Out. Loud and proud.

I’m about to give away one of the worst kept secrets in blogging history.

I’m a private person and talking openly about my mental health issues isn’t easy for me. I do it because it needs to be done. Unless those of us who suffer from mental health issues are honest about what life’s like, a significant proportion of the population will continue to presume that we’re just a bit sad, lazy or work-shy. If we don’t speak for ourselves, prejudices won’t get challenged and attitudes won’t change. I’m occasionally a reluctant campaigner but no less passionate about the cause for that.

I’m a freelance writer, working from my home in the glorious Herefordshire countryside. I’m proud that I’ve kept working, despite the fact that I’d often be better off if I didn’t. Bad periods mean that I can only concentrate in short bursts and when you’re self-employed that’s a big problem. Thankfully clients don’t mind whether I write for them at 2am or 2pm as long as the work gets done – and in that my career choice is a blessing. I’ve only ever backed out of one deadline because my health took a sudden nosedive.

I can hardly say that CNS blogs are my finest work, they’re simply a marker of whatever’s going on for me at that moment and if my primary focus was to make them great copy, I’d never publish a damn thing. I hope I make them readable though. My main aim when writing for CNS is honesty and that can involve long periods of reflection and soul-searching. So when I wrote about my encounter with a duty CPN I didn’t off-load straight away and I took time to let the dust settle and make sure my depiction of the situation was true. I can confidently say that I’ve stuck to my aim – this blog is an exact account of my experiences, both good and bad.

Realising that I’ve achieved my aim is the reason for me writing this post. As I wrote last week, it’s difficult to own your story when your experiences are constantly being  invalidated but this is my experience; every hurt, every slight, every tiny step of progress. I will no longer allow my story to be invalidated. I won’t let people try to tell a different version of my life.

So what’s changed? I used to be scared that my local trust would label me as a trouble-maker and remove the support I was getting but I’m no longer receiving any practical support to deal with day-to-day life and it doesn’t look like things are going to change in the future. Sometimes I wonder if I’m still on their books.

Last week I called to ask if my care coordinator would be coming back to work soon. It’s been over a year since she was around and as regular readers of this blog will know, nobody has stepped in to take her place. As my best friend said, I’ve survived but it hasn’t been pretty. I was made to feel like I’d done something hideously wrong for asking. I stammered through an explanation that this wasn’t a case of well-being, that I was ill and needed support to get better but I was told that it wasn’t the right time to discuss that. I asked when would be. I thought that was a reasonable question but my attempt to say how the lack of care was impacting on me was interrupted by the support worker shouting goodbye and putting the phone down on me. Really. It really happened. And it happens so often to me and my fellow sufferers that your heart should be breaking for us. The only difference this time was that when I called back to ask her why she’d done it, I got an apology – it must’ve been bad.

At the weekend, health professionals treated a friend appallingly when she needed their help. They’re health professionals and yet they thought their prejudices around mental health issues were perfectly acceptable. This is what we’re up against. It’s devastatingly sad, frustrating and hurtful. It took three of us the best part of a day to get her anything close to the care she needed and even then we’re talking about being thrown a few crumbs from the table. That’s what’s changed: I will no longer be grateful for any scraps of care the powers-that-be choose to throw my way.

There are as many opinions about this blog as there are readers. People with mental health issues tend to think I make life sound a bit too much fun at times, and readers without their own experiences lean towards telling me to make them lighter reading. Taking the average of the two camps, I think I’ve got the balance about right. If you’re one of the latter, I hope that this post will go some way to explaining why I keep doing what I do and in the way I choose to do it.

It has to stop. We deserve better. I won’t rest until I know that my niece and my godson are growing up in a world where talking about mental health comes without shame or judgement. I won’t stop until dignity and compassion in care come as standard and the most successful treatments aren’t the preserve of the wealthy.

So that’s me. That’s why I write for CNS. I will no longer allow the shame of others to contaminate my story. It is what it is. No other versions, no more distortions: I will not be afraid.

And the worst kept secret in blogging history? If I choose not to be ashamed of my story then I need to fully own it – so in case you didn’t already know, my name is Kate Lee and I’m proud to be CNS Blogger.


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