The patient (recent past)

The day that everything came crashing down in Norfolk was the thirteenth of August – a Friday. I’m not hugely superstitious but I have a habit of noticing these kinds of things and then having a brief moment of worry, just in case the reputation of the ‘unlucky’ thing – in this case, the date – happens to be true. I’ve decided not to believe that anymore. Much like card XIII in a tarot deck, I think the date is just misunderstood. Whilst Death goes about his business indiscriminately, dawn is breaking in the background. Life continues.

I’m scared of change. Or, at least, I was. I’m now starting to understand that trying to resist it is, in itself, a catalyst of sorts. Resistance precipitates suffering. No matter how much you try to fight it, change will occur whether you like it or not – the only difference is that the more you resist, the worse it will feel.

Would you prefer to go calmly, or kicking and screaming?

I was quite calm when I left, although I was kicking and screaming on the inside. My grandad once complimented my ability to somehow always land on my feet, and once again I found things just kind of falling into place once the dust settled from my world crashing down around me. I was completely broken, I had no money, and I had left most of my clothes in the hotel room so I was in desperate need of some new underpants. But I was alive, I had found somewhere to live, and I was miles away from Norfolk – I’d say that was pretty lucky, considering.

I sent a thank-you card to Dr. Biscuit for trying to help me. I didn’t include a return address so I wouldn’t feel too disappointed when I never heard back from him. Even now, I’m not really mad at him. Sure, enabling my benzo addiction, giving me an antidepressant that possibly made me far crazier than I had ever been before in my life, and then giving me something off-label that is usually used to treat fibromyalgia and epilepsy may sound like a fucking terrible idea to me or you, but what do we know? I still maintain that he was trying to help. You see, without ever being diagnosed by an actual mental health professional, my disturbed mind was in limbo. Without the diagnosis, I could not be treated.

I’ve forgotten the name of the first doctor I saw in Newcastle and I won’t bother making one up because he doesn’t appear in the story again. I went to see him because the cut on my right thigh that I had been carefully re-cutting multiple times a day, daily, for weeks now, looked pretty gross and was radiating an alarming amount of heat. He looked pretty disgusted. He kind of drew back and went ‘ugh’ before remembering he was a doctor and peered at it more closely. He may have even said ‘oooh’ – but not in a ‘oooh I’m impressed,’ kind of way. More like ‘oooh that looks fucking nasty, mate.’ And it did. He gave me antibiotics. I asked him for a refill of my prescription. He looked at the drugs I was taking and said that I had to come off the benzos. He was only allowed to prescribe two weeks worth at a time so that’s what he did, and that’s the last time I had any lorazepam.

I genuinely think that Dr. Biscuit tried his best, but perhaps he was unaware that withdrawal from a long-term high-dose benzo addiction is, at best, pretty fucking awful. Perhaps he was planning to taper me off them one day but I left before he had chance to tell me. Perhaps he was expecting me to die. I don’t know. All I know is that he was the one who diagnosed me with generalised anxiety disorder in order to be able to prescribe the drugs he was giving me. I know this, because I caught a glance of my record on the screen in his room and was furious that someone had diagnosed me without ever bothering to tell me what I’d been diagnosed with. He admitted that he’d written it on there.

Maybe I’m being magnanimous because I didn’t really suffer too much from the withdrawal. Or maybe I did, but I couldn’t feel it underneath all the beer and coke and speed and ephedrine and ketamine I was consuming.

The next doctor I saw was Dr. Cheshire. I was really panicky when I went to see him for the first time, and I talk too much when I get panicky so I went in and started trying to explain what I was there for but the words tried to all come out at once and I choked on them and I ended up just sitting there looking anguished and overwhelmed for a moment or two. Then I told him that my leg was getting better (to which he said: ‘I heard about that!’) and I then explained that all my medication was wrong and I needed help. He told me that I needed to see a psychiatrist and get diagnosed properly before he could really prescribe me anything new, to which I replied that I kept not quite meeting the criteria and probably wouldn’t be allowed to see anyone.

He looked at me like I was totally fucking insane. This threw me a bit, to be honest.

He wrote a referral, I saw a psychiatrist. I’m still a bit confused as to why it was so simple up here, yet in Norfolk I never got past the pack of guard dogs who protect the psychiatrists and psychologists from having to actually encounter a crazy person. I mean… I was a constant, viable threat to myself and I had been for many months. I got sent home from hospital twice in two days because there weren’t any psychiatric beds available, and even though by the second night I was begging them not to make me go home because I’d reached a point of suicidal ideation where something inside me was genuinely scared that I was going to actually do it, the nurse who was sticking my arm back together told me that the only thing she could suggest was that I sit in the waiting room all night.

Every time I’ve relapsed since I moved here, I’ve ended up crying hysterically to whichever doctor-type I’m talking to at the time, begging them to reassure me that if I think I’m going to kill myself actually for real this time that I can just go to the hospital and they won’t turn me away. And they, too, look at me like I’m fucking crazy. But I still make them reassure me.

I have never been more scared in my whole life than I was that night. I genuinely thought that I was going to die. I felt as though I was locked inside a tiny room with a monster and it was only a matter of time before the monster devoured me. My death was so close, I was already standing in its shadow and it was already stealing my breath.

I don’t know how I made it.

I went to see the psychiatrist. I told him everything, except for the parts which I didn’t deem particularly relevant. Such as all the drugs I was taking. I hadn’t quite learned how to be honest at that point – I was worried that he’d refuse to help me if I told him I still took drugs. Besides, I was doing better – right? Right.

He either got confused by my disjointed narrative or accidentally misheard me when I told him I’d moved up here to be near my friend and somehow thought that I’d said I’d moved up here to be near my friend’s mum. I tried to correct him but he said something else and I forgot where I was and the conversation moved on. I’m not sure how relevant this mistake was to him telling me I have borderline personality disorder. My early childhood was a contrary combination of over-protection, emotional neglect, and violence (mostly witnessed, but from a very young age – and, sadly, I wasn’t always fortunate enough to be spared). This, along with however many boxes I ticked on the borderline personality disorder page of the diagnostic manual, was probably enough on its own. The mistake was probably irrelevant.

I know I mentioned it somewhere on here already but at one point he mentioned my surname and asked if I was related to the poet. I tried to be funny and said ‘yeah, but we’re not very close’ and he didn’t even humour me by smiling politely because he was A Serious Doctor – but then he got really excited and said that he had a feeling that Lord Byron had borderline personality disorder too. Again, I’m fairly sure that this wasn’t relevant to my diagnosis either. At least, I fucking hope it wasn’t.

I’m still not overly comfortable talking about it. I’m glad I was diagnosed; I’m not glad I was diagnosed with something that can’t be cured and feels massively stigmatising. The only way I can fight that feeling is by talking about it – and I will, one day – but, honestly, it’s like going through a quality control for humans, only all the alarms go off and I’m marked as defective and just tossed aside. It feels pretty shameful. Doctors generally think I’m going to be a pain in the arse – and I am, probably. They haven’t yet found a medicine that cures busted personalities so you end up in a never ending cycle of therapy — recovery — relapse. Dialectic behavioural therapy is recommended, however I’ve asked at least six different GPs about it and none of them have ever heard of it. I get offered counselling instead. I’m fucking sick of seeing counsellers. That’s why I’m writing it all down now. I’m so fucking tired of talking about it. I need to know what to do.

All I wanted was for the problem to be identified so that a solution could then be found. But the problem is complex, the solution unclear. I’m the only one who can fix me and I keep trying to destroy myself. My thoughts are all distorted and wrong, my emotions are largely inappropriate, and my actions are driven by impulsiveness and recklessness. Sometimes I’m so overwhelmed by the sheer force of my own emotions that they drain me completely, leaving me feeling empty and hopeless. I have no clear sense of identity because often I have no clear sense of reality. Sometimes I’m not sure whether my opinions are my own. I have no self-discipline because I don’t know what I want to do with myself and I have no goals because I don’t know what I really want to achieve. I drive people away because I’m terrified they’ll leave. I want other people to love me but I don’t even like myself. I want to do everything, just for the sake of it. I am the emotionally unstable ex-girlfriend who seemed so fucking cool at first.

All I can do is write. My words have always been there.

I went in to see my new doctor – Dr. Huckle – one day, and started wailing about all the wrongs I’d done because it had happened again and I was going crazy and I needed help and I wanted so very much for this to all go away. And he said he’d refer me because he was just a GP and it really wasn’t his area of expertise and he didn’t want to make things worse for me.
‘But call me if you start feeling worse anyway,’ he said.

Before I left I started crying and made him promise me that I wouldn’t be thrown out of A&E in the middle of the night if I was trying to kill myself again.

He looked at me. He looked sad.

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