By Selina Armitage
This blog is about my positive and negative experiences of getting support in a time of crisis. I am writing this as a person that has been given a diagnosis of borderline personality disorder (BPD), but I find that ‘complex trauma’ is a more accurate way to describe and understand my struggles with mental health.
When I reach out for some crisis support, it is because I am in distress and want to end my life because I can see no way out of the trauma I have gone through in my life and I am at breaking point. So I ask for crisis support because I no longer can keep myself safe.
I often get told that there is nothing else they can suggest at this time.
I have often been asked loads of questions about why I am feeling this way and how I feel about the support that I am currently getting, if any at all. Then I really do open up about my level of risk to myself and why I feel that way. But then I am then often told to just distract myself by taking a bath or making a warm drink or just to go for a walk and told that my key worker will be notified of my level of distress at the moment. After that, I often get told that there is nothing else they can suggest at this time.
At the end of the call or visit, the worker might ask: “So how are you going to keep yourself safe tonight then?” If I say can’t do that, then I have had workers say that they don’t feel like there is anything else they can say to help me. Usually at that point, the call or visit is ended. Then I am left at home feeling these awful feelings. When I have this kind of experience in crisis, I feel even more worthless and beyond help. It feels like I am not truly understood and have been rejected.
why is it that as a person with this diagnosis, I am often treated in such a dismissive way?
I don’t know if it is just me, but I feel that I have often been treated like this because I have the label of ‘BPD’. I often feel rejection and abandonment on a day-to-day basis and I can also feel really extreme emotions quickly, which is distressing. But when I receive the kind of treatment I described in the first part of this blog, it really reinforces these emotions when the other person doesn’t really want to try and understand me as a person with feelings and emotions instead of just my label. When they treat me this way, they really don’t understand what I am wanting to do to myself and why and it doesn’t help in responding to my risk.
It makes me think, would this type of response be the same if I had a different diagnosis? What really gets to me is that despite people in crisis services often thinking that my risk is not that serious, as a person with a BPD diagnosis I more am more at risk of self-harm and suicide. So why is it that as a person with this diagnosis, I am often treated in such a dismissive way? And why is it that I don’t really get the right treatment and support that I need at that moment in time? I sometimes feel that the attitude in some services can be very negative towards people with BPD – they think I am just attention seeking, but I am not – I am in crisis and I have asked for support because I can’t cope.
I feel that the support I really need has often been denied just because I have a diagnosis of BPD.
We always talk openly about what I think I may need from them at that moment in time.
On the other hand, I also have had some really good experience of using crisis services that treat me as a person, not just as a label.
It helps me when I am in crisis if the person supporting me really wants to understand me and why I feel the way I do. It helps for it to be led by me in a one-to-one support. I can talk very openly about my thoughts of self-harm or suicide without feeling judged at all. When I have got helpful support, I have not been told that I feel like this just because I have BPD, I feel that the workers see the trauma I have gone through in my life and I am not left feeling alone with it. We always talk openly about what I think I may need from them at that moment in time. I also find that being in a homely environment with staff and other people helps me a lot to de-escalate my distress because it makes me feel like I am less alone. It helps me to know that I can ask a member of staff for some help at any time if I need it. Having choices about my crisis support is great, because it helps me take more control over my overall mental health. It helps me when workers to talk to me about what’s going on for me at the time rather than giving insight into my BPD diagnosis, which helps me feel more like a person than a label.
These are my experiences of getting support in a crisis and what works and doesn’t work for me.