I’ve been trying to see a doctor for 13 months. During that time, I’ve lost my marriage, my children, my home and my health. My hair fell out in clumps; my body is covered in boils; and I’m traumatised by the ten years of abuse I suffered.
Worse: I was retraumatised every time I had to ask for help; every time I tried to tell my story; every time I had another door slammed in my face by Social Services, Children’s Services, the NHS and the Police.
The last time I saw my doctor, I told him I was being abused and that I doubted I’d make it to the end of the day. I said that I was going to have a nervous breakdown because of how she was treating me and I was terrified I would have to be sectioned.
He told me to give in and let my wife do whatever she wanted, and then sent me home to her. Within a week, I had a breakdown and lost everything.
When I finally regathered my strength, I put in a complaint about him to the surgery. They handed it to him so he could investigate himself, and what do you know? His investigation concluded that he’d done nothing wrong. He lied about what I’d said during the appointment; lied to cover his back. Apparently, I never told him I was struggling with my mental health, despite that being the sole reason I’d gone to his office.
The Police investigated my abuser for Controlling and Coercive Behaviour, and said they had ample evidence that she had abused me physically, emotionally, psychologically and financially for ten years. Unfortunately, they added, none of that is a crime. In order to charge her, they’d have to show that she abused me and that this abuse had a detrimental effect on me, but because of my GP’s shoddy record keeping, there was no third-party evidence of the harm she caused me. Therefore, there was no case to answer.
How can they prove she abused me and still not have enough to take action?
Over the past year, as I’ve battled PTSD, depression, anxiety, self-harm, binge eating and suicidal thoughts, I’ve repeatedly begged to see a doctor, but every time, they’ve fobbed me off. Over the phone, they’ve prescribed me more and more antidepressants and tranquillisers, upping the dose until I have no idea how I get out of bed in the morning. This isn’t any kind of solution.
Every night, I have nightmares about my abuser, because she is still in my life, still trying to get to me, using my children as weapons.
A couple of months ago, I realised I was in a really bad way. I was uncontrollably binge eating several evenings a week, 3000 calories in half an hour. I’d totally lose control, the voice inside screaming at me to stop as I kept eating and eating, no matter how uncomfortable and bloated I felt. I’d starve myself the next day to compensate, only to binge again in the evening.
I was thinking about self-harm all the time. I went on bike rides so long I couldn’t walk for days afterwards. I took baths so hot they scalded my skin. I put an elastic band on my wrist and pinged it so many times, it broke the skin. I had to fight the urge to burn myself, something I regularly did in the dying months of my marriage. I was desperate for help.
I rang my doctor’s to get an appointment, but they wouldn’t see me. Over the phone, the doctor told me that unless I was making myself sick after my binges, there wasn’t anything they could do for me, but I should really try to lose some weight. I’m not sure what part of ‘uncontrollably binge eating’ she didn’t understand. And my self-harm? It wasn’t bad enough for intervention. At least, not yet.
The message seems to be: come back when you’re worse; when you’re even more damaged; when recovery is even further away. The health service effectively encourages you to get worse simply to be seen. How can that be right?
I’m in a deep black hole that I can see no way out of, and I’m well aware that this is a warning sign for self-harming and suicidal behaviour, so I asked my social worker for help. She contacted my doctor’s and gave them a kick up the arse, pointing out that I have self-harmed many times in the past, I’ve struggled with suicidal thoughts, I’ve been abused and traumatised and then completely abandoned, and I’ve been given multiple high-dose mood- and mind-altering drugs by doctors who have never even met me, which simply mask rather than treat the problem.
My doctor referred me to a psychiatrist five weeks ago. Thank God, I thought. Finally I’m going to get some help. Finally somebody will listen. For five weeks, I’ve been waiting for that appointment, clinging on to it like a lifeline.
This morning, I discovered that five weeks ago, the very day after receiving my referral, the Community Mental Health Team rejected me because I ‘don’t meet their criteria’. But the psychiatrist has sent a list of powerful drugs the GPs can experiment on me with.
So I’m left with two questions: 1. Why the hell didn’t my doctor tell me my referral had been rejected five weeks ago?
And 2. How much worse do I have to get before they’ll take me seriously?