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Post Partum Psychosis: In My Own Words.

Post Partum Psychosis is something that I struggled with after the birth of both of my babies. I felt unable to write properly about my first experience with this cruel illness, despite having different opportunities to do so. The words just wouldn’t come, which is unusual for me as I often find writing to be quite cathartic.

I was discharged from a mother and baby unit earlier this year after developing Post Partum Psychosis a second time, with my daughter. Again, I’ve had a bit of a mental block whenever I’ve tried to write about it, but this time round, I kept a journal, and I have decided to share extracts directly from it in this blog post. I think it will be quite cathartic for me, and also potentially helpful for someone else who might read this.

In parts of this blog, there are quite descriptive mentions relating to self harm, and there are parts that could be triggering to read generally.

The following extracts are taken from my journal, beginning in October, 2019 and ending in February, 2020. This is Post Partum Psychosis in my own words.

Found it hard at Asda. Like I wasn’t even there but I could see everyone else doing their shopping. Huge anxiety in my chest when people looked at me. Scared they were demons. Felt safer once we got back to the car. Feel far away from the kids. I’m a bad mum to them both and not even sure if this new baby is even mine. She deserves better. They both do. I’m evil! I must be. Something’s not right. The weighing scales – poisoned? Not safe to get her weighed.

Friday 25th October, 2019.

The only thing I know for sure today is that I have evil inside me. Weighing scales are going to teleport her somewhere. Sounds bonkers! I’m fucking losing it. It feels like my heart is going to explode. It hurts. I just feel so low and alone. And a failure. And none of this writing feels like it’s coming from me. It’s like I’m up above watching it all happen.

Saturday 26th October, 2019.

I feel trapped in my own head. I want to get away from myself but I can’t. I can see how evil I am. Is any of this even real? I am a disgusting human being. Why did I have children? They deserve better than me. Everything feels so wrong..bad…evil?

Sunday 27th October, 2019.

I’ve tried to explain that I’m evil but nobody seems to be listening. We’ve asked for hospital but there’s no beds at the minute. But I’m not coping. I’m frightened.

I don’t understand how I can feel like she isn’t mine at the same time as this massive need to protect her from anything or anyone poisonous or bad. But I’m bad too? Take her away from me. I feel bad for all these people trying to help me when they haven’t seen the evil yet.

Tuesday 29th October, 2019.

We took [my son] to the park last night. It helped watching him play. I saw some magpies and thought it was a sign of evil. It was hard coming downstairs again today. I just wanted to hide in bed.

Saw a crow in the car park earlier. Nearly shit myself. Tired and scared.

Wednesday 30th October, 2019.

I gave her a bath today. It still doesn’t feel like she’s my baby. She enjoyed the bath and it was nice to see, but she still doesn’t feel real? I’m trying so hard to connect with her. It’s so hard and confusing. I’m an awful mum.

Nobody seems to believe me when I tell them I’m evil. I think I must’ve been manipulating them in to thinking I’m a nice person but the truth is that I’m far from nice. I’m bad. Evil. I feel like I need to run away to protect my children from me.

Thursday 31st October, 2019.

Bad day today. Very anxious. I don’t feel safe on my own with the children because I’m evil. Feels like I’m screaming but no noise is coming out. It’s like my brain has split in to two opposing sides and they are fighting each other. Please someone make it stop.

Friday 1st November, 2019.

She smiled at me today for the first time. I feel awful though because I wasn’t as happy or pleased about it as I should be. I need to try harder with her. Its all so confusing though because I’m evil. I’m so scared. I’m not me anymore. Donna has gone. I’m an evil person. That’s all I can think about. We are hopefully going for a drive soon, but I’m a bit scared of seeing crows again. It’s like they are drawn to me. A sign of evil.

Saturday 2nd November, 2019.

I feel like I’ve manipulated everyone in to thinking I’m a nice and good person when the truth is I am so far from that. I keep waiting for people to find out. My children deserve better than me. Evil runs through my blood. I don’t know what to do. My leg is hurting but I don’t think it’s electricity though. Electricity is still in my arm. I’m tired. Mentally tired. Drained. Angry with myself for being a manipulative bitch and one incredibly shit mum. She’s asleep right now but I’m scared of her waking up. I’m evil.

Monday 4th November, 2019.

I looked at my phone upstairs to see what time it was and I saw 11:11 again. Feels like a sign. There are people out there or in the afterlife who know that I’m evil. Demons. They’re here to take me to Hell. [Husband] thinks I should go to another mother and baby unit if a bed becomes available there instead of here. As long as it’s not too far away. But I’m scared of that.

Tuesday 5th November, 2019.

[Husband] thinks I should go to Nottingham. [Perinatal CPN] is coming later so I guess we will talk then. On the one hand I can see why I should go because I’m struggling. But I’m evil and so I shouldn’t be there. It’s not safe for other mums and babies for me to be there. I’m so confused and really scared about everything.

Yesterday in the car, we passed the One Below pound shop. But the sign was flickering on and off so it felt as though it was a sign meant for me to see. One Below = Me down in Hell. Someone in one of the windows in the house opposite with a camera zoomed in on us. Watching me. And people I know in the afterlife are watching me. Realising that I’m evil. I’m so tired of all this. I’m manipulating everyone in to thinking I’m a good person.

Wednesday 6th November, 2019.

We are in the car on the way to Nottingham Mother and Baby Unit. I’m so scared. I don’t want to leave [my son] or [husband]. I won’t want him to drive back home after he takes me in there. It’s too far away. I saw a crow on a chimney outside before we set off and I felt as though it was demons checking to see where I’m going. I don’t know if its real or if I’ve made it up in my head. I’m also scared we are going to have a car crash on the way there as a punishment for me being evil. And [husband] got a text reminder for [son’s] dentist appointment. It’s on the 11th at 11. 11:11 AGAIN. The demon number. Is something going to happen to my son? I’ve taken diazepam. Hope it helps a bit.

I’m at the unit now. It’s scary here. I didn’t want [husband] to leave. [Baby] is asleep. I should be trying to rest before her next feed but I can’t settle yet. Could see a demon outside the window but it’s gone now. [Husband] got home safe. Was convinced he was going to crash on the motorway.

Thursday 7th November, 2019.

[Husband] and [son] are on their way up to see me. Scared they’re going to crash and die because of me. Hanging in there best I can until they get here. Quetiapine getting increased to 400mg. I’m frightened. Let the nurse feed baby last night but I felt horrid because it shows everyone I’m a bad mum. My episiotomy wound is still infected = punishment for being evil? Also might be two weeks or more for a bed in Leeds.

Friday 8th November, 2019.

Felt groggy and tired this morning. Just looked at my phone and saw the time 11:11. Also when I was sat at the table I saw the word Evil on the noticeboard. But when I got up to look closer I realised it said Eva. Member of staff presumably? Or a demon?

Where has Donna gone? I’m not me anymore. Crows are even in my dreams now. I dreamt that one came up really close to me. Tempted to google what it means to dream about crows but I’m assuming I won’t like the answer. Truth is I already know the answer. I keep seeing [baby] getting stabbed in her right eye. Scared to tell anyone in case they think I’ll hurt her but I never will. I need to protect her from me though. Today is a bad day. Someone else has taken over me. Donna is gone.

Saturday 9th November, 2019.

It’s 11th of the 11th tomorrow. Scared of tonight at midnight right through til the end of the day. Scared I might get possessed? [Husband] been to visit. He’s gone now. It broke my heart. He’s not coming now til Tuesday and will be bringing [my son] with him. My heart hurts.

11:11. The demons are making me see 11:11. It’s a sign to let me know they are here.

GO AWAY.

Sunday 10th November, 2019.

Scared. Just need to get through this day, but I think I’m going to die of sepsis. I could see my white blood cells in the lights. Being drained out of me by demons in the door. So that I’ll die.

Thought [my son] was in trouble but called [husband] and FaceTimed and he’s OK. There was a sign he was in danger but he’s safe for now.

11:11 is nearly gone. What next? Will the demons get me or will they go?

Monday 11th November, 2019.

Got through the night. I thought today might be a little better but it feels like somebody ripped out my heart and stamped on it. It physically aches because I feel so sad and alone. [Husband] and [son] came. But I got upset so wasted time instead of playing with my boy. I’ve failed him. I needed to be stronger and I failed. My heart aches. I don’t understand what’s happening anymore. I need to be strong for my babies. They’ve got a shit mum though. I despise myself.

CPN did a video call with me. It helped a bit but I’m feeling so sad and low tonight. I feel like I can’t breathe. I’ve had enough of this shit.

I’m letting my daughter down. I’m letting my son down. I’m letting my husband down. I’m a disgrace. I’m so sorry.

Tuesday 12th November, 2019.

Checked my phone randomly for the time and it was 11:11. Also a lady was singing if you’re happy and you know it song to her children and that’s a favourite of my son’s that I sing with him so I thought a demon was showing me a sign they were going to hurt him. They possessed her and made her sing that song to get to me.

Is my baby safe?

ONE DAY AT A TIME DONNA

Wednesday 13th November, 2019.

Today has been really hard. I woke up feeling dreadful. Just so low and tearful. Ended up spending a lot of time in my room because it was too much for me out there. Felt so low I’ve wanted to cut myself. I wanted to die earlier. Forced myself to go to the communal area for food but one baby was crying and feeling poorly and another was poorly through the night and my son is poorly too. So I thought it was me making them all poorly. I’m a bad presence.

Scared I’m going to die of sepsis and my baby will die of cot death.

Thursday 14th November, 2019.

Nearly cut myself this morning, so asked [husband] to give nurse my razor blade. Where has Donna gone? Was laughing and joking in the communal area earlier with staff but now feel guilty because my focus should be on protecting my children. Saw 11:11 again this morning.

Do I put Quetiapine up to 500mg? Or not? I don’t know what to do. I feel horrific. Tired, sad and alone.

I think the staff are poisoning me.

Saturday 16th November, 2019.

Keeps popping in my head that staff are trying to poison or kill me with the different medication. Massive battles in my head. I’m tired. Wanted to go home today but [husband] didn’t want me to. I’m so scared.

Sunday 17th November, 2019.

Feeling really really low. The medication issues have been sorted but it doesn’t make me feel any better. I feel like the staff hate me. [Husband] said the doctor said we could discuss me having some leave tomorrow. I should be more pleased about that than I am. At the moment, it makes me want to kill myself because I can’t see how I will ever be back to the Donna I once was. I can’t imagine me looking after my two babies at home and feeling happy. I can’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I’m not sure what I’m fighting for anymore. I’m trying to focus on the positives – being able to participate in small talk with patients and staff, realising that the electricity in my arm has gone and that it potentially wasn’t real (?) and feeling like [my baby] is my own baby. But on the other hand, I’m paranoid about everyone and anything. I want to cut myself which is upsetting me as it’s been years since I did that. And to be honest, the thoughts of [my husband] being at work and me being at home alone with the kids makes me feel suicidal, which is disgusting. They are my babies and I love them but I can’t see how Donna is going to come back. I hate myself and I want to die, but I miss my son, so I’m hoping going home on leave for a bit will help. I miss him terribly. I feel so guilty,

Monday 18th November, 2019.

It’s upsetting me that I keep thinking of dying. I want to try enjoy time with [my husband] and [my son] today. But I hate myself.

It’s been hard today. [My son] was crying today but he wanted his daddy, not me. It broke my heart. I’m too far away from home. I need to get a bed closer.

I’m never going to get better because I’m not even poorly to start with. I’m just rotten to the core and always have been.

Tuesday 19th November, 2019.

Nursery rhymes again = my son is in danger. I also have a rash on my right arm so the electricity must be back. I also tried to cut myself with my tweezers which is just ridiculous. Stupid idiot.

Worried about my babies.

Want to walk to Wilkos and get a craft knife or something so I can use the blade to cut myself. I hate that I’m thinking of hurting myself. Even want to try banging my head against the wall.

Wednesday 20th November, 2019.

[My baby] is still a bit poorly. Keep thinking it’s a punishment for me being evil. Same with [my son]. I’m trying to rationalise it. That there are lots of bugs going round etc. I’m scared for weekend leave incase I mess it up and ruin it for them all.

I didn’t see any demon faces today. And the electricity I think might have gone? I’m not sure but maybe. Quetiapine might be starting to work?

It’s getting harder with [my baby]. Every time she cries I start to panic. I need to get a grip. Still want to hurt myself. Should just go jump in front of a bus and save everyone the hassle of trying to help a waste of space like me.

Thursday 21st November, 2019.

I went home Friday night and came back to the ward today. It was really tough if I’m honest. I was already scared to go and when I got there it all just felt too much. It was hard with [my son]. He wouldn’t come to me at first when we were here with [CPN] but then he came around. But then at home, he was really clingy with me. It was all really overwhelming. Everything felt too noisy. I had to have time outs upstairs on my own every so often. Diazepam helped. I did manage to enjoy some play time with [my son] in between all the darkness. It’s made me panic though about being back home properly. I can’t see me ever getting back to the Donna I was before. I’ve also sneaked a razor blade back in to the ward with me in a pair of socks. [My husband] would be so upset if he found out. And even more so if I hurt myself with it. I think I’ll end up doing it eventually. I’m tired of fighting against the urges.

Fuck it I’m going to do it.

Sunday 24th November, 2019.

Cut again. Little scratches again. But they sting and so that will be enough for now. Feel like crap. Want to die but don’t want to leave my family.

Monday 25th November, 2019.

It’s been a week since I last wrote in here, and a lot has changed since then. I’m back in Leeds now. I got a bed at the mother and baby unit here. I left Nottingham on Tuesday 26th. It’s been a lot harder to adjust to this unit than I thought it would be. It was a bit of a shock because Nottingham and Leeds both work in different ways. There has been a lot I’ve needed to adjust to.

[My husband] found out about the self harm. He was shocked and disappointed. He said he felt like he’d let me down because I didn’t try ringing him first. But the truth is that I’ve let him down. I’ve let my babies down too. Ever since that little bit of self harm, I’ve wanted to do more. I’ve been fighting against it as hard as I can. I don’t have a blade or anything sharp to cut with. And nothing to burn with. Apart from maybe the kettle? But I’m not sure how that would work logistically. I could bang my head against the wall? There are ways I can hurt myself if I really want to. Wish I had my bank card. I could try get out of here alone for a walk and buy something to cut myself with or some alcohol and just go get drunk somewhere. These are the things going through my mind. I’m going home for the night tomorrow and also Thursday night so that’s what I’m trying to focus on for now. Trying to do one day at a time.

Monday 2nd December, 2019.

Overnight leave was tough. I saw signs a lot more often. 11:11 at least twice. Crows. Signs of suicide. Signs of a car crash. Signs of demons watching me. Hoping tonight will be easier. Feel like I’m letting my family down.

Thursday 5th December, 2019.

Back on the ward. Leave was scary in parts and OK in other parts. Nice to all be together but also a heavy cloud over it because I feel a pressure to be well enough to look after my babies alone and I don’t think I’m there yet. I’m even worrying about going home for two nights tomorrow but I’m forcing myself to do it for my family. I really want to hurt myself.

Friday 6th December, 2019.

Urges to hurt myself are getting stronger. I’ve got a fiver in my bag because I thought I could try go to the shop on my own and buy something sharp. Torn between staying here and staying home. Both places are hard for different reasons. I just want Donna back but she feels so far away. Sometimes I think about running away but I don’t have enough money.

Sunday 12th December, 2019.

I did two nights leave. It went better than last time. I’m back on the ward now. It was hard when [my husband] left earlier because [my son] was crying and tugging on my leg for me to go with them. It was heartbreaking. I feel like I’m letting him down. The Donna I once knew has gone.

Thursday 16th December, 2019.

Just back on the ward after another bash at two nights leave. It was harder than last time but not as bad as the first time. I nearly asked [my husband] to drive me back here last night but I took a lorazepam and powered through it. The main thing that made it harder was the thoughts to just kill us all. None of these things I would ever do but it is so frightening when you imagine yourself doing that. I haven’t self harmed since Nottingham. Trying to stay strong.

Monday 20th December, 2019.

[My husband] bought me a lovely gold tiger’s eye crystal pendant and bracelet. I’m wearing them now. But the time on the receipt said 11:11am. That’s the exact time he bought it. I can’t get that out of my head. Surely that must be a sign? I’ve got a pencil sharpener in my pocket but can’t find anything the right size to unscrew the blade. I think my mood is getting better but Christmas is setting me back a bit. It feels like one step forward and two steps back. When Christmas is over things might start to get better? I’m hoping so. Feel like I’m letting everyone down.

Thursday 23rd December, 2019.

Went home for Christmas. It went OK. It could’ve been a lot worse. I think I’m probably going to end up cutting myself today. I found a screwdriver at home and have just unscrewed the blade in the pencil sharpener. Christmas was nice with my family though.

Sunday 27th December, 2019.

I handed the pencil sharpener in to the staff. Idiot.

Tuesday 29th December, 2019.

I had my review today. We are giving it another week before changing antidepressants because Christmas is stressful and once that’s all properly over, I might feel better. So we don’t want to be too hasty.

Wednesday 30th December, 2019.

Leave home was really stressful. [My son] acted out for most of New Year’s Eve. Then yesterday he was throwing up everywhere with a bug. Felt like they’d all be better off without me. Absolutely fed up of not being able to cope. Fuck this. I also don’t know if [my husband] trusts me on my own with the kids. I’m a disgrace. I feel like I’m not really here anymore. I don’t know if I’m going to get myself back. It’s all too much. I’m scared for the future.

Saturday 2nd January, 2020.

It’s been a while since I wrote in here. I think it might do me some good if I’m able to get some thoughts out of me. I’m having lots more leave from the hospital now. There was one particular block of leave that went really really well. It was 4 nights and I had lots of play time with the kids. My husband thinks it went well too because I also managed to go out for a meal all of us together with my father in law. It was nice. I actually felt like myself again. It’s during that period of leave when I realised I’m not evil. I think it was the Monday, so the 6th of January. Something just clicked in my head. It happened so suddenly. It was quite overwhelming, but in a good way. I felt great that week. It seems to have gradually disappeared again though? I don’t know. I felt amazing but I don’t feel that now. I felt like I’d found myself again, that Donna has come back. But I feel myself fading away again despite fighting hard to hold on to myself. I don’t get it. Why can’t I shake the bad thoughts off for good? I’m SO much better than I was. I know that now. I just wish I could feel like myself more permanently rather than finding and losing myself on a constant cycle.

I feel like I’m letting my family down. I wish I didn’t feel that way. I’ve had a couple of stressful blocks of leave after that initial 4 lovely days. I don’t know if maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself to feel the way I did that time and to maintain that. Is that even a realistic expectation?

Friday 24th January, 2020.

I do feel like I’m me again (mostly). I know that I’m not evil. I love my family. I can laugh and crack some lame jokes. But at the same time, I feel lost? I can’t shake off the urges to hurt myself but I haven’t done anything since Nottingham. I also have this niggling feeling that I’m a bad mum and it at times makes me want to run away from them so that I never hurt them unintentionally or intentionally.

Saturday 25th January, 2020

I’m off back to the ward today. Think I’ll be staying there tonight. And then more Leave again? I’m not sure yet what the plan is. It’s been a busy week really but I’ve coped. Still feel like I’m a bad mum and that the staff think so too. But “family life” has settled down a lot. We have a routine now and that really helps. There’s still a part of me that feels low, which is frustrating, but I’m trying my best to be the mum the kids deserve.

I feel like I need to keep pushing myself. Me and [my husband] took [our baby] to the sensory play group at the hospital, but it didn’t go too well. I was incredibly anxious and felt like all the other mums were somehow better than me.

Sunday 26th January, 2020.

I’m so much better than I was. Don’t quite feel myself yet but I guess that might come with more time? I’ve tried tricking myself in to thinking I’m me again by putting on a front for people. I’m not sure if it’s working. I still feel an ache that doesn’t seem to be lifting. I’m also comfort eating so bad. Piling the weight on which makes me feel disgusting. I don’t really like myself very much right now and I’m scared that means my children don’t have a good enough mummy. The future scares me a bit.

Monday 27th January, 2020.

I’ve gone from feeling suicidal to being scared that I’m going to die and leave my family. I had pains in my hip last week and went from “pulled muscle” to “dying of bone cancer” in about 3 google clicks. Yesterday I had right sided chest pain so went from “anxiety” to “blood clot in lung” equally as fast. Google is not my friend.

Tuesday 28th January, 2020.

I feel like all the staff hate me. That my family hate me. Pretty much everyone hates me.

Thursday 30th January, 2020.

I think I’m ready to be discharged now. I’m not 100% in the right head space for it, but I’m having a lot of leave from the ward, so I might as well take the next step. I think I can cope with community staff, and to be honest, I feel like I’m just taking up a much needed bed at the moment. I just want to be a good mum. I’m scared I’m not enough for my children. I’m scared that people are wondering why I even risked having children when they all know how crap I am.

Saturday 1st February, 2020.

I think I am ready to be discharged. I think it’s time. I’m still not feeling properly like myself yet, but I know that Donna is in here and I know I’m not evil. I’ve got a wonderful husband and two amazing babies. I’m ready to be with them properly. I’m nervous for the future incase I don’t cope, but I’m ready to try.

Monday 3rd February, 2020.

I did end up getting discharged on Monday 3rd February after I asked to be. It felt like the right time. I’d like to take the chance to thank Rosey (@PNDandMe) for sending myself and all the other mums, not just on our unit, but every other mother and baby unit too, a gift bag of goodies for Christmas. The postcard she placed inside my bag is still on our fridge at home as a much needed reminder:

With special thanks to the two mother and baby units that looked after me and my family:

The Yorkshire and Humber Mother and Baby Unit, Leeds.

The Margaret Oates Mother and Baby Unit, Nottingham.

“Harmed by a PD Label” – The Monthly Online Peer Support Group (On Zoom)

I’ve had quite a few people asking for more details about this group, so I thought I would write a little something about it here.

Aim of the Group:

The aim of the group is to create a safe space for those harmed by a PD Label to share their truths with others who can relate. I have seen examples of times where people have got together with a primary purpose of wanting to educate Mental Health Professionals, but I’ve not seen examples of a space for people to get together just for peer support – a place just for us. It is my hope that this group can grow to become that safe space that is needed, to help us all know we are not alone, and for us to feel free to share our truths without worrying about what any Mental Health Professionals might have to say about those truths. It is hoped that this will become a space for YOU. (Mental Health Professionals who also have experience of personally being harmed by a PD Label are welcome to this group though. Anyone who has been harmed by a PD label is welcome to this group)

A bit about me:

My name is Donna and I’m a Childhood Sexual Abuse survivor. I was referred to the CMHT for some help back in 2011, but I soon regretted it. Instead of getting support to cope with the aftermath of abuse, I was blamed for the way I was coping, and for how I was surviving, and no focus at all was placed on what actually happened to me. I didn’t realise until a while later that this was because my diagnosis was apparently Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder. I was harmed by this label, and I know there are lots of people out there who can relate. I was treated like shit by Services. It was abusive at times. I also became aware of how my treatment would differ, dependant on what each individual team or professional thought my diagnosis was. For example, PTSD or Bipolar meant I was treated with care and compassion some of the time. But EUPD meant I was always treated no better than shit on someone’s shoe. As the years have gone by, I have realised that this didn’t just happen to me and that there are actually lots of people who have similar truths to share. You can find me on Twitter over at @MummyDonnaJ

A bit about the Group itself:

The group had its first meet at the beginning of this year. I think about 14 attended at its busiest point, but on average I think there were around 10 people including myself. During this first meet, we decided that the group would meet on a monthly basis, so we have had two meets so far. The group is new and it will be very much user led, so as time goes on, the group might decide together that we want to meet more often or less often, at a different time, for longer or shorter time, etc. But at the moment, because of my life situation (I have two toddlers!) it is easier for me to set aside some time to facilitate the group on a Saturday at 3pm, once a month.

There is no obligation to have your camera on, nor is there any obligation for you to share. It is totally OK to just listen to other people sharing. There is also a chat function, which gives people the option to write whatever it is they want to share, if that’s easier for them.

What do I mean by “share”?

People can share whatever they want to share about how a PD Label has harmed them. In the two groups we have had so far, people have shared their own personal truths. For example I’ve spoken about the Mental Health System and how a PD label led to me being treated poorly. People have shared their own personal experiences of that as well. Maybe you have a poem that you’ve written and you feel it might be cathartic to share it? Or maybe you just want to talk about how you’re doing right now? Maybe you want a big rant? Whatever you want to share is OK.

As the group is still quite new, I ask people to “raise their hand” on Zoom if they want to share, and I explain how to do this at the beginning of each group. There tends to be at least one new person each time the meet runs, and so I want to make sure that everyone who wants to share gets the chance to do so. Sometimes it can feel intimidating to just “jump in” when you sense a quiet moment, so the raise hand function lets everyone know that if they raise their hand, I will definitely invite them to share with the group when it’s their turn. I hope that’s OK. Again, as the group grows and we get used to each other, that might be something we don’t need to do any more.

I want this group to be a safe space for all who have been harmed by a PD label. Hate speech of any kind will not be tolerated, and everything that is said in the group will remain in the group. This is something I will remind everyone of at the start of each meet.

How to attend a meet:

I will regularly advertise the date of the next meeting on my Twitter account @MummyDonnaJ and I will send the new link/password to anyone who expresses an interest in the group. My DMs are open, so you can contact me on Twitter without having to follow my account. I can either DM you a link, or if it’s easier, you can DM me your email address so that I can send you the Zoom details that way. The group runs on a Saturday and I send the links out on the Friday before. There have been a couple of times where I have not sent the link to someone who wanted it (I’m so sorry about this!) so if it gets to Saturday and you think you should’ve got the details and haven’t – please do get in touch and kick me up the arse! I genuinely don’t intend to miss anyone off the list and am hoping to improve the way I keep the list of those who express interest to avoid this happening again at future meets.

Trigger warning ⚠️

This group is for people who have been harmed by a PD label, so by its very nature, the group can become quite triggering for people dependent on what is shared. It can sometimes get quite heavy. It is totally OK to leave the room during a meet and come back later on, or not come back at all. It’s also OK to leave and come back at a future meet. Whatever you need to do for yourself is OK. Because I don’t know what will be shared in the group in advance, there is no way of me forewarning anyone of any specific triggers, so I’d just like to take the time to ask everyone to be aware that the group might be triggering and to just take care of you. I will try to check in with everyone after a meet if it ends up being a heavy one.

I’ll keep coming back to this post to add any further relevant information that I think of myself, or anything that arises in any future meets, but please let me know if there is something I’ve not answered here in this blog post that you want to know about the group and I’ll make sure that I answer it as quickly as possible. You are welcome to reply to this post or DM me privately, or tweet me @MummyDonnaJ

The Pressure Placed on Abuse Survivors from Society to Recall the Abuse in the “right” way when asked – But Trauma Memories Don’t Work Like That!

I wrote a blog post last week about my experiences of yearning for a mummy cuddle, as part of the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse, and how it’s been something that I felt unable to expand on any further with anyone because of a personality disorder diagnosis. I decided that I didn’t want that diagnosis to hold any more power over me, which led to me sharing my experiences. I was so surprised by how many people reached out to me to tell me that they really related to what I had written. It helped me to feel less alone, and it was nice to know that my experiences helped others feel less alone too.

With this in mind, I’ve decided to write further about my attempts at navigating through the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse. This blog post will focus on my struggles with memories of the abuse, and how, if I’m completely honest with myself and anyone who reads this, I don’t actually have all that many memories of the abuse itself, and what I *do* remember, is by no means chronological. It’s taken me a hell of a long time to come to terms with this, because rightly or wrongly, I was always so frightened that people wouldn’t believe me? Society tends to have this idea of how memory recall works, and anything that strays from that feels almost alien to them. An example from my own experiences, are the people who simply cannot accept that I could endure one of the most horrific crimes as a child, and not really remember it properly? It is expected that if something so horrendous happens, you would remember every detail, and anything that deviates away from that societal norm means that you must be mistaken, exaggerating, or maybe even lying. This is something that I also felt myself – how could I *not* remember so much? How could there be so many gaps in my memory? For such a long time, I genuinely thought that I must have been lying about the abuse and that my attempts at speaking out about it were just sick attempts at gaining attention from others. This fear stayed hidden deep down inside of me, and it made me feel so ashamed. It was so hard feeling these things alongside the times where I would remember how the abuse actually *felt* and therefore definitely feel that I *was* actually abused. Was I? Wasn’t I? To this day, I still have times where I doubt myself, but I can accept that I *was* sexually abused as a child, and that my memories of this trauma do not follow a chronological “pattern” that Society can get on board with.

There have been times when I have remembered things that happened to me so vividly, that it almost felt as if I was actually back there again. However, for some of these memories, if you were to ask me about them now, I wouldn’t really be able to give you an answer. A memory that was once considered vivid, can so easily hide somewhere out of my reach, meaning that I would either doubt its existence to start with, or just completely forget that I even had this so-called “vivid memory”. This makes it so incredibly hard to “keep up” with myself and my ever changing level of recall over the years. I definitely wouldn’t be a credible witness for the prosecution, that’s for sure. Society expects (and so do I myself at times?) our memory to be in a chronological order that can easily be followed by those who are being disclosed to. When you finally manage to trust someone enough to speak about the abuse, you can often find that some members of society start asking, what they feel to be “straight forward” questions, such as, “how old were you when it happened?” or “where did it happen, and how come nobody heard you?”. When this type of questioning has been thrown my way in the past, I have either felt certain that it started when I was, say seven-ish, and so have responded with that age. But then there have been times when the age of “seven” didn’t feel right. That niggling feeling in my stomach would be screaming at my head saying something like, “yeah Donna, but something happened at such and such a place, which must mean it started when you were four..?” and so I would hesitate, and say that I wasn’t really sure. This would leave a puzzled look on the person’s face, but not as funny as the look I would get if I were to say outright that I didn’t actually know at all. All of this comes straight back again to the problems with Society that I touched upon earlier, and what is deemed to be normal or “a bit dodgy” with regards to traumatic memory recall.

I have spent lots of time over the years trying to make sense of all of the disjointed memories that I have of the abuse, and all of the “gaps” in between. I remember the times, as a teenager and young adult, when I would go off in search of the places I knew that I was abused in. I would desperately try and find a specific house for example, knowing which estate it was in, but having to use my own memories to try and find the correct house on the correct street. I spent lots of winter nights out walking trying to find these places, in the hopes that it might help me to remember properly what happened to me. Of course, it never did. There was one time where I was pretty convinced that I’d found one of the houses, and I sat down on the other side of the street just staring up at it. It was pissing it down with rain, and it was too dark to really see much of anything, but I just desperately wanted it to jog my memory. I felt like it was really important for me to remember everything. I couldn’t handle knowing that it happened, at the same time as not knowing fully what “it” actually was. I also really felt as though my inability to remember would mean that people would simply not believe me. It terrified me. Why couldn’t I just remember it all? I couldn’t understand it.

I used to try and write memories down as and when they came back to me, but for some reason that would only last for a day or two before I would abandon the activity completely. Same goes for writing my memories down in chronological order (as has been suggested to me by therapists in the past). I would try my best, but then I would gradually stop trying. As technology was advancing, so were my obsessive searches for some more memories to come back to the surface. For example, Google StreetView has been both a blessing and a curse for me. I’ve spent hours and hours searching for the house I grew up in during my early years, in the hopes that I would remember the abuse that I know happened there.

The “type” of memories I have has also regularly made me doubt myself in the past. For example, I have a lot of memories of how scared I felt at the time of the abuse, but not of the actual abuse itself. I can remember how afraid I was, as if I was that little girl right now, feeling that fear in the present and feeling all alone. To be honest, most of my memories are emotions, and I think that’s quite difficult for those who haven’t experienced this type of abuse to understand. I remember the paralysing fear, and that sinking feeling in my gut and stomach when I knew something terrible was either already happening to me, or was about to happen to me, and I couldn’t do anything about it because I was frozen. How can it be that the memories I can recall the most, are the ones where I am actually frozen in time? It’s incredibly surreal when you take a little time to pause and reflect on it all. I can occasionally remember how things smelt at the time of the abuse. I can also remember the times where I had attempted to dissociate from what was happening to me at that time. Like the times when I would close my eyes really tight until I could see little speckles of light moving around, and then I would just focus on those moving spots and shapes whilst whatever was happening to me was happening. It sounds strange when I read this back to myself, but I can remember it as if it was yesterday. It was actually quite effective. Possibly *too* effective.

I can occasionally remember different smells dependent on where I was at the time, and so random (or what others perceive to be random) smells can trigger some quite vivid memories from the time of the abuse, but in most situations, not of the actual abuse itself. I just know that the abuse was happening. I could remember what it felt like and occasionally what it smelt like, but not what it actually was, other than what it was, was very real and very wrong. To this day, I still cannot sit here and confidently say to you that I wasn’t partly to blame for these “very wrong” incidents. I’m trying my hardest to deal with this.

As I’ve got older and more time has passed by, I’ve realised that my inability to remember some things has been my brain’s way of protecting me. Irrespective of whether or not it’s considered to be a “healthy” coping mechanism, my ability to dissociate so far away from the painful truth of what happened to me, is what is probably keeping me alive in the present. My brain just simply *is not ready yet* for me to delve that deeply in to my trauma memories. It’s something I have needed to learn to accept, however difficult. Something else I have learnt to accept, is that it is actually completely normal to have such “unreliable” memories of the abuse – and by “unreliable”, I mean memories that come and go – memories that at one time can feel incredibly vivid and at other times, can completely slip from your memory altogether. And that this does not mean that I am lying or mistaken. If this happens to you, it doesn’t mean that you are lying or mistaken either. It just means that our brains can find such traumatic and powerful memories to be overwhelming, and so sometimes it can be safe to feel that much emotion, and other times our brains can deem it to be unsafe. I have also had to accept that I have to trust that my brain knows what it’s doing. I have to accept that if I push myself too much to remember everything all at once, then all I’ll achieve is myself breaking down because of it all becoming too much to cope with. Gaps in our memory is also a lot more common than I once realised for abuse survivors, especially if the abuse started at an early age. I try not to beat myself up too much about it all these days, and focus on those people in my life who are able to recognise that my memory recall won’t be quite what society expects *because* of how traumatic the events were.

I just thought it might help others to share this part of the aftermath of childhood sexual abuse – the remembering (or not remembering) part. My recall is not consistent, it’s not chronological and it also has plenty of gaps in it – but that does not mean that the abuse didn’t happen. When you have that feeling in your gut, when you know it happened – you just *know*, and that’s OK. Sometimes the memories will always be there. Sometimes they will come and go. Sometimes they’ll never come back to you. But it happened to you. I believe you, just like I know you believe me and that we all believe each other. Because irrespective of what Society deems to be normal, we just know because we were the ones who endured it. And that has to be enough. Hold on to that knowledge. Trust your gut. Thanks for reading if you did.

The yearning for a mummy cuddle – my experience as a childhood sexual abuse survivor.

I want to try and write about something I have experienced at various points in my life, as a childhood sexual abuse survivor, and why the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder has caused me to keep quiet about this experience. I don’t want this diagnosis to still hold so much power over me, and I hope that by sharing my experiences, I might help others who can relate.

I have tweeted in the past about the times where I wish I could have a cuddle from a woman older than me, and how that cuddle would be like a “mummy cuddle” for me. But I have never felt able to expand further on what this is about and what it means for me and my daily life.

This yearning for a mummy cuddle starting when I was about eleven years old, during my first year of secondary school. I would often find myself sitting in a classroom and thinking of various scenarios in my mind where the female teacher might end up giving me a cuddle. I didn’t feel safe at home, and I didn’t feel as though a cuddle from my own mother would be enough to help me feel safe, so a cuddle from a teacher at school felt like the safest way of making me actually *feel* safe, even if it were only for a moment, in the form of a gentle hug. I remember when a family friend died at around this time, and my English teacher gave me such a big cuddle outside of the classroom when she noticed I had tears in my eyes. I told her about his death, and she held me really tight and told me she understood how painful grief can be. I was only eleven years old at the time, but decades later, and I can still remember this hug now, as if it were only yesterday.

I’m not completely sure why I didn’t feel able to get this kind of hug from my own mum. She wasn’t abusive towards me, and she was always affectionate and loving. I remember getting cuddles from her. I remember her affectionately stroking my face if I laid down on the sofa with her. I remember her affection making me feel a certain level of “safe”, but it wasn’t enough. Looking back on this time now, I can see how it wouldn’t have felt enough for me. After all, her husband had sexually abused me when I was younger, and her husband’s friend was also an abuser. Her inability to see her husband for the vile monster that he was, and her inability to listen to me when I tried to tell her that I did not feel comfortable around her husband’s friend, all probably contributed to me searching for a sense of safety elsewhere.

My yearning for mummy cuddles and a sense of “safety” would continue throughout the rest of my time at secondary school. I’ve lost count of the amount of teachers I hoped would help to make me feel safe. I was in so much pain, due to the childhood trauma and the flashbacks I was beginning to have, as well as the confusion surrounding the relationship I shared with the man who abused me when I was younger. I wasn’t sure what happened to me, or who did what to me, but I *was* sure that it happened. And that certainty made me feel frightened. I needed to reach out for help, but not knowing for sure what I actually needed help with, made it very difficult for me to communicate with those who wanted to help me. Several teachers during my time at high school, did their best to reach out to me. And I did my best to reach out to them and accept their support. But it never quite worked out. They gave me ample opportunity to tell them what was happening for me, but I couldn’t express it. Instead, I would resort to fantasising about them helping me. I would imagine them cuddling me and telling me everything was going to be OK.

My failure to express what was going on for me during high school, led to many people thinking I was “attention seeking” or that I was a bit of a weird one. I regularly looked miserable in lessons, and so other classmates around me definitely noticed it. If I’m to be completely honest here, even I would think I was weird if I were an outsider looking at myself during that time. I just wanted some kind of mummy figure to help me, but I couldn’t verbalise what I actually wanted help with. I just knew that they could potentially help me feel a sense of safety that I didn’t remember ever feeling in my life to date.

The yearning for a mummy cuddle is something that has followed me throughout my life. When I left high school to attend a sixth form college, I remember thinking to myself, “Okay, this is it. This is your fresh start. Nobody knows you here. Stop being a weirdo”. I remember feeling relief at making new friends and focusing on the A Levels I had chosen. It was all going quite well for a while, but the yearning for that mummy cuddle came back again. All of my tutors at the college were women, and whilst I was at college, I was also being abused by my mums husband again at home. It wasn’t like the sexual abuse I endured as a child, but because I had just recently been referred to a psychologist after my parents found out I was self harming, it made him ramp things up a notch. I think he was scared of what I might say to others about the past. There was a lot of psychological abuse, and a lot of abuse that would probably be called coercive control, if it happened to me today. But to be truthful, he needn’t have bothered. I still did not have the words to express what was happening.

Just like when I was searching for someone to help me feel safe in high school, I was searching for that same kind of safety again at college. A couple of the tutors noticed things weren’t right with me and I often wished I could tell them what was happening – but again – I didn’t have the words for it? And with hindsight, I think that this is an example of an abusive tactic, and possibly one that isn’t talked about enough? The man who abused me, abused me in such a way, that I would be unable to express it verbally. Because I didn’t understand what was happening at that time, which is exactly like how it was when he sexually abused me as a child.

Needless to say, I never did manage to reach out properly to any of those tutors. I just imagined them giving me a cuddle, and whilst it hurt my heart knowing that it wasn’t a real cuddle, it was better than nothing. I didn’t finish my A Levels at that time, because I was in too much distress and pain, but I went back at a later date, aced my A Levels and headed to University. Again, I was hoping that the fresh start would be a good thing. That I could stop being a weirdo constantly yearning for a mummy cuddle from any woman I meet, and actually try and enjoy myself and make new friends. After all, everyone used to say that the friends you make at university are friends for life. Right?

It didn’t work out. I was in too much pain to maintain friendships. And the same thing was happening again with my tutors. I had chance after chance after chance to reach out for help from them, but I never did. Because I couldn’t. You know the drill by now. Yet again, I was being abused my my mums husband. But again, it was incredibly complicated to speak about because of the ways he chose to abuse me. It was calculated and clever, and I never stood a chance really. He had a hold on me that I couldn’t seem to break free from.

It’s not just in an educational setting where I’ve fantasised about getting a mummy cuddle. It’s often something I did (and occasionally still do) with television programmes. I purposely watched shows that have a really kind, compassionate and empathetic lead character who is older than me and very maternal. For example, I’d watch a storyline where they are helping a child at school who is being abused, and I’d imagine what it would have been like if it was me being helped by that lead character.

There was a time during some of the abuse where I did in fact get a mummy type cuddle. And that came from a counsellor at my university. I was incredibly distressed during one of our appointments, and she asked if she could give me a hug. It was so healing. That one little hug had so much healing power in it, that I cannot really adequately express how it felt for me at that time. It didn’t “get rid” of this yearning that I always carry around with me. I wish it did, but it didn’t. I think I will always yearn for a mummy cuddle from any woman old enough and kind enough.

I managed to cut contact with the man who abused me as a child (and as an adult) several years ago, which consequently meant I also lost contact with my mum. The yearning for a mummy cuddle grew after this happened, but whilst I missed my mum terribly, that yearning was never really aimed towards her direction. I wanted a mummy cuddle, but not from my own mum. And since becoming a mum myself, I wouldn’t even thank my own mum for a hug right now. Because I really struggle to find it in me to understand how she could put her husband first instead of her own child. My children are my life and I would do anything for them. It’s an unconditional love that I don’t think anyone truly understands until they experience it themselves. It is powerful. I would die for my children, without hesitation.

Now here I am, in the present – decades later – with two children of my own. I’m not sure that the yearning for a mummy cuddle will ever leave. It has definitely lessened over the years, and there’s scope for it to lesson some more, but I don’t think I will ever be free of it. It doesn’t affect my life as much, but it occasionally bubbles up to the surface. For example, as recently as last week, I caught myself imagining what it would feel like for one of the staff members at my son’s nursery to just give me a giant hug. It’s obviously not something that will ever happen, but it somehow makes me feel a little better to fantasise about it, even if it also comes with a side order of heart ache. All I know is that my own children are never left short of any affection. I cuddle them tight whenever I can and they will grow up feeling safe and cared for. I often wonder if my yearning for a mummy cuddle, is in part, due to my past experiences of regularly feeling like I was still a little girl trapped in an adult body that I couldn’t recognise. This is something that has virtually gone now that I have children of my own. I am a mummy first and foremost, but I am able to recognise that the experiences I have written about in this blog post are due to the effects of abuse and trauma.

Considering how much of an effect this has had on my life over the years, I have never once felt able to open up about this with mental health professionals, and this has a lot to do with the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. Ever since this diagnosis was given to me by a random psychiatrist who barely even knew me, I have become aware of how much of my “behaviour” was pathologised. The times when I self harmed were recorded in my notes as me attempting to “illicit care and support from services”, which is a fancy way of saying that I was attention seeking. The self harm had nothing to do with anyone around me. It wasn’t about them. It was about me finding a way to cope with the enormous amount of distress I was feeling, but it is easy for professionals to spin whatever is going on for a person to suit their own narrative. It’s hardly surprising that my experiences as an abuse survivor would end up being silenced. I was often afraid that my yearning for a mummy cuddle would be seen as confirmation of my disordered personality – that my insistence on seeing female only mental health professionals would be seen as me trying to manipulate the service in to giving me the “care and support” that I “craved”, rather than a fair request, given my trauma history. I never dared to speak openly about how I often felt like a child trapped in an adult’s body, because again, that would be twisted to suit the personality disorder narrative. I was being silenced all over again.

There are a lot of examples I could write about here to explain why this yearning for a mummy cuddle is something I’ve never felt able to share or expand on, but I think the most important thing to focus on here, is the realisation that I do not have to keep quiet. The aftermath of abuse is complicated and is often incredibly different when compared with other people’s experiences of the aftermath. We all struggle with different things, but I think we all can relate to a lot of things that other people share when they feel able to. So here is my contribution to that pool of shares – I have been yearning for a mummy cuddle since I was a child, and there’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a part of who I am, and will likely always be lurking in the background as I continue living my life in the future.

Ten examples of the Parallels between Mental Health Services and Abusers.

1. When a service user ever tries to describe the poor treatment they have received from a specific staff member, or from a particular mental health team as a whole, other mental health professionals tend to dismiss this as the service user’s over sensitivity or misinterpretation, rather than considering that the staff members may actually be being abusive. This is definitely happening on a regular basis for those diagnosed with a personality disorder. Mental Health professionals suggest that, because they work with these staff members every day and that they themselves have never witnessed, or recognised, any of the abusive behaviour described, it is therefore fair to conclude that the service user’s perception is just that – a perception. A flawed perception. Because the professionals they know and work with, are always kind to them and their other colleagues, as well as service users. They are often seen as caring, compassionate, funny and passionate about providing person centred and compassionate care. The other staff members rarely get to see, or recognise, the abusive practice that service users describe, and therefore decide that it’s not actually the truth of what is happening. A lot of abuse survivors have experienced this level of denial already – where they are disbelieved because those around them think the abuser is a kind, caring and compassionate person, who wouldn’t ever hurt a fly. This denial then leads to the suggestion that this “perception” is as a result of a problem the survivor has – that they are confused, mentally unwell or suffering with a “false memory syndrome”. If that service user has ever been abused and attempted to disclose, then they are highly likely to have encountered this level of disbelief. The behaviour of mental health professionals who refuse to accept that themselves or their colleagues are being abusive towards the service user, absolutely parallels the trauma they have already been through.

2. When a mental health service has diagnosed a service user with a personality disorder, the treatment of that person often drastically changes. Whenever service users notice these changes and attempt to describe them to mental health professionals, they are often met with a brick wall. Instead of mental health professionals acknowledging their faults, they seek to find reassurance from other services. They hope to provide “training” to other services, for example, Primary Care services, Police, A&E staff etc, in the hopes of getting every professional “on the same page” and “singing from the same hymn sheet” in order to hopefully place pressure on the service user to fall in line and “accept” that any faults within the “therapeutic relationship” between them and services, is as a result of the service user themselves. This is a form of gaslighting. A well known abusive tactic. A tactic likely used on people who have suffered trauma in the past. They go to a support service for support, only to find that they too are capable of gaslighting them. It can be a complete mindfuck. It makes the service user doubt themselves and their experiences with mental health services, in the same way that, for example – family members, often band together to make them doubt that they were even abused as a child in the first place. Gaslighting is absolutely horrible, and it should not be present within mental health services, but sadly, it is. Very much so.

3. When mental health professionals use the diagnosis of personality disorder as a tool to silence service users. This happens on a regular basis, and it definitely parallels the experiences of service users who have suffered abuse. If these service users ever try reach out for support, they are often labelled as attention seeking and manipulative, yet if they decide not to reach out for support, it is suggested that they are failing to engage with services and therefore should be discharged. This kind of treatment can make the service user feel as though there is no point in trying to ask for help, and so they try to cope with any distress themselves, rather than reach out. The diagnosis silences service users, much in the same way that abusers try to silence their victims by discrediting their experiences. The abusers often tell the victim and those around them that they are unwell and that this is why they are “saying” these things – these “lies”. But if the abuse survivor doesn’t disclose the full truth, at the “right time” or their recall isn’t as good as is expected of them from those they disclose to, then they are also accused of telling lies. Just as the service user faces criticism no matter which direction they take, the abuse survivor also faces criticism, no matter which direction they we take. These actions mainly serve to silence many service users and abuse survivors. The tactics used are scarily similar.

4. When mental health professionals take notes but fail to record them accurately, and also share things with other professionals without first obtaining informed consent from the service user. When a service user shares how they are feeling and what is going on for them with a mental health professional, this information is often recorded inaccurately within their medical records. This has parallels with how abuse survivors are treated when they try to disclose abuse, because the survivor cannot control how those they disclose to will react. They cannot control what that person will say to them, whether or not that person will believe them, or whether they will take their pain seriously. They also cannot control what that person might go on to say to others about what has been disclosed to them. Just like an abuse survivor takes a big risk in trusting someone, it soon becomes apparent that the service user has to take a big risk too when engaging with mental health services. They are forced to accept that their truth is no longer their own, because mental health professionals have the responsibility of deciding how many people get to know it. This is not informed consent. Some service users are often treated badly overall by mental health services, and abuse survivors are also often treated badly by those who minimise the abuse or refuse to believe it even happened.

5. Whenever abuse survivors have to spend time as an inpatient on a psychiatric ward, they can often end up feeling trapped. Being locked in on the ward and unable to leave without the say so of professionals involved in the survivor’s care, can make them feel like they can’t escape. This is very similar to how the abuse and the aftermath of the abuse can feel for some survivors. Control is really important for survivors, so when that control is taken away from them, it can feel really frightening and bring back so many trauma memories to the surface. If any survivor is in severe distress and ends up being restrained in the hospital, that too can trigger memories of abuse. It can feel absolutely suffocating. Every single aspect of the care received on a psychiatric ward can be triggering. The parallels between the abuse and the psychiatric ward can be incredibly overwhelming.

6. CPA meetings. These meetings, based on the Care Programme Approach, are meetings with the service user and all of the professionals deemed relevant by the service to the service user’s care. They tend to happen more frequently with inpatients rather than in the community, but they are still a prominent part of a service users experience of the care they receive. These meetings have lots of parallels with abusers and abuse. The service user is often not given the choice of having these meetings – it is something forced on to them. This kind of coercion can trigger how it might have felt in the past when they were being abused. Power, control and choice are key to abuse survivors feeling safe. If any of these things are absent, it can make things really difficult to cope with. Having several professionals sat in front of a service user, firing lots of difficult and distressing questions at them, at a time when they are likely already feeling very vulnerable, can be overwhelming. It can feel like the control has been taken away from them. It can also be incredibly frightening when considering the link between when the service announces it’s time for a CPA and the prospect of being discharged from the service altogether. The power imbalance can often be HUGE in these meetings, despite any good intentions from mental health professionals involved in these decisions.

7. Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings (MDT’s) and Team Formulation. When service users begin engaging with the support on offer from mental health services, this is seen by those services as informed consent for any future meetings between professionals to discuss their care, as well as any Formulations made. In this situation, power, control and choice are all immediately taken away from the service user. The way mental health services work, mean that it can often be way too late before a service user fully realises how far their trauma history has travelled through the system. Medical records are permanent, and so the service user also has minimal rights with regards to getting this history removed from the records. This parallels with abuse and abusers in similar ways already mentioned above, in relation to CPA meetings. The service user has interventions like Formulation forced upon them in the same way that diagnoses are. Just like with CPA meetings, the choice to say no is taken away from them. This level of coercion can trigger trauma memories. It can make the survivor feel as though they are right back in that moment, being abused and feeling frightened and overwhelmed. The power imbalance can often become way too big, making it incredibly hard for the service user to trust the people who are supposed to be helping them.

8. Time Limited Therapy. There are currently service users all across the country who are waiting on very long waiting lists just for an assessment to decide if therapy is suitable for them. If they are lucky enough to be offered therapy, it is often time limited. This means that the service user has to work fast to trust the professional enough to talk to them about their trauma history. It also means that therapy often ends far too prematurely, with Pandora’s box well and truly opened. This has parallels with abusers and abuse. For example, abuse survivors are often pressured in to reporting the abuse to the police, with them knowing full well that the adequate support to help survivors through the process does not exist. Time Limited therapy can often leave the service user feeling abandoned, much in the same way the court and legal process can leave the abuse survivor feeling abandoned. Abuse survivors should be entitled to proper trauma therapy, and the fact they aren’t is a terrible injustice, in the same way that their abusers rarely end up facing the full force of the law. Mental health services often try to pretend that time limited therapy is an adequate response to help with the aftermath of trauma, in the same way that the police and society as a whole often try to pretend that adequate support is in place for abuse survivors to go through the legal system (or just any support for survivors in general).

9. When mental health professionals exert their power by making important treatment decisions regarding any medication. More often than not, service users do not get much say in what medication may or may not be prescribed to them, or what medication they can choose to take or not take. This is yet another example that highlights the power balance in these relationships. As has already been mentioned earlier in this blog, power is incredibly important to abuse survivors. Power, control and choice. To have these taken away from survivors can be incredibly triggering, and this definitely happens in the context of mental health medication. Some service users are forced to take medication that they absolutely do not want to take. Equally, other service users are forced to come off of medication that they absolutely believe is helping them. This level of coercion can be retraumatising for abuse survivors because it can feel like someone else is hurting them and controlling major aspects of their lives, which parallels with what the abusers did to them in the past. The reluctance to prescribe PRN medication to those in crisis can also trigger trauma memories, because it can feel as though their pain is not being taken seriously (much in the same way as described earlier in this blog with regards to those diagnosed with a personality disorder). Efforts made by mental health professionals to involve service users in the decisions made regarding medication are important and recognised, but yet again, the power imbalance can be completely overwhelming.

10. Crisis Services in the community. When a service user is in crisis and needs extra levels of support, they are often told to phone their local crisis team. Unfortunately, it is well known that the responses from mental health professionals here can be far from helpful or compassionate. A great deal of emphasis is placed on the service user taking responsibility for their actions and the consequences of their actions, especially with regards to suicide. The idea of capacity is used to get people off of the phone as quickly as possible, and it can massively invalidate or minimise what the service user is going through at that time. Positive risk taking is also often used with service users in crisis. This can be incredibly harmful, despite mental health services insisting it is about helping people rather than harming them. The parallels between all of the “tactics” mentioned above, with abuse and abusers are clear. Abuse survivors often struggle with feelings of self blame and shame, and these feelings are often reinforced by mental health professionals using the tactics mentioned above. Abusers use their own tactics to make the victim feel shame and like they are to blame. So all of the similar interactions with the crisis team (or any professional from any mental health service) can easily trigger trauma memories. When Mental health professionals have to visit a service user in crisis in their home, they can often come in pairs, despite being asked politely if they could refrain from doing that. The crisis team can also frequently send out professionals of a gender that the service user requested would not visit, and either blame this on staff shortages, or just outright ignore the request. When mental health professionals ignore reasonable requests made by service users, this can make them feel incredibly uncomfortable and unsafe. Just like how they felt during the abuse they suffered in the past. When a service user is in crisis, having a mental health professional respond with kindness and compassion is incredibly helpful. The chances of this happening are small, especially if they have a diagnosis of personality disorder, and so service users often decide it is safer for them not to phone for help. This parallels how it feels for an abuse survivor to decide not to risk disclosing their abuse, because they are afraid of the response they might get.

I have written about ten examples here of the parallels between mental health services and abusers, but there are many more not mentioned here, and probably some that I myself haven’t thought of before. Feel free to add your own examples in the comments. Thanks for reading if you did ❤️

Less is More – Discussing the Harm Minimisation Policy that @TEWV don’t want you to see anymore. Including some spoken word poetry.

As many of my followers will already be aware, the Tees, Esk and Wear Valleys (TEWV) Mental Health Trust have taken down their abusive Harm Minimisation policy for children and young people with a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder and related conditions. This policy was taken down in July. They claim that they had to do this due to a patient safety alert. This alert was issued in March, and it only refers to issues surrounding ligature access points. It is not enough justification to withdraw the entire harm Minimisation Policy from the public, however this is something they are hoping to get away with. They claim there is a concern that a patient could harm themselves if they were to view this policy in the public domain.

I would like to suggest that their real reason for taking the policy down was due to the mounting negative attention it was receiving on Twitter, from service users, carers and MH professionals alike. Below are the screenshots I have from the policy, highlighting particular parts of it that I was the most disgusted or shocked by. I’d like to remind everyone that this policy was written about the treatment of children. It was based on the protocol for adults, written by Malcolm Bass. Both children and adults have been treated appallingly due to this policy.

Many people have approached TEWV about this matter, but they are refusing to budge. They will not release their harm minimisation policy. Here are the authors responsible for writing the above policy. They are so confident about it that they were also proudly providing training to NHS and Social Services, based on this policy. This isn’t just about some dodgy wording. This is about a culture so deeply ingrained within their service that they cannot even accept that what they are doing is wrong. And that people are dying because of it.

They are claiming that a “new” policy has been written, but it is hard to see how they could have made the systemic changes needed to go along with such a change in policy. It is also even more difficult to see what changes (if any) have been made when they won’t release the new protocol. I have written some spoken word poetry about this policy. I have performed it anonymously in a video and the lyrics are written underneath. I’m not the best at performing my work out loud, but I hope the lyrics will help to convey the points I’m trying to make. I felt like this all needed to be in one place because it was at risk of being lost in too many separate twitter threads. Thanks for reading/listening if you have.

Less is more,
Well,
More or less,
You know it’s abuse right?
It’s time to confess

I’m gonna pick your policy apart
And I’m gonna do it by making my own kind of art.
It doesn’t matter that you took the policy down,
Why try to hide it?
You’re telling children not to invest entirely
in the hope that you can take their pain away.
Would you treat your own children this way?

You formulate so that we can be heard
But you mutilate all of our words.

Please Don’t rewrite my history
It’s not my responsibility
To teach you how to tolerate me
You just need to provide decent care to me.

You say that Formulation is good
That it’s used as a tool to help those like me feel understood
You say you want to amplify my voice
Yet you go silent whenever I try to ask for a choice
I want an active voice
Not a passive voice.
I want a real choice
This ain’t no Hobson’s Choice.

Less is more,
Well,
More or less,
You know it’s abuse right?
It’s time to confess

Did my trauma cause the disorder
Or did my disorder cause the trauma?
Does it even matter about the order?
Either way, it’s out of order.
Cuz I ain’t got no disorder,
And you don’t get to define my trauma.

You seem to care a lot about responsibility
Saying that you don’t want to take it all away from me
But when I mention that you have a lot of power over me
You aim to take *more* of that power away from me.
You try to sugarcoat it by saying you’re “empowering” me
Whilst banging on about all the opportunities that I myself have to end my own misery.
But What happened to no decision about me without me?

Or does that only apply to the ones that I make?
Reaching out was such a massive mistake.

I feel so dirty
I can’t get clean
Less is more
What does that even mean?

Less is more,
Well,
More or less,
You know it’s abuse right?
It’s time to confess

Go look at my notes And you’ll find Hundreds of lies
I barely even recognise This gospel of lies
It’s like an episode of “This is Your Fucking Life”

But they got the wrong person here sat in the chair.
That big red book is about a person that doesn’t exist anywhere.

Less is more,
Well,
More or less,
You know it’s abuse right?
It’s time to confess

Interventions to reduce short term risk
Come on now, you’re fucking taking the piss
Reckless behaviour?
Do me a favour
We need to end our misery?
You’re fucking kidding me?

Playing the long game but who’s keeping the score?
“Less is More” just means “leave them to it”, I’m sure.
Who’s benefit is all this actually for?
Because the fact it replicates abuse is something you’re all prepared to ignore.

Less is more,
Well,
More or less,
You know it’s abuse right?
It’s time to confess

Shall we switch it up a bit and share some direct quotes?
From the abusive policy that you so proudly wrote.

“The availability of the sort of care that looks after the young person in a protective way can be destabilising”

“It can be hard for people to understand why caring interventions provided for other patients, have not been offered”

Well that last bit is hardly fucking surprising?

You “strategically hold back from short term harm reduction” and you “play the long game”
Not in my name.
This ain’t no fucking game.
This a child you’re treating with such disdain,
So I’ll ask you again and again,
Would you treat your own children the same?

Less is more,
Well,
More or less,
You know it’s abuse right?
It’s time to confess

Lets focus in on the part where you say,
That even if tragic events occur,
You’ll still support the policy anyway.
This horrid policy shouldn’t have ever seen the light of day.

You should feel shame for this
Abuse is the right fucking name for this.
How dare you call it harm minimisation
When it is quite clearly your intention
To provide as little care as possible
And try call it an intervention.

Less is more,
Well,
More or less,
You know it’s abuse right?
It’s time to confess

Positive risk taking
It’s just a bunch of lies
There’s nothing positive about leaving people to die.
What exactly do you have to hide?
Take ownership of your mistakes and do what is right.

Step back and look at this policy from a different place,
Let’s pretend it’s your child that needs some support in place
So what do you do? Tell her she has an emerging personality disorder
And say it’s cuz she was abused.
What do you do when your child’s pleas for help are then refused?
Implying that the abuse justifies further abuse
Implying that the abuse was her fault
How would that make you feel?
Would it it feel personal?
Who is responsible?
Is abusive practice like this defensible?
Or is it despicable?

Less is more,
Well,
More or less.
You know it’s abuse right?
It’s time to confess.

This isn’t about Stigma. This is about Abuse. #spokenwordpoetry

They call it “Protocol

But we all call it abuse.

They try to fool us all,

But we all know the truth.

People are dying.

This shit has got to stop.

But in order for it to stop,

Those in power,

Those at the very Top,

Need to see this for what it is

And call it out immediately.

Justifying “Less is More

By building brick walls to replace the so-called “revolving door

Will not be tolerated any more.

Is a little compassion too much to ask for?

You’ve got a Hell of a lot to answer for.

How many more people have to die before your humanity kicks in?

“Stigma kills” is no longer an acceptable thing to say,

Because abuse is not something you can downplay.

“Protocol” that actively encourages abuse

is abuse.

There’s nothing here that you can dispute.

It’s not stigma,

It’s ABUSE.

And you need to acknowledge this,

Before more people die.

This isn’t about public relations.

This is about lies and manipulation.

Only, it’s the professionals who behave in this way,

Not us.

Every day, being called manipulative or attention seeking,

Behind closed doors.

Even after death, when family members have to listen to you lie,

And it hurts them so much inside.

But you don’t fucking care.

You might try to tarnish our reputations.

You might try to cast doubt upon our accusations,

And you might let yourselves down by indulging such temptations,

But we know the truth.

You’re killing us.

And we are not going to tolerate this abuse any longer.

You can trample upon our souls,

But together, we will fucking come back stronger.

You will not silence us.

“Positive Risk Taking” is an abusive and dangerous practice,

Designed to save money,

It’s all about the tactics.

It’s not about providing safe care.

It’s about getting rid of those labelled PD,

It’s about refusing to accept responsibility

And forcing us to accept it instead.

All so that you can sleep at night,

In your nice, comfy bed.

Meanwhile, another service user is pronounced dead.

The time has come for you to truly reflect.

This abuse is not difficult to detect,

If you look hard enough,

And are willing to accept

That there is cruelty within your team.

That what you’re doing is NEGLECT.

Listen to the negative feedback.

Just listen,

Reflect,

And then tell us what you are going to do.

Let us make it clear:

The time for action is long overdue.

This isn’t about stigma,

This is about ABUSE.

Here in this Village of Mums. #spokenwordpoetry #maternalMHMatters

Being a mummy can be tough.

We often feel like we’re not good enough.

But it’s OK to be honest about this stuff

because we are not alone.

It’s hard when the baby cries,

And she doesn’t stop until you hand her to someone else.

When you get that look in your eyes,

Scouring the room

Wondering if it’s your fault that she cries

And feeling such surprise to find that we all empathise.

Listen up you wonderful mums,

There’s no such thing as a perfect mum,

You’re not competing for the Nobel Prize

And believe me when I say that we all sympathise.

We will not criticise

You.

You are fierce

You are strong

Whether you are breastfeeding, formula feeding or a mixture of the two,

There’s no right or wrong.

There are times when it all might feel too much

And it’s OK to express that

Because you are not alone.

You might feel a sense of danger,

With a tightness in your chest that you can’t explain.

Your baby might feel like a stranger,

And so that sense of danger

Might start to creep back up on you again.

You might feel a huge urge to protect her,

You might think people will take her away from you,

That you neglect her,

Or that your “bad” parenting might affect her,

That you need to protect her,

From yourself.

If your baby doesn’t sleep through on a night,

Or you’ve started weaning and you’re scared you’re not feeding them right

It’s OK.

Us mums know your plight.

We know how hard it can be to fight

The bad thoughts,

When you’ve barely had any sleep.

If you’re feeling sad and overwhelmed,

If you look at your baby and feel like she’s not yours,

If you’re having any other scary thoughts.

It’s OK. And you are going to be OK.

Some babies constantly cry

Some refuse to sleep at night,

Some just want to cling to you tight,

And that might make you feel suffocated,

But that too is alright.

Parenting is not all sunshine and rainbows.

At times there are clouds,

And there is rain

For some, there is also despair and pain.

If you take medication,

there’s no need to feel ashamed.

If you decide medication is not for you,

That is also OK.

There is no blame

Here.

Here in this village of mums,

Where judgement is shown the back door.

When streets are filled with support,

Right when you think you can’t deal with this shit anymore.

The village is here.

The community of mums who understand how it feels,

To struggle with horrible thoughts,

And not knowing what’s real.

Post partum psychosis.

Postnatal depression.

PTSD.

Perinatal OCD

Anxiety.

Whatever you are going through,

Us mums are here.

Needing a little extra support

Should not be considered a last resort.

Reach out.

Please don’t doubt

That there is help out there.

If you need to scream and shout

People will be holding your hand throughout.

Either literally or metaphorically.

Us mums will be there categorically,

And Reassuringly

Holding your hand.

There are people who understand.

In this village of firsthand

Experience.

You are a fabulous mummy.

I promise this is the truth,

And this truth will be here whenever you are able to see it.

This village of hope is so much better with you in it.