July 23, 2015

As part of my job, I would encounter mental illness every time I went to work. I loved my job as a mental health nurse as I got to work with very vulnerable people and aid them in starting their recovery journey. I'd had my own mental health issues in the past and had spent the last 4 years on antidepressant medication to help with my low moods. I remained on antidepressants throughout my pregnancy to help stabilise my moods alongside my turbulent hormone levels. I wasn't fazed by it as I thought, as a mental health nurse, I could handle it. 

As a mental health nurse I thought that I was somehow immune to mental health problems

When my daughter was only 3 days old I was admitted to a mother and baby unit due to concerns about my mental wellbeing. I was constantly crying and had suicidal thoughts.  I was diagnosed with something called Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - otherwise known as developmental trauma disorder. It apparently stems from certain events which occurred in my childhood and adolescence which shapes the way I react to things. I have extreme difficultly regulating my emotions and can go from one extreme to another in a matter of seconds. Alongside this, I began to experience a voice inside my head. After a few weeks of my diagnosis I realised that I knew who the voice was; this voice says negative comments to me and also regularly tells me to harm myself.
I find the whole situation strange and alien. I accepted the fact I've experienced mental illness in the past but the fact I've been an inpatient in a psychiatric ward still staggers me. There was a large part of me that felt that because of the nature of my job, I was somehow immune to mental health problems. As an inpatient I felt embarrassed when I explained to staff members that I was a nurse and specialised in mental health. It used to annoy me when staff would ask me what I would do or say if I were talking to a patient - I found that hard to take. It was like a confirmation of my failure to stay well and be the mother I wanted to be. I also felt so ashamed of myself because I was in hospital and needed the very help I had once provided to others. 

Words cannot describe how grateful I am for everything they've done for me

Experiencing mental illness really does tell you who your real friends are. I was very lucky that I had an incredibly supportive partner and family. My family and friends would visit me regularly in hospital without me even asking. Five and a half months down the line they remain close by, and words cannot describe how grateful I am for everything they've done for me, my partner and my beautiful little girl. 

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Thank you for sharing this,

Thank you for sharing this, it really resonates with me, as I am currently having treatment for an eating disorder and am also a mental health social worker. It is definitely true that you find out who your friends are, and also true that you find out whether work can rise to the occasion and support you. The team I have appointments with are based in the same building as the mental health team I work for. It is excruciating but I have to accept that for now, it is what I need to do. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and staff who use that line 'what would you say to a patient' seriously need some training! I hope you are now doing well - becoming unwell is not your fault, and you deserve care just as much as any other human being. We are all humans first and professionals second, after all. Take care x

Same diagnosis, different treatment

I felt the same way straight after my son was born, and now have the same diagnosis. The difference with my story is that the mh team thought I was making it up, was lazy (the OT reported that) and we spent 11 months battling against mh and social services to get help). Things actually deteriorated too. Only when we moved did I get help, after a proper diagnosis of cptsd. After starting to pay a private counsellor, I have come on leaps and bounds and been told it's developmental trauma. It is frustrating to think about how better the last 8 years could've have been if I'd had a prompt diagnosis and treatment, rather than being palmed off all the time. The worst thing is the effect it's had on my parenting (two boys, 8 & 10) and the pressure on my marriage. Compared to that, my 6 years of agoraphobia is unimportant. We need much better mh care, and funding, in this country. Incidentally, I've made much better progress with relational therapy, which - my nhs psychologist could only admit to my private counsellor after I left - she couldn't do on the nhs. Frustrating. These are people's lives they are dealing with. There would be uproar if a physical health problem was treated similarly: refusal to help, insinuations that it was fabricated, misdiagnosis, not offering help because the waiting list is too long, offering ineffective treatment when they know what suits best, etc etc. Unfortunately I bet the readers are unsurprised at the poor care - it's par for the course in mh...

Thank you.

Hi Emily, While I was saddened to hear that you had to be admitted to hospital during what sounded like a very distressing time, I was pleased to hear someone talking about mental health problems experienced by people who work in mental health services. I work in primary care and was hospitalised last year. It's been very difficult to reconcile the two together. I feel there is still stigma out there. But the reality is that NHS workers are experiencing high levels of stress and I feel this issue should be discussed and addressed. If I can help in anyway let me know. I tried to blog on the same topic a year or so ago but was turned down. Maybe times are changing!

Thank you

Hi there, Thank you very much for your comment! I'm pleased to hear that you found it an interesting read. I completely agree, as NHS staff we are incredibly stretched and the amount of stress we are under is enormous and can easily affect our mental wellbeing and our attempts to stay well ourselves while working with such a specialised client group. I feel that there is even stigma amount the very mental health professionals we work alongside with. Being open about my mental health can fallen back on me on a number of times (colleagues feeling uncomfortable working me with and finding my situation 'too distressing) it's time that we were all open about our mental health in the NHS first before we can start to expect real change to occur.


I have suffered with depression anxiety for many years well over twenty years and it just doesn't seem to get any better in fact the last few months have been the worst ever and I think it all got worse after being made redundant in May plus I now have OCD I have been on so many different meds and my go has now taken me of venaflaxine and put me on fluoxetine which I have got to slowly increase the dose over a period of time this is my 4th day and I'm feeling so awful my head is spinning all the time I feel so sick I'm getting terrible sensations shoot through my head .All of these I had before when I changed my meds but not on this scale I wish I just stayed on the venaflaxine because I really can't carry on like this .im not sleeping well when I do I have dreadful nightmares which I always have but have got far worse on this new med I'm seeing things which aren't there things flying around the room walking on the floor I thought I was sharing my bedroom with a load of people last night all sounds very funny but it really isn't . My gp wants me to see a phycaiatrist when I'm up to maximum dose of fluoxetine which I'm really upset about . I keep looking at jobs but feel my confidence and self esteem is on the floor since being made redundant not that my confidence and self esteem were ever very good now it's non existent .i worked as a one to one support worker working with people on long shifts at a time I'd like to do something different like working with people who have mental health problems I have so much knowledge about my own journey with mental health problems plus I had aunt who sadly passed away in a residential home who had mental health issues and my brother has bi polar but I just can't see anyone wanting to employ me to do anything at the moment . I feel so alone worthless and tired .And I'm sick of feeling like this day in day out . People say oh you look fine pull yourself together how I hate that phrase if only they knew how hard it is to get through the day . You have counselling but it doesn't work you have six to eight sessions if your lucky then that's it you have a break then if your lucky you get some more sessions you can't start of where you left of the time before because it's a different person doing it so you have to start again . I would love to feel that I was of some help to someone instead of feeling this worthless piece of rubbish all the time . Never thought I would get so bad being made redundant.

Re: Medicine

Hi Kim, Thank you for sharing. I find both stories helpful. I hope that both are doing better now. I coincide with your opinion on redundancy in seeking MH services such as counseling. As I imagine many other fields hold stigmas, double standards, and "conflicts of interests" the barrier people have to face when dealing with personal issues I too believe should not be made an impossible feat to deal with (I.E facing workplace harrassment) in our daily lives. If seeking help is possible that too should be feasible. As mentioned, in the end we are all human and mental health though not seemingly important (no reliable, tx/ delivery of services) it does impact people's well-being. Personally, I understand your feelings and as other comments/posts have helped me.....I hope each finds some solace. Yes it is difficult but, I like to think there is a silver lining............despite any and all ache (trauma, trouble, hardship, mh issue). Thanks again or I might say gracias! Sincerely, -Erika

anxiety depression

I have suffered with anxiety/depression social phobia since I was 7 years old I am now 42. Life has been hard I have struggled to hold down jobs, due to me feeling scared, feeling people are judging me all the time and iI myself worked for the NHS but susurprisingly they themselves are not very sympathetic to mh issues. My work manager said they couldn't support me any longer and that if I didn't resign I would have to go down the capability route which.means having to be tested, watched to ensure I'm doing the job properly. This scared me as my worst nightmare is being watched. if the NHS are not bothered what chance to any of us have. I've tried really hard over the years to beat this I've had counselling, cut. Group therapy it helps initially but then you forget and slip into old ways. Also if you try and go for any benefits to be eligible to get help and pass an assessment you either have to be someone who walks around talking to themselves or totally not in this world, what about the grey areas, I.e not completely gone but who has problems but needs a bit of help,.who helps these people like myself. My recovery is my ultimate goal and I feel it is my life's work. Thanks for reading

my story

At this moment I'm having thoughts I will NOT act on, just need a place to vent. Sometimes it feels impossible to be a happy normal person. Oh you know me? You will never see this side of my life. It is a silent demon inside of me.

Hi there

Thanks for sharing. No one should have to suffer in silence - if you are feeling suicidal, please reach out, there are people who can help. You can always call the Samaritans on 116 123. Take care of yourself, Tim at Time to Change

Lived experience

Your message is very inspiring thanks for sharing. I am a mental health nurse and also a user of services. Its a difficult place to be in. In my crisis plan i have asked to use OOA services which has really helped. I was 136'd the other day when things came to a head. The ward and the crisis team have been fabulous and understand the difficulty for me as I get worried about losing my job or being seen as incompetent. I know I can recover. I have been diagnosed with bordeline pd but have asked for a re-diagnosis as my recent difficulties have been from a trauma. Im also going to pay private for counselling because waiting lists for therapy are so high at the moment to go public route which is sad.

Same boat

Same boat bpd and its nuts also severe depression anxiety(verging on agoraphobia) and it doesnt seem to get better and its horrible I am a mh nurse too not currently practising (due to sickness)? Also all proffessionals have said BPD but i haven't been given the official diagnosis due to the impact it could have on my career. Its horrible and feels isolating not having others to speak to in the same boat! Lost all my confidence in it and hope to one day return but feel inadequate compared to other nurses and not good enough and almost ashamed to have had so much time off ashamed of my history and current self harm depression. Ashamed for being therapy for.most of my nursing career.

mental health nurse and experiencing inpatient treatment

Thank you for blogs on this subject helps me to realise I am not the only one who has suffered this. I worked as a nurse for nearly 20 years and loved my job. I have had recurring depression for nearly ten years including 3 admissions to hospital two under mental health act in same hospital and with same staff as I worked with. Some were better than others, but feeling embarrassed made low feelings and guilt worse. As someone has commented we are human beings first and professionals second and should be given the same understanding and support.

shared experience

hi,i worked in mental health for 36 years and have just released the damage that it has done to me.just to let you know,you will recover,i am slowly.keep going and take care.

Mental health

I big thank u 2 u all for sharing your experiences and stories. Please do not feel inadequate. You are all strong for holding down such stressful jobs whilst also experiencing your own difficulties. I work in field of mental health. I’m currently off sick with stress.. and for first time experiencing mental health deterioration. It’s such a frightening time. It’s all work related. There is nothing to be ashamed about. We are humans first. You are all very strong individuals. A very big big thank you for sharing. Be good to yourselves. I’m definately going to change my career b4 I’m destroyed completely. The paper work, responsibility and wearing of different hats whilst managing health and safety of s. Users risks all became too much.

Mental health in mental health care workers

Dear all, Thank you for sharing your comments. I am currently a mental health nurse, working in a busy inner city community mental health team. Over time, both through my own experience and through conversations with colleagues, I have felt increasingly compelled to promote mental wellness within my own and allied mental health professions. The work we do is extremely powerful. From sitting and talking with a person, we have a lot of influence to enable service users to make positive changes, which is incredibly satisfying for the soul. This requires connection. Connection requires empathy. Empathy also means we will often feel what our service user is feeling and go on a journey with them. Particularly when in tandom with our own personal journeys, this can take its toll on our own wellbeing, physical and mental, if not adequately reflected on and analyzed. This is why I am having counseling. My journey in mental health started before I was born, and my upbringing took me through some enlightening, yet often distressing, passageways through my family’s mental health, with social care involvement. Mental health work is one of the most uplifting careers one can embark in, and it is important as workers in mental health we remember what brought us to where we are, and safeguard our own mental wellbeing, in order to safeguard the mental wellness of all those we serve. With love, Dedicated mental health nurse.

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