A Bad Type of Mentally Ill

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In the realms of the internet there is often a lot of discussion about mental illness - there is a breaking down of stigma and beliefs surrounding those with mental illness. There are a lot of people out there blogging and talking about their experiences with depression and anxiety. I have the utmost respect for their dedication when I can only amount to a few hundred words when the mood suits.

 

In England, 1 in 6 people report experiencing a common mental health problem (such as anxiety and depression) in any given week.

- McManus S, Bebbington P, Jenkins R, Brugha T. (eds.) (2016). Mental health and wellbeing in England: Adult psychiatric morbidity survey 2014. Leeds: NHS digital via mind.org.uk

These strong individuals are the good type of crazy.

There is still such a stigma surrounding other mental illnesses. As a sufferer of a personality disorder I still see the slight wide eyed look of fear when people find this out.

They are still scared they might catch it like a cold or the flu. I am lucky that among mental illness Borderline Personality Disorder is actually quite common (2.4 in 100 people), almost as common as depression (3.3 in 100 people) or anxiety (5.9 in 100 people).  

This is, on one hand, good. In 100 people I should find another who gets it. On the other hand though - there is still so much stigma out there and that stigma hurts.

I have argued previously, but not too loudly that there is a hierarchy of sorts within mental illness. Whilst depression and anxiety are serious genuine illnesses they, on the whole, are treated within the community, many who have been prescribed anti-depressants have not seen a psychiatrist, even less will see the inside of a psychiatric unit.

(As an aside I do believe the NICE guidelines expressed that anyone presenting with anxiety or depression be referred to talking therapies, the NHS as this stands, would rather hand out a medication. From friends' and acquaintances' experiences it seems GP's will keep throwing medication until something sticks, or breaks.)

A Psychiatric Hospital, for some, is a validation of illness, as someone who has been admitted multiple times, it feels like a last ditch attempt to keep someone alive.

With all credit to the NHS - I am still alive and I am still here.

 

I do recognise and know of others who do not share my view, some can't accept it or feel ashamed because of the stigma still attached and others because of poor treatment they have received following being diagnosed.

- Debbie via mind.org.uk

Popular culture has not helped the view of the psychiatric hospital. The three I had the joy of experiencing, were all clean, hospital-esq environments - including the ever fashionable, NHS classic, 'privacy curtains'. Staff did not wear a uniform and meds were dolled out at set times. I have never, in all my stays, seen someone restrained, nor have I seen anyone forcibly injected. Yes, the TV's are generally behind glass but all of the hospitals I stayed in had pool tables (I do not know why). I don't recall ever seeing a bath in a hospital, but they do come equipped with showers, that are either powered by motion sensor or button for roughly 30 seconds of lukewarm water.

Psychiatric Hospitals are boring, and even slightly comical if you're anything like me with a dark sense of humour.

Just like any other hospital there is the chain of command, support workers, nurses, psychiatrists and psychologists. There are even 'activities'. Although being admitted for the first time is a somewhat scary experience, there are ill people there, all the staff have a common goal - to stabilise and see the patient return home. (When I left one unit, one of the nurses gave me a big hug and, while smiling, told me she never wanted to see me again.)

One day I might actually share some of my stories of being in hospital - some are amusing.

I've never been on a BPD-specific ward, and on each ward I lived, for a time, with those with other debilitating illnesses. Those with psychosis, schizophrenia, OCD, eating disorders and a whole host of other diagnosis I don't know about.

Words such a 'schizo', 'psycho' and others are still very much part of our language, and they never appear to be linked to anything positive. Although I have had experience of delusions (screaming down the phone to my mother that there was a man in my flat when there wasn't a particular high point), I can not say that I know what it is to have a psychotic illness.

And I believe that it is from this point that mental health education needs to work together. That we must try harder to encompass those with psychotic illnesses and personality disorders. One of the biggest blessings that helped my recovery was having friends and family that weren't afraid to step onto the ward in which I stayed.

Those with BPD and other personality disorders still face such stigma, those with psychotic disorders more so. That is their story to tell though - not mine. All I know is I too have lied on job application forms (any mental health concerns? oh just some minor depression...) I too, have lied through my teeth at times to keep my diagnosis to me and me alone. I am sick of people seeing me as 'too crazy'. 

 

That is certainly what I thought myself about personality disorders pre-diagnosis. I sat in psychology lectures as an undergraduate hearing all about "abnormal psychology". "People with personality disorders are DIFFICULT" was the message received loud and clear from the professionals leading those classes, influencing the psychologists of the future. "If you meet someone with a PD, you will soon know about it!", they declared.

- Imani via time-to-change.org.uk

I am, or at least have been, the mentally ill type that people fear or at least don't want to get too close to. I am that person (metaphorically) blowing themselves to pieces with ferocity. Although much 'better' I am still prone to self-destruction and stupid stupid things to do with my identity (saying that, I might(!) have finally figured that one out).

Like the unspoken recognition of another individual who has self harmed, there needs to be more elevation of those marginalised as part of their mental health concerns. We need to work together to educate that those with mental illness are just ill, that there is nothing to be scared or derisive about. 

 

This was the late 90s and before people began to feel confident to be at all open about mental health conditions. Stigma and prejudice were then rife. Since then, with more people speaking out, it has become slightly better but there is still a very long way to go; only around 8% of people who experience schizophrenia are presently employed.

- Alice via time-to-change.org.uk


I have, outside of the psychiatric hospital setting, met individuals with schizophrenia and dissociative disorders - I can not pretend that I face the same struggles they do, but they too deserve the acceptance that anxiety and depression diagnosis' receive. They are not to be feared but included and supported within our communities. I can only hope that one day I, like others, am not afraid to discuss my diagnosis or experiences without alienating people. That employers are not put off when they see that someone has spent time in a psychiatric hospital. Someone with endometriosis may see a specialist, so we should all be accepting that if someone has a personality disorder, they too would see a specialist.

And I suppose, the only way of really doing that is starting with myself -

"Hi, my name is Erin, and I have Borderline Personality Disorder"