I self harm I’m ashamed that I do. You know I’m old and I should know better. I should think about my kids, I should leave the hospital because people who are really ill need the beds, I deserve to get my feet slapped by a nurse as she walks by, I don’t get a burn treated twice after I have overdosed and self harmed and I’m too ashamed to ask you to treat me.

I sit in a wheelchair head spinning not offered a bed at five in the morning I sit there tears pouring I feel your disdain, my kids, you should think of them, you should think of them and I DO ..I LOVE THEM BUT THEY’RE BETTER OFF WITHOUT ME .

This is what has happened to me over the past few years in A&E I have come across some kind people but mainly I am misunderstood judged and treated like I’m an outcast .
The BBC recently talked about self harm and how people are not given proper care by psychiatric liaison .

I have been asked by psychiatric liaison do you really want to see us? A definite plea for me to say no they are overworked looking stressed they ask the same set questions and I know them all, a pointless tick box exercise its not going to help as no follow up is offered, just left to go home alone, no one calls and I’ve overdosed I’m feeling suicidal.

To the male nurse who told me that really ill people needed my bed.. To you I say I sometimes become overwhelmed I was abused as a child and sometimes I find that hard to manage so I hurt myself and yes I feel ashamed and yes I wish I didn’t . You sent me home I could hardly walk I was still unsteady on my feet, unbelievable .

To the female nurse who told me I should think of my children I do everyday but I get so low sometimes I think they’re better off without me and the guilt I now feel breaks my heart.

To the nurse who slapped my feet I would show you compassion if you were in the same position as me .

To the nurses and doctors who don’t treat people who self harm properly who leave people untreated and don’t refer us to burn units because we just self harm and don’t deserve it I’m scarred now because my wounds got infected you didn’t even dress them

To those who leave me in a wheelchair when I can hardly sit in the CDU (clinical decisions unit ) you could be kind and offer me a bed I’m distressed I’m upset I’m in crisis , I’m just not coping.

Understand people self harm because they are distressed often have suffered trauma and find it hard when overwhelmed how to communicate the distress in other ways. That they feel so ashamed, guilty sad and hate themselves . A little kindness would help, just a little.

I would love to go in and educate staff so they can understand, as mental health is so misunderstood and self harm is taboo. People need compassion that is not so hard.

Can you tell me your experiences of being in A&E have you had good or bad treatment


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About bpdffs

I campaign for better services for people with BPD. I run #BPDchat onTwitter on Sundays at 9pm BST, please join us. I train CMHT staff in BPD awareness and run psycho-educational courses for people with BPD. I am a governor at Sheffield Health and Social Care Trust.

25 responses to “SHAME AND SELF HARM”

  1. Kris says :

    My A&E treatment was fantastic. The triage nurse was soothing, and while the wait was long, the psychiatrist who attended me truly listened, took my feelings and perceptions into account, and encouraged me to take the bed he offered without feeling guilt over other people’s situations. Once in the ward things changed. Most of my issues occur at night and it was the night nurses’ opinion that it could wait until tomorrow, and I should be quiet or I was going to disturb the other patients. After several nights of this, and then not being able to speak out of fear when I was able to talk to someone during the day, I located a plastic tag left on some flowers brought to my room mate. I sat in the bathroom and dug at my veins with that little piece of plastic. I felt helpless because at the times that I could speak, help was denied me. It was slow going with this little plastic tag, and eventually a nurse insisted that I come out of the bathroom. When she saw what I have done her response was to inform me that if I wasn’t serious about getting help they would have no choice but to discharge me. The following night, when again being denied assistance during my darkest hour, I was in such a frenzy that I was screaming and knocking things over. The nurse simply repeated that I needed to calm down and I could talk to someone in the morning. I had to leave, I couldn’t stay there. I had been in and out of hospital twice that month and spent Christmas and my birthday on the ward. I thought I was OK and went home, then spent a week comatose on the couch non responsive before going back in. When I made the decision to leave the second time, in the middle of the night, because no one would speak to me and they wouldn’t allow use of the phone so that I could speak to someone outside, I was asked to sign a disclaimer stating that I was declining treatment and based on my leaving I could not be guaranteed further admission or access to outpatient services. I signed it, alright. After writing in the comments section a detailed account of what had happened and emphasising that I was being denied treatment by the staff, not denying what was on offer. They didn’t even send security once I stormed off the ward to the payphones. I have never felt so abandoned in my life. My psychiatrist was sympathetic and did not deny me outpatient services with him, however the group program he referred me to would not admit me, based on my leaving the hospital. I thank the universe that I’m tough and already had years of dealing with MH issues behind me when this happened. I cannot imagine how an inexperienced patient would even begin to process these events. Oops,, this story is a little longer than I expected :/

    • theboxticker says :

      I had similar experiences – A&E was ‘great’, inpatient was not. I have social anxiety and massive difficulty articulating when I need help, and a general psych ward was the worst place for me. I didn’t feel safe, supported or understood by the vast majority of staff. Nobody spoke to me, even was pacing or sobbing or working up the courage to initiate conversation. I kept to myself and lied about how I was feeling in order to be discharged because I couldn’t stand another second in such an oppressive hell-hole. Like you though, I’m lucky in a sense, because I have fantastic outpatient and peer support, and had been an inpatient before (on a specialist ward, which was better, if not perfect). At least it’s given me incentive to try harder to keep myself safe since… every cloud and that.

    • bpdffs says :

      Thanks for replying it sounds like you had a terrible time but good you have a supportive psychiatrist. It is so difficult when you’re treated badly : (

  2. theboxticker says :

    I’m sorry you had such awful experiences. 😦 I really hope things are improving. Thankfully I live in an area where A&E have a new crisis psychiatric team. I still had to pretty much beg to be admitted to hospital after repeatedly stating I couldn’t keep myself safe (following my third trip to A&E in a week), but I was consistently treated with compassion by all staff. One of the people I saw actually said the words ‘this isn’t your fault’. After living for so long with internalised shame and guilt around self harm, it was the best thing anybody could have said to me at that time.

    • bpdffs says :

      That sounds really positive I know there are lots of good staff out there and I too have had some good experiences however it is sad when you get bad ones.

  3. huma121 says :

    Some A&E staff are amazing and show me more compassion then i could ever show myself when I am that low. Paramedics are also so extremely important. Just that connection and listening to you can make a difference. Anytime they do not add to our shame and distress is a time they have done their job. thank you for sharing such a thought provoking post. Much solidarity, x

    • bpdffs says :

      That is an important point not adding to our shame and distress. I am pleased you have had some positive experiences it really does make all the difference.

  4. pdchatflowcat says :

    I’ve had mixed experiences in A&E. Some staff are absolutely lovely, they comfort me if I’m upset, give me extra dressings to bring home, basically treat me like a human being. On the other hand, I’ve been told that I’m wasting resources, and that there are much sicker people than me waiting (as if I don’t already feel guilty enough about being there).

    I’m usually offered a psych consult, which to be honest, I usually refuse. It’s the same stuff over and over again, and they can’t offer anything that might help. Sometimes I don’t get a choice about the psych consult though, so I have to see a psych. The liaison team, who work 9-5 Monday to Friday are actually really nice, and I feel comfortable speaking to them, even if I don’t believe they can help. If I’m unlucky enough to have to see a psych outside of these hours though, I end up waiting hours for whoever is on-call to ask me the same questions they ask every time, and finish with “well if you don’t want to be admitted, there’s nothing we can do.” Which is exactly why I prefer not to see them, it’s wasting my time as well as theirs!

    I’m sorry you had such a difficult time, and that you were treated how you were *hugs*

    • bpdffs says :

      I agree with so much of what you say, it is the same conversations and what we need is the longer term therapy to help. Like you I have come across some good and some bad people out there unfortunatly more bad in my experience. Thanks fo your comment : )

  5. J says :

    Unfortunately you could almost be writing my own story of what usually happens to me in A&E. Desperate and in crisis I know that A&E is not the best place for me to go. Brief chat with psych and they open the door for me. Yes I’ve had to walk home 5-6miles at 3am vulnerable and still high risk, yes I’ve been discharged while barely able to stand with the pills i’ve o/d’d on still sloshing around in my system, yes I’ve staggered up to the top of the car park to jump off and the police and paramedics can’t believe me when I say there is no point in taking me to A&e. ‘Of course you’ll get help love’ – dream on. Instead I get thrown from one bed to the next, expected to move myself across when I can’t, get offered no drink for hours and get those looks that mean ‘she’s here again’.
    If only they knew the reasons why I’m in so much despair, why living is such hell, how difficult it is to live from hour to hour, to fight off the self destructive thoughts. Please could you just live in my body for a while and see how long you can stand it.

    • bpdffs says :

      Hey I know it’s so difficult being treated that way. If we were given tne right therapy it would help us long term often we are left with nothing .

  6. Julie Newcombe (@TwittleyJules) says :

    I think you are all amazing. To do what you do when the best help isn’t always there takes courage and sheer guts. Please do not underestimate what wonderful people you are

  7. Pinky says :

    I am afraid that you have to try and live in a world where you have to teach compassion and ‘how to behave competently’ yourself, even if it is desperately unfair.

    I don’t suppose, realistically, that staff are ever going to understand.

    The scathing judgement s of A&E betray a lack of behavioural competence or know how. What corrective information do they contain? Have they ever taught you a useful skill that you could incorporate into your life thus reducing or helping you to tolerate the intense negative emotions that over whelm you?

    Next time they start throwing their weight around, just ask them ‘Well, do you think your judgements are helpful or are you just venting your frustration, making matters worse? If you were me how would you suggest managing my intense emotional distress’.

    • bpdffs says :

      You know I wish I had the courage at the time to do something but I feel vlnerable but you are right these are the things hat should be said.

      • Pinky says :

        I’m not surprised that you feel vulnerable. Mental health services are self-defeating in that they wait until someone harms themselves before they intervene and give support. (however expediently devised.!)

        This way they reinforce self injuring behaviour and strengthen it as a coping mechanism. Part of this is because social workers, nurses and psychiatrists are notoriously inept at assessing negative emotions related to trauma or chronic emotional intensity.

        This system incubates severe depression, anxiety and other problems.

        I am talking from experience.

        Have you ever tried creating a care-plan/action plan that could get you support that doesn’t mean having to go to A&E with blood steaming down your arms?

  8. Bipolar and BPD Support says :

    Reblogged this on Bipolar and BPD Support and commented:
    I respect you for everything you are doing for people with BPD – keep it up Sue 🙂

  9. Pinky says :

    I thought persons who are at risk of self-harm were not supposed to discuss it with others in DBT…………stop escaping negative emotions, be mindful, tolerate the ‘intolerable’. It’s as easy as that – NOT 😉

  10. brokenglassshimmers says :

    Mostly I was treated appallingly I faced judgement and lectures about what would end up happening to me if I carried on this way. I was left for hours on either a seat in the main waiting room or a side-room on my own. No-one spoke to me till the psych evaluation. The only time I was treated kindly was by a day nurse on a ward when I’d nearly died. I felt so guilty for being there too, felt like I was wasting their time. Also had to keep repeating the same story time and again about my reasons for self-harming behaviour.
    It’s been 2 years since I last harmed myself but I still get extremely distressed and have to battle my thoughts everyday. I have so much temptation in my flat alone, the huge pile of pain medication I’m on for my arthritis. Such a struggle not to use it when I feel alone and on edge like I do at the moment.
    Thank you for expressing yourself so well, I am disgusted by the treatment you have faced and hope that you get the help that you need in future.

  11. bpdffs says :

    Sounds like a bad experience for you too : ( but its great you’ve been SH free for two years appreciate how much effort you must have put in to do that. I wish you well : )

  12. rosiejbrown says :

    I love what you’re doing here Sue. Some really inspirational blog posts. I have just started myself, hoping to inspire and help people like you have.

  13. Neff (@Neffectual) says :

    When I overdosed, I was left without a blanket, trembling, with my girlfriend – and I wasn’t even assessed by psych before they discharged me. I have a dark sense of humour which comes out as a protection in hospitals, against the reality of my situation, and healthcare professionals see that as either not taking my circumstances seriously, or as psychological problems. That night, they chose the former.

    Once, when I was adjusting to illness and other life issues, I had a seizure, was sick whilst unconscious, woke up, had another seizure. The paramedics who came to assess me told me it was just stress, at which point I said ‘I can’t live like this anymore’. At that point we were whisked down to A&E in the ambulance, then left waiting six hours to be seen. So I was too high risk to be left in my home, but low enough to be sat in a waiting room. In the end, we left before I was seen, my spirit broken, too weary to do anything to end the torture my body and mind were putting me through.

    I made a promise to my girl a long time ago now, that I would stop self harming, because it upset her, and for the most part, I have done. I try not to consider the desperate moments when I bite myself as ‘self harm’, instead telling myself I just need to silence the scream-sobs before the neighbours hear. I look at the scars on my shoulders from eight years ago and tell myself I won’t do that again. I tell myself that when self harm is more important to me than that promise, then I don’t love her anymore.
    But I’m lucky. I’m a wordsmith, and I have always been swayed by words, so I can convince myself that a promise means something. Mostly, that’s enough to put me off. But I completely understand why it is not for many, many others.

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