for better mental health

How going to A&E helped me

Wednesday, 27 November 2013 Caroline

Caroline blogs about how a visit to A&E helped her to realise she needed help.

Trigger warning: please read carefully as this blog talks about overdosing. If you’re struggling with these feelings, please call Samaritans on 116 123, emergency services on 999, or the Mind Infoline on 0300 123 3393.

Many of us can pinpoint moments in our lives which have shaped us into the people we are. For some it might be starting university or having their first child, for others it could be meeting someone or achieving a personal goal. For me it was going to A&E after taking an overdose.

One morning I was a student getting a few stern words from my GP, by the afternoon I was a vulnerable mental health patient and was headed for hospital.  I will never truly understand what took me from A to B. It wasn't a suicide attempt but it wasn't a cry for help either. 

I'm one of the lucky ones - I have a mental health social worker who is my care-coordinator.  If I hadn't had an appointment with him that afternoon, I wouldn't have told anyone what I had done. If I hadn't told anyone, I wouldn't have gone to A&E. For me, I needed that visit to hospital to connect what I perceived to be 'no biggie' with what it actually was.

Of course when you tell people you've overdosed you will see worried reactions, but to me, these were people who loved and cared for me anyway - their concern was exaggerated because of their connection to me. In my head, I hadn't done anything serious.  If anything, I was annoyed that I felt little to no effect from my overdose.  I walked into A&E sure that nothing would be wrong with me and I would be sent home very soon.

This is a dangerous headspace to be in. Thankfully I was correct in my assumption that nothing was physically wrong, but the stark contrast between my attitudes to my actions and the attitudes of the doctors and nurses highlighted to me just how ill I was emotionally. I remember being genuinely surprised that they were trying to establish whether I needed to see the crisis team, even going so far as to ring my care co-ordinator. But when I expressed this to my friend, she looked at me incredulously and said:”You overdosed, what did you think they would do?”

I'm happy to reflect how far removed my mindset is from that place now.  In the aftermath of that A&E trip it could have gone either way.  It could have been the event that pushed me into a breakdown, but it wasn’t, it only made me determined to make it through. I'm not going to pretend that this was a simple transition, far from it. The following few days were horrible, but with the help of my friends, the Samaritans and the various professionals I'm lucky enough to see, I moved forward. 

To this day I am so thankful that I was told to go to A&E. Sometimes you need to hit a low in order to move on from one, and whilst I wish it had not taken overdosing to teach me that, I am grateful that something triggered the change.  Without A&E I would still be festering in that unhealthy frame of mind, stuck in a rut that no one wants to be in. Instead I've proved that a crisis doesn't have to be the start of a downward spiral, but the stepping point onto the path to realisation and recovery.

A young man in a purple hoodie and jeans with a neutral expression, sitting outside on the ground leaning against a fence.

Read about crisis services

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