'Mental illness is petrifying'
June 13, 2008
by Adam James
Day-to-day life as an inpatient on a psychiatric unit is being documented on an internet blog by a woman diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
Mandy Lawrence, aged 45, was admitted into a six-bed NHS psychiatric unit in Luton, Bedfordshire, on Friday last week and is writing about her experience.
The blog is believed to be the first by a patient while an inpatient on a mental health unit.
In the candid blog Ms Lawrence describes her crisis in the days leading up to her admission to Oakley Court run by Bedfordshire and Luton Mental Health and Social Care Partnership.
On admission she writes of her worries of being prescribed a new anti-psychotic, its side effects, ward conditions, staff, other patients and her struggle with anxiety. Anecdotes range from consultations with her psychiatrist to watching European Championship football with other patients.
To post on the blog Ms Lawrence has been using the laptop of another patient.
The blog, called mandylifeboatsahoy, receives postings from co-bloggers with an interest in mental health.
Ms Lawrence says she has had mental health problems since a teenager. "Throughout that time I have had episodes of mania or depression which would floor me,? she writes.
Edited chronological excerpts from Ms Lawrence's postings are below.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008.
11.35am: Got up this morning in utter panic.
I know it was a daft thing to do but my friend took her blood pressure last night so I asked her to take mine. Was high..twice. So rang NHS direct. The nurse was kind and said to see GP but not to worry too much because it could be reactive. She got a locum to ring me back who was angry that I took blood pressure at home and told me to see GP to decide when my blood pressure needs taking.
I write this because am in constant state. Have come home from friend's to sit with my cat Suki and sort her food, but have been pacing about.
I am ill and maybe heading into mania and I don't know what to do. I am going to go back to friend's now. But she is agoraphobic and can't go out so I won't be able to go to A&E with her and I can't go on my own.
I keep thinking about ringing my care co-ordinator but I have no faith. I feel like I will be told to calm down and take another lorazepam. I have already taken one and it is hardly touching me.
Am scared witless. Mental illness is petrifying. Nothing else to write
4.36pm: I am in the most fragile position I have been in for a long time and that is not to say things have been okay for a long time, cos they haven't. I am done in.
I did ring my care co-ordinator, I felt I had nothing to lose. She was quite supportive. She said she thinks it is time I went into acute care and to look at medications that might be able to help me.
We discussed my intolerance and I will discuss that with whoever the psychiatrist is, if I go in. But when you are done in, there is very little fight left and I am so tired out. I feel like I could do with a week's sleep.
My major concern is for Suki. Long term, I don't know what I will do. Because long term I can't tell how I am going to be but short term my daughter Emily is going to look after her, should I go into the unit. If not, I think I might ask her to help me to keep an eye on Suki....also at times I feel like I am going to die. Not kill myself, although I have thought about that a few times too, but just dying. I have a serious death phobia. I have lots of phobias. I have a life phobia too!!!
7:16pm: What was it I said about communication being a problem. Guess what, the care co-ordinator hasn't rung me back.
What can I say? Well alot I guess but it all seems futile really. You contact these people in crisis, they tell you they are going to do things and they don't.
This is the second time she said she would ring me back and hasn't. Perhaps she is on sick leave again but that leaves me dangling..wondering...cranking up again.
I try to be patient to learn to trust these people and they don't stand by their part of the agreement. It is either lack of competence of that they just don't give a damn.
I will be contacting my MP tomorrow. What else can I do?
This is not a fucking game. This is my mental health and it is being treated, I am being treated, with utter contempt.
Friday, June 6, 2008.
I am going into an intermediate bed unit tonight for a week. The crisis team manager came out to see me with my care co-ordinator, today, and that was agreed as the best way forward. I think it is too.
Won't write much else as have to get my clothes and other essentials (like me cds) together but want to say a MASSIVE THANKS to all my friends, both on and off blogland who have helped me through these past few months. You have been angels.
Sunday, June 8, 2008
Day three here [in the psychiatric unit]. Using Ian's laptop. Ian is another one of us going through the mill and another top personage.
Could write loads of stuff but important is that this place is nice. Six-bedded unit, free access to kitchen which has crisps and biccies. Small but nice garden space where I spend most my time and en suite bedrooms with lush shower.
Have anxiety a lot, but holding on. Staff are nice. Mostly hands off, but one of the night staff got me through crap downer, with lots of tears to boot, last night.
Seeing psychiatrist tomorrow. Meds review. Eek. But will cross that bridge as it looms in front of face.
Other people here are nice but is a bit awkward to know when to talk and what to say. Ian is kinda lively..well outgoing and incredibly generous and thoughtful. No, I?m not infatuated...more pleased for the friendliness. I did get hit on from one of the peeps in acute care. Fanciable bloke but wrong time, wrong place. Such is life!!!!
I need my friends and Em and support from health services and that will do for me.
Lasted till now without lorazepam and am on halves at a time but can feel things are getting a bit too wiry. Anyway, touched base. Am writing stuff every so often. Might share some of that when out. Depends where I am then. Dealing with the now is priority for now.
Hugs to all.
Tuesday, June 10, 2008
Yep, back on Ian's laptop.
Until about an hour ago this was my best day yet. Although high anxiety prevails I got up and was in a positive frame of mind as in ready to face things.
I think I am struggling now because of benzo [lorazepam] withdrawal. Contemplating trying to get through night without taking half. Am down to half a day. Which is pretty amazing considering how wired up I am. But I have done that for three days now.
Will see how I go though. I am not a hero...a mere human with a condition and a cart load of shit following me around. Ha!
Spoke with another psychiatrist today?.very human, listened for ages, gave feedback about anyone being beaten up by what has been going on in my life.
Wants me to try a newer type of medication.which is supposed to help bipolar disorder. Hmm. I sway. Sometimes I am definite I won't take it. Then I am thinking but this is so hard, I am so strung out. I dunno.
Have got a leaflet to read and will get back to him tomorrow on that. But he is alright...I trust him...I don't trust meds!!!
Blood tests tomorrow. they are monitoring blood pressure. High, but I think (despite neurosis) that is relating to my mental state but better it is kept an eye on and then dealt with should it remain high.
Contemplating giving up cigs but one thing at a time. I can't do it whilst I am giving up benzos. Am mad but not that mad.
So, people here are bonding more. We have been here now for a few days. That is good cos I am social.. a bit too social sometimes. I like people.
OT is good too, although I often panic and think I won't last it out but I do.
And a friend came to see me yesterday and another today. Thanks big time to them. Made mega difference and I got choccies and battered fish (a favourite).
?.. So that is news. Gonna go and make best of rest of day outside. I have been mostly in the garden area and being as close to nature as I can.
Bye for now
Wednesday, June 11:
Bit of a frustrating day. I agreed to try a newish anti-psychotic which is 'supposed' to be good for bipolars. Called Aripriprazole. I am not without those reservations which come from a history of severe side effects, but if it works then it might enable me to get back on the bus without the hianus heebies.
I am prepared to take that risk but am psyching myself up to start it today, and then not starting it has wired me. But I needed the ECG first and that was only done at 4.30 tonight. So it will be mostly likely tomorrow I start it. C'est la vie..
Good bits of the day? Well I am waking less frantic and able to talk sense enough to myself to do stuff, more easily. Not sure that makes sense to anyone else, but it does to me.
I did the creative writing group and that was great. I like that sort of thing?.
Eating well and healthily, although choccy is essential requirement and I have plenty supplied by friends to keep me going?.
Real downers of this place are: no public phone and using stupid amounts of money to keep in touch with people via mobile...
Friday, June 13, 2008
2pm: Am quite woozy on new meds but at least not puking or even more stressed which are most common side effects. So counting my mercies.
In units like this you do stuff you wouldn't do at home. Like watching football. The guys sit glued to the European championships....
Today me and another patient went to art therapy. Some people really bring out my nurturing side and that is no bad thing as long as I remember to nurture self along the way. I finished off the picture in my room. It was more distraction therapy. I am better when busy and not focusing on side effects and the sun has come out again, so going back to the garden area to listen to my tunes, read my book and puff away.
Doctor is in this afternoon which is good cos I need something for the sunburn. My neck, shoulders and arms are lobster like and itching badly. I need 'there there' cream.
3.47pm Been with Dr. They wanted to up the dose to double what I am taking, claiming I am nowhere near the 'acceptable' dosage. Okay, I can understand their reason only I know my track record and that medication, as in most of it, knocks the socks off me. Thankfully, they are not totally bullish and said that we can try the new dose on Monday. That gives me four days for my body to get used to this, to see what side effects are and then up the dose.
There is a pre-disposition, almost an institutionalised learning, that meds and the higher the dose the better are the answer. Erm, like meds resolve environmental/circumstantial problems...think again!!!!
I am doing the best I can, and taking the tablet. It has taken me alot to get to that point..and I need understanding from the professionals that this is not a quick fix situation. Also, if I get bullied then I lose whatever faith I have built up and it is harder then to rebuild. So I will see how I go over the weekend and take it from there with the higher dose, but if it sends me to the moon, then I will request going back to the lower dose.
Shifting from half loz at night to low amount of sleeping tablet because I can't sleep without something. I know I can tolerate the sleeper so that shouldn't be a probby.
And am not anti-doc at all, I do think they are doing best to work with me but they have their learning and I have my experiences. We need to keep searching for that middle ground. I am prepared to do my bit.
I need to keep my free will but I also need to try things to see if they do work. I get that!
A therapeutic hospital
From: Juliana Walker, clinical director for four assertive community treatment teams, Horizon House, Philadelphia, USA
Date: June 16, 2008
This account is brilliant. I also think that the hospital Ms. Lawrence is in is certainly more therapeutic than many of the hospitals in the States or at least many in large urban environments where I have mostly worked.
Top down effect
From: Helen Pitt, mental health advocate, Friendship Care and Housing, Birmingham, UK
Date: September 17, 2008
I work a lot on hospital wards and I am always quite shocked at how very different they all can be. It sounds like this one is getting it right. I am really pleased to have discovered that a major psychiatric hospital in Bedfordshire now has alternative therapies available in their hospital suites, including aromatherapy.
The contrast are wards where people are detained in an airless, colourless, bland and boring vacuum and the staff are as 'down' as some of the people they are there to take care of. I still haven`t figured out why this difference is so marked in contrast, but I sometimes conclude that it's the people at the top who effect everyone in this negative way..... and just by the way, if you haven`t stumbled upon it yet, do look at www.mentalnurse.org.uk it is one of the best sites you will ever encounter, relating to mental health issues. I am addicted to it.
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