*Trigger Warning* Why is there such a barrier between physical and mental health?

By Allison

I have been reading blogs on this site for ages but something happened for me on Thursday that compelled me to share something myself.

I self harm. I wish I didn’t, but I have Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), caused through years of systematic child abuse. For my whole life I used work to cope but then I got too ill to work because of a physical illness.

My body let me down and the other ways of coping I had that were there but kind of under control got out of hand. My binge eating became unmanageable and my self-harming was at an all time high.

I’m under the mental health team and I’m waiting for intensive treatment but dealing with how I feel about myself moment by moment is sometimes intolerable. That’s what happened on Thursday.

I hit myself across my breasts with a wooden spoon to the point of having heavy bruising appearing. Then I stuck some dressmaking pins into my bruised breasts for maximum pain. I just wanted pain; that was it. These particular pins were about two inches in length and I pushed them all in, right up to the hilt. I then hit myself some more, with the pins still in. The pain was intense and for a while it was all I could think about; no thoughts about what a bad person I am, or hearing my abusers in my head, or feeling them standing behind me. Just free, through the pain, for a while.

Then it went wrong. I started taking the pins out and sometimes there is a little bleeding, particularly because I have a form of haemophilia. When I took one of them out, instead of a trickle I had a fountain – pumping everywhere, all across the desk, onto me, onto the floor. I put cloths and towels on it to stop it and they just soaked through. I ended up covered in blood and thought, I’m going to have to phone for help. I called an ambulance and they advised me over the phone to put a bath towel round it. I dripped blood all the way to the bathroom and got the towel, sloshing blood drips up the door. This was so scary. The towel helped – by the time the paramedics came it had stopped bleeding, in fact they couldn’t see the entry point, just the bloodbath in the flat.

They told me it looked like I had hit an artery in my breast. I didn’t realise there were any but apparently it was to do with the depth and the fact that I then pushed the pin in further. They said the body doesn’t like to lose blood though so will repair itself where it can, which it looks like it had. They helped me clean myself up and even helped me clean the floors up a bit so my flatmate wouldn’t panic so much, leaving just a pool of blood on the floor in my room, and closing the door. They said I needed to go to the hospital because of my blood pressure, and I had the shakes and my breathing wasn’t great. Shock probably.

Then kick in the feelings of I am wasting their time and I don’t deserve this as I did it myself etc. they were both so good though and really didn’t make me feel anything apart from safe and held for a while.

When we got to A&E I had to explain it to a nurse, who again was good with me, but I found it very difficult to talk about what I had done and why. Why is such a big question that I’m not sure I have the answer for. It’s just that I need to do it at that point in time more than anything else.

The trouble started with the doctor, who I think was quite early on in her career. She had no concept or understanding of mental health whatsoever. She asked me what I had done and why and then she just kept asking why, again and again. I ended up getting quite short with her. She could not understand at all why I would possibly want to hurt myself and she made me feel I was detracting from her ‘real patients.’

She asked if I wanted to be referred to psych; I said no, thanks. They are always lovely but it’s a 30-page form that has to be completed, which is a very detailed, probing life history, by the end of which they always tell me I’m really brave and doing really well and is there anything they can do to help? And the answer is always no, thanks.

I had to see the Haematologist because of my haemophilia. I was having a lot of swelling that they needed to treat. The doctor clearly just wanted me out of A&E, which I get, and I was put onto a day unit awaiting the Haematologist.

When she came to see me she had the most disapproving look on her face. She asked what I had done and why. That bloody why again! She explained the treatment they would give me and said: “Are you sorry for doing it now?”

I said: “I’m sorry I ended up in hospital as that wasn’t my intention, this was a personal thing, not to gain attention.”

But I couldn’t say I was sorry for doing it as it was what I needed at the time. She then said: “I want you to promise me never to do it again.”

I said: “I just can’t promise you that as I don’t have that kind of control over it.”

It just seems to me that medical doctors have no understanding of what is going on for a person to get to the point of hurting themselves.

I had to sit and wait for six hours for a treatment I normally give myself by venous infusion at home on a regular basis as it was decided that I needed supervision, and yet I have never self-harmed with my medications, or anything to do with them.

I had to go back and see her on Friday to check there had been no more internal bleeding and review the treatment plan. I was allowed to go back to treating myself at home as I would have done normally. So today I no longer needed supervision? On the way out she said to me: “I know you said you couldn’t promise not to do it again but don’t do it again as it’s very silly!”

I walked away from her without saying anything else and I wonder if she or any medical doctor realises the damage their off-the-cuff words can do to someone who is struggling with how they feel about themselves already.

When I got home, I hurt myself again. I do everything I can to make sure I don’t end up at the hospital with my injuries because they are personal to me, something I have to do to get through the day until I can find another way to cope with the crap that got put in my head by my abusers, or die trying, I guess.

I just wish that the medical profession could understand that body and mind are not mutually exclusive and their throwaway comments can have massive repercussions for some.

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