When I was living in Letchworth, I needed help with anxiety and depression, and believed I was neurodivergent in some way. My GP referred me to the NHS Hertfordshire team twice because she didn’t understand why I was declined help. In Hitchin, my assessor was an hour late and didn’t screen me for neurodivergence, maybe because he wasn’t trained to, so that part had been completely ignored. The decline letter he sent home had a lot of mistakes like he was not listening. When I called them about this the person on the phone was very short with me but booked for someone to do a home visit. They never came.
For the second referral my GP asked for a psychiatrist specificall. I don’t know if he had something against my demographic or if he was just generally patronising but he kept saying how the team were professional, how I read too many books and shouldn’t know what ‘neurotic’ is, amongst other unnecessary things. In the end he gave me medication that had horrible side effects which he never followed up with me on, and a leaflet about classes even though he knew I had social anxiety. He didn’t believe me when I told him my dermatologist said my skin picking was psychological, even though I was recently in A&E at Addenbrooke’s Hospital for stress related scratching which led to erythroderma, where I also had to fight my corner until they realised it was urgent. When I asked about therapy he reluctantly got someone to call me but they sounded so unbothered that I decided to go private even on low income, as I was desperate for some professionalism. But since no one could help me with my skin picking specifically I thought I’d take my chances with the local service again. I requested to go with the Stevenage team as I heard they might be better but got no response. In Letchworth, I was met with judgement; “But you’re not picking right now so why exactly are you here?” with a strange look on her face as I cried.
When I moved to Cambridge I got therapy with the Cambridgeshire team who were much more friendly and efficient. And I was recently privately diagnosed with autism which is the basis of my mental/behavioural problems. After a long search, I’ve finally found a therapist for skin picking which I now know is part of my stimming, so I understand it’s a specialist issue and there wasn’t much awareness of it before. People and even professionals are only just realising my demographic can even have autism. However, if I had been taken seriously from the beginning I at least wouldn’t have spent the past few years in suicidal darkness.
I’d like for professionals to take those brave enough to ask for help more seriously. I know the NHS and especially the mental health department is under funded but that doesn’t mean personal ego or any social biases should get in the way of treating people. Even hypochondriacs should get treated, not sent home with nothing.
I hope vulnerable people don’t get discouraged advocating for themselves during a difficult time when negative responses from professionals in power can add to chronic stress or even trauma.