Wednesday, 30 October 2013


It's been a tough year.  On the face of it, I have gone some way to righting wrongs, to pay back my medical bills and reimbursing my ex for the share of the health insurance mess that I left behind, but on the other side, I have a permanent contract work wise which has removed the uncertainty of a fixed term contract.

I am thankful for all this and I remind myself frequently of the positives (OK, I have to write them down these days as my memory is fucked), but at what cost?

Let's see....I have alienated a lot of people.  I have found that they have tended to leave me alone, which I can't blame them for really.  It's not that I expect them to excuse my behaviour or accept it, but sometimes it is nice to know that someone is rooting for you, knows you need some space or to let off that excessive energy and irritation that goes with a hypomanic phase. I guess maybe they think I have been drinking too much, which in the past has been the case when I have not felt I have had the support to manage my condition and have taken myself into my own hands while trying, trying, trying to come down. Maybe they just don't like me.

But it is hard, when half the time I don't even remember saying or doing any of the things I am accused of.  My short term memory is really not as it was, hence the reason that I don't think I will be climbing the corporate work ladder anytime soon - I know my limitations and I am nowhere near as sharp as I was. I only find out when I dare to look at facebook and see what I have messaged, or, horror of horrors, god help you if I have your phone number because I will have no doubt sent something which made perfect sense at the time, didn't come across as I wanted it to and probably was downright insulting to the nth degree.

It's lonely. Very lonely. And I am very tired.  I have been focussing this energy into work, working way over my hours and working extra at weekends because the department is short staffed right now.  It's the only way I can attempt to right some wrongs. And I do not feel that I ever will. I do try, I try so hard that it is exhausting. But I feel like I am firefighting all the time, not admitting how I really feel as I do not want to sound needy, having no outlet because I cannot afford private counselling and the local CAMHS are not interested unless I am in a hospitalised state, and finally, just not communicating to anyone appropriately.

It's one of those times that I know if I start crying I don't know when I will stop.

This thing is very lonely and I am drifting. I have no idea how to relate to people anymore and am rapidly running out of close friends. Even reading comments to me on FB have me paranoid and that is probably due to me either having no grip on reality or just some people don't like me.

That is all.

Tuesday, 17 September 2013

Psychiatry - Now and Then ***TRIGGER WARNING**

I had a humbling experience last week.
One of my mother's friends, someone who I have also spent time with when she pops out socialising during the week and I have been off work, was admitted to Bootham last week.  For those of you who don't know, Bootham (now Bootham Park), is a psychiatric hospital, once York Lunatic Asylum.  When I was at school we used to use the playing fields at the end of the green expanse fronting the domineering red bricked building and scare each other with talks of the mental people who were watching us (if only I knew how I would end up haha!).
Anyway, I will call my friend Maureen.  Maureen was introduced to me as someone who is "mad as a box of frogs and loses her train of thought when she speaks as she has had her brain fried so many times", which in itself is a fairly accurate summary. Maureen was admitted to Bootham about 50 years ago following what sounds like post-partum depression these days and was sterilised "for her own good". She had numerous bouts of ECT and has never been the same since.
Mum was worried as Maureen had not been socialising in the pub for the last month or so.  The last she had seen of her was when mum got out of the taxi on the way home and Maureen bid her goodbye until next week. That was on the Friday.  Maureen had already planned her way out with a bottle of Rum and Amitriptiline. She was, on the whole, successful, although she had forgotten to shut her curtains fully so her neighbour could see her collapsed on the floor and got the police to break in. Maureen was then in intensive care for 4 days, the police failed to, as instructed, inform her son and so she woke up alone.  She was not sectioned, merely transferred to the "Elderly Assessment Unit" for observation and treatment.
Mum was upset. I was upset in a way, but totally understood where her head was at.  So 3 weeks after the fact (the day after I heard) I went to visit her.
Let me just say, she is an amazing woman.  She was already "mothering" the old dears by the time I saw her and was seeming a bit like her normal self.  But I knew.  And she knew that I knew.  And so we spoke.
I let her be, tell me what she wanted to, but was able to empathise.  The psychiatrist still had her notes from 50 years ago and she told me what it was like at Bootham then.  You can Wiki the place, but let me just say, I can imagine how imposing the building must have been then! When you walk in there are inlaid floors and echoes, rooms abut from the corridor that are panelled court rooms. Amazing building, so much history and pain behind the walls.
The ward was not too bad - smart, bright and comfortable.  But there did not appear to be much going on in the way of activites, which Maureen confirmed.  I breezed in there (she didn't know I was visiting so to see her smile was amazing) and said hello to whoever was there.  She introduced me to some of her fellow patients and I think they enjoyed the diversion.  We then went to the "quiet" room (not with us to there!) for a good old chinwag.  She was fairly cheerful under the circumstances but wavered at times.  I gave her a "Get Well Soon" card as I am not to proud or afraid to do so, which she loved.  One of the other patients who wandered in, just for some company I think, had been through a course of ECT and while he was not a bundle of energised fun, Maureen explained that he was much better than he was a couple of weeks ago.  He was going to be allowed an overnight stay that night (i.e. at home) - I sympathised greatly - I was desperate for a home overnight stay when I was in the bin, despite the hassle when I got back (searches, breathaliser, grilling etc.).
I spent about an hour and a half there and I truly enjoyed seeing her.  She will probably do it again and she explained what her "trigger" was, but she knew that I was not afraid to hear what she had to say.  We even had a laugh when I said that I bet she was pissed off she left the curtains open and she wouldn't be so sloppy next time (gallows humour, only a mentalist would understand so sorry if you are shocked!)
I wish I had this week off work as well, just so I can go and spend the afternoon with her.
When I was walking out I met another couple of her friends, one of which who said "I would introduce myself but I can't even remember my name" with a wry grin.  Me, loud laugh.  I just wanted to hug them all.
Maureen is a very determined lady and will not give in to her Psychiatrist.  She wants valium and has been refused (maybe because of the side effects with her current antidepressant but this has not been explained to her). She has refused lithium and I think she has been offered sodium valproate but also does not want it.  Disturbingly, she has not been able to sleep properly in the three or so weeks that she has been there.  The cynical me says her Psychiatrist wants her to have lack of sleep to induce mania, or near mania to kick her out of depression, or this is some kind of experiment he is doing.  Last Friday one of the nurses told her to ask for a sleeper so that she could get some rest.
I am hoping that maybe the hospital has some volunteer work where I can go in and spend some time on the elderly ward.  I feel so at home there.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

I'm back. I think?

I have taken a break from blogging for a while and indeed, even from Facebook, as my moods have been fluctuating so much that I can't seem to keep my inner filter in control and keep managing to...well....piss people off without meaning to.
Since being kicked out of the system for not being mental enough at my assessment plus the fact that Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust were not able to offer anything more than chucking a photocopy of a DBT book and a few printed pages from the internet as to how to manage myself, I decided to try the private route.  I knew it would cost a lot but was confident that, having experienced private health care in Switzerland, that I would be able to buy effective healthcare over here, right? Wrong.
I approached a well known mental health care institution in the area where I live, to seek outpatient care.  My GP duly wrote a letter of referral and after some to-ing and fro-ing, plus appointment letters being sent to the wrong address, I finally got an appointment to be assessed by a Psychiatrist and Clinical Psychologist. An hour and a half cost half my month's wages but I wasn't getting anywhere with the NHS. I was hoping that for those efforts I would receive a report of the assessment and proposal for further support.
I heard nothing.
I had to chase up again and again and finally received the report which stated facts and not a proposal as to how to go further.  I quite clearly stated that I had no crisis plan and was struggling, although functioning and that I was nervous that the pressure of working and life events would build up until it got to a stage where I would be unable to manage myself and be putting myself at risk.
I have come to the conclusion that I am going to have to go it alone, that there is no effective support out there and It. Is. Tough.
I am lucky that work gives me some semblance of a routine, but the cracks are starting to show.  I have become obsessed with pushing myself harder and harder to prove myself, therefore creating more pressure on myself, insomnia with worry, not being able to let go of work and generally stressing me out, when really, I should be able to focus on things I enjoy - reading, listening to music, exercise.
I am so tired.  So, so tired. and each day is a struggle to motivate myself enough to even get out of bed.  I have been here before and I know the signs. This could get messy.
I have decided to book time off in September and hopefully just chill out for a couple of weeks. But there is still the niggling though that I will have forgotten something, that I will be found out as a fraud in my job and that I will go back to a whole heap of mistakes made by me that I hadn't realised at the time.

Monday, 25 March 2013

Habitual Residency and Immigration: My Story

Please note that this post is copyrighted. If you would like quotes or to speak further then please contact me at my email address. Otherwise, you have no permission to use this.  The Daily Mail is specifically banned from using anything from this post, even if you reword it.

I am a UK national. British passport, lived in the UK since birth. 30 years later, I mived abroad to Switzerland, initially to work one winter, but I ended up staying there for 8 years.  For personal reasons and because of my health, I decided to move back to the UK to be closer to my friends and family.
I am from Hastings. All my friends are there and in London. I decided to move back there as I am familiar with Sussex and wanted to feel comfortable and included. So i moved back in May 2012. I gave up my residency in Switzerland (which is an official process), booked my flight, posted all my belongings back to the UK and carried a very heavy suitcase back on the plane.
I had arranged accommodation with a friend of a friend prior to leaving Switzerland. It was 80 pounds a week, not including council tax and was a for a bedroom and shared bathroom. The only problem I had was that I didn't have a job.
I am professionally qualified, with a Chartered qualification but I'm not proud - I scrub toilets, I can work behind a bar, I can waitress. I have worked hard and have never been unemployed through choice. I had an extremely good job before leaving the UK and paid a substantial amount of tax. I tried to apply for UK jobs prior to leaving Switzerland but employers were not very encouraging as I was still abroad, despite me offering to do a Skype interview or fly over. Ahh well, I knew I wouldn't have any trouble finding a job - I managed to find seasonal contracts during my time in Switzerland and most of those were in a foreign language (German/Swiss German if you are interested).
So I left my happy little studio flat in the Swiss mountains and came back to the UK.  It had been a bad winter workwise (I was running the nursery slope in ski school by then) mainly because of the poor snow conditions.  This meant my hours were half the amount I would usually work during the winter (combining three jobs by the way) and so I didn't have a right lot of cash on me to bring back, plus I still had to pay some medical bills prior to leaving. (If you read my other posts, I am Bipolar and so was having to pay for treatment under the private healthcare system there). But I had enough to last about a week if I lived frugally.
I honestly did not realise how difficult it is to find a job in this country.
So, after I had registered for a doctor, dentist, bank account etc. I went cap in hand to the job centre. I tried to start my claim over the phone but they were having system problems so it ended up that when I attended my appointment (which luckily was the next day) I had to fill in a very long booklet to outline my circumstances. I realised that I would not be able to claim contribution based job seekers allowance and would therefore have to try and claim for income based JSA.
Now in my appointment with JCP, i had to complete an Habitual Resident Test (HRT). Another appointment was booked for me to attend following the weekend. I was told that it was a formality and although they couldn't give me a definite answer they did not think it would be too much of a problem - I was a UK citizen-right?
Wrong. I failed.
In the meantime, I tried and tried to get an emergency loan - I only needed 50 pounds, but I couldn't claim because they were still waiting for a decision on the HRT. So I waited for the decision. And waited. And waited. And waited.
By this time I was panicking a bit. My landlady was kind enough to give me meals (which were not included in the rent) and I managed to get food vouchers from the CAB. I applied for Housing Benefit, but they would not pay because they were waiting for the DWP (a decision I had overturned a while later as the council is not allowed to do that).
I tried the CAB. I tried another local charity. They all tried to help. They spoke to JCP. JCP were no help whatsover.
In the meantime, I was unaware that I was fraudulently claiming prescription charges. I NEED my psychiatric medication and had no means to pay for it. So I showed that I was registered for benefits and was able to collect prescriptions.
Next, there was an administrative error. By the time I found out was over a month after they had sent me my P45. Apparently I had not signed on when I was meant to. I had. I got proof that I had and who had "signed me on". The system was not amended and I had to go through the same battle every time I telephoned them.
I applied for so many jobs you would not believe. Soon, my A4 binder needed to be replaced with a lever arch binder. I kept records of every single job that I applied for in person, by telephone, by email. JCP never looked at it once.
By the time it became clear that it was failing the HRT was why I had been refused benefit (and that took the local MP to get involved - strangely enough she was told far more information than I ever was) and another visit to the CAB, it became clear that I had to reapply for benefits. Which I did. And I had to sit the HRT again. Even the two people I dealt with in the Job Centre were shocked that I had failed the first one and (even though I try not to be judgemental, was quite disheartened) that they regularly had people claiming who could not even speak English and were sent on courses to learn.  She sent me on a food hygiene course out of sympathy (Thankyou! Thankyou!), although that would help me immensly find a catering job as my Food Hygiene had run out a while ago.
I had to walk everywhere. I had no transport and could not afford the train fare. I had to walk to the next town to the job centre, frequently to use the phone there to find out what was happening with my claim as I had no phone or mobile and 0845 numbers are not free from a phonebox. Not that it mattered too much - I am used to the outdoors and it is not like I had much to do! But it still took 2 and a half hours out of my day.
Having no internet was not a problem. The library have PC's, so I was able to apply for jobs online.
Anyway, the end of the story is that I finally passed the HRT because it was deemed I had been in the country long enough.
The story does not end there though. Whatever David Cameron's promises are, the UK is bound under EU law. And EU law counts Switzerland as being part of Europe for these circumstances. I have a tribunal hearing this Wednesday. And whatever the outcome, it can only be good for people in similar situations because if my case is found against me, I have the EU court on my side.
In Switzerland, you have to be resident for 2 years before you are able to claim benefit.  I am fine with that. However, when it is your own country and you are in a position of poverty, who takes care of you?
(The end of the story is that I had no option but to get a travel warrant from the council, who were going to give me more expensive accommodation in St Leonards known for crime so the travel warrant was a cheaper option to get me off their hands, to move into a box room at my mothers).
If you would like to know further circumstances I am happy to provide that information (not the Daily Mail by the way).  Because there is much more that I haven't covered.
Plus, through all this, my mental health suffered A LOT).  But if you note, I haven't even gone into that.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

Five hundred and twenty quid - FIVE HUNDRED AND TWENTY QUID..... how much it is going to cost me to get assessed for private treatment.
I finally got my doctor to refer me to the private mental health facility so that I can get treatment, seeing as the NHS service doens't want me. The lady who phoned from the clinic was very nice (so she should for 520 quid) and when she phoned me to book the appointment, I was on the bus.  The lady in front of me heard who I was asking for and when I finished the conversation she turned round and asked if I was speaking to SE at the clinic, to which I answered that I was.
"Oh she is lovely", she said. "I got referred there when the NHS wouldn't give me treatment."
"Similar story" says I.
Nice lady on bus went on, "But I didn't give in. I had a solicitor take the NHS to court and now they have to fund me privately haha. I'm Borderline Personality btw".
With that, she gave me her solicitor's number and got off the bus.
It felt that someone cared - a random stranger telling me not to give up and to keep fighting for them to give me the treatment I deserve.
I never found out her name, but thank you nice mental lady.
So, my assessment. I have agreed to the appointment which is at the end of February (thank god, I can give them a cheque just before I get paid again.) This means I am totally, totally broke, but I don't feel that I have much choice.  The assessment is for 90 minutes with a psychiatrist and a psychologist. By god am I going to use the WHOLE 90 minutes.  They will then decide if I am a lost cause or not.
I hope I don't have one of those days when I am "I'm fine, it's all OK, it doesn't get that bad" etc. I NEED support.

Monday, 14 January 2013

New year blues

So, I am back at work, I am one year older and regretting coming back to the UK.  Mostly because I feel I am missing out by not being in Switzerland.  I miss the skiing, hell I miss ski school. Everyone says, "Oh you'll be fine", "it will be good for you living at your mum's" but you know what - it SUCKS.  I have no friends, just colleagues at work and we are not close enough that we socialise. None of them do.  I don't meet anyone because I don't go out.  Mainly my own fault because I have nowhere to go. Anything I want to do involves doing something myself e.g. going to the library, cinema.  I know the people my sister works with, but not very closely.  Everyone is an "acquaintance" and the only option they are interested in is drinking. Which I am avoiding.  I am so lonely. and I don't know how to help myself.  I don't think anyone at group wants to meet up at other times and I can only do evenings anyway, when I am knackered from work.
I have asked my GP for a private referral to the outpatient private clinic as I am at the end of my tether and the mental health services here aren't interested, so I am going to have to pay privately. Ironic really, couldn't afford private treatment in Switzerland anymore and now I have to fund myself in the UK.
I know since the beginning of December my mood has been peaking and troughing, but it is nudging lower.  The feelings of self harm are coming back.
I wish I was back in Switzerland, I might not have been popular, but at least I felt part of something, instead of drifting like I am now.  I wish I was back in Cornwall where I truly felt at home. Right now, I can't see much in the way of positive things, even though I have a roof over my head and am earning.  It's hard to explain to those of you who might be thinking I am wallowing in self indulgance.  It's not like that.  It's hard when you get to the point where you cannot connect with anything and when I don't connect then there is space in my head for the negativity which is always there, underlying like a thin line, to come flooding in and it is harder to fight.
I know when I am on the way down when all I want to do is sleep as an escape.  Saturday (my birthday) I slept all day.  Last night I was lights out at 7.30pm, went straight to sleep and when my alarm went off at 7 a.m. I wanted to roll over and hide.

Friday, 4 January 2013

New Year etc.

So "New Year" was a bit of a let down, as to be expected.  Mum has tried really hard to make Christmas and New Year special but I just haven't really had the energy to go with it, although I tried really hard (I can be a good actress when I need to be).  I guess it was kind of OK, but to be honest, I was ready for bed at about 10pm. It seems an awful lot of fuss for.......what? I don't know.
My stuff finally arrived from Switzerland, out of the blue.  It has been in customs for 2 weeks and they kept asking me to fill in form after form after form.  Each time they phoned me it was yet another form to fill in. So it's here.  So that's that then.  I no longer live there (although my cat still does as my ex has custody of him).
I still feel like I don't belong.  I don't feel I live here. I don't feel this is home. I don't really engage with people and am not ready to make new friends which is exactly what I need to do.  I have lived in this city for precisely 4 and a half months and still only know mum, her pub friends, my sister and people at work.  I only really socialise with my sister (which isn't often because she works so much) and know the people who work for her, but they are not really friend friends if that makes sense. I seem to be stuck in loneliness caused by my lack of enthusiasm for anything other than sleeping and reading.
I am functioning though.  I am very weary and going back to work has knocked me out plus I haven't been sleeping well again. In fact, this weekend I plan to sleep as much as possible. I started a diet on the 2nd January and have stuck to it pretty well.  I am going to let another couple of days pass to get settled into the idea and then start increasing the exercise.
So that's my boring little life right now.  I think I may still be a little hypomanic right now but am hoping that if I rest that I can get it under control.