The 25th October marks 1 year since I was discharged from a traumatic placement in an inappropriate mental health facility with no clear plan of action. I was very unwell, unable to work and was launched out into my already most difficult part of the year with no clue where I would go or how I would survive. I didn’t think I could survive. But I am still here, it’s not OK and it’s not plain sailing but I survived.
As I was discharged I was told funding had been secured for 16 hours a day of support from personal assistants to live in my own home (sounds like a lot but it’s not when you consider the fact most of that is used overnight and due to my PTSD I cannot access my house without support from another human). But we had no idea how that was going to be used, where the support would come from, how to release the funding…anything. I had rented a house as I was told to do. But I couldn’t live in it. It would be 4 months until I was able to move in – during that time I lost all my savings paying rent and bills on a house I couldn’t live in – my salary doesn’t cover my rent and bills each month and if I am on sick pay I am nowhere near.
For 6 weeks or so, after a couple of days at crisis house and away in Switzerland avoiding bonfire night, my friends and family desperately tried to support me living in my home. I spend some time on the psychiatric decisions unit and the staff were great but it is a glorified waiting room with no beds and not suitable for the overnight stays I was having. I was still so unwell I couldn’t go out alone and the pressure was too much for me and for them. I was in a constant state of crisis and that would regularly be pushed out into the public domain. I had a particularly difficult situation where I was sectioned by the police on a tram and it was covered in the local newspaper. Although I was anonymous in the article, reading the judgemental comments people made was really painful.
It eventually all came to a head. I had tried repeatedly to ask for help from the mental health team and had been turned away. I had asked that morning, and the police and the skatepark and friends asked on my behalf. It was the end of November. Freezing cold. I remember being surprised at seeing Christmas lights up as it was so far from the reality of my world. I didn’t know where to go. I felt like such a burden to everyone. I don’t want to go into details but I was encouraged down from the edge of Manchester Airport carpark by the only friend I would have been able to pick up the (video) call from in that state. Alerted by my friends back in Sheffield who had become concerned and started a search. I was taken by police to be assessed at Manchester royal infirmary and then transferred back to Sheffield. I then spent the 3 weeks leading up to Sheffield living in a waiting room on the psychiatric decisions unit. I had no bed or privacy but the staff tried their best to support me.
A couple of days before Christmas I was given a reprieve. 6 weeks at Crisis House – a warm, homely environment with staff who I was familiar with. This was a totally out of the box decision as Crisis House is usually only a maximum of 5 days. During this 6 weeks I went from not being able to go out alone, to being able to travel to another city alone. I went from 4 months off work to working all my hours again. We went from no idea about how to go forward with support at home to having recruited a full team of PAs. I moved into my house at the beginning of February feeling much stronger and more optimistic that finally I would be able to move forwards, work on the psychological stuff I needed to and live in the community.
Unfortunately it has not been that straight forward. I have not received psychological input, nor is there a plan for that. There were initially issues with the PAs and management of the care package (now, thanks to a fab new team that is easier to manage). It was very hard having to be out of the house all day every day. And then COVID came.
The world wasn’t ready for this, and only 6 weeks into the care package – neither were we. I suddenly found myself with nowhere to go in the day with everywhere closed and friends not able to come round. Some fab friends put me up for a while when most of the PAs refused to work but I found myself working 2.5 extra days a week because it was the only place inside that I could legally be. I didn’t have the weekends to rest. It was hard and it was lonely – everyone else was locked up but I was locked out and not many knew how that felt. I found myself wandering a silent city, sleeping rough at times and still dragging myself to work the next day. Things were dark and I couldn’t see a way out. Every solution seemed to be blocked, and with little mental health support I had 2 very serious suicide attempts within a month – both which required admission to resus and have had lasting physical effects. I didn’t get the luxury of having time to rest and recover physically or mentally. I couldn’t take annual leave as I had nowhere to go. So I kept on going. 36 hours after being in resus I was back at work pretending everything was normal.
The year hasn’t been a total write off though. I have become a lot more independent. Cooking, which is something I struggle with hugely has improved greatly with the help of the PAs. When we were starting to be allowed to meet more people I loved getting back into skating again, initially in the street and then in skatepark again. I’ve made new friends and rekindled old friendships. At work I feel so much more confident – lockdown has meant I actually had more opportunity to take the lead on projects and I feel I’ve learnt more skills and made new connections. I’ve got into gardening and turned my minging yard into a beautiful yarden. I’ve got my two little ratty boys Enrique and George who make me smile every day. After a few staff changes, my PA team now are great, they know me, they work together to get the best out of what we have. It’s frustrating for them – with no guidance, training or supervision when things get hard. It’s frustrating for me, feeling like I’m trying my best but getting nowhere. I still only get one daytime at home per week and it’s exhausting. I’m responsible for management of the PAs – rotas, timesheets, communication etc. And that’s tiring on top of everything else and such limited time at home. But they try to make life as easy as they can for me by being flexible and agreeable.
So we find ourselves a year on. My challenging time of year is still challenging – and this year I can’t escape to another country so I have to face it head on. I’m struggling – my nights involve nightmares, flashbacks and going missing so I get very little sleep and occasionally will have walked a long way in the night. But still I leave the house at 8am every day and can’t return until the evening. Friends are helping where they can – I’ll be honest, sometimes we have to break the COVID rules – they are not sustainable for someone like me. My PAs are being supported by an external person providing supervision pro bono and I’m so grateful for that because I don’t know where we’d be otherwise. I’m scared because I’m getting unwell and I don’t have the luxury of doing what I need to to make myself feel safe. I’m scared because the funding will run out soon and as far as I’m aware that’s it, I will not be able to access my house at all again and that’s scary.
I try to live my best day to day – seeming like a normal member of society. Turning up to work, being proactive there and taking on new things. Helping support the skate scene in Sheffield and Yorkshire. Seeing friends and supporting friends where I’m able. But behind the scenes there is so much going on and so much uncertainty looming around over my head. I’d give anything for just the constant knowledge that a safe place would always be there.
I’m still here. And I’m not planning on going anywhere. I’ve survived worse.