Through the eyes of a carer for someone with a mental illness

Leave a comment

Stuck in the middle.

I am talking, talking about how I feel, something that is so emotional for me to keep bringing up time and time again. Yet no one is listening, yes they can hear me but they are not listening to what I am saying. It is so hard to keep going over something so gut wrenchingly difficult, for me to just feel like it goes into one ear and out of the other.  So I stopped talking, I stopped trying to get people to listen to me, I just nodded my head and gave no feedback of how I feel things are… after all who am I again?

At the moment I am stuck in the middle between Chris; who is telling me he is suicidal, making plans, agitated, struggling, wanting to die and all matter of other things and the ward staff; who are telling me that Chris ‘appears’ ok and they haven’t seen any cause for concern and so forth. To say my head is completely mashed is an understatement. I don’t know how I feel anymore, all I know is that what I am feeling hurts, I cannot explain it, and no one seems to understand. I just have to listen to ‘I am sorry you feel this way’ while thinking, yes, thanks, funnily enough, so am I!

Talking to staff about how I feel or my concerns at the moment or reporting back worrying things that Chris tells me is pointless. I told them that the other day, I also told them it is easier for me not to tell them anything and to have lost nothing at all compared to feeling like they don’t listen or note my concerns anyway. It is negatively impacting my visits with Chris though, I am almost cross with him because he worries me with how he feels but then does not feel he can trust them enough to tell them. So I have stopped talking now. Would you feel happy walking onto a ward where staff don’t seem to listen, are always busy and don’t appear to have a clue how Chris actually is half the time? Would you honestly want to go there?

Right now I dread going to see him, I dread having to feel all these emotions all over again. I have tried to close off from them to protect myself, I have tried not to worry about what Chris is telling me but it doesn’t change the huge mess that continues to unravel in front of me. It is times like this where I would give anything (selfishly) for a day to not care, for a bit of peace in my head and no worries. Do you think I will ever believe that Chris is ok at the moment? Evidence suggests not after four overdoses all requiring stays for treatment on a general ward, all while in their care. Do they have any idea how hard it is for me to sit there, staring into the face of the person you love so much, looking so ill. Once is enough but after as many times I have done it even just recently it is devastating.


1 Comment

There is hearing and then there is listening…

I like to think of myself as pretty patient with mental health services, I will often say ‘yes no problem’ and smile at them and I know that not always everyone gets things right. Sadly the other evening after visiting Chris I was pushed beyond the normal ‘it’s ok’ reaction and I was getting more annoyed. For days I had been resisting the urge to tell them that I felt like I was talking and expressing my concerns and it was ‘going in one ear and out the other.’

I was being let out of the building on Wednesday when a nurse (the one that upset me back along who before that I thought highly of) was letting me out and asked me if I was ok. I thought for a second, do I tell him the truth or do I just make something up? I went with the truth, perhaps brave as I look back, knowing it might not go down so well, I replied ‘not really, no.’ He asked me why and I said I was fed up at the moment for all kinds of reasons and as we reached the door I came out with ‘I feel like my concerns are falling on deaf ears’ he looked at me and asked ‘what from a nursing teams view?’ so I said yes.

Going into why I felt like no one was listening to me and expressing once again my very valid concerns about Chris current mental state, was difficult, it always is. I think they forget that when they talk about him the connection isn’t emotional, it is purely angled from a professional side, yet when I talk about Chris it is emotional, everything I say and hear strikes my heart strings, pulls my head apart and it hurts, it really hurts. Emotional pain is awful, you can’t see it, sometimes you cannot understand why it is there or where exactly it is coming from which can make it hurt even more. When something is hurting emotionally deep within me, I can feel it in every inch of my body, it is a sensation that is like no other.

I explained that I feel like not telling anyone anything unless it directly impacts Chris safety because emotionally I cannot keep going through talking about it to feel like no one is listening anyway. It might not make much sense to you but that is how all this makes me feel, I want to close down to it to protect myself, stop me from hurting. The nurse was great, concerned I felt like this, said it didn’t reflect well on their team at the moment but was very positive towards me that I hadn’t just carried on like this, that the only way they can improve is if they know how to and by me telling them they have the chance to.

Coming away from the ward I felt a bit better that someone had taken my opinion seriously and didn’t try to rub it off as ‘don’t be daft Sarah of course we listen’ kind of thing. It was good to speak to someone who could see why I would be concerned about Chris because Chris has a good relationship with this nurse and he too finds what I was saying a concern. Anyway concerns now noted and his named nurse has returned from annual leave, perhaps now we can take little steps forward again? You would think wouldn’t you? Seems like everyone has other plans…

Leave a comment

A letter from a face with no name.

I have been thinking recently about all the people I have met over the last year, maybe two that have helped Chris and in turn I. So much has happened and so many times he has required medical assistance. After the events of the weekend and seeing the same kind nurse in accident and emergency that I have seen many times before, it made me think. To all those people we have met, this letter is for you…

Dear Ambulance Crews, A&E and AMU staff, Ward staff, Porters and those not otherwise stated.

You probably only know me as Christopher’s next of kin, I doubt you even know my name but you will definitely recognise my face, whether it be for good or bad reasons. I never get to find out your name either or sadly I forget if I do. You see, you have treated my partner on a number of occasions, suicide attempts, self harm, stomach bleeds and other health concerns. Maybe you see him as a waste of your time, maybe you rather be doing something else with your day but I cannot express enough to you how thankful I am that you do the job you do.

You might think your time goes unnoticed, you may only remember the times you were spat at or abused but I promise you, it is normally you that I remember the most in my journey with Chris. It is normally those people like you who I couldn’t put a name to, which I never see again or if I do for very short periods of time, that stand out the most.

In times of stress and worry, the smile you have given me, the time you have taken to answer my questions, the judgement you didn’t show Chris when so many others do really makes a difference. I remember the little things you did to help us, yet the nature of your job means you are usually onto the next patient before I have even had chance to thank you. I noticed, I always notice, and I recognise your faces, like I bet you do mine.

I would like to say thank you, for everything that you have done for Chris and while in the kindest possible way I hope we do not meet like that again, I want to assure you that if we did I would be just as grateful as I was the last time.

Kind Regards,

Sarah Bellamy, Chris Carer and Next of Kin, mum of four.


Another night in A&E

The ambulance crew came in, asked a load of questions, and did his obs, he was taccycardic and very drowsy. It was then I got to see the self harm to his arms, something I wished I had known about before taking him out. The ambulance crew were lovely and got him in the ambulance, I followed, they did an ECG and then we were off. The ambulance creaked and rattled as we went over speed bumps, the crew member in the back with us was struggling to keep on her seat while she wrote out the paperwork. We arrived at the hospital and were shown into the Accident and Emergency department where we waited for the nurse to triage him. He was shown into the room where they always stick psychiatric patients, it has the good old two doors and not a lot else in it apart from a couple of chairs. I told the nurse I needed to ring the psychiatric ward and let them know what was happening. As I left security guards were standing outside the room.

I walked through the waiting room and outside, it was cold, I found the number for the ward he was on and rang them, they didn’t know what would be happening as they were about to start handover. I said that for the time being I was happy to remain with Chris but that I would need to know what they would be doing because I would need to get home to bed. I was told to ring back at a later time, once handover was finished and they would know more. There was no point them trying to ring me because getting a signal in that department was near on impossible.

I went back inside and found Chris asleep upright in one of the chairs, he didn’t look comfortable, he looked quite unwell, he looked at me briefly as I walked in before closing his eyes again. I sat down in the chair next to him and felt a sense of relief to see him again but a deep sadness that he was in such a mess. The room was white, there was nothing to look at, I had counted the ceiling tiles numerous times, it was half past nine, but I knew he wouldn’t see anyone until at least eleven o’clock when they would take his bloods. Security were still gathered around near the door to the room so I hesitantly left so I could get a signal outside and make another phone call to the ward to see what their plans were.

Walking back through the more or less empty waiting room after I had spoken to the nurse on the ward I was thinking about what had happened, and now waiting for the member of staff to come over and sit with him because he was off their ward, he was now on 1:1 care. I walked back into the room where Chris was sitting, he was still asleep in the chair, coming round every now and again, he looked exhausted, unwell and sad all hunched up. I wished they had put him onto a trolley, somewhere he would be comfortable, but instead a blank room with a couple of chairs would have to do.

A nursing assistant came over from the psychiatric ward and sat with us, Chris still asleep most of the time so I chatted with him about all sorts to pass the time, he was one of the ones who had sat with us the last time    Chris had been taken to accident and emergency because of an overdose. A nurse popped in at half past eleven and took blood but the two hours the nursing assistant was with us passed by pretty quickly and it was then time for them to swap over, I said goodbye and thank you to him and he left leaving a nurse in his place. I didn’t know this nurse so well and had reservations about him if I am honest, mainly because he is quite difficult to read. With Chris still asleep we got chatting about all sorts and both got to know each other quite well, what he had done, where I am from, what I want to do, his family, mine etc.

Half past twelve was upon us and Chris had nipped outside for a smoke, when the nurse came out to us and said to come and find her when he had finished. When we got back inside the nurse asked to weigh him and said that he would need to be admitted for treatment. We all went back into the same little white box room, she followed in and said he would need to be moved to a cubical, and a shame they hadn’t given him one to start with really.  We were shown into the cubical and he was again given a chair, this time a hard wooden one, which he again fell asleep in, he hadn’t yet seen a Dr and we knew very little about what had been going on. A nurse came over to insert a cannular and then another one came over to do his obs, she noticed he was quite drowsy and after they had been done she made up the trolley and got him onto it.

Once Chris was on the bed the nurse called over and said he still needed an ECG, to which she said ‘does he?’ so they said ‘yes, he came in with taccycardia and he has overdosed, he needs another ECG’ so they said ok and set someone about doing it. Then I heard ‘well he has a bed on a general ward so can I grey him off now before he breaches even though he is still here?’ followed by ‘yes.’ It is so sad that a nurse has to worry about politics when she should be thinking about her patients. At least Chris was now more comfortable on the trolley, his drip had been connected and his ECG done, he was just waiting for a porter to take him up to the ward. It was now getting on for half past one in the morning!

Leave a comment

No no, not again, not again Chris!

Today just feels hard, the past couple have caught up with me and I am starting to feel drained. I cannot help thinking that as a family we would normally be gearing up for going to see the lights turned on in town tonight and the fantastic firework display they put on. We go every year, taking the girls, it is what kick starts the Christmas period for us. Tonight the reality is I will be going to see Chris on a general ward after he made an attempt on his life on Friday night and is now recovering from an overdose.

I have been living on adrenalin for the past couple of days, not a lot has had time to sink in, until I have had chance to get back into the normal housework and even sit down for awhile and think. I keep hoping it will get easier, I keep wishing that I will wake up one day and things will be different but every time I see a ray of hope it flickers away and we are left with the only option of sending Chris to a specialist hospital.

Friday night was pretty awful, I had gone out with Chris, he hadn’t seemed too bad, I had the same sick feeling in my stomach from the previous nights outing but presumed that it was from me just feeling more cautious and getting used to taking him out again. We had walked to the shop where Chris bought a drink. As we headed back towards the hospital grounds he ran, I tried to keep up with him, reaching the end of the road I looked hurriedly both ways but he was nowhere to be seen, nowhere at all, where had he gone? I felt sick, angry, confused, as I rushed towards the hospital I felt every emotion possible to the point I didn’t really know how I felt, why had he done this again? My head was spinning ‘No no, not again, not again Chris!’

I got into the lift, the doors seemed to take forever to open and when it finally did and I got in I was left staring into the shiny silver walls wondering how I was meant to walk onto the ward now and tell them. I was shaking as I pressed the bell to be let in, I waited and waited and then loads of patients arrived to be let out. I went in, both nursing assistants looked at me, both wondering where Chris was, I didn’t want to say anything until the other patients were out of earshot but they had already guessed. I confirmed their fears and followed them to the nursing office where I stood outside and waited. I heard my name called from halfway down the corridor, I looked around and a nurse’s head popped out from the treatment room ‘Sarah, is Chris there?’ I took one look at him and gently shook my head; he just knew what I meant. I walked over to explain what had just happened.

The next ten minutes were pretty awful, for the first time ever I felt almost like nurses were just going through the process once again rather than treating it as important as the first time he ran off. Every time this happens I get the same feeling, it never feels any easier, it never gets any less worrying it is awful. After they had asked of places that he might go, told they would contact me when they knew anything and told me that the handover from the early shift was that ‘Chris was having a good day’ I was seen off the ward.

Walking back through the doors I felt like I was going to collapse, my hands were clammy and my head was fuzzy, I got into the left and leant against the wall I was previously staring into. The lift stopped and I walked out, once I was out of the building the cold air hit my face and tears fell down my face, I couldn’t stop them. Where did I go? What did I do? I felt alone; all I wanted was to hold Chris, where was he? Would I see him again? As I walked towards the opposite end of the hospital wondering what to do, my head spinning with questions I had never felt so lost before, lost and very alone.

I turned to the only thing I had at the time, Twitter. I knew someone would answer me, someone would be listening and indeed they were, more or less straight away came a text from my dear friend @femaleptsd who offered to come and take me home, sit with me, look for Chris anything I needed. She was a star, I sat myself on the bench outside the hospital, it was dark and cold, she said she would be with me in about twenty minutes and suggested I find somewhere warmer to wait. I did as she suggested, no longer feeling so lost and alone I plonked myself down on a bench inside the main entrance to the hospital. My phone started ringing ‘unknown number’ was on the screen, I answered it right away. ‘Hello is that Sarah? It is the Police, is Christopher with you?’ I answered no and explained that he had run from me whilst in the back of my head I was thinking what an amazing job someone did at giving them the right information in the first place or him in interpreting the information correctly. He said to keep them updated and hung up. How was I to keep them updated? I didn’t have a log number, nor had a clue what the ward was doing or had done about it all.

I was relieved as @femaleptsd pulled up outside the hospital, I got in next to her and she threw her arms around me, I needed that, I can’t express how grateful I am to her for coming and just being with me. We drove around for awhile looking for him; he wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Then when we had just about given up my phone rang, it was Chris dad, letting me know Chris had turned up at our house. I asked if he was ok and he said yes, well no he’s taken an overdose, I told his dad I would ring the ward and I would get home right away. I rang the ward, a nurse answered and I said he was at home, he had overdosed and I didn’t know what or how much he had taken and I was on my way to him now. He said he would send an ambulance right away.

@femaleptsd drove me home, I thanked her so much for looking after me, for helping me and told her I would keep her updated, she even offered to take Chris back to the hospital but with an ambulance already on its way it wouldn’t be needed. An amazing lady, so thanks again if you are reading this!

I walked in through the front door, it was so strange to see him in our house after so long, I gave him the biggest hug and kiss, and he looked unwell, quite drowsy. The phone rang, it was the ward, they had rang 999 for an ambulance and told me to expect it there anytime, as it was being dispatched as he was on the phone to control. He told me to ring when I got to A&E to update them on the situation. Once I was off my mobile the house phone rang again, I answered ‘Hello is that Sarah? It is the Police; I hear Chris is at home?’ I confirmed he was and that I was with him. I told them he had overdosed and was waiting on an ambulance that the ward had sent out and that he was willing to go with them. He replied with ‘Right ok, I will let you go.’ No sooner had I got off the phone I could see blue lights bouncing off everything outside… The ambulance was here.

Continued here.


How is Chris? Does anyone actually know?

As I sit here, the girls at school and Cora fast asleep, I find myself mulling everything over. It is far from helpful. Recently I have not blogged as much, not because there isn’t anything to say but because I feel like all I can do at the moment is moan. I am even getting a little bit fed up of hearing it in my own head! The thing is, when I set out blogging, telling our story, I wanted it to be real but that comes with the sad fact, that at the moment the reality means there is a lot of sadness and upset and I do moan a lot because our situation is so truly difficult.

Chris has been given escorted leave with me and staff are giving the impression that his risk has lowered, normally I am happy, see it as a good sign so why not this time? Why can I not see it like he is getting better? Is it because the only thing I can see that has changed is him not having gone AWOL in awhile? Has anything else actually changed? Do staff even talk to Chris enough to know how he is thinking and feeling? Many questions with too few answers. All I know is in the whole time I was out with him last night I felt sick, it didn’t sit right with me but I feel I can’t just keep saying ‘no, sorry I don’t feel happy with it’ when staff seem to keep making me feel like he is lower risk.

At the moment I dread visiting the ward, not because I do not want to see Chris but because things still feel awkward with the Nurse that upset me a few weeks ago, secondly everyone seems to talk about Chris like he is ok (so where am I looking) and I come away confused and possibly more upset. If he is as ok as some people would have me think then why are we still going down the road of sending Chris to a unit/rehab/secure hospital? I feel like on the one hand he is too ill to come home and have therapy but on the other he’s ‘doing so much better’ ‘his risk is lower’ ‘he doesn’t need as much support’ so what, how is Chris? Who spoke to him last and what did he say? Has anyone spoken to him? Do you use his traffic light cards anymore (that is a whole different blog post)?

It would seem at the moment communication is pretty dire between everyone, I feel almost like that is my fault because I stepped back to protect myself… mistake? Maybe so.

Leave a comment

Looking towards Christmas

106Everyone is starting to look towards Christmas, shops have their Christmas trees out, decorations, gifts and the general yearly atmosphere is beginning to build. I walked through our town centre the other day on the way to my English course, walking through our shopping centre I could see the lights twinkling above me, huge Christmas trees hung from the ceiling and it was feeling quite festive. I walked past the interactive display they always put in the centre for the children and I could feel an ache deep within me, that everyone was looking forward to Christmas and I couldn’t even see towards next week. My mind couldn’t help wandering, thinking how I probably wouldn’t be stood here as a family enjoying the things we tend to do traditionally at this time of year. I doubt very much I would be taking the girls to the Christmas lights switch on and the huge firework display they put on that we go to as a family every year.

Presents are nothing to me, we get them for the children, we don’t go overboard, they appreciate what they have etc. I would normally have just started with the shopping side of things but right now I can’t bring myself to do it. Christmas to me is all about family, so it looks pretty awful when I have no idea where Chris will be for Christmas, if he isn’t with us it just won’t be the same for me. Don’t get me wrong I will try and give the girls the most amazing Christmas I can for their sake, they go through so much and their bravery and courage astounds me every day. I just feel really sad because I am constantly reminded that without all of us there over the Christmas period it isn’t the same. I don’t even want to go out of my way or make others go out of there way so we are not on our own. I am going to tell my parents not to bother if they suggest being around for Christmas. Low key it is this year, if Chris manages to get even a couple of hours leave it will be better than nothing but I have an awful feeling this year’s Christmas present is Chris in a private hospital. ‘Chris has a place in xyz hospital and by the way Happy Christmas’

036Whenever I think about it, it just makes me really upset, probably because it makes me remember Christmas with the girls and Chris when he was better than he is now and how lovely it was and now I don’t even know where that Chris is. I suppose it is like grief, I have lost the Chris I knew, at the moment there are tiny bits of him but I long to speak to the person I once knew. I am sure that whatever happens for the girl’s sake I will make the most of the festive period but it will be far from easy, as I am slowly finding out.

Both photo’s are of our second youngest daughter with Chris.