TRIGGER WARNING: fairly massive warning on this one that this post discusses suicide and self harm and issues around getting care in crisis…
Yesterday I was met with one of the most punitive, ignorant and dangerous reactions I have had from a medical professional. I wonder if people who react like this actually do not realise the genuine danger patients are in and how much further into danger this kind of reaction pushes us.
As I write this post I want to be clear that I am now safe and have received help and I am not posting this to alarm or worry readers about me. I’ve been seen in emergency services and eventually had very supportive care, which I will post about in due course. Please don’t panic about me. I am now safe and have had help. I just think what I experienced earlier is a massively dangerous issue that needs to be highlighted.
Yesterday I was absolutely unable to cope. The pressure of my housing situation, financial problems, threat of losing my flat, trying to discuss things with my landlord, my physical help, repeated errors from benefits services and other supposed sources of support, the lack of help over the past 5 months or so when I’ve been at my lowest points, the voices and flashbacks and nightmares – everything boiled over and again I was in the place where the pain and emotions and loss and guilt blocked out any ability to carry on.
I lost it and I was at the point of trying to end my life. I knew how I was going to do it. I had tried and tried but had nothing left.
I spoke on the phone to the GP Surgery. Somewhere, I guess some part of me was still wanting some kind of help or at least daring to tell someone. (They had called me over issues with a mess up over the prescription i should have had; I’d again been left without my medication. ) I admitted what I was feeling. I begged to see someone. I don’t know what made me do that, ask for help when the decision was already made in my mind that this was it now and I’d come to the end. But I did.
I admitted that I wanted to end my life and that I was self harming. I admitted that I had the tablets to overdose. I asked to be seen and that I needed help now, could they see me or get the crisis team? I said how all the mess ups with my prescriptions and benefits and no help in crisis were piling things onto me and making it more and more impossible to cope. I was having hallucinations and flashbacks. I had been asking for help for months. Now I could not go on anymore, I was going to end it. I needed help.
The GP spoke over me from the start. She told me that “you have to be extremely careful about how you are coming across” if I expected to get any medication. She then told me repeatedly, in response to me admitting that I was suicidal and self harming, that “that is not a fair threat to make to people” that “you will find I do not respond to threats” and that I am a responsible adult able to make my own decisions and there is no reason that I should take an overdose. She then announced that she was going to end the call and hung up on me whilst I was begging her to help me.
If Someone with Borderline, or any other mental health problem, admits to suicidal thoughts, plans or intentions, or self-harm, it is the most incredibly ignorant and dangerous reaction to treat them as though they are making threats in order to manipulate and must be punished accordingly. The stereotype that people with personality disorders or any mental health problem are manipulative, or that being suicidal or struggling with self-harming is attention seeking, are extremely dangerous. It is all the more dangerous when it is trusted healthcare professionals acting on the basis of these stereotypes when their patients have dared to ask for help, meaning that when we are in immediate danger we are dismissed, punished and rejected.
Experiencing suicidal thoughts is not attention seeking. Self harming is not to create drama or cry for attention. Admitting that you are in danger and want to end your life, that you are absolutely at the end of the road and can’t go on, that everything being piled on you is pushing you nearer and nearer the edge, is not making threats. The attitude shown by the GP today makes it impossible to ask for help when we are most in danger. I now know that if I admit to the terrible thoughts and feelings, I’ll be treated as though I’m manipulating people and will be rejected. If patients are treated like this, suicide and self harm is made something that must never be admitted to or talked about and for which help can never be sought. If patients are treated like this, all the feelings and events that have brought them to the point of suicide are dismissed in an instant, as our position is made out to be manipulative fabricated threats rather than complete brokenness.
Yes, I am an adult. Yes, I am responsible for my actions. If I self harm or attempt suicide, it is my action alone. If I cause myself harm that is done by me alone. That does not mean that the experiences and emotions behind my actions are not real, that I am not in danger, that I am fake. No longer being able to carry on doesn’t mean I am manipulative. Asking for help and admitting to the horrible things in my head doesn’t mean I am making threats. Asking for help doesn’t mean the feelings that make me want to end it aren’t real. The fact that if I do something to hurt myself, it’s my action, doesn’t mean I’m not in danger and don’t need help.
I’m terrified of manipulating or hurting people I care about. That’s why I hide my self harm and did not tell anyone for years, why I usually don’t ask for help after overdoses… I’m scared that people may feel responsible for saving me… and the self-harm itself started in order to punish myself and hurt myself to turn it all in and not let the horrible things in me hurt anyone else, and overdosing is sometimes about utter pain and sometimes utter rage and loathing at myself and fear of who I’ve hurt.
People who are self harming and/or on the point of attempting suicide are not nasty manipulative frauds, they are in massive pain and massive immediate danger. They do not need punishment and dismissal. They need a place of safety and compassion and they need desperately for the hurt and the danger they are in to be believed.
It is terrifying to admit to things like how close you are to suicide or that you’re overdosing. I never say it to friends (though two friends have sometimes guessed) because I do not want to make them feel responsible to keep me safe or worried I’ll do it again. That’s one thing. But it has to be possible to admit it to healthcare professionals, if there is to be any way to get help.
Yesterday, my life was saved by a police officer who recognised the danger I was in, and by the emergency team who assessed me when he took me to them, and by the mental health workers at the safe haven I was taken to. I owe them my life. Thanks be to God.
The safe haven is a new organisation that has been running for just two weeks in my local area and I think massive good is going to come of it. I’ll post more on that going forward. Please God can that be the support other people find when they are in the state I was in yesterday, not reactions like the one I got from my GP. Sadly I think I’m not alone in what I encountered. And this isn’t the first time. I’ve encountered similar and worse lack of recognition or response to the danger I was in, and accusations of making threats or being manipulative, from within the personality disorder service and in crisis teams. If i am ever recovered enough to be able to somehow try to help other sufferers or explain to people what BPD is like and how to help someone in crisis, tackling this would be a massive priority for me.