Adventures in Psychiatry : Hove Polyclinic and Disabled Students Allowance

Round and round we go..... I have lost count of the amount of times I've been to initial assessments now. My old CMHT used community psychiatric nurses (CPN's) to carry these out, and generally there was a student there too. Over in Brighton, to my surprise, I was going to talk to a social worker this time. What a refreshing change. Social workers are all about practical support in the community which is exactly what I need right now, so the conversation was very different to those I've had in the past.

Getting to Hove Polyclinic was scary. I don't know the area and I hadn't used that particular bus route ever before, so there was a double dose of anxiety going on. I do like that some buses have the next stop displayed on little screens at the front now, that helped somewhat, but I didn't know whether I'd have to walk a way once I'd got to the stop. Turns out you get dropped literally right outside the clinic. What a relief that was!!

Hove Polyclinic is HUGE. It's like a mini hospital, that just so happens to be next-door to the psychiatric hospital I don't intend to get acquainted with. The mental health services were on the first floor, which the lovely receptionist guided me to. I didn't have to wait long, but couldn't sit down without feeling like I was going to explode so I just wandered... There were some 'concerned' looks but seriously what harm was I causing by walking to keep my panic under control. If you've ever had 'restless leg syndrome' aka that feeling when you just absolutely have to move right now, it was just like that.

We talked for 45 minutes and I was 100% honest. This is crucial folks. I know it is really goddamn hard to bare your soul to a complete stranger on assessment, but if you play out like whatever is going on isn't that bad then you'll be waiting a hell of a lot longer than you need to and probably won't get the right treatment. It took me a few rounds of assessments and discharges to figure this one out. If you don't feel like you can vocalise what is going on, write it out. They won't mind at all.

I was seen quickly because my GP essentially panicked when I told him I was having thoughts of self-harm and suicide - and that these thoughts aren't my own. I felt bad about it because on risk assessment I am not really considered 'high risk', as I am not drinking and able to maintain control and safety plan. There are no sharps in my house, no alcohol and I don't have a lethal supply of medication. So while these thoughts are very real and scary, at the moment I'm not acting on anything but my history has shown that things can go to shit very quickly, so I'm on the 'moderately high' side of risk.

A few things that she mentioned were a bit..... unsettling. Words like 'psychosis', 'dissociation' and 'bipolar disorder'. Never have I ever heard those words come out of a practitioners mouth before, despite giving essentially the same story over and over again since the age of 18. So now, at the grand old age of 26, I might finally get a solid diagnosis as she has requested a full medication and psychiatric review.

My medication isn't working anymore. I've been on venlafaxine since January, so it's been almost a year which is pretty good going to be honest. Mirtazapine quit after about 5 or 6 months I think before it was augmented with lofepramine. I'm also taking quetiapine but only really for sleep and anxiety management. So if 300mg venlafaxine (150mg slow release twice a day) with 300mg (50mg afternoon, 250mg at night) of quetiapine isn't doing anything, it's pretty obvious it's not pressing the right button.

I don't know when I'll get an appointment with a psychiatrist, but hopefully it'll be before Christmas. In the interim my instructions were to keep on with my medication until the review, and if things turn to shit to call BURS or go to A&E, which apparently has a mental health side ward or something for emergencies. How amazing is that?! To be able to sit somewhere separate from the 'non-crazy' injured people. I always hated being in the emergency ward when children were there. I didn't want to scare them!

BURS is the Brighton Urgent Response Service for out of hours psychiatric emergencies. If you're in crisis, they are the people to call.

Something else happened this week: I told the boyfriend about some of the hallucinations and delusions I have been experiencing. I wasn't actively keeping things from him, I just figured after so long together he already knew. I honestly thought he'd either laugh and call me ridiculous or just leave me right then and there. Neither happened. He was so supportive and obviously worried, which made me feel bad. But I guess him knowing is a good thing, so if I do go off the deep end he knows what to do - get me to A&E sharpish or call BURS if I'm being an asshole.

I also met with the Disabled Student's people this week. That was a long hour of confessing my failings as a student. But once again I was blown away with the support available to make things easier for me. The amount of clever software out there is incredible!! I have been recommended for a lot of things, but I won't know until maybe next week or a bit later whether it's been approved or not as the funding comes from 3rd parties. Things like weekly mentoring will be such a huge help, and just having it 'official' with the university that I really do have these issues with studying and am not just being lazy.

This is the absolute last thing I wanted to happen to me now I'm at Sussex. But I can't control my brain and how it works. I'm sure they'd rather I stayed at home and missed a tutorial or lecture than attend and be hallucinating the entire time.

I'm not throwing in the towel and resigning myself to a life of mental illness. This is just another speed bump on the road that is recovery. I am not my mental illness. I am a student who wants to make something of her life. I'm fighting for my degree, for my relationship with my incredible boyfriend and our little Lily cat.

Whatever this illness I have is called, I don't care. Let's just get the drugs right so I can get back to being a geek.

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