I have group therapy scheduled for this afternoon but I thought I'd blog about my experiences with my CMHT (Community Mental Health Team) these last three months. As many on Twitter are aware, I've been without support since the beginning of November despite contacting them numerous times. Some may know a few details but here is the whole story of the last three months.
My last review was mid-October. I have a review every six months with my psychiatrist and at my last review, it was decided that I would be handed over to a new care co-ordinator. CPN number six was being moved to a different CMHT and so I would be assigned a social worker as my care co-ordinator (hereafter referred to as 'seven'. No Voyager references please.) I've had more than seven care co-ordinators but I'm not in the mood for going into that now. Being assigned to a new care co-ordinator is nothing new as I've just explained but I was glad that I would be seeing seven on a weekly basis compared to CPN number six who saw me every 3 - 8 weeks. My first appointment with seven was scheduled for the following week.
A few hours before my first appointment, I had a phone call from the receptionist at my CMHT. I've had so many phone calls from her before; when my dad tells me that it's her on the phone, I automatically know that an appointment is rescheduled or cancelled. I will call her 'Jane' for the purposes of this blog but obviously, that's not her real name. So when Jane phoned me a few hours before my first appointment, I knew that seven wouldn't be adhering to her original appointment. Jane told me that seven had double-booked me and would I mind if my appointment would be rescheduled for an hour later. I felt like telling her I did mind but I think I was just so relieved that the appointment was only postponed for an hour and not cancelled that I said it was fine. Also, saying something is fine when it isn't is a natural reaction for me anyway.
So I saw seven an hour later and she arranged another appointment with me for the following Friday, which was 2nd November. With my appointment half an hour away and no phone call from Jane, I left for the appointment and was seen 'on time'. They're usually so late at my CMHT that I resign myself to at least a half hour wait. On time means up to 15 minutes late. So I had the appointment and it was rescheduled for a week Tuesday (the 13th). I could understand that seven was too busy to see me the following week and so I told myself that nine days between appointments was a lot less than the 3 - 8 weeks between appointments that I'd had with CPN number six.
13th November arrived and a few hours before my appointment, Jane phoned me to tell me that seven had been called out to an emergency and would contact me the following day to reschedule. I had been expecting a postponement or cancellation that day as the cynic in me expects one every other appointment (looking back through previous appointments and cancellations actually supports cynical me). So I waited for a call back the following day (Wednesday). Nothing. I waited all day Thursday. Nothing. My dad phoned on Friday to ask when my appointment would be rescheduled and spoke to a very apologetic seven (good job it wasn't me, I wasn't in a very forgiving mood at the time). They arranged an appointment for the following Tuesday afternoon.
The following Tuesday arrived. I was out in the morning with my parents but arrived home a couple of hours before my appointment to an answering machine message from Jane. Seven was off sick. Would contact me when back to rearrange. I hadn't been expecting it to be honest. Not even the cynic in me was expecting it. However, there wasn't a lot I could do so I waited for the phone call back. The following Monday, when no one had contacted me, my dad called them. (I should point out here that I hate using phones and it really stresses me out when I have to make a call. I'm not as bad at receiving calls though.) They told my dad that seven still wasn't back but she would contact me when she was.
The following Monday, I had received a letter from them about the group therapy and had to return a confirmation slip to them. My dad told me he would take the slip back to them and speak to them about seven. He came back to tell me how busy it was there and that seven still wasn't back. No one had told him anything else.
The following Monday was the beginning of December, about a month since I had last been seen. My dad again phoned CMHT but this time the phone was answered by a new starter. Whilst she didn't know much about what was going on in the CMHT, she at least gave my dad the time of day and didn't try and rush him away. She found out that a manager was looking over seven's files and they would get back to us with when I would get support back. I felt a bit more positive at this. Even though seven was obviously off in the long-term, at least a manager was looking into her files and would contact us soon, hopefully with an appointment to see someone.
The days turned into weeks and I celebrated Christmas with my family down at my sister's house. On arriving home, I contacted CMHT myself, feeling extremely frustrated. I spoke to another new starter who told me that they didn't know when seven would be back. I asked her if she could find out when I would be getting support back. She told me she didn't know but would put me through to the duty worker.
I spoke to the duty worker and asked her when I would get support back but was told that seven would contact me when she came back. I pointed out that she had been off for weeks and I had been told that she wasn't likely to be back for a while yet. She told me that it was extremely busy at the CMHT with it being Christmas and New Year and many staff being on leave at the time (as Christmas gives us all a respite from our illnesses right?) but she would speak to the manager and get her to give me a call back when she was back in the New Year. The duty worker had tried to put the phone down on me two or three times in the conversation and before I even had the chance to say 'Thank you, bye' the phone had been slammed down.
On 30th December, we decided to go down to my sister's for New Year and so the following morning, we left for hers. On arriving back in the New Year, I received a answering machine message from this manager that had been recorded a few hours after we had left for my sister's. I was surprised at this; I had been told she wasn't back until the New Year but not complaining, I phoned CMHT. I told them about the message and could I speak to her. They told me she was in a meeting but would contact me as soon as she was out. I told them that I had a hospital appointment that afternoon so I needed the call back to be ASAP. They told me they would tell her and so I waited.
After a few hours of waiting, I had to go to my hospital appointment. It was directly beside my CMHT so I decided to go in there and rip a few heads off. I told the receptionist (I don't think it was Jane but I only know Jane from her phone voice!) about the phone conversation, how the manager hadn't called me back and the fact that I had been two months without support. After giving me a lesson in how to correctly pronounce the manager's name, she told me that I could see someone if I waited. I told her that I would and sat in the waiting area. After a few minutes, the receptionist popped her head through the window and told me that the manager would see me in five minutes. I thanked her and waited.
After half an hour, a man came into the waiting room to speak to me. I was surprised at this because the manager who was supposedly seeing me was a woman. Not looking a gift horse in the mouth, I followed him into one of the consulting rooms and he told me that seven was still off sick (you don't say?). He told me that she 'might' be back at the end of January and that he would look into when group therapy was starting (at that point, I'd heard nothing since my dad handed the slip back in November). I asked him what I was supposed to do in the meantime and he told me to keep busy.
After recovering from this display of Freudian genius, I asked him if I would be getting support in the meantime. He told me that if I had an emergency, I could phone or visit them and they would help me then. I would be getting a letter to explain seven's absence and would hear about group therapy in the next few weeks. I had been struggling to speak during this consultation because I was unsuccessfully fighting tears the whole time. I couldn't adequately tell him how inconsiderate and disrespectful I felt it was for them to have left it this long before contacting people. Had my dad and I not phoned CMHT and I not gone down there in person, I would have found out nothing until the letter arrived a few days later, two months after seven went off sick.
He told me that all emergencies had been seen and all medications had been sorted but he believed that I was only being seen every few weeks. I pointed out that I was being seen every week and he made comments that suggested he would look into this and reduce it (bad move Katy). He told me how changes were coming and not for the better. How they were being expected to do more work with less staff etc. I really wanted to point out that writing a letter and sending it to us all earlier would have only taken an hour at most but I could barely speak. I left the appointment feeling more frustrated than when I went in.
The letter that arrived was a fine display of the backside-covering my CMHT are experts in. It didn't actually tell us anything we wouldn't have known (we as in all seven's caseload). The letter basically said that seven was off sick, they didn't know when she was back but if we had an emergency in the meantime, to contact them. Yet this was the first piece of information that many on seven's caseload will have received in two months.
A few days later (last week) I received a letter to say that group therapy would be starting next Wednesday afternoon (today) at 2 pm. Despite the fear I have of groups of strangers, I had accepted group therapy because the CMHT wouldn't offer me any one to one support other than seven (looking back now, how could I have complained at 'only' seeing seven?!). The last few days have been stressful. Really stressful. I've had very little sleep, been screaming with nerves and desperately waiting for today to be over so that the first day would be done and dusted.
Last night, I had very little sleep. I don't think I had any proper sleep in fact. It was a case of dozing off for a bit then waking up feeling panicky and stressed. This continued until my dad 'woke' me just before 11 am this morning. Jane was on the phone. Group therapy postponed for a week due to staff sickness.
Permission to scream?