Archives for posts with tag: sex abuse
The Acorn Programme at The Retreat

The Acorn Programme at The Retreat, York. After a long struggle it looks as if I might get the funding I need to go on this excellent programme, which offers specialist treatment to women suffering from complex post-traumatic stress disorder, such as myself. A big part of the treatment is the therapeutic community approach.

Hi, again.

Qualified staff tied up

Over the last four weeks I have spent time thinking about my care and the future, which felt bleak. During my admission, I have met some very nice people and on numerous occasions we sat together complaining about our level of care and our feelings of hopelessness. One of the main complaints was the lack of therapy and treatment, and it was apparent that the way the acute ward is run is based on observations, containment and medication. The qualified staff were tied up with administrative duties, and the support staff spent time with those patients who were under observation and needed personal care such as washing, dressing and feeding.

Patients left to cope with anxieties themselves

Those patients who didn’t need observations and personal care were expected to occupy themselves during the long days with very little to do, and to cope with their anxieties and mental health symptoms themselves. Support from most of the staff was limited, as staff reguarly claimed they were too busy. At times there was a lot of noise on the ward due to patients trying to abscond or presenting with psychotic symptoms. Staff often seemed to use control and restraint procedures and drugs to calm down the most challenging patients. Over the weeks it seemed that the only support some of us were getting was from each other, or from one of the activity groups coordinated by a lovely lady from an organisation called Rainbow Learning.

When I moved areas four years ago, funding for my care at The Retreat was withdrawn, and I had to access local services. Although the Primary Care Trust (PCT) states that its employees should not be treated locally, my new consultant was insistent that the local services in the area in which I work were the only option available to me. Services that were available were:

  • out-patient appointments with my new consultant
  • 72hr crisis support, and
  • admission to the local acute ward.

Focus on containment, not therapy

My new “care-provider” seemed to focus only on containment and not on therapy and treatment. I have endured various admissions to our local acute ward, formally and informally, and while the staff are generally pleasant (although not all of them always engage with me), I have never had any therapy or treatment during my stays. My fluctuating condition, which I think is best described as complex post-traumatic stress disorder (the same thing many war veterans are afflicted with), has therefore tended to deteriorate over recent years, and ultimate recovery has seemed doubtful.

Therapeutic communities and aspecialist programme focused on recovery

During the present admission I reflected on The Retreat Hospital and the type of care they provide. My experiences in the acute ward at my new hospital are hugely different to my experiences at the acute ward at The Retreat. There were many types of group therapy during the day, as well as regular one-to-one care with variously qualified members of staff. As patients, we were encouraged to look after each other too, and the ward was described as a “therapeutic community”. The Retreat also runs a specialist programme –  the Acorn Programme – for women who suffer with complex post-traumatic stress disorder, such as sexual abuse survivors. The programme operates as a therapeutic community, and there is even more group and individual therapy than the acute ward. The main ethos of the programme, in my opinion, is that everyone works together during therapy and supports each other in or out of therapy. The programme is about recovery, and is run by some excellent therapists.

A suggestion

During my current admission I have noticed how we as patients have been supporting each other and sharing our experiences. This type of interaction between us as patients has got me thinking. Surely if patients are lucid, orientated and want to recover from their illness would it not be more cost-effective to run more therapeutic communities in hospitals, to provide therapy groups throughout the day and daily one-to-one therapies, and to focus on recovery before discharge? Surely this would reduce admissions to hospital and the drain on resources in the community, A&E and general medical and surgical wards who provide care for those who have repeatedly self-harmed?

Consultant now looking for in-patient treatment for me

Talking of therapeutic communities, following the MDT meeting on Tuesday when my consultant asked to see me she gave me the news I had so longed for. She discussed my care over the last four years and voiced her concern that my admissions to hospital had increased and that my condition seemed to be getting worse. Out of the blue she began to tell me that she felt that all local services available to me had been exhausted, and she feels I would benefit from in-patient therapy. She told me she had made enquiries at St Andrew’s Hospital in Northampton who run a specialised programme for women. However, they only accept patients who are on a section 3.

News got better but four years wasted

The news got even better! She then told me that she had also made enquiries at The Retreat Hospital about the Acorn Programme, and was willing to apply for funding from the PCT for me so I could have The Retreat’s specialised treatment. I couldn’t believe what she was telling me! The sense of relief flowing through my body was amazing. The light at the end of the tunnel had finally appeared. Although I realise the process of gaining funding and waiting for admission will take some time, just the thought of knowing that treatment will eventually be available has made me feel more positive about the future. If one had applied a common-sense approach to my needs, then surely I would have been referred to the Acorn Programme years ago?  The money that has already been spent on my admissions to hospital over the past four years plus on medication, the use of  the local crisis team and admissions to hospital generally, would have amounted to far more than the Acorn Programme would have? I can’t help feeling aggrieved that I have wasted the past four years of my life because it has taken that long for a consultant to realise the treatment I need is specialised and that a therapeutic community is more appropriate for me. I can’t help but worry that there are many others like me who are still only receiving minimal and inadequate services and that recovery is therefore not an option for them just now.

Local treatment inappropriate

In order to strengthen my case to the PCT, my MP is writing to the PCT to support my application. The solicitor I have been using, who specialises in mental health, has written to my consultant informing her that it is inappropriate that I am treated locally in the future. I have had to treat many patients during my duties as a paramedic and then to have to see them again in hospital as a patient is not only embarrassing but I feel it could also compromise my professional position. Thank goodness I work with very supportive colleagues, a fact that helps enromously and means a lot to me!

My consultant granted me home leave Tuesday to Thursday, and requested that I see her on Thursday morning at 9.15 to discuss discharge and the future. In a new post I will let you know how that meeting went and what further hurdles I have to face over the next few months.

Love and best wishes

Angela x

Advertisements

19 July 2010

Care worker “suspended for affair with patient”

I was sitting in the garden at the hospital with some of the patients and I asked if anyone knew where one of the male staff members was, as I’d not seen him since my admission. One of the women I’d become friends with said, “Oh, he has been suspended due to having an affair with a patient who is a friend of mine, and he has now left his wife for her.”

…For the second time

A male patient who has known the staff member very well for some years said, “Yeah, it’s the second time he’s been suspended. At a previous mental health establishment he worked at he was caught doing the same thing, and he’s been out with numerous patients.”

Came on to me when I was sedated – disgust

My blood ran cold. About a year ago I was admitted to the same ward during the night and was very poorly and distressed. A female staff nurse on duty sectioned me until a dcotor arrived and administered intramuscular tranquillizers to calm me down. The male member of staff in question took me downstairs to the garden for a cigarette and sat me down on the bench, put his arm round me and tried comforting me – or that’s what I thought he was trying to do! He asked how things were at home and I confessed that things were difficult between Andrew and I, due to his frustration related to the pressures of my illness.

I mumbled on about the abuse I had suffered and how it was affecting me as an adult, and became quite distressed. The staff member’s arm moved further round and he pulled me close. Although I felt uncomfortable, I had difficulty resisting him due to my sedation. For a second, however, I really thought this cuddle was genuine and that the support worker was just comforting me until he suggested we go out together when I was discharged. I remember feeling horrified but was unable to express my disgust. Despite me being nearly half the man’s age, and being married, he had stepped over the line of being a healthcare professional. I asked to go back up to the ward and went to bed.

Made excuses for his behaviour

The following morning I tried to reflect on the previous night, which included the staff member’s behaviour. Because of my previous experiences (of not being believed, at best, and setting myself up for further abuse, at worst) I put the incident to the back of my mind, and decided simply to steer clear of him. He continued to be tactile when he could, and was with other female patients too, but never explicitly came on to me again, so I put my experience down to the effects of the drugs I’d been given and internally made excuses for his behaviour.

Rescued from his clutches on another occasion

A few months later and a while after I’d been discharged from hospital, I was at work one day and in the A&E department cleaning the stretcher. I felt someone’s arms slide round my waist from behind. I thought nothing of it, as I thought it was just my crew mate messing around as the patient we had dropped off thought we were married. You can imagine my horror when I turned round, laughing, to see it was the support worker who had hit on me during my last admission! Fortunately, my crew mate arrived in the nick of time and rescued me from his clutches. That was the last I saw of him.

To report him or not?

Whilst listening to the patients I battled with myself as to whether I should say something to the ward manager. I felt I owed it to any other vulnerable women who might come into contact with him if he was allowed back to work again. However, my experience of speaking out is that it almost always caused me more problems, and if the new allegations were found not to be true I might be made to look pretty stupid. A part of me felt relieved that this man had abused his position of trust with other women, but only because that made me feel I wasn’t the only one, not because I wanted anyone to come to any harm!

Relieved and proud

I decided to speak out, very tactfully and carefully. I asked to speak to the assistant ward manager in private. I explained to him what I heard and told him that I understood that he was unable to confirm the support worker’s suspension or discuss anything concerning the member of staff. I also explained that I felt compelled to speak out in case the allegations were true . I then briefly told him what I had experienced. The assistant manager was surprisingly supportive, saying that he appreciated me coming forward and understood how difficult it was for me to do so. He explained that the information would form part of an ongoing investigation and at some point in the future I would be asked to give a statement. I felt so relieved and proud that I had maybe helped protect other female patients.

Views and opinions?

This episode just goes to show that abusers still manage to work in such positions of trust. Surely it’s about time the authorities tightened up their screening of applicants wanting to work with vulnerable adults, and then provided training setting out clear boundaries between patients and staff? Nothing seems to have changed since I was a child, apart from the introduction of the CRB check. If anyone has any ideas on how the authorities could improve their screening process I’d be interested to hear your views and opinions!

Love and best wishes

Angela x

Angela Bayley with Father Christmas

Here I am with Santa. Many children are traumatised by meeting Father Christmas (Santa Claus). However, what caused my complex post-traumatic stress disorder (or borderline personality disorder) was far more disturbing. In this posting I discuss these diagnoses. I hope healthcare workers will read it.

Hi, everyone.

I hope your weekend has been as good as mine.

Off like a shot

I didn’t tell you in my last posting, but I had originally thought I would be leaving the ward at 10 a.m. yesterday, not 1 p.m. I was set ready to go home at 9.30, full of excitement, and so I was absolutely horrified to hear that my section 17 leave was to start at 1 p.m. Like I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, time passed slowly, but Andrew eventually appeared at 12.45 and as soon as the clock struck one I was off like a shot.

A cuddle and a whirlwind

I arrived home and the first thing I did was cuddle Laura. Her face was a picture of happiness to see me home. I felt motivated to crack on with the chores Andrew hadn’t managed to get done due to the pressures of work, caring for the girls and visiting me. It’s been a long since I felt interested in my surroundings or motivated to look after the home we have built together. Yesterday I was ready for action and determined to get back to normal, put my Mum and wife head back on, and make up for the things I had overlooked. I went through the house like a whirlwind, cleaning, washing, ironing and changing beds. The house felt clean and fresh and I was looking forward to getting into a nice clean bed.

Mid-afternoon, Sarah and Charlie (my childhood social worker and her husband) came to see how I was before they went on holiday, and they brought me a lovely scented candle for the lounge. We all sat together in the kitchen, putting the world to rights, and we also discussed my current situation with the police, social services, mental health services and work.

Positive – no flashbacks or alcohol

For once I managed to engage in a positive conversation and not be haunted by flashbacks and avoidance tactics, like medication, self-harm and alcohol. Andrew had bought me a bottle of wine, based on our agreement that I would only drink at weekends. I managed to forget it was sat in the fridge.  Compare this to a few weeks ago when I’d have finished it within hours of it being bought and would be well onto my second bottle! With Andrew’s support, I was determined to stay focused and positive as well as tackle my problems head-on.

My stepmother is harmless now

Not long after Sarah and Charlie had gone, a blue car pulled up outside the house. My heart sank as I saw Lillian (the stepmother whom I describe at length in Disruptive) get out the car with her mother. I didn’t want anything to ruin my weekend, and I knew her presence could trigger bad thoughts and feelings. Although she is harmless now, and has certainly repented her sins, she is a clear reminder that I had a troubled childhood and that my father abandoned me on more than one occasion.

Not swamped by uncomfortable feelings

Anyway, I opened the front door with a big smile and told myself that Lillian’s visit was with good intentions and she wasn’t going to trigger my emotions or cause me any harm. She handed me some beautiful flowers and I led her and her mother to the kitchen for another cuppa. We had a good natter about “this and that”, and then she told me my father had been in touch with her to tell her about my book Disruptive, which she hasn’t read. This was the first time it had been mentioned since I had started writing it. I managed to push my anxieties to the back of my mind and explain the process of my writing and how useful it had been. I told Lillian what my aim was – that it wasn’t to apportion blame but to help me understand things that had happened to me in the past as well as help other survivors similar to me. I really stood my ground, whereas normally I would pussyfoot around Lillian, feeling guilty if I upset her and caused any disruption. It was an achievement to believe in myself and not be swamped with uncomfortable feelings and maladaptive behaviours.

Enjoying the moment

Andrew, Laura and I managed to sit down on the sofas with our pizzas round about 8 p.m. Andrew cracked open my bottle of wine as well as getting himself some pear cider. Laura wanted to watch “Casualty” so we selected the film we wanted which we put on at 9.30 p.m. It was so nice to just relax all evening with my family, climb into my own bed and enjoy the moment instead of dwelling on my difficulties.

The diagnoses of “Borderline Personality Disorder” and “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” and health workers’ reactions

Talking of difficulties, one thing I struggle to get to grips with is the label I’ve been given: “Borderline Personality Disorder” (BPD). One of the kind comments on the blog talks about mental health workers only able to care for those with simple mental health diagnoses, such as depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.  My consultant when I was at The Retreat, Dr Chris, was very sensitive about the label BPD, and would use a kinder label “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder” (complex PTSD). My experience of mental health workers’ reactions when I tell them of that diagnosis is so different – it’s a lot more sympathetic! This just goes to show how discriminated against we sufferers of BPD are, and why there is such a lack of care.

Stigma: “attention-seeking and a nuisance”

NICE guidelines for some years now have included clear instructions for people with PTSD. However, it’s only recently that NICE recognised BPD, and, whilst they suggest that people with BPD are the highest risk group for suicide and that they can have terrible mental health symptoms, they are not very clear about treatment and appropriate care. Sadly, there’s a limited number of establishments that specialise in BPD, and they are usually private hospitals. The stigma of mental health is bad enough and workers are always wanting negative opinions to change. However, many mental health workers frown upon people with BPD, labelling them as attention-seekers and a nuisance. It’s clear that they have little training in this area of mental health and find it hard to understand or implement treatment. The feelings of not being understood are raw for people like me with BPD. I think services should start educating workers more in this area of mental health to prevent ignorance, discrimination and judgemental attitudes.

Please read about BPD!

As an NHS worker myself, I realise that many of us would like more training to deal with difficult situations and diagnoses but it’s seldom available due to cost implications and lack of resources. Therefore can I ask anyone who has an interest in mental health or works with people with mental health difficulties just to take a few moments to read up on BPD, and on how you can help? You would be amazed what a difference it makes to someone’s mood when they feel understood. Only 1% of people suffer with BPD but it would be useful if those 1% were taken more seriously.

User-friendly complex PTSD?

Maybe we should ditch the American label “Borderline Personality Disorder” and change it to the more user-friendly diagnosis, “complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder”? I would be interested to know what your thoughts and views are. I hope you can help.

Promised to be home soon

Today has been an easy day. I’ve done some more chores to ease the burden for Andrew. I also cooked a huge Sunday lunch, finished off with homemade apple and blackberry crumble and custard. It felt good to look after the family without considering it to be a big effort or chore. Time passed so quickly and before I knew it, it was 5.30 p.m. and time to go back to the hospital ward. I kissed Laura goodbye and promised I would be home soon.

Abusers have controlled my life for too long

Andrew dropped me off at the hospital and spent an hour with me. He seemed pleased that I was feeling better and encouraged me to stay in a more positive frame of mind. My abusers have controlled my life for too long and at times nearly beaten me. However, I’m still fighting and I am going to try and keep doing so.

I look forward to hearing your comments.

Love and best wishes

Angela x