I was let down massively yesterday. I was sitting in the living room happily listening to a podcast when it was interrupted by a phone call.
‘Doctors’ flashed on the screen.
‘Hi Amy, Your doctor has just asked me to inform you that your psychiatric referral has been declined.’
I have been going back and forth for months wondering whether I could, or even should talk about this.
I have opened new blog post windows, stared blankly, and shut them down so many times that it’s all I seem to do at the moment.
It hit me this morning that I am too scared to talk about something I am unsure of, especially when it is so personal.
I feel like I have to be 100% certain about the information I put out there and, while I definitely do have a duty to people who follow my posts to make sure I am not feeding them false news about important topics… when it comes to me and my personal experiences, if I am uncertain about something, then that is accurate information.
That is my truth.
When I was younger, before life experiences wore me down and turned me into a closed book, I was incredibly open.
A little too open sometimes.
I would tell people I had only just met, pretty intimate details about myself in funny anecdotes to bond over.
From my sex life to personal disagreements with others, from the uncomfortably-too-intimate dream I had about someone to the dodgy poo I had that morning.
Nothing was off limits and I wore my heart on my sleeve.
I reveled in the fact that I could say things that others felt way too socially restricted to; I got away with it too because everyone knew me as the lovable rogue who wasn’t afraid of embarrassment.
Nowadays, it takes a lot for me to open up.
Yes, I am an introvert, but more than that, I also have social anxiety.
The frustrating thing about those two issues merging together is that, on the one hand, my introvertedness makes me the kind of person to
want need deep and meaningful conversation.
Small talk is the worst thing ever.
While my social anxiety supports a dislike of small talk, it also means that it is pretty much impossible for me to form the type of bond with a person that leads to a deep and meaningful conversation.
I’m just, kind of… stuck.
I have one particular person in my life who I have shared a huge amount with.
We have been friends for over a year now and we only just met, in person, recently, but I consider her a part of my family.
She is my biggest inspiration and I don’t say that lightly.
Not only is she the most incredibly beautiful, intelligent, strongest, fiercest, most accepting-of-anyone and kindest woman I have ever known, she also makes me a better person and makes me feel like I can be, completely, me.
She has helped me in so many ways and one of those ways is by discussing mental health.
She is very honest about it online and we also discuss it in our private bubble which has lead me to personally open up about it in the public sphere too.
There is one problem.
I don’t have an official diagnosis yet.
Why would that be a problem?
Well, flipping back to my opening paragraph – “I am too scared to talk about something I am unsure of, especially when it is so personal”.
You know, what if I end up receiving a diagnosis for something completely different?
Well actually, if I do, then that’s fine. A lot of people have gone in for things like… I don’t know, a suspected heart problem only to have test results tell them it is a problem with their lungs; and vice versa! They wouldn’t feel ashamed for being wrong and their pain isn’t any more or less real because of the difference in diagnosis.
The only worry that I do have, is that I may inadvertently encourage others to rely on self-diagnosis and not attempt to seek the help they need.
So I want to make it perfectly clear that I am not advocating for self-diagnosis. If you feel like you have any mental health issues, please seek help from a medical professional.
Exploring and researching it yourself is no bad thing, in fact the
Mind website is an amazing resource to look through, but please do this along side going to see a GP or therapist.
Disclaimer aside, there is a good reason I have decided to write about this.
When I look to the internet to find validation (I know that doesn’t sound great, but bear with me) in the form of blogs or websites or well, anything… apart from a few less-than-helpful chat forum threads. I get nothing.
Now, don’t get me wrong, there is an immense amount of valuable information and support out there for anyone who has a specific diagnosis.
There are also amazing campaigns like #itsoknottobeok and #andysmanclub encouraging people to begin opening up and seeking the help they need.
But… what about me?
What about the people who have been brave enough to knock down that wall, seek help from their doctor, research their symptoms, admit to themselves they need help, wait 2 agonisingly long months for the promise of a psychiatric referral, go back in tears to ask for it to be sped up as they are finding it hard to cope, wait even longer… and then get a phone call telling them that they basically ‘aren’t important enough’ and need to self refer to someone else only for them to take months referring you again?
The people who still don’t feel like they can open up about it because they don’t have a diagnosis but are going through the very difficult ‘no mans land’ stage, fighting an uphill battle whilst trying to live with a mental health issue.
A mental health issue that they are 90% sure is a certain ‘flavour’ of mental health, but haven’t been validated by a professional yet, and if they could just get those official boxes ticked, they would end up with the medication and therapy they need.
And if they had access to the medication and therapy they needed… dealing with this stage would be much easier, but because they don’t have a diagnosis, they don’t have the meds or access to counselling and waiting to get a diagnosis is a million times harder and brings on the depression and anxiety that comes with the mental health issue you are trying to get a bloody diagnosis for!
Can you tell I’m frustrated?
Good! That explains why I feel like having the support out there, which I hope to provide by way of talking about it on my blog, for people dealing with the ‘no mans land’ stage, is so important.
THIS SITUATION is what puts people off going back.
It is what has put me off going back many times.
Mental health needs to be dealt with in a much more sensitive manner.
Being ‘declined’ for a psychiatric consultation felt awful.
Like I shouldn’t bother.
Like I don’t deserve help.
Like I am making it up.
Like I should stop whinging.
But almost, most importantly… I felt instantly depressed.
Like I’d been pushed into the pit I had been teetering on the edge of.
Everyone is so focused on making sure that vulnerable people seek help… which is amazing and necessary work that our society needs to do.
But when someone makes that very painful decision to go and get this help… they are on their own.
For me, it’s this part between asking for help and receiving it, that is the hardest part.
Convincing myself that I was worthy of happiness was hard enough.
Now I have to convince the very people who can help me, that I deserve it.
That’s how I feel.
And I’m not sure I’m strong enough to fight for my own worth when I don’t feel worthy of it anyway.
So this will be my first contribution to a series of blogs talking about my mental health and the journey to getting the help I need.
I am hoping this will shine a light on the issues that have been left in the dark when it comes to campaigning for mental health awareness.
My name is Amy.
And I am 90% sure that I have Bipolar, PTSD and social anxiety.
I may be wrong, I may be right.
Either way, now is the time that feels right to start talking about it.
I hope that my journey to diagnosis helps others.
Please do not offer either myself, or any other commenters, unsolicited advice.
This blog series is purely here to offer support and encourage discussion on how painful and frustrating it can be to get a diagnosis for mental health issues.
I will not be offering advice.
Please seek help from a medical professional.