If you can’t help, at least don’t hurt.

I thought about starting this post with “I’ve hit a bit of a rough patch” but that would be like describing full-blown influenza as a bit of a sniffle. It’s hard, but if I’m not completely honest we might as well go back to the days of talking in whispers about people who ‘suffer with their nerves’.

Over the past week I’ve experienced a sudden and severe downward spiral. My life has been sucked into a tornado of such despair and hopelessness I’ve lost all bearings: we’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.

I saw my therapist towards the end of the week and finally managed to communicate that I was suicidal. He devised a plan that worked around his understanding of the person sat opposite him. He could have done the ‘care-by-numbers’ thing, but he didn’t and the relief I felt from his response was the difference between me trying and me giving up right there and then.

Part of the plan was that my therapist had asked a CPN to call me after the weekend to check how I was. He repeated this often to make sure I’d heard and made it equally clear that she would keep on calling until she reached me. I was, and still am, so grateful to him – and I’m not just writing that because I might find the courage in the future to tell him about this blog.

The weekend passed in slow motion as I crawled, sometimes literally (no dignity in a crisis, folks) through each minute, thinking that somebody would call on Monday.

I only had to get to Monday morning.

By eight o’clock I was carrying both my cordless landline and mobile phone everywhere with me so that I didn’t miss the CPN. How I needed that phone call. The medication was helping me sleep but resting was having no impact on my mood.

My phone rang once; it was my boss. I grew increasingly panicked. An hour before I knew the recovery team offices would close, I decided that the CPN was off sick and if I called and checked this, my feelings might ease – so I did. The receptionist said that the CPN was at work and she’d try her line, but thought she had already left for the day.

Now I get that when I feel this vulnerable I’m extra sensitive, I’m not denying that. When any of us suffer, we’re oversensitive to everything – but I thought a mental health professional might understand, just a little bit. I’m in a great deal of pain and I’m trying to express myself in the best way I can. She is qualified to help me do this.

OK, can we take the nervous mumbling and stammering on my part as a given? Thanks.

I introduced myself (twice) and explained that I had been expecting her to call. I said that because this hadn’t happened I was feeling even more distressed and I hoped that calling her would help me feel better. Oh naivety, thy name is CNS Blogger.

She was defensive from the start and continued to be impatient and irritated. There was a short burst bordering on anger from her, but that came towards the end. The CPN stated in no uncertain terms that she had not forgotten to call and was going to fit me in at some point today. I stupidly persisted in explaining that I’d found her not calling difficult because I’d dragged myself through an almost unbearable weekend with the thought that I’d have someone to speak to. I don’t know why I thought she’d give a fuck – what an idiot. I just wanted her to help me feel better.

It’s only fair to state that at some point she did ask how I was feeling. Unfortunately she didn’t like my answer. I said that I was feeling even more unimportant and insignificant, that I felt alone and unsupported, that there was no point in hoping, no point in trying. Yes, maybe I was doing my best stuck record impression but I was desperately trying to communicate how I was feeling and why –  and so far I’d obviously failed. I needed her to hear it but she wasn’t showing me that she had.

The conversation petered out: she wasn’t saying anything new and neither was I.  Wearily, she offered to phone me on Wednesday and I managed to politely say no thanks, but as I put the phone down I thought “I can’t be left feeling so utterly hopeless” and I realised I needed to understand how my ‘confusion’ had happened. (“Hello CPN, I’m CNS Blogger’s therapist. She’s really not good at the minute and has been discussing suicide. As you’re on duty on Monday could you give her a ring to check in on her? Not important, last thing in the afternoon will be fine….” Really? Maybe that’s how they work but I can’t see it myself.) Crucially I also wanted to ask her what I could do about feeling so low as a result.

I called back, and boy, was she unimpressed. She asked me questions and then talked over my answers. From somewhere, after the third time of being talked over, I found it within myself to say “hold on – I’m speaking”. After that she just kept repeating “there’s nothing else to say” – even when that reply was irrelevant.

In the end, I did ask “I’m sorry, have you ticked your box? Checked I’m still breathing? Am I just wasting your time now?” After that I got a terse “well I’ve offered you the chance of having someone call you in the week”. I quietly and calmly replied “I’m not putting myself through this again” and said goodbye politely (I know, I was seriously proud of myself too) and that was that. I heard her handset slam onto its receiver.

I found this on her employer’s website. Maybe tomorrow I’ll be able to laugh at it but not right now.

“Staff should be approachable and be able to respond in an open, sensitive, non-judgmental and timely way which seeks to resolve concerns as much as is possible.”

Complaints Policy & Procedure of my local Trust

I was told that she’d help. I needed her to help but she didn’t want to, not really. She was too offended by the suggestion that she’d forgotten to make a phone call to listen. Walking a mile in my boots would have been a bit much – I don’t take my 20 eyelet steampunk armour off for anyone – but she could have tried walking by my side for a while. That’s all I wanted.

I didn’t think I had much hope left before today but now I see that I must have. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be grieving for its loss quite so keenly.


3 thoughts on “If you can’t help, at least don’t hurt.

  1. From somewhere, after the third time of being talked over, I found it within myself to say “hold on – I’m speaking”. After that she just kept repeating “I told you. I didn’t say I would call this morning. There’s nothing else to say” – even when that reply was irrelevant.

    It’s truly fascinating* how so many mental health professionals (#NotAllMentalHealthProfessionals) not only make snap judgements about which topics of discussion are “constructive”, but also are utterly unwilling to spend 15 minutes of their time discussing something they deem “unconstructive” (if only in order to grant the user that small measure of self-determination).

    *) For ‘fascinating’, replace any number of less euphemistic descriptions.


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