Away from home, this was not the case and my mental health deteriorated following a life-threatening overdose I was admitted to an acute psychiatric ward.
From the start, I was consistently labelled as attention seeking largely in relation to my persistent acts of self-harm. Seeking attention is a normal part of the human condition and the fact that my behaviour was extreme and at times life-threatening should indicate these needs have not significantly been met in my childhood rather than be ascribed to bad behaviour.
I have grown up with a mother who punished me for needing care and nurturing and to desperately ask others for this as an adult only to find that their response was very similar is profoundly hurtful and unkind.
The mental health system is focussed on seeing those who use it as a collection of medical symptoms rather than distressed and damaged children in search of a surrogate family to help them recover from the failings of their own.
Its inability to see beyond the behaviour that it is presented with and to label its users as ill and in need of fixing rather than assisting them to grow and move forward does not help.
I have felt like a small alien object squashed onto a microscope slide being observed and studied by a group of eminent scientists rather than as an upset child with a nurturing parent to hold my hand and lead me to safety.
The staff I remember fondly are those who treated me as an equal and recognised my behaviour as a sign of distress rather than attention seeking.
During this first admission, there was a Portuguese cleaner who barely spoke any English. She would leave cakes on my bed when I was upset that she had taken from a private patient’s ward and offer to help me sort out my washing and tidy my room when I was too unwell to manage basic tasks.
Even though I could barely communicate with this woman I remember her kindness and support more favourably than many of the qualified mental health professionals on the ward.
The mental health system’s focus on managing aberrant behaviour and symptoms rather than basic human kindness and making secure attachments to its users is damaging and cruel.
During this admission, I was labelled as difficult and attention seeking but was never part of any discussions around the formal diagnosis.
I still had a university library card and took out a book on psychiatry and decided that I had probably been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder which I was able to confirm several years later by asking for copies of my notes.
Continued in Part 3.
Written by Anonymous