The Waiting List
I'm not a danger to myself or anyone else. I'm grateful for that.
The world can be dangerous. I don't necessarily mean the plane-crash, shark attack, World War III kind of dangerous (although, that too), but the world can be a treacherous place for the mind. Living with a mental health condition in a world rife with judgement, stigma and backlash can feel impossible at times. Add in lack of funding, lack of resources and lack of understanding and you've got a toxic mess of fucking shit.
I'm not a danger to myself or anyone else. Which means I've managed to scrape together just enough peace and self-worth, that I don't need to lash out at others or at myself. It means I'm "coping". I haven't expressed suicidal thoughts. I don't want to hurt anyone. I've "successfully" managed to forge my own coping methods and carve out my own support network.
I'm not a danger, which actually just means I'm not a fucking priority. It means I'm at the back of the queue. I'm in the corner of a waiting room and it's so God damn packed in here that nobody can hear me ask for the help I need. And of course I feel guilty about it. I feel guilty about it! There are people who need the help more than me - people who need immediate care and attention - people who aren't "coping". And if they can't get the help they need and deserve, then who the fuck am I?
If I was in here with a cold or an infection or something, I'd be seen straight away. I'd be walking out of here, prescription in hand. But what's really going to have more effect on my life long term, eh?
It's been 6 months since I was diagnosed with PTSD. I came out of an abusive relationship so fucked up that it left me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. My doctor was kind and helpful and informative and reassuring and all the things she should have been. She sat across from me and reminded me that what I was feeling was OK and it was understandable and most importantly that it was valid. That given the level of control and abuse it was expected that I was going to be unwell. And so she put me on the waiting list.
It wasn't my first time on a waiting list. I had my first panic attack at 16, I know what to expect from a waiting list. Nothing.
It's 2017. We're apparently passed the dark ages, in which mental health was a taboo. Public figures and politicians bang on and on about awareness and change as if there is a minor problem - a problem that opening a couple of counselling centres will solve. Let's give 8 more people in the UK cognitive behavioral therapy... that'll fix it.
Mental health is real. It isn't a tick box exercise. It isn't covered by one policy in your party manifesto. It isn't made OK by a couple of sentences in your HR handbook. The answers aren't in a Self Help leaflet your GP handed you. It's so much more important than that, and it shouldn't be up to the people who are suffering to point it out.
How different could my life have been if I had been given the proper support at 16? How different could the last 6 months have been if that list had only been half as long?
So we'll self medicate shall we then? If nobody is going to help us, we'll have to self medicate. Lord knows how we're going to do that. Pay for counselling, if we're among the lucky few who can afford it. Eating well. Getting enough sleep. Exercising. Meditating. All those things that you feel so much like doing if you have a mental health condition.
It's that simple is it? Because someone with anxiety, or depression, or an eating disorder, or bi-polar or PTSD, BPD, ADHD, ADD, MDD, OCD - they couldn't possibly find it difficult to make those healthy choices could they? Mental health professionals aren't always able to help them, but they can sure make things better for themselves by doing a bit of fucking yoga.
Or maybe they won't be so lucky. Maybe they'll turn to junk food, or starvation. Maybe they'll turn to alcohol, or drugs, or self harm, or by taking it out on the people they love. Maybe they won't even survive the 6 months that will get them to the top of the waiting list. Because if you haven't seen them to assess how unwell they are, how do you get to decide who is and isn't a priority? How do you know who is capable of expressing just how sad, or confused or angry they are feeling? How do you know what support network each person has? I hear people talking about how we "can't afford to do it properly". Surely we can't afford NOT to do it?!
I hope that one day the help is there for everyone, not just kind of there for some of the people at the very very top of the Premier League of the weird mental illness ranking system we seem to have developed as a society. Let's start to treat our own mental health and the mental health of others with the same respect as we have for physical health. Our minds are at least as important as our bodies.
And while I'm scrambling around in the dark, trying to decide how much I'm worth; how badly I need help, I'll try to remind myself that this isn't my fault, shall I? After living with anxiety for 11 years and being told that the resources aren't available, I'll vote for you because of your bullshit small print policy, shall I? Because you've got one goddamn sentence about mental health in your ENTIRE plan for the future of our country. Can you imagine if that was the other way around?
"We're going to address physical health issues" and the whole fucking world celebrates because someone is finally considering the fact that our health might be worth something. That our happiness might be worth something. That our lives might actually be worth something.
Like, sure... talk for 5 years about which currency we'll trade in and who we're going to trade it with. Put a fucking window in our £5 notes! Why not?! There's nothing worse than being stuck in a room built with £5 notes and being unable to see out is there? FUCK OFF.
I'm so angry.
I can't believe we even need to still fight for the care and recognition we deserve.
Health. Is. Health.