Yesterday I posted about how I would be having a meeting with Time to Change Wales and receiving a phone call from my CMHT today. Both of those took place which surprised me. I really didn't think that my CMHT would actually phone me so it was a pleasant surprise when they did. But going in chronological order, here's what happened today.
I met up with a volunteer from Time to Change Wales in a cafe this afternoon and once we started talking, the time just disappeared. Nearly an hour and a half later, we suddenly realised how late it was. My poor mother was waiting patiently (ish) in a nearby cafe, wondering where on earth I was! The volunteer and I had discussed what I could do within Time to Change Wales and despite the role I think I would find most interesting being extremely terrifying, I have decided to at least attend an Educator's event and learn more.
The Educators (from what I understand) give presentations to groups numbering anywhere from half a dozen to a few hundred. Half a dozen sounds scary, a few hundred sounds terrifying but I was extremely relieved to hear that all Educators are supported completely and are never forced to do anything they aren't comfortable with. While giving a presentation is something I have never enjoyed doing and I always have to battle with my face turning a fluorescent shade of crimson, I think if I don't take this opportunity, I will regret it for years to come.
I have always wanted to battle the stigma around mental health. Having a diagnosis of psychosis which turned to schizophrenia after a year, these labels sound scary and I admit I stigmatised myself. I believed that being 'psychotic' meant that I was a murderer and being 'schizophrenic' meant that I was mad, bad and evil. I was my biggest bully when it came to mental health stigma and when I finally learnt that I was wrong, I became determined to help opinions change around mental health, particularly schizophrenia and psychosis. To get public opinion to change around schizophrenia and psychosis would hopefully prevent people from stigmatising themselves like I did.
I should add here that I don't have my head in the clouds and believe that I will single-handedly change public opinion about mental health! All I am hoping for is to be a small link in the chain that defeats stigma. I think I can reasonably hope for that right?!
Whilst listening to how I could really have a part in a massive impact in the fight against stigma, my mood lifted tremendously. I felt optimistic about the future, empowered almost! I then had the added bonus of learning about how my CMHT is not just providing me with substandard care, the care they are giving me (or lack of it), is actually illegal. As I have been detained on a section (I've been on four sections in total, three of them ran consecutively), I am legally supposed to receive the care I have been promised (in my case, receiving support once a week). If my care co-ordinator is unable to provide the care, I am supposed to receive alternative care or the CMHT is breaking the law.
The volunteer gave me details of where to find this legislation and told me that she would also send me the information via the post. As far as I'm aware, this legislation is only applicable in Wales but I could very well be wrong for the first time in my life. She told me that she would also send me more information about various other services that I could use to get support or make a complaint and then gave me a few names of people I could complain to, people who would listen to me.
This was a massive weight off my mind. Despite having people on Twitter telling me that the 'care' my CMHT has been giving me is appalling and wrong, deep down I have felt like I am just being selfish asking for support. I feel like I should be helping myself, that I'm not important, other people are far more worse off than me blah blah, but hearing that what my CMHT is doing is not just wrong, but actually illegal, I felt strangely relieved. I'm not being selfish or should have to help myself, my CMHT should be supporting me and they are in the wrong for not helping me.
Realising that we had been talking for so long, we quickly wrapped the conversation up. I have been invited to an Educator's event that will take place in a couple of weeks and I'm really, genuinely looking forward to it! I even re-arranged my dentist's appointment to make sure I could make it! (I'll add here that re-arranging a dentist appointment here is a big-ish deal because appointments are only ever available six weeks into the future. I'm in no pain with my teeth though, it's just a routine check-up!)
The volunteer I spoke to was lovely, I immediately felt at ease with her and was able to natter away within minutes of meeting her! This is something I have never been able to do and something that is a massive positive for me. It was a complete contrast to the way I was in group therapy yesterday. In group the last two sessions I've been virtually silent, fighting back tears (sometimes successfully, other times not) and feeling incredibly anxious. So meeting up with someone I didn't know and being able to talk away within minutes was an incredible feeling.
I had to come straight home after the meeting with the volunteer because I knew that if I missed the phone call with my CMHT, I would have no chance of receiving a callback. Yet arriving home, I felt good, happy, empowered, every good emotion possible! I was hoping that CMHT would give me a positive phone call and make this day perfect but I was living with my head in the clouds there!
About an hour after I got home, my phone rang and I spoke to a duty CPN at my CMHT. She didn't know me at all and had no idea that I had been without support for so long. She asked me the general questions - mood, anxiety levels, concentration, sleep etc and she told me she would speak to the managers. I asked which managers she would be speaking to and she told me that one of them was the manager who patronised me when I went down to the CMHT in person a month ago.
Trying my best not to be catty, I told the duty about him and asked her to ensure that he didn't patronise me again. She told me she would do her best and I asked her to speak to a manager who knew me from hospital a few years ago (the manager I wrote about yesterday who saved me from at least one injection). She told me that she would also tell this manager and that someone would get back to me either tomorrow or Monday.
This wasn't ideal, it wasn't what I had hoped to achieve from this phone call but I am basically giving them until the next group session next Wednesday to contact me. If they don't, I'll be (calmly) reading them the riot act after group. Hopefully, I'll also have the information from the volunteer by then and be able to take paperwork with me to show them that they are breaking the law.
So today wasn't perfect but I have excitement about the future now. I could well be receiving more support from a charity I volunteer with than my CMHT! If indeed I do decide to volunteer with them that is. But I'm feeling very positive about this and very hopeful too. I am determined to at least attend this event in a couple of weeks and learn more. I know I'll regret it if I don't.
So will I become a volunteer again? Time will tell. No doubt if I do, I'll post an excited blog about it the second I get 'hired'!
PS, I was told about a video when I was with the volunteer today. It's called 'Schizo The Movie'. I had seen the link to this video on YouTube before but avoided it because it looked like a negative video, one that would increase stigma. After learning what the video was about, I looked it up and found it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J-JVBO7nLv0
It's amazing! It's such a simple idea but it's so effective! It's a bit scary to start with but trust me, it's well worth watching and sharing. It's a short video too, just over a minute long. Check it out (with your sound on) and enjoy!