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#TheVulnerabilityChallenge Day 3
What stops me from accessing mental health services when I need them?
When I overdosed at the age of 19, the nurse in the Emergency Department asked “Did you do it for attention?” I was referred to a counsellor. I wasn’t comfortable with her. I wanted to express all these feelings about not being good enough and wanting to hide away and talk about the way I avoid things and how I just didn’t seem to be able to live a normal life and I had no hope. But she wouldn’t allow me to. She guided the conversation to life events instead and then, when I clammed up, she said she didn’t think I wanted any help. My GP told me she’s the best they have and that was the end of my treatment. I was misunderstood and felt like I was just a pain. Worthless.
Coming up against poor attitudes and a lack of compassion from health professionals in the past led me to believe that many professionals don’t have the appropriate training and empathy needed to help me when I have a mental health problem. I thought I’m more likely to be met with insensitive comments and judgement. I understand that you’re busy as a nurse, a counsellor or GP. That maybe I’m the third overdose you’ve seen today and you probably don’t understand why anyone would do that to themselves. You’ve not been there yourself and you’ve not listened to anyone else’s story. All you can do is assume.
But your assumptions meant that I didn’t go back for support. I continued to suffer in silence. Toying with the idea of death and escaping the emotional pain for several years more.
Because it takes courage to reach out and ask for help, or to accept the help you’re offered after you visibly hit rock bottom. In those moments, you’re clinging on to hope. And then you get knocked by down by a thoughtless comment, a judgement, assumption or stereotype. And you don’t want to reach out again. You get this sense of “well, if the helpers can’t help me, then I must be really fucked up”. You want to hide all the more, because you feel even less than you did before.