TW: some discussion of SH and suicidal ideations.
I have never been much of a conversationalist. I have never been guilty of regurgitating the (non) events of my day, minute by minute, across the dinner table. I have never been good at conveying my deepest feelings and emotions to people close to me, nor have I ever really wanted to be. I have always been something of a ‘closed book’ and I think this would be corroborated by anyone who knows me well.
When I first became involved with the CMHT, I didn’t hide the fact from my family but any communication around it, invariably, went something like this:
Me: ‘I have an appointment with my CPN’
Other (Mum or Dad): ‘OK’
and at the other end:
Other: ‘How was your appointment?’
I didn’t discuss any clinical assessments that I was subjected to, I didn’t discuss diagnoses (GAD, Depression, DSH), I didn’t discuss treatments. This ‘worked’ for a while, in the sense that we all went about our separate lives, ignoring the ‘elephant in the room’ and I walked around like a ticking time bomb, ready to explode at any moment. Eventually I did. I can’t remember much about how it came about, but there was an evening when I simply couldn’t cope any longer, rolled up my sleeve and revealed my scars to my parents. Blow number 1. This obviously caused them great distress and necessitated some conversation around my illness, but we eventually moved past it and things returned to that arbitrary condition, ‘normal’.
To cut a long story short, blows number 2-4 came when, on three separate occasions, I landed in hospital following an overdose. Given that, by this time, I was also battling Anorexia, the time had come for me to admit that I needed my parents, siblings and some wider family members to rally round and help me out of the hole at the bottom of which I was lying, unable to move, barely even breathing.
This is when we first embarked on ‘Family Behavioural Therapy’ (FBT). The timing of this coincided with that described in my earlier post, Rock Bottom: My Light Bulb Moment, so I was ready for help, ready to engage with the right people, ready to recover. The FBT aimed primarily to help us communicate better as a family and sessions consisted mainly of ‘role playing’ exercises, where we would convey negative or positive feelings, make positive requests of one another etc. We never took these sessions too seriously and even managed to have a bit of fun, but we weren’t naïve enough to miss the point either.
The second aim of FBT was to share information, provide my parents with a better understanding of mental illness, particularly SH and why people do it. They were given lists of phone numbers of people to contact in a Crisis and taught how to better deal with my distress. Encouragingly, they seemed to take this on board with enthusiasm. I felt reassured that they would do whatever it took to get me well. Yes, we had a mountain to climb, but we would reach the summit together. For the first time in years, I felt part of the family and not just someone who lived in the family home.
However, 18 months later, we are back at square one with the SH. As with everything in MH, there are peaks and troughs, periods of relapse and periods of recovery, ups and downs. My SH behaviours have escalated this year, and my parents seem to have reverted back to pre-FBT mode, neither trying nor wanting to understand. I guess it was easier for them to cope with SH when I was essentially ‘in recovery’ and it wasn’t an on going issue. Any attempt to involve them now usually descends into an argument, with me at the centre, feeling lost, unloved, rejected. My Dad, to his credit, has tried. He has taken me to A&E several times, but not before a full-scale discussion around why, where, when, how…to be honest, its easier on my own.
So this week saw our last FBT session where, after much discussion, we managed to agree that although we are coping with this latest relapse, we are doing so very much as individuals and not as a family. The professionals have done all they can and taken a back-seat. I feel sad writing this down. I feel sorry for all the wasted time, spent pretending we were all in this together when we clearly aren’t.
Just to hammer this last point home, I will tell you about something that happened earlier this week. I came home from a particularly arduous appointment with the practice nurse (some wounds have become infected and I’m having them cleaned and dressed every other day) feeling, quite frankly, rather sorry for myself. My Mum was home and asked where I had been, so I told her. I then got upset and asked her if she would hug me, to which she replied: ‘I will, but you don’t deserve it.’
So this is where I find myself now: desperately sad, floundering, trying to stay afloat and undeserving of a mothers compassion.