Trigger warning: discussion of mental health and suicide.
This morning I had a crisis team call back 16 hours after a further onset of intrusive suicidal thoughts. They are, of course, deeply irrational and staving them off is an exhausting process. In the meantime, I hid away at friends’ houses until I was too tired not to sleep. This morning, I woke up feeling no different, fighting off intrusive thoughts of plans to end my life.
I say none of this to curry any sort of sympathy. I don’t want it. I just want to survive this. I’m trying to ride it out, knowing all things take time and I just have to withstand it. But I’m not sure if I can withstand it much longer. That is why I rang the crisis team.
I want to feel like this nervous and self-destructive energy can be channeled into something positive. I’ve been going on walks to feel better but the pull of dangerous places makes it feel as risky as it is helpful. That is why I feel in crisis. I feel damned if I do, damned if I don’t, fighting off frightening impulses from within that attach themselves to all things from without.
Given they are called the “crisis team”, I expected the person on the other end of the phone to be well equipped when it comes to dealing with this sort of crisis. Imagine my frustration when I am given the exact same advice I’ve had from my various GPs over the last few years.
The man on the phone tells me about all the ways I can support myself in my community — eating well, exercising, socialising, taking my medication. I’m already in private therapy. I do all of those things already advised. I am in crisis nonetheless. After I explained this, I get annoyed and sit in silence. There are two options left, he tells me: increase the dosage of my medication to the maximum (something I did a few years ago but which didn’t make me feel good at all, later coming back down to the standard dose) or I can have a further mental health assessment from the crisis team (I have had 5 mental health assessments over the last 18 months and the only advice given then was that I should try exercise more and consume less sugar, which I’ve done, but here I am in crisis again).
Every time “my community” is mentioned, I get that little bit more annoyed. As well-meaning and supportive as the man on the phone is, I hear echoes of Thatcherism in every utterance. My life in community is the problem, a community embedded in structures and experiences that are overwhelming me. Even calling the crisis team is a literal cry for help that only echoes around the system that is itself causing me distress. But the most infuriating thing about this incessant talk of “my community” is that it is all I have to lean on right now. My friends have shown me so much kindness and patience over the last few days, but the feeling that I am burdening them with my own distress, which may be triggering and difficult for each of them, only compounds feelings of guilt and shame. What support is available for those who are giving me support? I feel myself getting increasingly irritated. This burden is detrimental to the community in which I am embedded, but all they can offer is everything already tried, rebounding me back to those people who have already done more than enough. I am looking for something new, something that takes the burden off my community, only to be turned around and sent back where I came from.
They ask if I’ve ever been given an official diagnosis. I say no, but I’ve tried to get one, if only so it could make these protracted and utterly pointless conversations about how to deal with “low mood” appear as superficial as they feel. “Depression” is only a symptom, not the disease. I am buckling under the weight of passed traumas, adoption traumas, buckling under the weight of attachment anxieties and fears, all of which are triggered by my immersion in a wholly new community, in which I feel like a stray dog, overtly friendly but irrationally distrusting of the connections offered. The underlying causes are skirted around. Therapy is helping but also compounding my distress, as I become increasingly aware of the enormous scope of the task of healing ahead of me. Now I’m at the point of taking myself to A&E and getting in touch with a more acute service provider, but the advice is exactly the same.
These things take time, but I feel my time is running out. I want to be sedated. I want to be given something — be that drugs or a safe space to dwell uneasily — but it is all out of the question. I need a quick fix, at least until I can steady myself and keep walking down the long road ahead. Induce a coma. Let the unconscious do its work. I am exhausted; the embodiment of a flat tyre. I’ve had to stop. I feel every bump in the road so intensely. Suspension buckled off-road, I need a pick up. There are none available.
I go quiet after he advises yet another medication change and sends me back to my GP. The man on the other end of the phone says, you don’t have to agree with me. Taking the bait, I say, okay, I don’t. What if “my community” is the problem? He rabbits on about chemical imbalances, exercising, changes to medication. We go round in circles. None of this is helpful. The system is broken.
Update: Alexander Boyd replies on Twitter:
“What support is available for those who are giving me support?
Friendship is the support. You are the support that’s available when you can give it. This cannot be substituted by a remote professional. The intrinsic dysfunction of the system lies precisely in its remoteness.
I agree, and this is precisely what my friends say in response to my own anxieties. I suppose that’s the source of my frustration too. I know that is my support network, and it is more important than any other. I only wish it was more integrated with the other things I am plugged into.