There are two sides to this story: there is my medical record and there is my version of events. I’m not sure either is entirely accurate, mainly because they both rely on me to some extent and I’m an unreliable narrator whenever I’m talking to anyone. This is as honest and as accurate as I can bear. I am so fucking ashamed about this whole period of my life so I’ll understand if you’re disgusted and want to leave.
I think you already have. I didn’t mean to fall so hard.
Around six months after I moved to Norfolk, my behaviour became ‘erratic’. I like that word. You have to come to your own interpretation as to how I might have been acting. Was I acting crazy? Was I being a whore? Was I taking loads of stimulants and drinking too much and running wild in the middle of the night? Fuck knows, I was busy being ‘erratic’. I have fleeting memories, but that whole scene is almost completely missing. I was marched off to a doctor.
This was not the first time I’d been to the doctor about things not being right in my head. It was the second. The first time was when I was a bit younger and someone suggested I actually got my insomnia sorted. I had no idea about sleep clinics or mindfulness or whatever, so I didn’t realise there were options other than drugs. Hence, when the doctor asked what I expected her to do about it, I just asked for drugs. And left empty-handed.
This second time, in Norfolk, I went in and didn’t know what to say, so I mumbled something and came out with some citalopram (antidepressant). I had no diagnosis, just ‘low mood’, and I think I was offered counselling.
I had huge problems trying to get help in Norfolk. I met a woman – whose job title escapes me – who gave me three sessions of CBT and then un-referred me to the psychology/psychiatry/whatever department I was on the waiting list for because my level of anxiety (moderate-high) didn’t qualify me for a place. It centered around my level of depression (low-moderate) and that’s something I’ve never been diagnosed with. I tried again a year later, but something else happened at the referral stage to get me turned down.
The third time it happened, I was a bit of a mess.
I hate talking about this. But I need to. I need to face up to it. It’s not something I can hide.
The citalopram didn’t work (why would it? I’m not depressed) so they moved me to fluoxetine (antidepressant…). I went manic. Dosages were amended. Propranalol (beta-blocker) was given to stop the shakes. I started taking contraception via needle-in-the-butt. I started getting fat and migraines began. I was switched between a few more antidepressants. I was blitzed out of my mind. I went to a new doctor.
The new doctor was wonderful. He would give me anything. He put me on venlafaxine (antidepressant). He gave me weight loss drugs before they got pulled off the market for giving people heart attacks. He gave me date rape drugs to help me sleep. They didn’t work. I was furious at him.
I still hadn’t been diagnosed with anything, and he had to diagnose me with something in order to give me more drugs. Don’t blame him. He couldn’t do anything else. There was nowhere to dispose of me. After witnessing – his words – a One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest episode in the waiting room, generalised anxiety disorder makes an appearance. My drugs were now venlafaxine, propranolol, diazepam (benzodiazepine) and pregabalin (lots of things). And I was really ill. Really, really ill. These kinds of drugs aren’t good for you.
Neither is ephedrine to keep you skinny, nor cocaine for the sake of it.
I got refused help the last time, because I took an overdose of the diazepam and washed it down with as much wine as I could physically drink. And then I freaked out, called my own ambulance and went for a lie down in the road, just to offer myself one last time to death.
Death didn’t want me, and so I woke up in a side room in the Norfolk and Norwich hospital. I saw a doctor. I think. It could have been anyone. He asked if I was going to do it again. I said “Well, no, I’m out of Valium and it’s Saturday now so I don’t think I can get any more until Monday…” and he frowned and I frowned and it turned out that this meeting was the meeting with the Crisis Team, which meant I was now ineligible for that referral. So they turned me down.
I’ll be very honest now. There are scars.
There’s a really bad one, along my left arm. I was incensed at fucking up my suicide so, the night after, I took it out on myself. I wasn’t trying to kill myself this time; I was just mad. And I misjudged, horribly.
I called 999 again. They asked what I’d been using and I told them it was a pair of dressmaking scissors. The police arrived with the ambulance because I was armed. I was sat on my doorstep crying and cuddling a teatowel.
They didn’t stitch it. They gave me butterfly sutures and told me no beds were available so I had to go home. I didn’t live in Norwich, I explained, and I didn’t drive, and I had no cash with me. And I keep trying to hurt myself really badly so I don’t really want to go home. They said I could sit in the waiting room. But that wasn’t any good.
The sutures fell off immediately and the wound took forever to heal and it still looks horrible now.
I went back to the doctor. He switched me from diazepam to lorazapam (also a benzo) and put in another referral. He explained the thing about the crisis team, and also how if someone was currently self-harming then they weren’t eligible for that or the other, so I got sent back to the first lady. The CBT woman.
This time she didn’t do CBT with me. We sat and talked.
She said I had ‘complicated grief’. She said I was stuck at one of the stages.
She asked me how long I’d been hoping to turn the noise in my head off for. Was my hospital trip because I wanted to die, or because I wanted to sleep for a long while? I laughed at her.
And then, in either a random act of kindness that I misjudged or as a petty act of spite because I laughed at her, she told me that I’d regret cutting my arms when I was older and decided to wear nice clothes. She said other people who did that when they were young ended up regretting it, and I would too. Because it was ugly.
Maybe she thought I’d see the light and stop being mental. No. Not quite. I genuinely thought I was getting one over her by changing places though.
And so these are the horrible stories. I left Norfolk. I moved to Newcastle. I saw a horrified doctor who made me go cold turkey and got me in to see a psychiatrist who misunderstood something quite important about me and who was fascinated by the fact my surname is Byron. He was convinced that Lord Byron had borderline personality disorder. He was so excited about it!
Did I get diagnosed because of a long-dead poet? It doesn’t really matter, I suppose. I’m fine now. I just needed a break from all the drugs.