May 23, 2013

I was abused for 17 years, and now even though I’m free from abuse I still live in torment. Due to my upbringing and all my experiences, I have found myself being a 19 year old girl living with Borderline Personality Disorder, PTSD and Agoraphobia. Every single day I have to live in a society that just doesn’t understand and, even though I shouldn’t, I still found myself accepting that a long time ago.

It can be hard talking about mental illness

Now, anyone living with mental illness knows how hard it can be telling your problems to another person. It is so hard to do, even though all you are doing is the simple action of forming words and speaking them out loud. It feels like your literally baring your soul to the other person and the intensity of that, let alone the feelings of anxiety whilst you wait for the person’s reply to what you’ve just disclosed, is huge.

That’s how it feels when you’re telling someone you know and trust, so can you imagine how it feels telling a complete stranger?

I had to ring my bank as my debit card is due to expire

Just the other week, I had to ring my bank as my debit card is due to expire next month. It’s something that had been really worrying me, as my debit card is vital to me as my agoraphobia means I do my shopping online. After talking it through with someone, I realised I’d just have to ring up, explain my situation and see what they can do. I was reassured that this was a well known bank with millions of customers so they will be understanding and try to do best by me.

So I rung up, asked to speak to the person who could help me with getting a new debit card. I was put on hold and I paced around my flat with the anxiety of it all. Finally, I spoke to someone. I took a deep breath.

This was our conversation:

“Hi there, my debit card is due to expire next month, and you have sent me letters to say that I need to come into my local branch and apply for a new one. This is a problem for me, I am diagnosed with agoraphobia and I have not gone into public places for nearly three years. I was wondering if there could be a way to do what is required to get a new bank card over the phone”

“No”

“Excuse me?”

“No, you have to come into branch”

“I have just explained that this is physically impossible. I really need a new card and if it was as simple as getting a bus to your branch then I would but that simply isn’t an option for me”

“Can’t you find a way to get to us?”

“I have agoraphobia, I literally never leave my four walls.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really”

He started laughing. I got very upset.

“Well that’s ridiculous, just get a grip and come to the branch.”

“How can you say that’s ridiculous? My life is a living hell, people don’t choose to be agoraphobic, if I step outside I feel like I will die instantly, my panic attacks are so severe that I end up passing out. People can’t just “get a grip” of their mental illness, if it were that easy then there wouldn’t be so many people suffering right now.”

“Calm down, I was only having a laugh”

“Well it was not funny. Just insulting. You have made me so upset right now, it took so much courage for me to make this phone call and I am being treated terribly. Can you or can you not help me with getting a new debit card.”

“No I told you, you need to come to the branch.”

I hung up.

I felt so humiliated, and deeply ashamed. So many questions were buzzing in my head

Why can nobody understand?

What have I got to do to be treated fairly?

Why can’t I just ‘get a grip’ like he told me to?

This one interaction made me doubt everything I thought I knew about my own illness.

I cannot be the only one who's experienced this

Since then, I have realised that I cannot be the only one who had a situation like this happen to them. Things need to change. If people are going to be dealing with customers every single working day, why haven’t they had some training in mental health problems to understand their own clients?

What can we do as a community to make that happen?

I hope I one day find out.

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