Falling through the cracks

I was chatting to Z on Facebook earlier, and the subject of J came up. When we first moved in to the Georgian house, everything – and I mean everything – was falling apart. The walls were full of cracks and running with damp. There were no electrics and no gas, and the kitchen had wires hanging out of the walls. By the time I left six months later, there were few improvements; the house – once utterly beautiful if records about it were to be believed – was pretty much a cracked shell waiting to fall down. I messaged Z wondering if the cracked exterior wall had fallen down yet, and it got me wondering what J was up to these days.

Despite his paranoia and obsession with protecting himself from the powers that be, J’s Facebook wall is open for anyone to look at. It’s always confused me; this is the guy who bought a crossbow and ball bearings to kill anybody (“instant death with a headshot”) who was planning on breaking into the house, and who sent text messages in code in case the government read them.

His wall was no surprise. Links to petitions demanding legalisation of cannabis. Articles about Anonymous. Bad jokes and inappropriate sexual comments female friends he added purely to try to seduce.

It made me a little sad. Despite everything J put me though, J is sick. Very sick, unless his mental health’s improved since I left him. Somehow that seems unlikely. While we were together, J made no attempt to control or help his bipolar. After I’d walked out on him, we tried to stay friends. Well, I did; I was worried about him – he’d not long been released after being sectioned for months – and despite my reservations, I wanted to make sure he was okay.

 At first he really seemed to be trying. He took his medication – it was easy to tell because he put on weight and ate like a pig – and spoke to the community care woman who visited weekly. After I told him I’d started seeing S, I never heard from him again. To this day I have no idea whether he stopped talking to me because he was jealous, or because I had served my purpose.

J not only slipped through the cracks, he kept right on going to the very bottom. After multiple sectionings, arrests, psychotic episodes in public and a spell of homelessness, J is still sick. He’s forty-two now and, having been diagnosed with bipolar at twenty-six, is still just as fucked-up as when it all started.

As well as sad, it makes me angry to know that, like him, I slipped through those cracks. There were so many chances for somebody to step in and suggest that something was wrong, but nobody ever took the time, and it’s only with retrospect that I realise just how many times I was shrugged off as being “just a teenager”.

Self-harm was, I suppose, the first real indication that something wasn’t right. Unlike some, I had no desire to hide the blood or scars; they were my battle-wounds and if people didn’t like it, then tough. I did, however, hide it from my mother and she only discovered I’d been cutting myself with dismantled Bic razors when the school headmaster summoned me into his office one day and asked me about the scars.

You can always come and talk to me, at any time. But you have to realise that school is a tough place and you’re a bit of a square peg in a round hole. You need to attempt to fit in more“.

Like I was just doing it to be different.

When I was first sent to the psychiatric unit, I was labelled “completely sane”. Despite the obviously fresh cuts on my arms and habit of running straight to the toilet after meal times to throw up, the staff said I was okay. I always wondered why they didn’t see straight through me; nobody gets locked away in the crazy home unless there’s something wrong, and my habit of smiling constantly and always being polite to staff should have shone like a beacon. I was faking it all and keeping the madness locked inside so I’d be sent back home. Nobody acts that perfect unless they’re crazy and trying to get discharged.

During my second admission – a few weeks after my plot to be released worked like a charm – I eventually broke down and the staff concluded that perhaps I was a bit troubled. Still, their attentions were focused on the more severe patients – the anorexics and the violent kids – so my terror at being faced with food and the collection of  razor blades in the bedside cabinet were overlooked. When I stood and banged my head against the wall just to feel something, nobody saw. Staff left me mostly to my own devices, because I was “okay”.

At fifteen, I met the man who became my first serious boyfriend – eight years older and with Asperger’s Syndrome, he was possessive and prone to fits of temper but I worshipped him because he paid attention to me. When the police came months later, they said I didn’t have to leave if I didn’t want to. The chief told my mother that I was competent enough to make my own decisions. Legally I was still a minor, but the police ruled that I was capable of understanding the risks.

At sixteen, I was taken to the local A&E with a stomach full of paracetamol and coffee. A member of the crisis team was called in to speak to me, and I told him it was an impulsive act; just a cry for help. It wasn’t. I was allowed to go home the same day. With the second overdose at seventeen, I was kept on suicide watch for 24 hours in the local psychiatric hospital. I kicked and screamed as I was taken in. Cried the entire time. The mental health team decided I wasn’t a danger to myself and sent me home.

A few months later I ended up back in hospital after taking my entire pack of venlafaxine and a fair handful of diazepam. I had a fit in college, having woken up still alive and disappointed. Unconscious for a while, I missed any procedures which may have been done on me when I arrived. When I woke my mother was sitting on my bed, crying.

This time they didn’t want to let me go, but not because I’d taken more than enough tablets to kill an elephant. I needed all sorts of injections and IV’s. I was unable to pee and needed a catheter, which I pulled out more than once because it burned like hell. I’d done some actual damage this time, and needed medical intervention.

No psychiatrist or crisis team was called this time. The fact that I’d taken an overdose was never mentioned. I went home a few days later – earlier than my consultant would have liked – still unable to pee and with a bruised body from smacking into the floor when the fit started.

Somebody should have seen me falling.

In more ways than one.

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  1. I have no words to give you that would even begin to tell you how this post made me feel, I dont remember much of my teen years or most of my childhood either, my teen years were full of drugs, violence and rubbing. Nuff said. But for you to be screaming loudly in an unheard voice that you needed help and no one not even your parents would listen and ignore the signs, and for the so called professionals to just dismiss you entirely, is utterly beyond my abilities to put into words. i dont fell much more than anger these days and after reading this, I feel a little helpless, I want to say something to you to make it alright, to give you words of comfort, but I dont seem to be able to find exactly the words to use. I am not sure of your age right now, but I want to enfold you in my arms and let you take from me the courage and the strength you need to face every challenge, to give you the comfort that you were so desperately needing, and to blow back the world that hurt you and to smother them in my fury and anger. I suppose that, that last part might seem a little weird but it is what it is, my useless ability to put into words how your post made me feel. I am probably way off the mark here, but it is how your post made me feel.


  2. I can’t tell you how this post made me feel. I don’t want to go into details but I can relate. I just wish that someone had listened to me, to you, to all those other people who needed/need the help when we do things like that.


      • You’re welcome. My experiences have been better than yours, but there was enough incompetence and disregard from mental health professionals that I can completely believe your story. And you’re probably right about NHS. We don’t have that, but we do have government funded mental health care in addition to private insurance, and my treatments were noticeably inferior when I didn’t have insurance.


  3. It’s the same in the US. I couldn’t walk straight or see myself in a mirror. But I wanted out. They had taken me off two drugs, no tapering, and I was going through TERRIBLE withdrawals. I just needed out. They should have seen, they did see. But they let me go anyway. There’s not even a ward for minors here. They have to be sent hours away. There are better places. I went to California (I’m close) and they had more options. Its the fact that it’s mental illness. If we had cancer there would be all sorts of help. I WISH I had cancer (and I lived 3yrs w/ my husband dying from cancer and spent time with MANY others). At least that way there would be do doubt, no judgment. No timelines. Im sorry you had to go through so much so young. It’s not right.


    • They took you off drugs without slowly weaning you off? Sorry, but that’s bloody disgraceful.

      I understand what you say about cancer. It’s sometimes hard not to wonder just how different it would be if a serious physical illness was involved rather than a mental problem. It’s hard not to get resentful, even.

      The adolescent unit I was sent to was twenty miles away; it was the nearest. Luckily, there was a train link. I don’t know what it’s like in the US, but in the UK different areas have different standards of healthcare; it’s awful. It shouldn’t be that way.


      • Ya, no weaning me off. It was NOT a good time. A few months ago I was in the same hospital for a simple surgery but when I came out of anesthesia I was PISSED that I was alive. I don’t remember any of it, but they called the psychiatric unit and although there are a lot of different psychiatrists there, it just HAPPENED to be the one that released me. They don’t spend more than 5min with you on the unit. LITERALLY. No therapy, no groups… nothing. The psychiatrist will pass you in the hall and mention that he/she changed your meds. But when she came down to the surgery area she stayed for like an hour. Major guilt complex. She remembered me and they see a lot of people. She should have felt guilty for what she did. Just glad she didn’t admit me! I was ready to run but here it’s legal. I would have been chased by the police and forced to stay at LEAST 3 days. AND… get this…. They had diagnosed me with BPD a YEAR ago and didn’t tell me! A year ago this week I was in the hospital for the first time. But didn’t find out about the BPD until this past December at a different hospital. It’s just not a good place.

        I have read about other being in hospitals for a year or more, like Quite Borderline, but here the max I can stay in a hospital is 7 days at a time. There are different standards here in each state, even in each county. I live in Southern Oregon, if I lived near Portland (close to Seattle) it would be different. I would actually have options. Here I have no options. When things get bad my husband drives me down to Chico California, about 3-4hrs away. But worth the drive!

        We don’t have much pubic transport. We have a bus system in town, but it doesn’t go out to the suburb I live in. We have the Amtrak train that goes all over the country but its expensive (almost as much as airfare) and the stops are only in the more populated areas. Basically, if you don’t have a vehicle you don’t have a chance! I could live without a vehicle if I lived in Los Angeles, or New York City… but those are huge areas.

        It sounds like there are similarities. I was so surprised when I started blogging that there were people on here from all over the world. I thought that it would be mainly the US and some UK. But BPD definitely isn’t limited to those two areas!


        • I can well believe they didn’t tell you. I often suspect there’s something in my psychiatric records I haven’t been told about. They’ve hidden physical problems from me before now.

          And yeah, I was surprised just how many people there were out there in the world with BPD. I expected US and UK too, for some reason.

          As for the unit… shit. I thought the one I was in was bad; it sounds awful.


  4. Love from muggy Maine – humidity isn’t offered on Weather.com (assholes) but I bet the humidity is 90% or higher! I share with you the whole catheter experience — what a pain! I understand not getting any help — I have become my own best advocate, and nurses hate me — I pester them and bug them until they come to my room. Maybe try that? Sorry you had to find out how bad J was by living with him; that, also, is very familiar territory for me — I think I did it four times. 8-)


  5. Thank you for sharing your story with us. Wow, what a journey you have been through.

    How are you doing now?

    You deserve a crown on your head, you really do. I have so much respect for people like you who have been through so much. Sorry, I don’t mean to sound like I’m talking down to you or anything. I’ve been through and am still going through my own shit.

    Wishing you VERY well.


    • I’m doing okay now, I suppose. Not so much paranoia… and after writing all this, I do feel a bit relieved. I also feel scared because I’ve never been so honest, but I can’t keep holding back if I’m going to progress… you know? It’s hard. I don’t like this stuff being out there. But I think it should be. Eh, I don’t know, I’m rambling.

      And thank you. It doesn’t sound like you’re talking down to me at all <3 I know you get it. I can take compliments from people who understand.


  6. I’m not sure what exactly I’m going to say to this, but I want to say something.
    I think I understand what you’ve written here, and your feelings back then. I was dangerously close to killing myself last February/March. I didn’t attempt suicide, but only because I knew God existed and I wasn’t sure if I would go to heaven if I killed myself. I was too scared to risk it. As bad as my life felt back then, I knew going to hell would be even worse.
    People noticed I was “falling through the cracks”, but they didn’t do anything about it. Just like you.
    If God hadn’t stepped into the scene and gathered up my pieces and put me back together, I would have been dead in a matter of months.
    I haven’t read your blog in awhile (or anyone else’s), due to some… complications, but I was exploring WordPress on my Kindle and decided to read it again.
    I’m praying for you. I’ve been praying for you ever since I started reading HWBTG. I just want you to know that. And I just want you to know that God is waiting for you to see Him. He’s waiting with outstretched arms.


    • Thank you Emilino. I have been wondering where you are; glad to know you’re okay.

      I’m also glad you have that safety net of faith. You know I don’t; and even though I can’t really say that I’m particularly looking for God, I really do appreciate your kind words. I do believe. Just in a different way.

      I hope the complications weren’t too serious, or that if they were things are better for you now. I really do. Take care of you; and please remember that you never, never have to feel like nobody’s there, or that nobody cares. I do, and I’m sure you know God does <3


  7. I don’t get it with these so called mental health “professionals”. They just don’t seem to care. They don’t want to do their job properly.. It’s taken me 16 years to get a diagnosis… despite me telling them I have BPD for the last 10. And the numerous times i’ve ended up in A&E due to self harm and attempted OD’s. They didn’t bat an eyelid. No referrals afterwards, nothing. I got fed up with waiting for a nurse to come and see me once whilst in A&E (I’d been taken there against my will as my stupid ex-bf had called an ambulance simply because he knew i was self harming – he done it to piss me off). I waited 20 mins in a cubicle to be seen, and had had enough, and told them i was leaving. They just let me walk out. Never mind all the OD’s I’d done over the years, that i’ve told my psych about. She just took it like I told her i’d just had some toast for breakfast or something. Totally disinterested.

    I’m sorry you’ve experienced all this. It’s shit. I hate them all and have zero respect for these so called professionals. I hope one day you get the proper help you need and get fixed. I just wish someone would listen to us all and not let so many of us slip through the net.



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