I am so stressed and strained beyond the limit. I’m trying to care for my fiancé. I can’t. He’s yet again been discharged from A&E, this time with DVT having been told he could have a pulmonary embolism at any time. No plan in place. Vascular problems, tumour, hernia, unidentified lump in his stomach, knee operations, diabetes, hips going to need replacing… how much more, how much longer Lord? Why? I’m screaming and crying inside. How much worse he must be feeling. Again and again after every emergency and discharge we are no further forward. All the risk and pressure falls right back on us. I can’t do it. I’ve been overloaded for weeks or months. Way beyond the breaking point. I need it to stop. Already I’m drinking with my medication to try to get knocked out. I cannot cope with yet more emotion and pressure. Cutting, bingeing, purging, everything is worse. I have no mental health support now, nor does he, so what can I do? Time has slowed down. I’m hearing things. I need it to stop. Please God, I want to say I know you will answer and not turn away from us forever. But I can’t see You or hear You or feel You. It’s been a long time that way. Xx
My friend has been admitted now (see my last post).
He was in much more danger than I realised. I’m not putting specifics to keep confidentiality and to avoid any unhelpful triggers for readers. He only told me after we had parted earlier. He didn’t want me to know and be scared. Then he went to A&E but didn’t go in. He was scared. He felt huge guilt too I think. He was confused and distressed and we lost contact and he was walking or lost in the hospital grounds I think. I got there as quickly as I could in a taxi phoning security to search for him. Thanks be to God for Security whose officers tracked his car. Thanks be to God that he did make it into A&E. I still don’t know exactly how.
Again I didn’t want to leave but he really preferred I did as his anxiety about hurting me (which he has never done) was so high. I spoke with the nurses and we all agreed is best for me to come back in the morning. He’s being cared for…he’ll be on a drip…he’s not alone…
I’m scared. He was so weak and drowsy and in and out of consciousness / awareness.
I’m hurting. Shaky. Scared. Exhausted. I don’t know what to do with all I’m feeling for him and the overload in my mind and chest. Hurts to breathe.
I know I have to accept right now I can’t do anything. The doctors caring for him can do something. God can do… more than something. Still I feel so horrible for everything I can’t do and all the good I see in him where he only sees what he calls poison.
I place him in your hands dear Lord Jesus. Hold him please tonight. Whatever happens now.
Kyrie eleison. Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Help us in our need dear Jesus, please, Lord hear our prayer.
I feel so scared and powerless right now.
My dear friend is in complete crisis. I’m so scared he isn’t going to make it. I don’t want to tell all his business here. That wouldn’t be right. But he’s been through some horrific things and his mind and body is in utter pain. He could die, through what’s happening to him physically and the risk he’s at mentally.
I won’t leave him on his own right now. He’s massively distressed. He’s too scared to go to A&E tonight. I’m trying to insistently but lovingly persuade him to speak to the out of hours services to see if he can get to another place of safety, or to speak with his GP. Please God he is going to see the GP in a short while in an evening clinic they have. Please God we get there. He is letting me stay with him now. He so did not want me to at first but I could see the danger. Please God, please may he still accept my company and please may he get somewhere safe tonight. (There are very concrete reasons I can see he’s at risk but they are not my business to write here.) I’m in his car waiting for him whilst he’s speaking to someone who he felt he had to go see about an issue that came up earlier; I don’t think this is going to help any right now for him but he really felt the need to do it and I didn’t want to force him not to. Please God please may he come back soon.
I’m barely hanging on myself. I’ve been losing the grip the past week especially. Dissociating, losing time, self harming, huge panic attacks and flashbacks including physical sensations.
A neighbour has started being aggressive and verbally abusive. He’s been pressing me for money for months. He’s been doing the same to other vulnerable people on the estate. He’s been citing endless disastrous circumstances but it’s now coming to light that something else is going on. I’ve sensed things wrong for a while but now it’s becoming clear what he’s telling me does not add up and isn’t the whole story to say the least. It’s getting out of control. I believed and wanted to help him to get help, supported him with getting referred for a support worker and foodbanks. Now it seems nothing is true. I’m afraid for a vulnerable person he lives with. I’m going to have to contact the police I think.
We have spoken to the doctor and are waiting to hear if my friend can get into a safe place with support. There is no space at the moment. Even if he does it is only open til 1am. We’ve gone back and forth with the doctor and out of hours services. All doing all they can but of course there are these limits… and in the end I don’t know who can keep him safe when he’s as far down as he is now, hating himself and hurting himself so much and so afraid of everyone. I’m ripping apart inside. I’ve been where he is, or similar. I know perhaps I cannot do enough. I care for him deeply as a friend. I wish I could rescue him but know despite all the love I can give perhaps I cannot.
I didn’t want to leave him. He has gone to the hospital. The doctor was worried for me and said I should not go with him. He insisted I not go with him. He promised not to hurt himself and that he’s going there. I couldn’t do anything else especially since it’s his car and I can’t drive. We are keeping in touch by text. I believe his promise but I know from being there myself that when you are going to end it, that blackness and blank terror and loss and self revulsion and pain overrides everything, no matter how firm and true and faithful your promises. The doctor told me to go home because she was worried for me but I so did not want to leave him. I cannot save him in the end but I can be there.
He is at A&E now. The situation is far worse even than I knew but thanks be to God he is there. Thanks be to God he’s going to be taken care of…dear Lord I pray he’s met with compassion there as well as getting the physical medical treatment he needs. Please Lord, please can they still help him. Please enfold Him in your love, whatever comes now, if it’s the end or not, please show us Your saving help. In the darkness of pain and not knowing, danger, even death, You are our certain hope and Saviour.
Mother Mary, St Joseph, please offer to your Son in the way most pleasing to Him, everything I offer, everything I do, everything I pray….
Since the new year, actually I’ve been much better than usual at cooking meals, though usually I haven’t managed to remember to take a picture to add to this series, hence the lack of updates. A significant reason I’ve done better at cooking is that I was preparing food to share with a couple in my block who were in serious financial difficulty, and also cooking for another friend who is very unwell and struggles to eat at all let alone cook.
I’m motivated to cook when I feel it’s to help or care for or simply for the enjoyment of someone else. This can help me overcome feeling too exhausted to do it. When I’m cooking for others, there is actually some joy in it even if I’m battling the chronic physical pain. The thoughts and voices that taunt me that I don’t deserve good food, must not eat, fill my head with repulsion at myself and greed and failure, do not come so loud when I’m cooking for others and sharing the meal. When I’m with others, I don’t binge eat and I cannot purge food. Perhaps it isn’t the ideal way out of these eating disorder symptoms – I have to be able to feed myself for myself in the end – but the more times I do cook, do share food, do manage not to binge eat and purge or restrict for long periods, the quieter the voices become even when I’m alone. It’s a very slow process and can still be awful but I think it’s a strength that will slowly grow.
The other major change in the last month is that since I was in hospital with stomach problems, I’m on a wheat-free diet because I was advised to try this. So I’m finding out new recipes or adaptations to recipes. As much as possible, I’m finding foods and ingredients that are naturally wheat free, because a lot of replacement products are very expensive, especially the processed ones. A very small loaf of gluten free bread will be £2.50 rather than 80p for a similar sized normal loaf; a packet of wheat free biscuits may be up to £3.00 rather than 75p or less for regular supermarket biscuits. I can’t have these things regularly on wheat free, at least not when I’m relying on Benefits whilst I’m signed off work. The plus side of this is that it leads me to cook more and eat more fruit, veg, beans, meat and dairy. My food bill will increase a bit nevertheless but I don’t think it will be unmanageable if I’m very careful to go for cost effective recipes. In fact, I’m often enjoying finding a new variety of foods and the altered diet. For example, I’m going to try making my own bread using wheat free flour. I discovered these funky coloured carrots that were tasty roasted:
It’s not all saintly. Chocolate definitely still features in my diet! 🙂
For the first couple of weeks I was out of hospital, my stomach was very unsettled and I was mainly eating rice, rice crackers, cooked vegetables and fruit, peanut butter then gradually some egg and cheese as well. Most meals were looking something like this:
Slowly, as my stomach is a bit better, I’ve wided my diet again with meats, yoghurt, various treats or desserts like chocolate, or fruit bars, and I’ve tried some wheat free cereal a couple of times. It’s a gradual process and I’m still feeling unsettling effects from the stomach problems I had.
I’ve also returned to using my Nutribullet, which I find most helpful for upping my vegetable and fruit intake with juices, ensuring I have high fibre intake and consuming things that can be harder to get into my diet. In the winter, I don’t enjoy eating a salad as I might in the summer, but I can make a yummy smoothie with some raw spinach and mixed leaves, avocado, banana, apple and a little lemon juice.
The result does slightly resemble the bathroom suite my parents had in the 1990s, but I promise it tastes good. (Warning – in my experience, home made juices, whatever the ingredients even if you use brightly coloured fruits, tend to turn out green or brown. This may not look appetising however if you can overcome the colour they usually taste good.)
Yesterday I made a chicken stew with lots of veg and mashed potato, which I was very pleased with as I used not to be so confident cooking meat. I had the day at home so was able to pace the preparation better than usual. There was plenty left over that went in my freezer.
Thanks be to God for helping me to rediscover some joy in food, some opportunities to share and eat with others and enjoy it, and gradually continue on the path to a more healthful diet and feelings around food and my body.
I’m trying to persuade a friend who is very ill to go to A&E tonight, or at least call 111. I wish I was where he is and could take him.
He is not at all well in so many ways. He’s waiting for several operations. The worst danger tonight is that he has unbearable pain and symptoms to do with blood clots he has; we know with these symptoms that there is a danger of a blood clot in his stomach. We know he should seek help urgently in these circumstances with these symptoms; medics have told him this.
The main reason he is very reluctant to get help is what was said to him by a doctor the last time he was admitted, a few days ago. The doctor made a range of sarcastic comments about him to nurses and another doctor and said outrageous things to him including that hospitals are for people who are really ill not timewasters like him! This was when he’d been admitted when he’d attended as he was instructed to for an ECG and scans. He was found to have three bloodclots in his leg, as well as the numerous other serious problems for which he is due to have operations.
I cannot conceive what would lead a doctor to say what this person did. I know anyone can have a bad day. Anyone can dislike someone. Doctors, nurses, HCAs and other staff in hospitals are under a critical amount of pressure, now more than ever. But what would lead someone to say such bitter, accusing, unsubstantiated, false things to a person they are specifically there to care for? Did the doctor actually believe it? Or was he somehow venting anger, hate, judgement, for some reason onto my friend?
Not only this but without asking any questions to determine his mental state and without advice from the psychiatry team at the hospital or the community mental health service my friend is seen in, the doctor said to my friend that he should be Sectioned, and started trying to arrange this. Was he assuming or insinuating that my friend’s physical health conditions didn’t exist and were delusions? In spite of countless scans and test results and reports? Had he branded my friend as attention seeking because that’s the stereotype he holds of people with the mental health problems my friend has? Did that stereotype have such a hold it negated the physical evidence in front of him? Or does he regard people with mental health problems as unworthy of help or care however much they need it and think instead we should be shut up in institutions out of the way of those who he thinks do deserve help?
I’ve been on the receiving end of this numerous times. I’m really hurting for my friend and knowing he’s been left in so much danger now. Whatever the reasons behind what that doctor said, his words have told my friend he’s unworthy of help and must not ask when he needs it. My friend struggled enough with that already. He has had enough abusive people telling him he deserves pain, deserves bad, is asking for it. I don’t know exactly how it is in my friend’s head of course, but I know from my own experience how much louder memories that tell us we are unworthy, that confirm what our abusers told us, scream at us than any fledgling sense of ourselves and our value can. Words like this doctor’s join with the voices accusing and taunting us and they do not fade; they take a grip of us and punish us if we do not obey them.
My friend is in unbearable pain now and potentially great danger, and I’m trying to persuade him to go to A&E or if he cannot bring himself to do that, to call 111 for advice. I’m praying that if he does speak to 111 – when he does, please God – the advisers that speak to him are compassionate and show him there are people that do want to help and do have compassion and will help and believe him.
What this doctor said to my friend was awful by any standard, I think. Still, I wonder do people, especially people in authority roles (such as those who determine the medical care we get), know how much difference their words make, for good and for bad? I think words do have greater power for those of us with BPD, with histories of trauma and abuse and rejection, and no doubt with many other health conditions too. This is our responsibility to be aware of and to try to learn ways to cope with and I’m starting to see that very gradually, with a lot of time, we can. It would not be at all fair to demand that other people treat us more carefully than they treat others. Actually, this is one of the things I fear demanding of others. But when we are already in crisis, desperately needing help, it would help so much if those caring for us knew the lasting difference their words and actions can make.
The past week has been a mix of unexpected, scary, painful, exciting, relief and changes.
I had been feeling worse than usual physically but had put it down to all the flu bugs around, cold weather and the fact I had been very stressed in the preceding month. However, it wasn’t flu. Just over a week ago I had some horrible symptoms I won’t detail here. On calling 111 for advice they sent an ambulance straight away. At the hospital I was found to have [ahem alert don’t read whilst eating your dinner!] bowel obstruction. Thankfully they had caught it in time before things became more serious (if left, it can cause a rupture in the intestines). I had IVs and they erm, did what they had to to clear it, X-rays, then I had to have more IVs for fluids. I ended up being readmitted the next day because I was having symptoms again so it was a scary couple of days. They would have kept me in but there was a bed shortage. I’m home now with several medications and guidelines to follow about diet and drinking enough.
I am so thankful this was spotted in time and treated. The doctors, nurses and HCAs were all kind and caring and made some scary, nasty things as okay as possible, and reassured me. They were busy but still took time.
I have some changes to make now. I have had to stop several of my medications because their side effects could now cause problems with my bowels. I need to discuss this with the GP to find alternative medicines and ways to manage because I needed their beneficial effects (eg for pain relief). Fortunately I’m due to see a specialist pain clinic in a month’s time. Also, I’ve been told to cut out wheat from my diet to see if this makes a difference. Even though I don’t have celiacs, some people can have other problems with wheat. Bowel problems do occur as a complication in other conditions I have (fibromyalgia, POTS and hypermobility syndrome) and people can find going wheat free to be helpful. I’ve started this and so far thankfully I am not missing wheat too much at all, though I’m still only able to eat a little so that may be why.
I’m hopeful that with these changes I can keep things better, though we don’t really know exactly why the obstruction happened. In the meantime I’m fighting not to get too down through some of the difficult effects I’m still going through. I am very achy, pain is worse as I’ve had to stop some of the medications, and I’m still stupidly weak physically (the fibromyalgia is badly exacerbated which again is to be expected as after any illness). I have had bladder incontinence for years because of the fibromyalgia and nervous system problems; since the bowel obstruction this is much worse and now distressing bowel urgency and leaking if I can’t go right away, are added to that. I’m praying this is temporary or at least that the GP can refer me back for some help when I see her next wek. I used to be too disgusted and ashamed to admit to that side of things but now after everything that’s happened in the last few years it doesn’t seem such a horrendous thing to admit it, though I still get upset and feel horrible when I have worse incidents.
The other problem that has loomed large is I had no heating or hot water for 23 days! The most incredible saga unfolded between my landlord, the boiler maintenance people and the boiler manufacturer and fault after fault was found with my boiler and the flue.
This song seemed apt!*
Thanks be to God, as of this evening everything is fixed! I had a most enjoyable and appreciated shower. Boiling kettles to wash up, clean and have a wash was not the most fun, though it’s what my grandparents did daily as a matter of course. It has been very cold some of the days I was without heating and a friend very kindly lent me a portable electric radiator. On the plus side, I’m likely to be entitled to compensation for the multiple mistakes made and inconvenience caused. I have to apply for that from my housing association.
In more exciting news, today I attended the first session at the Recovery College, which I’ll post more on shortly. It was an introduction to how one can become involved in mental health research, bringing a service user or “lived experience” perspective. It was more inspiring than I’d expected and left me feeling I have something of value I could bring to shape research materials, methods and how research findings are communicated.
Another brilliant event this week is that my friend who has been homeless for a long time, has at long last got a place in a hostel. It’s a good hostel in a safe area. By no means is this an end to his difficulties but it is a blessed answer to prayers and struggles to navigate the way through the council, the housing list, support agencies, forms, waiting lists, assessments, phonecalls….it goes on. What he’s going through is terrible and scary however I pray this is the beginning of safety and a little stability. Thanks be to God, from the depths of my heart, thanks be to God.
*”The Gas Man Cometh” by Flanders & Swann. Thanks to Hawkmoon for the video.
This morning, one of the members of my MBT therapy group left, as it is the end of her time in therapy. It was her last group today. The MBT group is a “rolling group”. The group runs weekly, continously; members join (usually at least 2 people at a time) and are in the programme for 18 months, then leave. Usually, new members join to take their place and the group carries on. Sometimes new members join at other times. This means members start and leave at different times rather than a whole group doing a course together for 18 months and everyone finishing at the same time. Usually, at least 2 people would finish at the same time. It was a bit unusual that one person left alone today (someone else who would have left with them had to switch therapy groups earlier in the year).
It was a really emotional goodbye. I cried so much. A lot of us did. The depth of feeling at the point of saying goodbye was intense and in the group time passed much too quickly. At the start of therapy I would not have understood the depth of feeling for and attachment to another person that grows in group. She is a hugely kind person who has given so much more than I think she knows and I hope she does continue to know more of that good that’s in her.
I’ll write more later. Right now it feels very raw and surges of emotion are welling up out of the blue. It has been that way all week.
I need to get things done this afternoon because tomorrow I’m having a little fundraising coffee morning. It’s probably a good thing I have to be busy but I need to not push down my feelings totally either.
The service where I am in therapy at the moment has suddenly (from our point of view as patients at least) changed our care coordination appointments from monthly to quarterly. Less than quarterly, in practice. I was supposed to see my care coordinator today. The appointment has been moved to the end of September. This will be 4 months since my last appointment at the start of June. This comes at a time that I desperately needed care coordination and when everything feels on the edge of fragmenting.
I am furious at how this change has been made, for myself and for other people in my therapy group. I’ll post about that next.
I spoke to my care coordinator about it on the phone and one of the most hurtful things that he said was that this has been an “ongoing clinical decision over several months” and they think this is the best way to challenge us to have more independence because instead of having a care coordinator we’ll have to take the initiative to sort out our problems. I’ll set to one side for the time being the hurt caused by having been kept in the dark, not warned, let alone involved, in the “ongoing decision”; the apparent total lack of awareness of why care coordination is needed; the assumptions about knowing what is best for us….
One thing that really really hurt and I wanted to scream and felt utterly betrayed again by the people supposed to help me and understand me was – we do not need a test, or a challenge, or to be forced to be “more independent”. We desperately need to be heard and to get help. I have been in this service since November 2014 and I am still screaming inside and falling to pieces and trying to be heard over the same issues as when I first came to the service. We have always been on our own. We have had to do everything with no help and knowing everyone will leave us. We just start to trust this service and dare to think perhaps they’ve understood a tiny bit of what it’s like, and then we get proof it was all an illusion. Never in my whole time with the service have I felt safe, been kept safe.
And here comes the thing it’s so very shameful and not allowed to admit. Sometimes – even a lot of the time – I don’t want to be independent. I want to be heard and I want to be cared for. The abused and terrified and frightened child inside me has never ever been heard or believed and has never been cared for. I have fought and fought on my own and I cannot do it anymore. I need help. I can shut up the child for so long by cutting and starving and drinking and overdosing. But there is a point of breaking. And I’ve passed it. I’ve never been safe. Never been safe from my abuser. Never been safe from what goes on in my mind, the pain, the hallucinations and flashbacks.
I know these feelings aren’t allowed. We have to take responsibility. We have to be independent. We have to be adults. We have to function.
Is it so very wrong to want to be kept safe? To want someone to hear and know how utterly painful it is? To want someone to care for us? To want someone to stick to what they agree to and not trick us, not tell us they understand but then leave us alone when we most need help? If I am not independent is that really the most important awful thing? Why should I not be allowed the help I need because it’s so desperately important I be independent? Nobody kept me safe as a child. Nobody cared for me. Over and over again my abuser tricked me and left me powerless. The service I should be able to rely on now in my treatment, to understand and help me, makes me feel the same. In no way is it an empowering kind of being made independent. It’s being pushed away and tricked and all the cuts made deeper still.
I’m ashamed to admit it but I want someone to care for me. Before I can start to get any more ability to cope on my own I desperately need someone to understand how loud I’m screaming and how much it hurts and not to leave me, hold me and stop me from falling to pieces, stop me from losing all grip on reality because the pain and terror is so utterly consuming, hold me and allow me not to be okay. Then maybe I might be able to take very gradual steps to take back responsibility for one thing at a time. I don’t need to be tested, tricked, pushed away, not believed, not heard, used over and over again and taken to the most vulnerable desperate point then what tiny little things we hoped in taken.
I am full of anger and pain and rage at being tricked and used all over again.
When I first started this blog, I was certain that I was going to keep it anonymous. By “anonymous” I mean, for example, I don’t use my full name, I avoid posting anything that would indicate the town I live in and I do not post photos of myself or my loved ones. Recently, I’ve been wondering whether I might change my approach slightly, for instance, disclosing a little more about me, or sharing photos sometimes, or no longer refraining from talking about local groups, services, activities etc that might give away where I live.
It’s a hard decision. I was talking about it with my friend S who suggested “Why don’t you ask other bloggers what they think?” I thought that was a great idea.
So, I’d like to ask you a question: what do you think about blogging anonymously versus revealing personal details? Was this a difficult issue for you? What led you to choose how much you reveal and whether you write anonymously? If you started your blog anonymously but later decided to share more about yourself, or vice versa, what led you to that decision? If you’d like to make any comments I’d be very grateful. Thank you.
I’ll share a few of my own thoughts on the decision I’m trying to make.
Ironically, it’s partly because some of what I post here about my emotions, experiences and relationships is so very personal that I refrain from sharing personally identifiable information. Many of the experiences I talk about are very painful and intimate, especially those from my childhood. If someone I know as an acquaintance or colleague (rather than a very close friend) came across my blog and learned what had happened to me then I might feel really uncomfortable to say the least. At the start of my blogging, anonymity let me write more freely. Also, I didn’t know what kind of reaction I might meet with. Allowing myself to be identified could have made me vulnerable if I encountered unpleasant or harassing “followers”. In fact this hasn’t happened at all; since I started my blog I’ve been very blessed to have caring and supportive visitors to my pages who have become friends and that’s a huge gift. THANK YOU! It’s now partly because you have become friends that I’d feel comfortable sharing, and indeed would like to share, a little bit more.
However I also know that if I were to be identified my blog might affect not only me but my friends, family and the professionals who care for me.
I’ve written about relationships breaking down and hurt I feel. I’ve shared sensitive experiences that involved others, such as my childhood abuse and relationships in my family when I was growing up. When I mention someone else I never give their name, only an initial sometimes, but if I were to be identified through my blog by someone who knows me (say, through work or a friend of a friend) then other people I’ve mentioned in my posts potentially are more likely to be identifiable too. It’s a small world, as the saying goes, and I don’t have that many friends! 😉 My friends and family may not want to be identified, or they may be upset. The anonymity of the internet does not give me the right to be horrible about people and I try hard not to write personal things about other people or things I wouldn’t say to the person directly. However I’m inevitably only writing my own experience and perception. In another person’s view it may not be balanced. On the flip side of this, I try to write positive things and express gratitude about the good friends I do have in my life and it would be nice to share more of that.
As well as considering my friends, I have to consider the hospital and my doctors and the therapy programme I attend. There aren’t many specific personality disorder services in the UK and if I say where I live, which hospital I attend will likely become clear to anyone else vaguely local with knowledge of PD. I might worry about anyone making a judgment about the hospital or therapy on the basis of what I write. It’s just me, after all.
Equally there is a lot about the support I get that is great and I would like to share this to help others. Having experienced at least 15 years of mental health issues, slowly I’ve come across sources of support and services that can really really help, some in times of crisis and some day to day. A lot of them are not easy to find. I’d love to write about them and how they’ve helped me, in case this in turn helps others and because I think they deserve recognition. So far I’ve held back so as to avoid revealing my location. Perhaps that is over-cautious of me.
You get the picture that I’m in two minds about this at the moment!
There have been several cases in the news recently, in particular two this week, of children suffering unfathomable cruelty at the hands of their parents / caregivers. Much has and will be made of the failings on the part of social services and social workers. How could the horrors and suffering go unnoticed and why were concerns not followed up, staff nor taking a more joined up approach, so the children could slip through the net?
I don’t doubt that there certainly were failings in the services. I’m not denying that. I can’t imagine the guilt the workers involved in those two cases are feeling right now. I’ve suffered myself and so did my mother and so have several other people I care about, because of failings in the organisations that should give support and protection, which let us fall through the net without intervention in times of crisis and without promised follow up or communication across different services. Sometimes the services involved have seem totally unaware of the harm this causes and unwilling to take responsibility. That hurts even more. Fortunately I have never suffered anything approaching what the children in this week’s cases did.
I’m not trying to deny that there were failings and I don’t want to hurt anyone who has been through similar experiences. However I think the somewhat understandable jump to publicise the blame attributed to the social workers and agencies masks some important points.
First, the perpetrators of the terrible abuse the children suffered were their mothers, father’s and family members. That’s the greatest horror. It is terrifying that as humans we are capable of inflicting such suffering on another, let alone on one of our own family or our own child. It’s particularly horrific that a mother can do this to her own child. It so negates every good and nurturing thing a mother is. It means no relationship and no home is immune to evil actions and absence of love.
Secondly, that is such a frightening fact and we want to know why. How and why can a person do that? What does that mean about what’s possible? About our human race? That sounds like an overly broad concept really. But I think it shakes us. Can we conceive that our world is one where what should be the safest and most protective relationship, mother and child, is used to inflict fear and hurt and pain? We don’t want to. We at least need some explanation. It’s easier to label the failing of a particular social worker or agency, because that we can understand. That we can name. What brought the abusers to use their own children that way, we can’t.
Thirdly – and this is something that’s hard to explain but significant to me as a survivor of childhood abuse – these horrific abuses can and do happen in secret and undetected. Trying to come to terms with what happened to me and questioning over and over whether the things I can remember done to me are true, I’ve often doubted myself and told myself it must have been my fault or I must be mad and inventing it all, because at the time nobody else realised what was going on and nobody intervened and people thought my family was normal (er okay maybe not but they didn’t often suspect the full truth). These two tragic cases in this week’s news show the awful fact that abuse much worse than what I suffered can indeed continue in secret. Therein lies the abuser’s power to control, manipulate and deny.
Fourthly, no more resources are coming for social workers and care and protection teams at the moment. The little glimpses I’ve seen from my work in hospitals, psychiatric services, care teams and so on has shown me loud and clear that there simply are not enough hours in the day and not enough people on the ground to have the contact and communication and time to spend directly with children, families, patients in need, as well as following the ever more extensive proformas and completing paperwork that is required to meet the rules and regulations (which are supposed to ensure good care is happening but at the same time take you away from doing it).
This is no new or ground breaking feeling. I think most people in nursing or caring services have been saying this for years. But it’s still frighteningly swept under the carpet and denied by those in power. When I worked in a service that supported teenagers and young adults with mental health needs and social support needs, I would take the minutes of clinical team meetings. In one such meeting, changes to documentation for care planning and recording were being introduced, which would require nursing staff to (a) spend much longer away from patients, sitting at computers completing databases and reports and (b) in many cases require nursing staff to spend already limited professional development time on training in IT packages, not in patient care. Of course, the aim of all these whizz new care planning systems was supposed to be a magical improvement in compliance with regulations about good care. However, nobody could answer who was going to be delivering the care during the time that the already over stretched nurses were completing the compliance paperwork. I wonder whether there’s a box in the risk assessment screen to record the increased risk caused by the fact the nurses and carers are filling in the [expletive deleted] risk screen instead of assessing the patients? 😉 Time and time again there was no answer to this impossibility. In that meeting, one or two nurses directly asked, how in the same shift with the same staff, were they to fit in their work with their patients, as well as completing the new compliance activities being introduced. How could they do both? Which was to go when the time ran out? In my eyes the response was appalling. The nurses were told that was an unacceptable attitude to display and there was simply no choice and the compliance work was to be done. This came from a senior clinician who I had greatly respected and her response was totally at odds with her usual very reflective approach. Of course I don’t know the history with that particular member of staff who asked the questions and perhaps there was more to it than that, but there seemed a forced denial of the impossibility of continuing to provide good care and the level of presence on the ground with those we are caring for, which is so important if we are to prevent tragedies like the children who slip through the net where abuse and suffering goes undetected.
I left the service I mentioned because more and more changes were taking clinicians, and support staff like myself, away from being able to maintain the personal contact with patients. (I’ve since regretted leaving, I’ll admit.) Clinicians left too, at least in part due to stress and sadness around similar issues. They were a great loss to their patients, in my opinion.
A little later I worked a temp cover role as a secretary for the legal team that supported my local county council’s child protection services. Round about this time I thought about training as a social worker. I didn’t in the end. I thought I’d find far too many situations where my hands were tied and too many times bureaucracy stopped me doing the good that was needed.
I cry for the children that suffered and for those who so want to be present on the ground to help those at risk but who are taken away and whose voices are silenced when they highlight the lack of resources and impossibility of meeting the demands of keeping children safe in the field, and complying with everything that’s supposed to be ensuring children’s safety. One thing is sure and that’s that it is far too easy to be silenced – again both in the case of the victims and the carers pointing out the shortage of resources to help them. Let’s keep on speaking out.