You know me... always trying to fix things (like my son's eating disorder) and refusing to give in. Or at least that's what I used to be like. I really, really hoped that I could fix my C-PTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) that I've been struggling with for four years (as a result of the trauma of the eating disorder years when my son was sick). Last week the NHS spat me out to fend for myself because I'd reached the end of a limited number of therapy sessions. I don't blame the therapist who admitted that this isn't the way she likes to practise. In other words, if the patient isn't recovered in a given number of sessions, then tough luck, they're out on their ear.
Imagine that with a physical illness? Being given time-limited treatment and if you hadn't recovered by the time it was used up, then tough luck.
We who have cared for our children through the hell of an eating disorder for many months and even years, 24/7/365, with no let-up - an illness we were well aware could kill our child - and those of us who have fallen sick ourselves with some kind of mental health condition as a result of the physical / biological impact that abnormally high stress levels have on the brain (as proven by science), will be well aware that mental illnesses can be as serious and as devastating as physical illnesses.
Indeed the brain is an organ, just as the heart, liver or kidneys are organs. Mental illness is in fact physical illness and should be treated as seriously by our NHS. On top of this mental illness can lead to serious physical illnesses and problems. Read The Body Keeps the Score: Mind, Brain and Body in the Transformation of Trauma by world-leading trauma expert Bessel van der Kolk to find out more.
As I said at the start of this post, I like to fix things. I remained strong throughout my son's devastating eating disorder because I knew that if I gave up then the whole thing could crumble around us. When he was discharged from NHS eating disorder treatment too soon it was up to me (and my husband) to take over and do our level best to work with our son to get him well.
The alternative was too horrible and terrifying to contemplate when the word 'suicide' featured almost as frequently as day turning into night.
All three of us - my son, my husband and myself (and doubtless many of you reading this) - know how punishingly difficult it is for an individual to beat mental illness on their own, unassisted.
I really hoped I might be able to fix my PTSD myself but it is becoming increasingly obvious that this isn't possible, no matter how many books I read or exercises I do, no matter how hard I try.
Three days ago I woke from my sleep hyper-ventilating following a hellish nightmare. Two days ago I was shouting so loud in my sleep that my husband (who was sleeping in the next room because I thrash around so much in my sleep) nearly rushed in to see what was wrong. Last night and the night before I awoke after the usual high-anxiety nightmares. Last night I was having to give something up because I simply couldn't handle it (in my dream this was a university degree). I also had a large wound which I was trying to cover with minuscule sticking plasters (got to be some meaning there!!)
During the day I am finding it harder and harder to get dressed and do normal things. I am well aware that I have changed; I am not the person I was. And I can't fix this myself.
The only solution for me is to pay for private treatment - to beg, steal or borrow from relatives and my pension savings. So this is what I've decided to do. I have no option. I really don't. The alternative is a 'half life' where I slob around the house in my pyjamas all day, or just remain in bed, and I can't bear the idea of that.
I know that PTSD and its more complex 'cousin' C-PTSD can be fixed and that I must get it fixed.
Just as if I developed a heart problem, diabetes or kidney issues then I'd do my level best to get that fixed; I wouldn't just let the illness take its course without any medical help.
And I wouldn't be expected to.
But that's the thing. Physical illness is taken seriously. Medical help is provided. And it is provided for as long as is necessary.
I want the Government and the NHS to recognise that mental health can be every bit as serious and difficult to fix as physical health conditions. To offer a limited number of sessions to a patient and then spit them out the other end if they haven't recovered 'in time' is criminal.
Imagine unplugging a patient from a dialysis machine and sending them home without further help because they'd 'used up' the allocated limited number of sessions?
Anyway there isn't much I can do. So by hook or by crook I can hopefully get the cash together to pay for private C-PTSD treatment, but not everyone is able to do this.
For every me there must be hundreds who suffer because they can't afford treatment for their PTSD, eating disorder or other mental health condition.
And in a country where private health insurance is an expensive luxury or job perk, and where the amount allocated to mental health is often laughingly small, our hands are tied.