Talk to many of us suffering from BPD and you will find, on the whole, we are much happier tending to our own injuries (including stitching ourselves) rather than going to A&E (The Emergency Room for you Americans) and getting it done by a doctor. Personally, there are times for me when I have found myself sitting in the car park of A&E, unable to go in, or other times driving to A&E, and sitting in the car park with a razor in my hand, knowing that it would be safest place for me to cut if I was going to.
There is of course – a theme through BPD whereby there is a need for attention – and I will openly admit that a couple of overdoses that I have taken have been for this very reason – a cry for help perhaps – or perhaps I felt as though I just needed someone to look after me – so making myself ill enough to warrant it, even though it would be a complete stranger.
The main reason I avoid A&E, and the hospital, is due to the way I am treated when my injuries are self inflicted. My most painful memory of this happened around 2 years ago, while I was living with my carer. I managed to find a packet of Tramadol, and ended up taking approximately 10 tablets – not enough to do any damage but my carer was worried anyway, and rang an ambulance. The two men that came told me I needed to come to hospital to get my bloods checked, so I agreed. It was clear they did not approve of my actions, by the way they spoke to me and their mannerisms. To them, I was wasting their time, precious time which could have been spent helping other, more deserving people.
Before we left the house, my carer put all the current medication I was taking in a plastic bag and gave it to one of the ambulance men. From memory, it consisted of a box of 50mg Quetiapine, a box of Diazepam, a box of Zopiclone and a sachet of Escitalopram. On the journey there, I was given a seat, but didn’t say much, apart from talking out loud about what a terrible person I was, about how I couldn’t be trusted, about how I was hurting the people I loved.
When we arrived at the hospital, I was told to stand up, and given a blanket to wrap myself in, as it was the middle of winter, and quite late into the night. I was still conscious, obviously, so they walked me into the back access of the A&E department and we stood waiting at the desk. I was aware of a flurry of activity around me, and felt acutely aware of how much of a waste of time and space I had become.
The ambulance man had placed my notes (on a clipboard) on the desk in front of me, with the plastic bag of medication resting on top of it. He turned his back and started chatting to the other ambulance man, leaving me standing there. I asked him if I could have a chair but he told me there weren’t any available. It took me a second to realise the meds were there; and I knew what I was going to do. I had started the job so I needed to finish it. I didn’t want to live with the shame of making an ‘inadequate attempt’ on my life, the shame of being looked at by a doctor and sent home because I was fine and didn’t need any help.
In one movement, I lifted my arm, scooped the bag from the desk and hid it under the blanket that was still wrapped round me. I waited a couple of minutes, and then asked to go to the toilet, which I knew was just round the corner, after being admitted so many times in the past. He waved his hand in my direction and told me I could go.
As soon as I had got to the toilet and locked the door behind me, I scrabbled with the bag to get as many tablets out as I could, using the water from the tap to swallow one, two, sometimes three tablets at a time. (I was quite impressed by this, anyone taking Seroquel 50mg will feel my pain as these are BIG tablets!!).
I soon had managed to take the entire box of Seroquel (Quetiapine) so I guess that must have been about 3000mg (60 tablets in the box), half the box of Diazepam (so I guess around 60mg) and a couple of Escitalopram 20mg tablets.
Before I knew it, there was a hammering on the door, it was the ambulance man, and boy, he was angry. He was shouting at me to open the door, effing and blinding, telling me he would lose his job over this, and he had a family to support. I held out for about a minute and managed to take a few more pills, before opening the door as I thought he was about the knock it down.
I handed him the now nearly empty bag of pills, looked him straight in the eye, and told him “I warned you you couldn’t trust someone like me”. He looked at me in digust, and guided me back towards the desk, where his colleague was waiting for me. Within minutes, the room had started to spin, and I sat down where I was standing, and leant against the desk.
What happened next is blurry, so I’m presuming the pills had kicked in. I remember being put on a bed, and wheeled through to a cubicle. The next thing I know, I was looking into the face of a blonde woman, standing my the side of my bed. She was smiling at me and speaking, but I couldn’t hear what she was saying. The next thing I knew, I was looking to the other side of my bed. The woman had gone, and a man was stood there, dressed in black. I couldn’t see his face, but I could hear him talking. Soon after, he was gone too. I later discovered that the combination of meds I overdosed on causes hallucinations (So I wasn’t actually going mad after all…!).
At some point the ambulance man returned, and all I kept saying to him was “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry”. I felt terrible that he might be punished for this. He told me it was too late, that the damage had already been done, that he would now have to explain to his wife and family why he couldn’t support them. I told him I would tell them it wasn’t his fault, but then I remember feeling terrible about it before drifting back out of consciousness again.
The next thing I remember is someone stroking my hand, saying “It’s okay, love, It’s okay, love”. I looked to the seat next to the bed and my friend Lea was sitting there, crying, and stroking my hand. (I will explain about Lea later – I love her very much but we had a very dangerous relationship as she also has BPD and is currently in a specialist centre up North. She always seemed to appear when I needed her the most, and this was one of those times).
I drifted away again, and the next thing I know was feeling hands gripping my arms so hard that I cried out, and pulling me upwards off the bed. I wasn’t even conscious, let alone able to walk, but a nurse was shaking me, telling me I had to leave, and I was being discharged. Lea tried to tell him that I wasn’t well enough to leave but he insisted. He forced my shoes on my feet and pulled me up from the bed, where my knees buckled and I was left sitting on the floor.
Lea told me she would call her mum, and they would take me home. I had no phone, and nor did Lea (she didn’t have her own car as she was 17) so I stayed sitting on the floor, leaning against the bed, drifting in and out of consciousness while Lea went to use the payphone in reception to call her mum, who thankfully only lived 10 minutes away.
10 minutes later, she arrived, and they helped me to her car. It must have been around 3am, and I don’t really remember this, but Lea has filled me in. When we got back to their house, Lea undressed me and put me into some of her pajamas, and put me in her bed, and slept next to me, to make sure I didn’t pass out and choke, or stop breathing.
The next thing I know, I woke up to Lea’s mum running into the room. It was morning, and she said that the police were looking for me. Apparently, my Dad had arrived at the hospital at 8am, after finding out from my carer that I had been admitted, and the staff had told him at 3am I had discharged myself.
Thinking back, I am sure that the staff must have resented me for causing their co-worker to get into trouble. I am so grateful that Lea was there, as who knows what would have happened to me if they had forced me to leave the hospital, in that state, on my own.
The moral of the story is; it is very clear why sufferers of mental health conditions are reluctant to go to the hospital, where they are subject to prejudice, stigma and sometimes even abuse. Yes, this was an awful experience, but I was lucky enough to have someone there to take care of me. Other people haven’t been so lucky.
The bruises on my arms from being lifted up out of the bed and shaken