Dúirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite

I recently had my head thrust under an MRI scanner as part of research into my mental health problem – Borderline Personality Disorder.

On my way to the hospital my head was ringing with the words of Albert Haines’ psychiatrist, Dr Jose Romero-Urcelay, that psychiatry was challenging – that mental illness couldn’t be found under an MRI scanner -and that this was why he’d received a variety of diagnoses during his stay at Broadmoor.

Did he look? Don’t get me started.
When I was but a sixteen-year-old sapling I was set upon by a chap wielding a bottle. I finally passed out as a result of his cranial clatterings and was raced off to Kettering General hospital, approximately 9 miles from my home in Corby.

Clearly concussed, I received no x-ray – but was asked by the A & E doctor if my army jacket (a truly fashionable item 33 years ago – honest) was part of a gang uniform. I received short shrift, no treatment, no x-ray, and was discharged into the night – well, at about 3.30am.

My sister lived a couple of miles across town – I decided that banging on her door at this unearthly hour would be ok under the circumstances.

My lovely brother in law, Tom, opened the door warily at first. It wasn’t until the full light from the doorway struck my face that he screamed. They hadn’t cleaned up my main injury – where the bottle had struck just under my hairline (oh, those were the days) – and the blood had poured and congealed on the right side of my face. I looked like I’d been hit with an axe – no wonder he screamed.

Years later I recounted this tale to my psychiatrist,

‘Do you think it would have affected my mental health?’

”Well’, she replied, ‘it wouldn’t have helped.’

All those years of training, for what…?

To cut this particular story shorter, the MRI scanner showed that I appeared to have had a skull fracture from that battering all those years ago. I’m sure it didn’t help.

So, what’s your point caller? So much of psychiatry appears to be about treating symptoms.

Almost before you’ve finished the sentence, ‘Well doctor, I’m feeling a bit low,’ you find yourself munching on SSRI’s. It’s like going to hospital with a broken leg and being given pain killers – no cast – no physiotherapy – just something to hide the symptoms.

You can’t find mental illness under an MRI scanner? At least someone’s looking now…and perhaps with that we’ll have better understanding and a better treatment of your mental malady.

I have, finally, been diagnosed with Lyme’s disease. There were times over the past couple of months where I’ve thought, ‘Fuck the diagnosis, give me the pills,’ I think I’m glad I waited. So, the GP working with me is very thorough. She has assessed, treated and will continue to monitor my condition. I’m fortunate enough to be getting this in a safe and supportive environment.

Why do I feel the same level of assessment, diagnoses and treatment isn’t being afforded to Mr. Haines?

His family fear that he is likely to stay in Broadmoor for the rest of his life. They believe that, had he gone through the criminal justice system for his crime in 1986, that of ‘attempted wounding’, he would not still be incarcerated. Also, they argue that had he committed the same crime today there would be little chance of him ending up in Broadmoor.
Dr Kevin Murray, clinical director at Broadmoor Hospital, said both their points were probably true. However, he stressed, it’s about risk. I suggest that risk would be greatly reduced if Mr Haines’ received the right treatment in an environment that was conducive to recovery and not conflict.

Duirt mé leat go raibh mé breoite? It comes from Spike Milligan’s gravestone and it means, ‘I told you I was ill’.

Walk a mile

Chris

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