Neuro-divergent me – A Poem by Charlotte Farhan

Neuro-divergent me

 

There are parts of my brain,

people call sick,

inside things can’t configure – to the accepted standard.

There were times when fitting me into a box,

was a main concern.

Or blame – who’s left her out too long

too often, too little.

How about inside,

thoughts, dreams, the others in here?

Feelings which overwhelm,

sensory information begins to concentrate,

like compressed gas in a cylinder.

Pain is all that can be felt,

physical surges through my spinal cord,

to my brain – the host.

Being born with this disposition,

having an environment devastated.

Parents – the same chemistry

Clueless in their own damnation

However happily participating

in their haphazard irony.

Not typical, not normal,

they said and continue to claim.

“she’s weird, she doesn’t look me in the eye”

they whisper whilst backing away.

Thought of as rude, too direct,

judgements made habitually,

privileges left unchecked.

My cognition brought into question,

By those who never had to confabulate.

The world is not odd to me,

as it is all I can see,

you need to cure me.

Not trusting my words and memories,

abusing me,

leaving me.


when I close my eyes - by Charlotte Farhan
When I close my eyes – by Charlotte Farhan

 

Art and poetry by Charlotte Farhan.

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My Journey Through Faith

My latest article from Open Thought Vortex Magazine…
“My Journey Through Faith”

Confronting my own blood – the aftermath of sexual violence

There is something which disturbs my mind every day, which no one knows to look at me – no one suspects that throughout my day I have to endure pain and flashbacks due to the metallic, heart pumped liquid that flows through our veins. When I was violently raped at 15 years old the injuries suffered were severe. Having to have vaginal and anal surgery was another violation but medically necessary.

Knowing I had been damaged severely during the rape and straight after, never having experienced such pain, it felt like being ripped open; however as a young girl who wanted to fit in with her friends, assuming this was “normal” and how sex was for girls, my immediate reaction was confusion and relief it was over. Even though my mind would flash with intense warnings to what had just occurred, such as the images of me faced down unable to breath, crying silently in agony as he split me open, or of me on my back paralysed as I was held down and forcibly penetrated and the image of being gagged from oral rape with no air supply and fearing for my life. However shock and dissociation kicked in, in the immediate hours after, wanting to be loved and not understanding what had happened led me to ignore the sever pain and remain silent.

It was not until the following morning that the realisation that my entire world had changed; waking up in a pool of blood and in agony was the beginning of the end. Knowing this was not menstrual blood, the shock of it all was still so incomprehensible – writing this now I understand this better, but then as a child in 1999, it was not clear what had happened to me. Still then – thinking that this was my fault and that because my other friends had not experienced this that it must be because I was a freak of nature. Did I do it wrong?

Upon telling my friends Mother (who I was staying with), what had happened and that I was bleeding heavily from both ends, her reaction was simply; “what did he do to you”? This sentence which still rings in my ears was the first indication that something wrong had happened to me and it was not all in my head.

The following days were excruciating, physically and emotionally, it took a few days before I was taken to a safe house, where my statement was taken and a medical examination was held with a rape kit. The doctor and nurse were horrified by my injuries and could not believe I had been walking around like this for days. Then they broke the news to me that I would have to have surgery and a lot of stitches – vaginally and anally. When I came out of the examination room, my Mother looked at me and she said the same thing “what did he do to you”? There were no answers, just a word which people -the adults kept saying; rape!

When people heard that this had happened to me most did not believe me, the reason being that at the age of 11 my mental illness had come to the surface, as a self harmer and a child who had tried to kill herself several times before 15, people treated me like a demented child who made things up for attention. The Mother of the boy who raped me even went as far as to suggest to the police and school that the sever wounds suffered, were actually done by me and not from vaginal and anal forced penetration, saying I had deliberately self harmed my genitals to accuse him of rape? Obviously this woman was not a fan of Occam’s razor.

The surgery was at Winchester hospital and it was a sunny day in mid June, I remember this, the memory of laying on the stretcher going into the operating theatre with beams of light dancing over me as we passed a corridor of windows. All I could see was myself as from above, having dissociated and experiencing psychosis my mind was detached. Another violation was happening, another medical necessity, defiling me once again.

When awoken from surgery, the first sounds which were audible to me, were my own screams – yelling at the top of my lungs, “this was not supposed to happen, he was supposed to love me”. It didn’t feel like the noise was coming from me, it sounded like it was coming from a little girl trapped somewhere, who I desperately wanted to find and rescue. Still detached and now suicidal, with no energy and so much pain, the world seem to drift by and all that was important to me was death, ending it all. This is when I was put into the psychiatric adolescent unit in Epsom.

Today as a woman who has only recently accepted what happened to me at 15, the blood still haunts me. Suffering from C-PTSD the flash backs which come about can be so intense causing sever vaginal and anal pain, it strikes me like lightning and locks me in the terrifying moments which happened. There are also everyday things which cause these triggers to overwhelm me, such as the fact I have PCOS which causes me to bleed a lot and often, every time I see blood – the violation and violence washes over me and drowns me in trauma induced psychosis. Another complication is that I can not have smear tests or any vaginal examinations, which puts me at great risk, especially as someone who has PCOS, as we are more likely to have cervical and ovarian cancer. Sex has also been an ordeal, throughout my late teens and twenties, not knowing when a flashback would occur and often happening during sex. Luckily with my husband through kindness and love I eventually was able to have sex without it being painful. Blood will always be the worst trigger for me, it even affects me having blood taken – which is essential as a diabetic. As well as having unexpected triggers, like when my husband recently cut his hand badly and blood spat everywhere – seeing little droplets all over the bathroom floor sent me into a psychotic state. Furthermore as I sit writing this – it has taken me weeks, as the need to step away and have breaks from this piece was required for my own sanity, it is overwhelming writing this and reading it back.

The reason for me sharing this with you is because the only way I can continue to survive is by helping to create change for others. My life started with sexual abuse in my own home (at 4 years old by a family member), which is then where I was raped at 15 at an overnight party by a boy in my year who was also only 15 years old. There is so much more to be told, however this piece is the most open I have been before, this is scary but it is necessary and having survived far worse than revealing this to you, this can only make me stronger. When I close my eyes at night the colour red is all I see, it has never left me in over 16 years, it remains my biggest trigger, however the more we “the survivors” share the more awareness is created and hopefully this will happen less or be dealt with better if it does.

Confronting my own Blood - By Charlotte Farhan
Confronting my own Blood – By Charlotte Farhan

 

This painting has been one of the most revealing and allowed me to confront my own blood. It is part of my ongoing collection:

Art to End the Silence on Rape 

For information on available originals or prints for purchase or for galleries wishing to exhibit these paintings in their venues please contact using the form below.

Poetry and Art Spotlight: Red – By Charlotte Farhan

Red - Art By - Charlotte Farhan
Red – Art By – Charlotte Farhan

 

RED

by Charlotte Farhan 

A survivor is created through their suffering – not born,

overwhelming need for endurance becomes everything,

red drips – glistening droplets cascading down a single thorn,

petals fall like tears as the red roses are left weeping.

 

Asking for forgiveness from the powers that be,

Rising tall after the holy wreckage,

Seeing nothing but red; left lost with nobody,

from the crimson glow among the breakage,

 

Reaching for that apple; fruit of the poisonous tree

Breaking into pieces, scattering across the earth

red glass cuts; amidst the shards appears a master key

Could this be the moment of sweet release; my rebirth.

 

Being black and blue is nothing new,

the red remains; staining my legs,

however my strength was a breakthrough,

even if the darkness still begs.

 

Purity was ruined by them; they burnt me alive,

breathing is a battle; existing is trying,

nonetheless if in this redness; I can survive,

then a warrioress can break from within; crying.

 

Strength comes from doing whatever you can to stay alive,

crossing that red stop sign can be necessary,

blood alerts us, poppies sooth us, Red Riding Hood reminds us,

warning to all; survival is cautionary.

 

So when you see me and think this is madness,

remember that red is around us and pumps through our veins,

danger is present; a part of the darkness,

however survival comes from this and strength remains.


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Being “bad child – crazy girl” in neurotypical education structures – the struggle for equal rights!

Throughout my life, education has been a stressful task; which only until recently – the cause of this stress and mistreatment became clear to me.
My brain is not typical and the world is set to “typical” with regards to all its structures and functions, including education.
Of course back in the 1980s there was not much available for children such as myself, deemed hyper intelligent, difficult and rude as early as infant school, going to doctors and child psychologists and being told I was on the spectrum for autism. Then in secondary school – a troublemaker, a bad influence and having an attitude problem.
Teachers would always say “I don’t understand you Charlotte, you are so intelligent, why can’t you do better?”.
All that was known to me, was that no one understood me and that I was a bad child. Excelling in subjects which I liked and failing miserably in subjects I didn’t, not even bothering – feeling like it was all a waste of time and might as well be an alien language taught by aliens.
As well as this, authority in any form would be like a red rag to a bull, as if being challenged to a duel and the victor would get to parade the beheaded throughout the school as the all hailing champion.
So teachers would be shouted at by me and my “patronising” tone became a honed skill which many would misunderstand and still do to this day.
My moods became violent with students and teachers which cemented the “bad child” label as well as the “crazy girl” label I had acquired due to my mental illnesses spilling out of me from 11 years old onwards.
So “bad child – crazy girl” was my new official name and once carted off to the loony bin at 15 – this was really the pièce de résistance, which shoved me into the labeled box which society still confines me to today.
Bad Child - Crazy Girl By Charlotte Farhan
Bad Child – Crazy Girl By Charlotte Farhan
After hospital and then art college, I descended into two different states from 2001 – 2004, a reclusive agoraphobic who only went out at weekends on class A drugs.
Then in 2004 after failing an HND in travel and tourism, as instead of writing research pieces on travel destinations and tourism operating systems; I would end up submitting creative writing pieces in a drugged up haze, these were prescription drugs, anti-psychotics and mood stabilizers. Not surprisingly I was asked to leave, proceeding to obliterate my brain with class A drugs again and alcohol for 3 years, putting myself in many dangerous positions, surrounded by criminals; lucky to come out alive, some didn’t.
After this wasted time the choice to go back to college was a hard one, however deciding to work towards getting a degree was a dream of mine. Beginning with an A level in philosophy was my starting point, which opened my mind to so much, allowing me to see myself and the world in ways that to this day continue to shape me. My tutor was inspiring, he had so much passion for the subject. Philosophy was an ideal subject for me, it is not constrained by neurotypical ideas, in fact almost the opposite.
After completing this course I decided to go on to do a full time access course at The University of Portsmouth, which is a year long course – which is the equivalent of four A-levels.
Politics, Sociology, Communication Studies and History were my chosen subjects. The staff were so kind to me and even though I had less idea of my difficulties then, they helped me to achieve the best.
Two of these tutors are still my friends and this is a great achievement for me, having never been liked by teachers before. This was when my first realisation came about of the fact I was different to most students; the tutors helped me get registered as a disabled student and supported me to the best of their abilities, preparing me to go on to a degree at TUOP.
Gaining acceptances on three different degree courses, History, International Relations and Journalism, I chose Journalism. b4c71d9c06e71eb25c2c3ac1a80cc2ae
Once I left the comfort of the Access course, there was already a feeling that was reminiscent of school, the overlooked feeling, the feeling of being “odd” and “bad child – crazy girl” was tapping at my brain telling me she was needed, silencing her – these feelings were brushed away.
Within my first week a sinking feeling had taken over and the realisation that I would not see the end of the academic year or be successful was present.
The students were all 18 / 19 and being unable to communicate with any of them, becoming a loner, something which came naturally to me. The teachers already found me difficult due to me asking too many questions, challenging them as well as just being generally misunderstood.
One subject in particular was soul destroying; shorthand – my mental nemesis. The teacher was a strong, no bullshit woman, who displayed little empathy and did not distinguish any of us as adult students.
An abrasive tyrant and if you couldn’t keep up, tough luck!
This particular oppressor did not know her own privilege and she exerted it all over me, as if she was deliberately and provocatively dancing around me, forcing me to feel her neurotypical privilege, flaunting it.
Understandably due to this I could not grasp it and certainly could not keep up, with no study buddies and when asking for extra support I was met with a simple – no!
Desperately I sought out the advice of my personal tutor, explaining what had happened and that if given a level playing field I could do better, but he told me maybe it would be more suitable for me, if on another course.
With not much choice and being shoved out of journalism like an unwanted bag of rubbish I swapped to doing a degree in Spanish/Arabic and International Relations.
As a bilingual in French/English, spanish would not be too hard, and it wasn’t.
However International relations is where everything fell apart; as for the subject, distinction after distinction for my assignments was my average, however one day one of our lecture halls was filled with around 300 students, my anxiety came up into my mouth and after scurrying around and finding a seat at the back I sat there sweating, alone.
We were asked to form groups and that our next assignment would be a presentation. Of course having no friends and knowing there would be a “odd ones out” group, which the lecturer had to physically push a bunch of us together in; the undesirable leftovers.
Being the eldest you may think there would be an advantage, as the rest were kids, nonetheless they were even more socially inept than myself and clueless about the world. We didn’t speak one word to one another.
Nonetheless eager to not fail again, my only option was to visit my new tutor that week and explained that the presentation was something which my illnesses did not allow me to do without me becoming very unwell.
The usual story proceeded, “you are being difficult Charlotte” and being told to persevere. Following this my detachment kicked in like a superpower to protect me, becoming more and more dissociated . No longer able to go to the big lectures,  no more fighting for my rights, soon it felt like the university was digesting me whole, ready to evacuate me from its bowels at any given moment. Which was exactly what happened – I was called into to see one of the head tutors, naively thinking that they were going to put some things in place for me to better my student experience and chances.
Instead, a stern, unempathetic woman stood before me, who told me that my illnesses were too severe for the university to accommodate and the only option left was for me to leave the university and come back when I was better… Better??
This made me regress almost instantly to “bad child – crazy girl” becoming very angry and emotional, crying and shouting, the tutor looked scared and hesitantly told me how to complain if I disagreed – but for now in no uncertain terms – I was off the course.
Pleading with her, “there is no cure for my illnesses”, that this was something which is a chronic condition, complex and lifelong. In a frantic panic I went to see the university therapist, hoping that a trained professional would be able to help me and possibly convince the tutors they were wrong, in hindsight maybe this was not my smartest move. Crying like a child I stormed in – saying to the therapist that this was unacceptable treatment of the mentally ill and more detrimental to my health in the long run.
The therapist said my behaviour was erratic, highly emotional and threatening and due to this agreed with the university and said ” it is best you leave Charlotte, as there is nothing we can do for you here, you are too ill”.
As I walked out of the building my body felt weightless like a ghost, plans begun in the back of my mind on how I would kill myself that week, yet again the world had ejected me and given me no choice, possibly a sign of some sort, that there was no point to me.
However instead of taking my own life, a breakdown ensued which made me self medicate, eradicating reality was the only way to stop the pain and stay with my husband, the idea of being without him – alone in emptiness was far to much of a risk. Purgatory was a familiar place, like returning home.neurodiversity
Then after 5 months and being patched up with sticky tape and glue, my need to achieve a degree came back.
This time deciding to approach The Open University, as I had been told this would be more suitable for me, as a completely housebound individual – unable to leave the house on my own or be taken to a university and left to fend for myself until home time, home study seemed a perfect fit.
To my delight the OU had a degree course in philosophy and psychology, a part time, six year course for a BA (Hons) degree.
My first year flew by, confidence had returned.
By year two the OU had me registered as a disabled student and had a whole load of support offered to me. Everything was going great until we got to exams, which for 3 years the OU had failed to set up home exams overseen by an invigilator; this was finally sorted in my 4th year and helped me grately.
In 2014/15, year 5 – on my last psychology level 3 module, the game changed once again and experienced a very cruel tutor who decided my illness and personality were too difficult and just stopped offering me support, contrary to the guidelines set out, she even stopped answering my emails and queries regarding assignments.
You see the OU is done online, however we have tutorials in person at least once a month, online forum discussions and day schools, none of which I can access due to my disabilities, so once again a disadvantage, but add to this a tutor who decided they would go all incommunicado on me, I was left with no way of doing my degree.
After months of arguments and back and forth emails (as I can’t use the phone) finally someone understood the severity and that this was not a case of being difficult. The OU assigned a new tutor, however no extenuating circumstances were considered in my first 3 assignments which were done with no support whatsoever. One assignment the tutor had given me such a low grade due to the fact she believed my illness was too severe to be on the course and told me that my understanding was below the OU’s standard; stating my work was suddenly below level one standards, something of which the OU disagreed with, but it was a non substitutional assignment so apparently they could not change the mark?
This brought my whole grade average down below a pass by 2 points.
One assignment which was incorrectly marked due to prejudice and neurotypical privilege, as well as a totally disregard to the support plan set out before the tutor – I was given a 30% when all my other level 3 assignments were in the high 70% mark.
This was a disaster and led me to think of a new direction, deciding to finish my honours degree off by changing my two focuses, from majoring in philosophy and psychology, changing it to a minor in psychology and major in philosophy and creative writing; adding a year on to my studies.
Bringing us to now, my first year of my new course; creative writing.
And yet again my studies are subjected to neurotypical privilege and that “bad child – crazy girl” label and persona has reared her ugly head again.
Every time I explain to my current tutor about the neurological disorders which are my disability and that due to this am not able to access all of the course due to not being able to attend, he simply says “please fill out an extenuating circumstances form” or says ” I have to treat all students the same”. This led to me having a breakdown last week and to me writing an emotionally charged email to my tutor and student support.
My tutor just reiterated the same autopilot response.
However the student support team for the first time, got it!
Screenshot - charlotte farhan
Screenshot of email received from student support at The Open University
The passages which made me feel validated and indicated real progress were these:
I am sorry that your experience of the OU has been frustrating at times. It is a tribute to your determination and academic ability that you have achieved so much despite your conditions and the neurotypical privilege that is present in all walks of life.
This should also give the tutor greater direction as to what they need to be able to do to help you study on a level playing field.
Finally some recognition for my struggles, some validation for the fact I am neurodiverse in a neurotypical world. This is of course not the end, but the fight which has been mine and so many others is finally getting somewhere.
A new awakening is happening and I sure as hell am ready to wake everyone up, no more being silent or being marginalised.
This mission is clear and as hard as it will be, there is no going back because giving me a voice is something “bad child – crazy girl” never had.
inclusion quote
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Opening Yourself up Within Therapy – Dealing with the Intensity of Reliving

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

Waking up from the intensity of nightmares and night-terrors, feels a though you have been battered black and blue emotionally and physically. The hell of thinking within your unconscious dream state that you are trapped in this dystopian creation of your own afflicted mind, causes you to wake screaming, as if you were grappling through time and space to re enter this realm of existence.

Then you wake; the truth hits you like a tyrannical fist, you try to unpick the mess of your insensible and sensible self which is tangled like forgotten jewelry left in a drawer. You lay there trying to regain some control over your faculties, you are still and lifeless – almost catatonic. The world as we know it has not been brought into focus yet, it is still a distant memory.

Hours go by and you’re still unable to move, your mind is working so hard at the puzzle that is your trauma. At this point what is real and not – is completely interlinked; woven together like a tapestry of war.

Finally you feel able to move, the world has invited you in and you feel, you can find your way there. You stick to muscle memory tasks, such as getting dressed, making a tea and sitting at your desk.

Unfortunately, your mind does not always recognise your consciousness in reality and “the real world”, so it flickers from flashbacks to memories of nightmares, interchanging as if someone had a remote control to your brain and was flicking through the channels of your life.

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

This has been my life for as long as I can remember; however it has grown darker again and is still growing with ferocity. Since becoming older and now in my 30’s, the space in my mind seems to be at capacity, which means when one cupboard or box is opened in my mind – things are now having to be squeezed tighter or rearranged, which in turn causes mess and a lack of new space for new experiences, emotions and eventually memories. Leaving me stuck in a hoarders prison – internally locked in. It is not that I wish to keep these memories or thoughts it is just they need to be processed, labeled and filed away.

Which is difficult when they are buried under years of self preservation.

Reliving trauma in therapy is my only solution, other than self destruction – which is ever so appealing. The temptation of setting fire to the mess that is my internal world seems enticing, a cathartic “fuck you” to the pain. Nevertheless my intentions are to stay in this mind until my husband dies ( which will hopefully be both of us in old age) as the thought of being without him is even more devastating than anything I have ever thought possible. This life is short as I have seen many times over, I promised myself I would spend this time understanding these illnesses which plague me day in and day out, as well as helping others who walk this tightrope of madness and sadness.

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

We will never forget what was done to us – you see. These abusers, predators and enablers, they caused so much of this. With their torture, subjectification, voyeurism, rape, incest, emotional battery and manipulation. Which begs me to ask, what do they carry with them after the fact? The best you can hope for is guilt; but this is not enough, this is not representative of what we suffer, the victims! They want pity, and sympathy for their affliction, which plays into further domination.

Reliving is a daily task, it does not end when I leave the therapy room, it does not silence the sounds of purgatory. It is in fact something those of us who have complex post traumatic stress disorder have been doing everyday and everynight since we were young.

My mind has been replaying reels of trauma – with added horror, as if my psyche wished to add special effects to my already terrifying past. Despite this, upon committing to reliving in a long term therapeutic setting and being at capacity – in my minds storage capabilities, the intensity rises further causing me to experience psychosis and physical pain.

The therapy I am having is a combination of psychodynamic, humanistic, psychoanalyticACT and CBT, this is known as integrative therapy as it uses elements from many therapies; integrative therapists take the view that there is no single approach that can treat each client in all situations. Each person needs to be considered as a whole and counselling techniques must be tailored to their individual needs and personal circumstances. 

This process is long and will be a continued managed activity of will power and a determination to use this experience as a way to contribute to the world. The idea is to turn myself, the victim into a survivor and then a thriver. These will never be whole states of mind, and knowing there will be bad days and good days and even relapses, but using the trauma to thrive even for 10 minutes is something worth committing to.

“It’s often said that a traumatic experience early in life marks a person forever, pulls her out of line, saying, “Stay there. Don’t move.”
Jeffrey Eugenides

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

Recovery is not a time period set out, it is a continued process until death. When I say I am in recovery, do not be confused and think “that’s good she will be recovered soon” this is not how it works. Recovery is about a continued focus and is an exhausting task to undertake daily, which means there will be days I can not do it or days when triggering events or stressful life experiences put the mind back into those frightful moments which we tried so hard to keep organised and tidy.

Let me ask you?

How do you recover from being sexually abused as a child?

How do you recover from sexual violence, rape, assault, stalking and being beaten as a teenager?

How do you recover from having two parents (who are severely mentally ill themselves) one abused you, abandoned you and does not love you at all, to the other who didn’t love you at birth and couldn’t attach to you and who emotionally abused you, kept leaving you with different people and whose constant fragility due to their illness consumed your life?

You don’t recover…

You hopefully survive and then spend your life recovering.

So this is me and where I am, I know I am not alone, I know you are suffering too out there, I know it is hard and you’re ready to quit! But I want you to know that you are not alone and that you need to take this slowly and realistically. Do not allow pressure from others and society; which make you conform. They do not have to live your life, you know the truth.

Living is hard.

But reliving is harder.

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

 

For a bit of history on the practices of therapy in regards to PTSD AND C-PTSD, please read on…

 

Since the re-emergence of recognition of severe trauma on human development and psychopathology in adults in the 1970s, Chu and Bowman observed there had been three generations of trauma treatment theory. The first generation of research and response began in the early 1980s and emphasized abreaction of traumatic experience in treatment. Abreaction originated from psychoanalytic traditions and describes the processes of acting out and expressing unconscious conflicts that, in itself, brings relief.

The second generation, from the late 1980s to early 1990s, developed clearer ideas of the effects of different types of trauma, for example, single incident, adult onset events such as car accidents compared with chronic, interpersonal trauma such as childhood abuse. PTSD described ongoing pathology including the former types of abuse, while complex PTSD described the latter. The global effects of complex trauma across the range of intrapsychic, relational, cognitive, and behavioral functions became a focus. This resulted in recognition of the benefits of employing a number of schools of therapy, and the elaboration of a three-stage model of therapy. This focused first on client safety and stabilization using techniques primarily from CBT, then on processing trauma memories where psychodynamic therapies were utilized, and finally on reconnecting with the wider social environment.9

The third generation, from the mid-1990s to 2000, witnessed the attack of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation (FMSF) on therapies focusing on childhood sexual abuse (CSA). The first response was to polarize views, but then it motivated research that refined assessments of trauma pathology including the effects of trauma on memory, and the etiology of adult trauma symptoms, and generally supported the effectiveness of therapy. The focus of therapy changed from uncovering more instances of trauma, to building a more coherent self-narrative.

If you have any comments or questions please fill in this form and I shall endeavour to get back to you as soon as I am able:

 

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Why is Severe Mental Illness left untreated in the NHS Mental Health Services

Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

The mental health system in the UK which is provided by the NHS is failing people like me everyday; so lets see why?

Here is what the NHS have to say about accessing mental health services in the UK:

Mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience is all about how we cope with what life throws at us. It concerns the way we feel about ourselves, conduct relationships, handle stress or deal with loss.

Good mental health and resilience are fundamental to good physical health, relationships, education and work, as well as being key to achieving our potential.

This is just an opening statement on the NHS website and already there are many issues:

  • The first sentence implies that mental illness is only from environmental factors around us such as “what life throws at us” and completely negates to say that mental illness can also be a neurological condition which is visible to us on MRI scans. So for people like myself who have C-PTSD, BPD and suffer from periods of psychosis or someone who has schizophrenia, bipolar-disorder, dissociative disorders and many more are left already feeling like this does not include us.
I Am Still Bleeding - By Charlotte Farhan
I Am Still Bleeding – By Charlotte Farhan
  • It goes on to say, that in order to maintain a good life: mental health, emotional wellbeing and resilience are paramount. When someone like me sees this, the complete lack of effort to include severe mental illness appears as if the NHS caters to an exclusive group which myself and others are not welcome in. Some mental illness is not “fixable” in that there is no cure and the assumption and misinformation is irresponsible and suggests that those with mental illness can be healed with a one size fits all solution.

 

 

  • For us with severe mental illness the world is very different , we do not have the privilege of those who suffer from situational depression and anxiety solely. The world expects and allows us as people to feel depressed after death, or anxious after a car crash and what ever else “life throws at you”.  This was not always the way, society has come leaps and bounds in the last 30 years to accept depression and anxiety in a mainstream way. This help is now widely available to the general public and society is more and more open to those who suffer from depression and anxiety as most people have had it or know someone who has. With celebrity faces, depictions in modern film, TV and literature as well as many charities and campaigns continuously running to educate the world about depression and anxiety, the world is still silent about those like myself still viewed as “crazy” or “psychotic”. Due to complex sever mental illness which are still only referenced in horror films, crime dramas, documentaries about “the criminally insane” murderers, news reports where “someone with a personality disorder has killed someone” or referenced as the go to insults for people displaying “weird” behaviours.
Art By Charlotte Farhan
Art By Charlotte Farhan

The NHS go on to say:

Less common conditions, such as psychosis, can make you experience changes in thinking and perception severe enough to significantly alter your experience of reality. These conditions include schizophrenia and affective psychosis, such as bipolar disorder, and can have the same lifelong impact as any long-term physical condition.

 

 

The issue here is that even within the severe mental illnesses there are some which will be focused on above so many others. With an over emphasis on  Bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and a general reference to psychosis. There is no mention of the most common of these disorders; C-PTSD or PTSD, there is no mention of personality disorders, dissociative disorders or to the disorders which have psychosis as a symptom. It is as if the world is not prepared to let go of the label “crazy” and still needs some of us to be under this stigmatising label so that we can be scapegoated as the deranged creatures of nightmares so that fingers can be pointed and there is a face to the monster.

This next paragraph from the NHS is misleading:

Mental illness is treatable and, with appropriate support and treatment, people do recover. Many move on with their lives and are able to care for their family, contribute to the local community, and get back into employment or training.

Vulnerability - By Charlotte Farhan
Vulnerability – By Charlotte Farhan

The sweeping statement that “mental illness is treatable” is an insult to many, it should instead read ” some mental illness can be treatable and severe mental illness is manageable with continued support and treatment”. This goes back to the generalised view that depression and anxiety are the only illnesses affecting the masses and that people can only have mental illness which is subject to your own psychological resilience.

Also some with severe mental illness like myself have symptoms from our illnesses which are depression and anxiety, so you will be offered in the NHS to have these treated rather than the severe illness which caused the symptoms of depression and anxiety. for example, I have C-PTSD, BPD and psychotic depression and due to these severe illnesses I have other illnesses which are symptoms of these, such as: GAD, agoraphobia, OCD, Adult ADHD and BDD.

And then lastly the NHS tell you what is needed but only provide one option in reality:

But this may not always be a straightforward journey. Many people only need a short course of psychological therapy or six months of medication, while others will need much more support and intensive treatment, be it medication or extended therapy.

The issue with this paragraph is again how the less complex and severe your illness is the more you are taken care of. Most people will only need a short course of medication and some focused counselling like 6 weeks of CBT if they suffer from anxiety and depression if caused by general life’s ups and downs, they may then need this again and it will be available to them throughout their lives.

Neurosis and Psychosis - By Charlotte Farhan
Neurosis and Psychosis – By Charlotte Farhan

However when it brushes us “the complex cases” under the carpet with the statement “while others will need much more support and treatment” this makes me very angry. As they imply they “the NHS” will provide this for us, but in fact this is NOT the case as all. You will be offered drug treatment of archaic psychotropic drugs, you will be offered short term therapy (6 weeks) and then once you have had this treatment you can not re-apply for treatment until after 6 months. So if you are not “cured” after 6 weeks, tough luck! Which as you have read is impossible for complex and severe mental illnesses.

There is no after care, the emergency lines (crisis support) they allow you to have whilst in treatment are then closed to you, (not that they answered when you were allowed to call them). Finally the pièce de résistance is that you will be told (like I have been told 3 times over the last 21 years) with no uncertain terms that “there is nothing we (the NHS) can do for you now, sorry”.

Agoraphobia - By Charlotte Farhan
Agoraphobia – By Charlotte Farhan

The devastation that is felt by people like me, who are unable to be part of society due to our mental illnesses due the stigma attached to us, is so overwhelming that in most cases it leads to a relapse and more often than not self-injury, suicide attempts or death. When this last happened to me last year, I suffered a further breakdown and relapse, this meant I did not take care of myself for over 6 months resulting in more ill health. If I did not have a husband who takes care of me when ill, I would have died. So what about all of those alone? What about my husband who has to deal with this on his own?

Now I ask you, is the mental health system working effectively?

Source: http://www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/AboutNHSservices/mental-health-services-explained/Pages/accessing%20services.aspx#

Next time I shall be sharing my timeline of treatment within the NHS from age eleven to now. So follow my blog to keep up to date on my future posts.

 

My colleague from ART SAVES LIVES INTERNATIONAL and dear friend Jade Bryant is also exploring the NHS and its failings within the Mental Health System, please follow this link to read more and get involved by sharing your stories.

Attitudes Of The Mental Health System – By Jade Bryant 

 

Find more art from Jade; HERE

This is the beginning stages of a campaign which ASLI (our non -profit) will be running in the near future. We hope to elevate our voices and others and then we hope to take this to the government; to bring about change as well as running workshops and programs which will aim to engage better understanding within communities, so that people like myself and Jade and so many others can be included properly in society which will inturn help us with our mental health.

Thank you for your time.

Pain and Detachment - By Charlotte Farhan
Pain and Detachment – By Charlotte Farhan

If you have anything to say on this subject, or your own story please get in touch via this contact form:

 

How I long to walk carefree in the rain – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

This painting and poem is inspired by the feelings and emotions which are experienced whilst suffering from agoraphobia.

How I long to walk carefree in the rain - By Charlotte Farhan
How I long to walk carefree in the rain – By Charlotte Farhan

 

How I long to walk carefree in the rain – By Charlotte Farhan

 

There are days when all I want is rain

the cathartic washing of the soul

with every droplet easing my pain

lost, I continue in this black hole.

Staring from my imprisoned windowpane

I imagine myself taking a stroll

allowing the wet the chance to explain

why the sudden downpour, makes me feel whole.

Walking obliviously again

my mind becomes a rapid sinkhole

thoughts collide escaping the membrane

like rocks passing through a buttonhole.

Looking outside with a sense of disdain

feelings of insanity take control

the need to escape taps at me again

my umbrella is left without a role.

How I long to walk carefree in the rain.


How I long to walk carefree in the rain - By Charlotte Farhan
How I long to walk carefree in the rain – By Charlotte Farhan

If you have any questions about my work please use this contact form:

 

The Able in This Diverse Universe writing competition – focusing on ableism, disability, access and overcoming.

 

I am so honoured to be one of the Judges for the Able in This Diverse Universe writing competition alongside Karrie Higgins, Professor Dr. Kwame Brown and Jacqueline Cioffa.

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Find out about the other judges of this very important competition by clicking the link: Meet the Judges for Able in This Diverse Universe

Able in This Diverse Universe Essay Competition

So how and what is this all about?

“Established essayist and word-mage Karrie Higgins invites you to participate in a nonfiction writing competition on the themes of ableism, disability, access and overcoming. All submissions fees benefit the training and care of Noah Ainslie’s future Autism service dog, Appa. This competition will also serve to raise awareness of invisible illness and ableist bias.

Noah’s neurodiversity often manifests as sensory overwhelm. He has been learning coping mechanisms for six years, but still visibly struggles when it comes to conforming to neurotypical standards. He is high function on the spectrum which means he doesn’t “look like” he’s disabled. He is subjected to ableist expectations, often very aggressively and in public.

With Appa’s help, Noah will have access to the public spaces his anxiety prevents him from entering. More importantly, Noah will have a companion who loves him for who he is and does not judge his inability to conform to ableist public standards. To learn more about Noah, visit his GoFundMe page.”

Thank you from Appa and Noah.
Thank you from Appa and Noah.

Follow this link to enter the competition:

https://honeyquill.submittable.com/submit/50077

To enter this competition, please use the following guidelines for all submissions.Your work should be:

  • nonfiction
  • no more than 2,000 words
  • in PDF or docx format
  • without identifying information in your document as judging will be blind 

All entries are require a $15 submission fee which will directly benefit Noah and Appa. You are welcome to enter as many times as you want.

This competition will run from December , 2015 – February 29, 2016. Winners will be notified March 31, 2016.

The winning essayists will receive $250 cash, and publication on Karrie’s website, A True Testimony. Second and third place winners will also receive awards. 

Four Paws for Noah
Four Paws for Noah

Please get involved with this!

You can:

enter the competition

donate to the GoFundMe page

share this with friends and family via social media or email

This is such an important cause and the issues we are asking you to address, affect so many, including myself.

I am also in the process of getting a service dog for my agoraphobia and PTSD.

I live in an able world where I too have been rejected and expected to “fit in” or expected to accept defeat, so please for people such as myself and Noah, support this with an open heart and mind.

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Thank you for reading xxx

 

I Ripped out my Heart – By Charlotte Farhan – Art and Poetry

I Ripped out my Heart – By Charlotte Farhan

 

I Ripped out my Heart - By Charlotte Farhan
I Ripped out my Heart – By Charlotte Farhan

I couldn’t feel anything today,

not one feeling was felt,

shadows of the world like ghosts,

haunted memories locked in,

set to continuously replay.

Desolation in my mind created an echoing sound,

my thoughts rattled in my head like pennies in a box,

my emotions running like deer on a hunting ground.

I slowly began to itch the itch,

the one burrowing into my thorax,

the one which seemed neverending like a bottomless ditch.

Ripping into my torso,

hacking at my ribs as if they were a rotten enclosure.

I started to pick away at my flesh,

trying to get to the prickling feeling deep inside,

pulling up my lungs as if they were a bloody mesh.

My chest felt tight and the constrictions of my rib cage felt like a prison,

All my thoughts turned to the release I would feel if I just reached inside,

my blood is beautifully glistening the purest crimson.

Soon I heard it,

the deep thumping of my heart,

burrowing deeper my hand suddenly felt it,

pulsating in my grip.

The feeling is like none experienced before,

the more I squeezed the better it felt,

as if I were the captor and it my prisoner of war.

Wanting to never lose this awareness of self,

never wanting to abandon my own heart,

like so many had done before,

debasing me and tearing me apart.

I started to slowly haul it out of my cavity,

the ripping was glorious,

the pain was euphoric,

lost in depravity.

Eventually I was left with my heart in my hand,

as it beat its last beat,

the emptiness returned and the emotions stopped,

holding my heart closer,

I began to deplete.

Just me and my heart,

together at last,

no longer spare parts.

Never letting it go,

never losing my grip,

seeing myself lying below,

the nothingness began again,

the waves of time smashed me into unconsciousness,

I became an abandoned ship.

Agoraphobia - By Charlotte Farhan
From the painting Agoraphobia – By Charlotte Farhan

If you are interested in these artworks for your collection, for an exhibition or would like to buy a print, please use the form below: