I always thought this couldn’t be true when people mentioned that for most ailments their GP googles the recommended treatment plan before handing out a script. And yet, throughout my mental health adventures, doctors in the UK have done this. Seemingly without shame, and then list the dangerous and life-threatening side effects I might experience if I take the recommended medicine.
It’s enough to make anyone not know whether to cry, have a tantrum, walk out or burst into slightly hysterical laughter.
The first time this happened to me it was super understandable. I had arrived from South Africa on medication which had South African names. Googling the generic was crucial! But after that things got less helpful. The doctor asked why my dosages were so high (little did he know how much I had fought that increase) which incited feelings of shame in me. Another one suggested I was someone who just didn’t sleep and clearly medicine didn’t help me (ignoring the country move and unemployment I was experiencing which threw me into stress-induced insomnia). A psychiatrist suggested my night sweats were some form of alcohol withdrawal (they weren’t, and trying to label me as an alcoholic was not helpful for my mental health at all!).
All along, I advocated for my right to medication, my right to change this if it was not working and my right to go to sleep. I asked for a short term dose of tranquilliser to help me leave the house and attend the job interviews I needed so badly to go to. My doctor almost had a small collapse and suggested I use ten mild tablets over a period of three months.
Finally, after being turned down by the assessment centre (called Single Point Access) (SPA ironically) (I privately nicknamed it No Point Access) 5 times and deemed not mentally ill enough, I got in and asked for a psychiatrist. It had taken eight GP appointments, one hospitalisation, three sessions with a mental health nurse… and two months of a lost file. I think they created a new one for me.
In terms of funding shortages, I think they spent more money through these collective disconnected meetings with me than the hour I had with the NHS psychiatrist. Finally, the sweet but inexperienced junior psychiatrist I saw listened to my advice on what medicine to give me, consulted her senior doctor and dutifully handed me pills. She forgot to mention how bad the side effects of these could be and asked if I would like to choose between seeing her again (critical if a new medication is introduced) or getting some counselling. I was not quite sure what to say but accepting I couldn’t be given both (greedy) I went for the medication follow up.
So what to do in these sort of situations? Firstly, pull out months before things get critical. Don’t share too much when you sense you aren’t being taken seriously. Don’t get passed on to 32 people and have to rehash your story – it is humiliating and exhausting. Get a friend or family to sponsor private treatment. Listen to your gut. Go to a support group. Write some ragey letters which it’s advisable you don’t send until well enough to edit. KEEP ADVOCATING FOR YOUR MENTAL HEALTH.
If all else fails, create your own ideal remedy for depression and read a book about someone who has it worse. There is always someone 🙂