Ignored. Let down. Lost somewhere in a system that doesn’t even seem to exist. It’s not the best place to be, or a good position to be in. The NHS is now a big corporate-esque shell of its old self, doing nothing yet eating money like it’s biscuits, leaving people like me awash on the side with nowhere to go and nowhere to turn.
Clearly NEL NHS Foundation Trust has no idea what it’s doing with any money it has. Its services don’t seem to exist. After a year of trying to get help, get better, get heard, get… something.
I love the fact the current government cut spending on NHS and local council services, yet demand the sick and the disabled “get up and get a job”, lest they get kicked off their ESA and PIP/DLA. Apparently we’re all faking, all lazy-arsed bastards, and don’t need the NHS and local council services – what we need is to get a job. Oh, but they don’t exist too much either, because they’ve cut a whole bunch of spending and funding. Clever.
I have a good GP, but thanks to the whole NHS England Foundation Trust reshuffle, services have gone from “barely OK” to horrific. Non-existant: Ironically, the reason I was brought in to help at my last job ended up being the reason I could no longer work there, or anywhere else. Everything he has become absolutely appalling, and most certainly under NEL (North East London).
I did my best to avert dealing with the healthcare system. Even after I was diagnosed with pneumonia (Halloween 2013… and I used to like Halloween – Samhain – before…) kept getting worse, kept getting sicker, was in more pain. Eventually, when I had to give up my job, I went to ask for help.
By March 2014, I could no longer deal with the crippling pain I was enduring and it was then I to give up work. My GP referred me to the local pain clinic, and I also asked for therapy – specifically CBT – to help deal with it. It’s February 2015 now. I am still waiting for the help requested nearly a year ago. And there is no end to the waiting in sight.
A Therapeutic Joke…
When I asked for CBT back in March 2013, I was first sent to the Access Team, a mental health community care program for the area. A pointless mental heath community care program – one clearly without staff, resources, funding, or common sense. Their initial response to my request for CBT was to send a social worker… and I’m still not sure why. I talked to her, since she said she was there to assess me. She took everything down, listened, and was the person who realised that all my issues sounded exactly like Asperger Syndrome, and suggested I also request an assessment as well as the CBT. She said that my case would be given to the team, I would be assigned a caseworker, they would send a home assessor, and they would get back to me regarding the next steps.
Only… nothing happened. I got no more contact from them. I called. Then called again. And again. I had to speak to different people each time – only on three occasions did I speak with the same person. Each time I called, reception “knew nothing” and and would just suggest “someone would get back to me”. Sometimes they did, sometimes they didn’t. What came out of those calls was nothing. They finally sent an “assessor” but it turned out they “couldn’t” assess me for help in the home until/ unless I got DLA/PIP – the assessor just sat with me whilst I called the DWP for a PIP pack. So very helpful.
After more and more phone calls to the Access Team, an appointment for a psych assessment finally turned up for June, with a psychiatrist/clinical psychologist at the Ferguson Centre, Walthamstow. By this time I found walking so difficult I wasn’t able to use the bus and I had to pay for a cab and take a friend to help. I went early to the appointment, 20 minutes early, just to make sure I wouldn’t miss it. But it seemed like I was going to miss it anyway. After waiting 20 minutes over my appointment time, someone finally comes to me. Not to get me: To tell me my appointment has been cancelled. Just like that. After waiting months. After being desperate for long enough already.
I managed to get out of the place and broke down outside. My friend went to get someone to come and speak to me. The person was an idiot, faffed and flustered at my inconsolability and desperate crying, and eventually she disappeared and came back a few moments later to offer an “emergency appointment”. What a joke that turned out to be.
I had to go to a completely different place. My friend took me in a wheelchair on the bus because I couldn’t afford a taxi fare there. It was a nightmare journey, made all the worse by the complete second farce to emerge regarding this attempt at a psych assessment. After all that screwing around to get it, they didn’t even know I was coming. Then they decided I was in the wrong building and sent me to the right one… which couldn’t have been less wheelchair-friendly if it tried. Eventually I saw someone… and my original professional psych assessment turned into a training exercise for an idiotic trainee-GP who clearly knew nothing, not even the art of listening.
She listened to nothing I said, except one thing that she kept fixated on, which was trying to make me admit to being “impulsive“. Ignored the depression, the Aspergers theory, and just about everything else. Then, because she had just come off a training exercise of a few weeks with people suffering from personality disorders, she the decided that’s what I had: specifically, “Emotional Explosive Personality Disorder“ (aka: Intermittent Explosive Disorder). Told me I would be “seen by a panel of professionals” (the thought of which scared the bejeezus out of me) before deciding what would be done, then sent me on my way. I was floored, bewildered, and later furious. A few weeks later, I then got a referral letter and a leaflet for a scheme called Impart – the stupid “recommendation” of the idiot trainee GP (as in not professional psychologist/psychiatrist) had been taken verbatim and I had been unquestioningly been given a referral for treatment for Personality Disorder.
I broke down and cried again. This time, calling the Crisis Team in floods of tears because it was a Saturday and I couldn’t call anyone else. Then they told me something interesting no one else had bothered to tell me before: The NEL now had a new and shiny Autism Unit. Specialising in ASD diagnoses. That first thing Monday I should call and demand to be referred to them. So I did. I also demanded to know what had become of my original request for CBT. Eventually, after the usual “someone will call you back” excuse, someone did call me back – the secretary for the original psychologist/psychiatrist I was supposed to see (I still don’t know which she was, they both have “Dr” in front of their names, but for very different reasons). She then explained that the team had decided to not pursue it because I had been referred to the Impart Team. I explained about the ASD Unit and my request for a referral, so she suggested seeing the consultant from there first before doing anything else. Another brick wall. This is all whilst my mental and physiological health are rapidly going downhill. I didn’t know how much more of this I could take.
A Useful Diagnosis
The first bit of sense I saw the ASD assessor. A real breath of fresh air, which was unsurprising given he didn’t actually work there. He was nice, listened. Seven months after I first requested help, at the very end of October, exactly one year after all this first started, I saw someone who actually helped. He spoke to me. He later called my mother and spoke to her. Then about a week later I had it confirmed: I had Asperger Syndrome. The reason I had never been properly helped before was that people were treating the symptoms and not the cause: A strange form of autism that had made my life a living hell because I had never understood it. Or myself.
It was like a weight had been lifted from me, and my opinion of myself immediately grew a little. I wasn’t an unhelpable lost cause and prolific depressive with “emotional explosive personality disorder” (and I read up on that… I definitely didn’t have that!)… I was just misdiagnosed, misunderstood, and not properly treated. Even understanding it all made a big difference.
There was a side-effect to that rise in self-respect though. The fact I could no longer manage for myself made a huge dent in that newfound pride. It finally had somewhere to hit, whereas before there wasn’t. Whatever my physiological complications were, it was constantly getting worse, and with it my despair and frustration at being “pointless”. With the rise of my self-worth, was also the fact it could be undermined by my no longer being able to bring in money to look after myself. That I could no longer look after myself. That I couldn’t walk, or undress, or lift my arms, hold some things, open things, and any number of other things that we all take for granted until we can no longer do them.
Open Wound. Salt. Rub.
Thanks to the doctor I saw to get my ASD diagnosis, I finally got my psych assessment for this past Monday, February 2015. Eight months after the last one was cancelled. It was a nightmare day. The guy didn’t even see me till 15 minutes after my appointment start because the receptionist didn’t tell him I was there, and I had got there half an hour early by cab, just about managed to walk with 2 sticks to the door, then sat in a horrible chair (all furniture now hurts to sit on, and I either sit on the floor on on beanbags at home) to wait for 45 mins, walked with my sticks all the way to his room, where I then spent another hour sitting in a horrible chair to talk to him.
He was… okay. Mainly a wet blanket. He took down details, spoke to me (kind of). Somehow had no idea I’d spent my life in and out of therapy. Made it clear that this was just an assessment, after which I would be put on a waiting list. A twelve month waiting list. After waiting eight months to just get another assessment appointment, I nearly had a meltdown right there and then. I probably should have, so he could see the extent of the internal pain and turmoil I was in. Then another bombshell: this was not long-term support like I wanted and needed. It was a 20-session max offer. At one a week (which I could ill-afford anyway), that was a maximum of 5 months of help. I don’t think I’d spent less than a year with any of my therapists before. I needed long-term, ongoing care – and after all this waiting, all the fighting, all the begging… this was all they were even offering?
I’d be better off getting a PS4 or upgrading my PC and spending that cab fare on that instead (it would cost at least £200 in cab fares to go there for 20 sessions) – tech and games might be better therapy than a measly 5 months of CBT. I am going to be in this situation for longer than 5 months of therapy will cover– and I do not have 12 months to wait for it to turn up in the first place. By the time I would get therapy I would be completely ga-ga… I’m nearly there now. I am already talking myself out of self-harm and worse on a daily basis, and I honestly do not know how long I can keep that up for, given that the option of not being in pain anymore sometimes outweighs common sense when I feel in agony and am desperate for it to all end.
If they could take the pain away, or relieve it a little more, it would be a little more bearable. But that isn’t the case either. In fact, I am probably not even as far into the system with that as I am with the mental health one… and I have never experienced that before.
Putting the “Pain” into Pain Clinic…
It was also in March 2014 that I asked for help with my growing chronic pain. Again it was June when I had my appointment for the Pain Clinic, at Whipps Cross Hospital. I thought I might actually at least get somewhere with this: everyone knows that mental health appointments take some more time than others do.
Apparently, I do not have much luck with appointments. My appointment was for first thing in the morning – yet, it was still much later when I was finally seen (playing rather fast and loose with the word “seen”, too…). The consultant couldn’t get me out of there fast enough, barely speaking to me or letting me speak. In fairness, he couldn’t poke and prod me to investigate the pain – I just about managed to not scream and pass out when he very gently pushed his fingers by my lower vertebrae – and based on that fact he requested and MRI scan and that I be put on neuropathic meds for the pain, apparently of the opinion this was all from lumbar disc nerve compression. It’s quite likely there is some compression, but I’ve found no documentation that it makes every cell and joint in your body hurt so much you can’t even move.
It was left to my GP to prescribe Pregabalin. It was slowly raised until I was on the full dose, and some small amount of the pain was eased somewhat. Enough to not almost die from mind-exploding agony. Given I was unable to take opioid painkillers, it was left just to the Pregabalin to do as much as it could. I thought I could manage a few weeks, enough time to get an MRI and a followup appointment.
I was crushed when, back in the end of June  – before I’d even been given my MRI appointment – I was sent my followup appointment and saw it was for March 2015. Nine months after my original appointment. I’m still six weeks away from it now. Amazingly – stupidly? – the MRI was booked for the end of July. So that meant there was eight months between the MRI scan and my being seen again. If there was going to be any issues with whatever might have been on that scan, it would then also be eight months worse than when that picture had been taken. Genius.
Where To Now?
Without support anywhere, help from anyone, and simply sitting and waiting (despite telephone calls, begging, crying, etc), I have really no idea when I can expect to have any such things. The Pregabalin only does so much for my pain. Trying Devil’s Claw extract has actually helped where no painkiller would dare tread (after a psychotic breakdown from taking dihydacodeine and distorted reality/mild hallucinations on doses of just 15mg of codeine), I’m never taking an odine anything again.
Even my GP is annoyed. He’s sending me somewhere else if/when the pain clinic followup gets me nowhere. Presumably the MRI didn’t show anything too radical, otherwise (hopefully, at least), they would have called. The results aren’t sent to the GPs here anymore – they’re only sent to the requesting physician. Which, in this case, is the guy at the pain clinic.
The going theory between my GP and myself (the best and smartest GP I have ever come across, bar one, with which he’s joint-first) is that this is more than likely going to end being Fibromyalgia (read any website’s list of general symptoms for this, and it means I don’t have to re-write all my own symptoms here…) and should probably give up on the pain clinic and look to being re-referred to Rheumatology. I hate to think how long that is going to take, and am tempted to use my ability to request any hospital I want to be sent to a different one than Whipps Cross. If they even have a rheumatology clinic anymore – it seems most of their clinics have been shut down now. The next nearest one is place I am familiar with and they actually seem to run a half-decent ship there, so I’m thinking about that for when that time comes… At least one useful thing out of treating the NHS as a private business will come in useful. Although I’d rather my local hospital be properly seaworthy than have this ridiculous situation where I have to go elsewhere because their business model sucks.
Then there is also my deteriorating mental health. I have no job. No way of working. No way of earning my own money. “Benefits” are a joke – and why they are called that is beyond me. They don’t benefit me at all. Working does. But their stupid NHS system leaves me without diagnosis, let alone treatment, for my conditions, and ergo I am unable to work. I earned more in a week than I get in a month of “benefits”. I struggle to buy food. Anything else I took for granted is gone. And now I even have the added burden of having to pay for a cab every time I need to go somewhere, like the GP or one of these pointless other appointments they keep sending me to. I hate to think how much I’ve already spent on those. Some I’ve actually had to cancel because I can’t afford to go, and sometimes I don’t see the GP when I need to because I don’t have the money. Or I have to eat.
Things are so pretty bad, and sometimes I feel pretty hopeless about this whole thing. I’m now scared to see what Rock Bottom is going to be… Unless this is it. Which is not so bad. Maybe everything will come at once and I will get the help I need.
You never know.