me to.  I feel anxiety pushing me on to the blade.

I’m invited to speak at Totnes Pride in Devon.  I accept without hesitation.

Am I Okay Yet?

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Stained glass spaceship

I’d rather have a job,
Or some money so I can go my own way.
I’d rather be independent,
But I’ll settle for okay.

I’d rather not have anxiety,
Or pain that flattens me for days.
I’d rather have a sound mind and body,
But I’ll settle for okay.

Okay is sometimes the very best
That I can aspire to reach.
The words, “Love yourself, no matter what.”
Is a sermon others preach
I’d rather not have to listen to the saccharine words they say.
I wish I felt well again.
But I’ll settle for okay.

A love poem in a time of sadness

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By Jacq Applebee

 

So jealousy is a fungus; spores infecting all in sight.

It blooms and blows in grey dust places,

Grey and green and black and white.

Possessiveness is a living trap that shoves me up against a wall.

The silence of shame is like a shroud outlining my living form.

But love will make my heart beat strong

When all I want is to disappear.

I’ll take step after step in a world full of thorns

To a woman in the North with warm red hair.

Writing and Depression 2

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Blue, red and green capsules

Read warnings before ingestion

Do not operate machinery

Until two hours after writing poetry.

Do not wander lonely as a cloud;

Take your frustrations

And write something down.

Poetry won’t stop your delusions.

It won’t fix your disturbed brain.

If you need a hospital admission,

Poems won’t stop the mental pain.

But poetry is sometimes therapy to me;

It helps me get things out.

And sometimes anxiety is turned into words

That I write, instead of shout.

Still it often makes me wonder;

Writing under the influence of medication.

Are these words mine or the pills?

Or are my poems a collaboration?

Writing and depression 1

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The Shipwreck exhibited 1805 by Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775-1851

The Shipwreck by W.M. Turner

I almost didn’t write this.

I went to see the Turner and the Sea exhibition at the Royal Maritime Museum Greenwich.  I walked through the door, and came face to face with the Shipwreck painting.  It stopped me in my tracks.  I stood there, unable to go further.  A ship lay on its side in the background.  The ship was partly obscured by three small boats, full of panic-stricken people rescued or rescuing others from the sea.  The thunderous waters churned milky-white against the charcoal sky.  I felt the passionate swell and heave as my breath caught, trapped in my throat.  And when I could finally release the air it came out as an audible sigh.  I had never seen a painting like it.  I tried walking away, but I kept returning to it, gazing from different angles, trying to ignore the reflected glare of the lightbulbs in the gallery.  I wondered if the shapes in the rear of the painting were mountains or towering waves.

I looked up and to the right.  In the midst of such movement and pain, above the desperate souls thrashing about for those lost in the water, I saw the barest smudge of bright blue.  There was hope that the storm would clear; that fair skies and calm weather would return.  I felt able to move after that.  I had seen hope in the tempest.

I thought of all the times I had watched the morning sky brighten on my way to work, and how relieved I’d felt.  When depression closed around me at night, and during the short winter days, the thought of blue skies seem like a hollow joke.  It feels like things will never get better.  But I could identify that sliver of hope in the painting.  It made me remember the hope I try to weave into every story I write, no matter how bleak the subject.  The world I live in often feels like an unfriendly place for someone like me: a black, fat, queer survivor with a disability.  When I write, I place my characters in a world that is just like this one, but better.  In the fictional world, people give things a chance; they tell others how they feel.  They risk a lot, but the rewards are more than a “Happily ever after,” can provide.  Nobody gets magically rich, or made suddenly straight.  My characters can be just like me, or have elements of me, and they still have a blast.

I want my stories to generate hope.  I realise how vain that sounds.  I want people to read about folks like them, or maybe completely unlike them, and still care about what happens.  I just need to remember that hope for myself more often.

Poem: On being alive

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My heart is still beating.

It’s a political event;

This desire to be here,

To keep breathing.

I want to live.

.

I want to be happy when my eyes

Welcome sleeping.

I want to rest in peace,

Long night hours I’m keeping.

My only torment: a sweaty pillow.

I’ve been unknowingly drooling.

I want to live.

.

Rush me to a hospital bed.

Blood transfusion, see it dripping.

The burn of a scalpel, my only proof,

I’m still capable of feeling.

Strap me down, see me raw

From incessantly screaming:

I want to live!

.

If the shadows in the corners

Rise up around me, all consuming.

If this body, fat and brown

Brings nothing but pain unrelenting,

Then let this pain be my only proof

My heart’s indeed still beating.

Fear and dread will make my brain

Crackle with terrible feeling.

I want to be alive,

Even when my life is only fleeting.

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Being present and visible is something that I often struggle with.  There have been countless incidents in my life when I’ve been told, “Are you sure you’re in the right place?"  This doesn’t happen when I’m lost, but almost every time I go to a queer space, or a white-dominated space (which is often the same thing).  After a while I start wondering if there is another place I could be.  I keep searching, hoping to be in a more accepting environment, but it hasn’t happened yet.  I suppose the thing that has changed is me wanting to stick around when I feel so unwelcome.  Biphobia, racism, fatphobia, class-hatred are some of the things that I am bombarded with on a daily basis.  It gets tiring.  It only adds to me feeling like crap.  I don’t know if things will improve, but I don’t just want to exist.  I want to be happy to be here: happy to be alive.