I would like to start by saying I greatly appreciate the NHS, what they do and how they've helped me but there is one flaw in the system that I keep finding again and again. The good old waiting list.
After a brief illness that required a short hospital stay my general anxiety levels began to increase, this may have been due to the fear of the illness returning, not being able to do what was required of me at work or the realisation I live in a fragile body. One thing is for sure, it got the better of me.
After deciding to make a change in my life to see if it would help I decided to change jobs. On handing in my notice I experienced several panic attacks over the space of a couple of weeks. This affected me greatly, I became agoraphobic, I feared having more panic attacks. I knew I wasn't afraid of objects or scenarios, I was afraid of fear.
Up until this point I hadn't asked my GP for help but I had sought out a private counsellor, who to a degree helped me understand what I was going through but ultimately couldn't prepare me for what happened. So it was off to the GP for help, at my first appointment it was decided to try me on an SSRI. I tried, I really tried taking them, I was told about how long it may take for them to work and I was told about the side effects. It was after the first attempt at an SSRI and how bad I felt taken them that my GP decided it would be a good idea to refer myself to our local NHS mental health trust.
This is where I believe the NHS needs to change. After referring myself via their website I had to wait to be contacted so that they could give me an appointment for an assessment. I had to wait over a week for this assessment phone call. After the assessment phone call it was over two weeks before my first CBT appointment. The run up to my appointment was at that time in my life the hardest thing I had been through. So I had seven or eight sessions and they helped, they were very beneficial and I learnt a lot but then they ended.
I was glad that I had someone to talk to and someone who could make sense of what was happening to me but ultimately and as time proved to me, it was just a plaster that gave me temporary relief. Three months later I was struggling again and again I was encouraged to refer myself again to the local NHS trust after first going to A&E in an hysterical state to be told they couldn't help, unless I was a danger to myself or others. So again I had to wait for my assessment phone call then over two weeks for my first appointment. This is when I decided to pay for another more expensive private therapist.
But again after a few months of regular visits to both I broke. This time way bigger than anything before. I was doing great, I was independent, I was working a part time job and I was playing regular sports. I felt the best I'd felt since before my brief illness. This all may have contributed to the complete despondency when I had a few panic attacks over the space of a couple of weeks again. I thought I had nailed it, I thought I could control these feelings but my belief in myself was obliterated.
It was these feelings of hopelessness and fear that made my family fear for my wellbeing, and for a few days I did feel my only escape was ending my life. My wife got in touch with my GP who quickly referred me to a clinical psychologist but in the meantime put my wife in contact with the crisis team. The crisis team were nice and polite but were basically checking that I hadn't done anything silly and gave very little advice on how to get back on my feet.
So, back to the point I wanted to make. It took six weeks for a community health nurse to come out and assess me to agree to put me on the waiting list for the clinical psychologist, in the meantime she is going to work with me doing some CBT. SIX WEEKS before being assessed! For six weeks it has felt like I am surviving and being that I am now on sick leave due to my panic disorder I can no longer afford private counselling. If I had broken my leg, the instant I had broken it I would be on my way to hospital for an x-ray and a cast put on, six weeks later it would've healed. Six weeks on from seriously contemplating suicide I am still waiting for guidance.
I love the NHS, I think we have so much to be grateful for and they have helped a number of members of my family and basically saved my wife's life. It is a service that we should never take for granted but I sincerely hope there is nobody else out there like me having to live in such turmoil.
To the NHS, please review your policy of assessments and waiting lists for people who aren't well enough to cope but not in such despair there is a real likelihood of self harm. These people are in limbo and need real guidance not a long wait on a waiting list.
If you read all of that thank you, I don't know why I wanted to share this but just felt I had to get it out.
Take care of yourselves.