I take two sorts of medication to help my head; citalopram ( antidepressant) and quetiapine (antipsychotic). I take these daily and have been doing so since early 2010. However, the other day when I went to collect my prescription at my new doctors surgery, there was an issue which meant that I wasn’t able to take any medication home. This meant I had none for the weekend, so would be going without medication for 3-4 days at least.
I’m someone who is effected by medication withdrawal symptoms very early on, so within a day I was feeling nauseas, lightheaded and overly emotional. However, my symptoms weren’t as bad as I’d experienced the few times before when I’d ran out of medication. So, I thought that if I kept myself occupied, and did things to try and keep my mood stable, then I would be able to see the symptoms through.
I did okay, until saturday night when I was shaking and my heart rate was going twenty to the dozen. So, after consulting with some friends on Facebook, one advised me to call my local Crisis Team. Now, I have a complicated history of mental health and have had a lot to do with the local Crisis Team over the past four years, and they’ve been, well, a bit hit and miss. But I was still shocked at the response I recieved when I called. I’m going to show you the conversation I had with a team member, to show how the Crisis Team should not talk to people in distress. Remember, they’re called ‘Crisis’ for a reason. I should also mention that at the time of this phonecall I was highly stressed, emotional and unable to answer questions quickly because of the state I was in and this conversation isn’t exactly how it went, but it’s as much as I can remember.
Me: Hi. Erm, I’m ringing because I haven’t had any medication for a few days and the withdrawal symptoms are hitting me really badly. I’m feeling nauseous and really lightheaded. Is it possible to get any medication tonight?
Crisis Team Phone Operator: We don’t have a doctor here at quarter past seven on a Saturday night.
Me: I…but…oh. But, so. Okay.
Crisis Team Phone Operator: Why have you left it until now to phone?
Me: I was doing okay. *Slightly agitated.* I thought I would be able to see it through. But I couldn’t. So I decided to call.
Crisis Team Phone Operator: *Disgruntled noises.*
Me: I’m going to go. I won’t be able to get any medication to…
Crisis Team Phone Operator: What’s your name?
Me: I…err. Katie Metcalfe… I…I’m going to go.
Crisis Team Phone Operator: *More disgruntled noises* I’m trying to help you. I need these details. It’s your choice to end the call.
Me: Okay, thanks. Bye.
The response I received was hostile and uncaring. The Crisis Team’s role is to be there for you when you need them most. The way in which they respond to phone calls from people with mental health issues, especially when they are going through a period of withdrawal (when calling anyone can be an extremely hard to do anything anyway) ought to be understanding and patient, and they should use a tone which is soothing rather than aggressive. I was agitated at the time, feeling very sick and needing help. Feeling that you are unable to carry on a conversation with someone who is supposed to be helping makes for a very uncomfortable, damaging experience. Now, I fully appreciate that this person might have been having a shit day, we all have them, but I’m sorry…if you’re working in the mental health profession being caring and considerate should be an automatic response, not something that happens every now and again.
On a positive note, today, after 48 hours of no sleep, very little food/drink and horrendous body tremors, I staggered to the doctors to enquire about my prescription. When it was my turn to go up, I reached the desk and almost immediately burst into tears. The exceptionally kind receptionist asked if I was okay then ushered me into the office where she gave me a chair, offered me a drink and took on the case to get my medication sorted. After about fifteen minutes, (during this time she repeatedly checked on me to make sure I was okay) I had my prescription in hand and was able to go to the pharmacy to retrieve my precious brain chemical stabilizers.
I recently changed Dr’s because of not feeling comfortable at my previous surgery and despite the fact it’s taken a while to get my medication sorted (in the long run, it’s not their fault at all, as everything needed to be checked over) I’m really happy that I’ve moved services. The kindness I experienced today at a time of desperation was hugely comforting. It’s moments of friendliness like this that remind you that there really are some decent human beings on this planet.