Open Letter: To The Mental Health Services England (NHS)

Dear Mental Health Services England (NHS)

I am writing to you as I have lost the will to fight for my life and am using my last amount of strength to share my desperate situation with you.

I suffer from: complex post traumatic stress disorder, borderline personality disorder, psychotic depression, generalised anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, obsessive compulsive disorder, body dysmorphic disorder, adult attention deficit disorder, diabetes, polycystic ovarian syndrome, arthritis and chronic erythema nodosum.  

For the past 9 months or so I have been left untreated and unsupported by my GP surgery – which is Baffins Surgery Portsmouth and Solent NHS Trust as well as other departments. I used to have a family member who was able to take me to the many medical appointments a person like myself has, but unfortunately I no longer have this family member in my life and since then have been unable to access any care, appointments and clinics. This is because the NHS does not deem people like myself (mentally ill) to be housebound – even when they have conditions which specifically challenge their freedom to leave the house, to interact with people, to use the phone and lead independent lives. This is discrimination and against my human rights to access care.

I have asked my GP and Solent NHS Trust to help me again and again, it is not until I tweeted them in crisis (I am having a breakdown) that they have responded, and still now they keep offering me appointments which I can not get to.

 

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Due to my conditions (which my surgery is well aware of as I have been in the mental health services since I was 12) I am unable to leave the house on my own (I have not done so for 10 years), a lot of the time I can not leave the house at all, I can not use the phone to call out or receive calls due to my disorders, my husband is my only family and he works during my GP’s surgery hours for appointments and telephone calls. When accompanied outside by a safe person,  I can not order my own food, ask strangers for help or cross the road on my own. As well as this I experience sensory overload when outside, loud noises cause me physical pain, I am on high alert and most of the time can only deal with basic communication.

I have been told that people with mental illness can not qualify as being housebound, even though my conditions cause me to be this way, I was told there is nothing that can be done!

I do NOT accept this!

I need the Solent NHS Trust to help me so I can have the same human rights to care as others
.
I need a support worker to take me to all my medical appointments as well as the need for home visits from my GP for when I am unable to leave the house at all.

Since this happened I have been unable to continue my diabetic treatments, clinics and check ups as my surgery will not do home visits and all blood test clinics are in the morning when my husband is not available. So my diabetes could be getting worse I would have no way of knowing, until too late.

I am also unable to have fertility treatment as I am unable to get the help I need to qualify as I have PCOS and am now infertile.

I have something called chronic erythema nodosum which needs to be checked often to make sure I do not have any other illnesses associated with it.

I have arthritis and it is getting worse I need help as sometimes I can not move due to the sever pain in my ankles, knees and wrists, I now have a walking cane.

As for my mental health, well this is the area I have been failed in since I was first in the adolescent mental health services at 12. I have endured mistreatment from many practitioners, including victim blaming, sexual assault in a psychiatric facility at 15, by two male in patients, I have been told I am “too intelligent” to receive care, “too high functioning” and I have been stigmatised for having borderline personality disorder by many practitioners who have deemed me manipulative or attention seeking, when in fact I was in crisis. I have been left with no help or they have tried to section me, there is no in between. I was put on anti-psychotics at 15 years old and was like a zombie for most of my late teens and early twenties. I have been offered treatments which I can not get to, or things which would cause my other conditions to be triggered. I have had no treatment for my C-PTSD except for a un-completed 6 week session of reliving therapy (as my therapist left) which has left me open and more unwell than before, causing my psychotic depression to flair up and experience psychosis regularly. I was put on anti-anxiety medication as I have so many anxiety disorders and then due to not being able to be seen by a GP, the surgery put my medication up for review even though I could not attend an appointment, which meant my medication was stopped abruptly, giving me side affects to withdrawal – which has left me in constant fight or flight and suicidal. These conditions are chronic and serious and cause me to lead a very limited life.

I only have this energy because I decided to give this one last go – one last fight – before I give up. My husband has to deal with this on his own, he is terrified of what will happen to me, where is his support also?

I have been a victim to so much in my life, I suffered neglect and child abuse, a violent rape at 15, and being sexually assaulted by two male in-patients on separate occasions within the NHS Woodside psychiatric adolescent unit in Epsom in 1999 and these are just the worst events, I have suffered much more. But I survived these ordeals even though I am affected by them every day, especially living with C-PTSD, however I survived, all I ask is the chance to live, to have basic human rights, that the duty of care you have is observed when treating me and that I am not left to die!

I also know I am not alone, there are so many of us that are being failed and left to die, you don’t hear them because they have no voice, I also stand for them as I too have been silenced by this ableism, this marginalisation, this stigma and appalling treatment. The only reason I am able to fight is because I have a platform, so I am screaming as loud as I can with the hope you will hear me and help me, and furthermore with the hope you do not continue this lack of care with others, even though I am sure this will not change anything, maybe it will break the silence.

“…if you are ill or injured, there will be a national health service there to help; and access to it will be based on need and need alone – not on your ability to pay, or on who your GP happens to be or on where you live.” – The New NHS: Modern, Dependable – Government White Paper, December 1997.

“If the right to health is considered as a fundamental human right, significant differences in access to health care and the health status of individuals must be seen as violations of the principle of equality” – Implications of a Right to Health – Virginia A. Leary, 1993.

For more information: The Human Rights Act 1998 and Access to NHS Treatments and Services: A Practical Guide


HERE IS HOW YOU CAN HELP ME!

  • Firstly share this open letter with anyone and everyone.
  • I need the Solent NHS Trust to help me so I can have the same human rights to care as others. So here is what I need – send them this open letter:
  • Or email them: communications@solent.nhs.uk
  • Someone will be creating a petition for me too, so I shall add this to the post when it is up and running.
  • I am also writing an official complaint to the NHS.
  • If you have a similar story to this or have anything you wish to add, I would love to hear from you, please fill in this form:


I am running out of steam, I am using every last bit of energy I have to fight for my life, this is the best I could do and is not a comprehensive detailed reflection of the abuse, stigma and human rights violations I have suffered from the NHS as a whole.
All I ask is you HEAR ME, BELIEVE ME and do this for me, for us.
Thank you xxxxx

 

Charlotte Farhan - Open letter to NHS

Being Disabled in an Able Constructed World

Since opening my eyes to the injustices I face on a daily basis and deciding to speak out, stand up and create change, it has been a rude awakening with an upward struggle of epic proportions.

When you realise the discrimination which is faced by people like yourself, who have disabilities it is daunting to imagine ever overcoming the stigma. The world is slowly becoming more aware of the struggles many different people face with the accessibility to people’s lives through the internet allowing for us to see the most vulnerable amongst us as well as the most privileged. This revolution of information is empowering to certain minority groups and marginalised people, allowing us to have a voice and a platform to discuss things which have never truly been heard – on a mass scale.

There is still a massive issue with how people see disabilities and chronic illness, especially those which are “unseen”, such as mental illnesses, neurological conditions, autoimmune diseases, heart disease, diabetes, dementia, and even cancer, the list goes on…

The term invisible illness refers to any medical condition that is not outwardly visible to others, even healthcare professionals. An individual with a disability is a person who: Has a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; has a record of such an impairment; or is regarded as having such an impairment.

For those who do not know, I have been diagnosed and living with disabilities most of my life, they are all “invisible”, even if not to me.

Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Psychotic Depression, Borderline Personality Disorder, Agoraphobia, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Attention Deficit Disorder, Depersonalisation, Derealisation,  Body Dysmorphic Disorder, Autism, Diabetes, Chronic Erythema NodosumRheumatoid arthritisPolycystic ovary syndrome.

With such a long list of chronic illnesses and disabilities, I am considered complex and have as a consequence been treated as difficult or been left to fall through the cracks of the system, not fitting into a single box to receive medical care.

Due to this “able” world we live in – I can’t even access medical care as the NHS in England does not recognise my disabilities as housebound? Even though I have not been outside, alone, for over 9 years, and sometimes can’t leave my home even when assisted, meaning at this present time (as I have no way of getting to the doctors when they are open even if I was able to go out assisted) I have NO medical care whatsoever; my medication is up for review and because of my lack of access to the services, to get reviewed I am without any medication also.

Now tell me how a person like myself is to feel?

The strongest feelings which sore through me are that of being left to die, abandoned once again, rejected by the world, by society. Being considered “high functioning” is a joke when all this apparently translates to is that of knowing my rights and being aware of my own mistreatment; as it certainly does not mean I can “function”.

Friends and family often forget about these “invisible” disabilities, asking you to go places you can’t, or not making any effort in including you in plans as they assume there is no way for you to be accommodated. Being spoken about as if you were a child and unable to make your own choices on what is best for you. An enormous pet peeve of mine is being told:

“You seem fine”

“You seem better today”

“You seem so relaxed and calm”

Unfortunately these well meant sentiments are damaging, pushing us back down, or inwardly; left feeling even more misunderstood or under the microscope. Often the reality is you are NOT fine, relaxed or calm, it is just you have adapted your behaviour as best you can to not alienate yourself, or that the symptoms you have are internal and there is no way anyone would ever “see” them, however this does not mean they are not there. As for “you seem better today”, well this one is by far the most stigmatising and leads to the most misunderstandings.

So take note able people – yes, we have some good minutes, hours, days, weeks and some even have years, this does not mean we are “cured” or that we are “better”, it just means like everyone else we fluctuate in moods, hormones; and that life can treat us well or bad which can alleviate or compound our issues. This need of yours to tell us we are “looking better” may be well meaning but it is truly just a way for your privilege to further separate us, it is as though you felt happier that our disabilities are quiet and not present to you at that moment, making you assume you can tell us how we feel or what you hope us to feel. You do not do this because you wish to be unkind, in fact the motivation seems to be the opposite, however the affect these simple words jumbled into a sentences causes, is unimaginable to those who have not experienced this existence.

In order to “cope” or seem like I am “coping” sedation with drugs, such as painkillers or cannabis, allow me to shut down most of my thoughts and concentrate on being present with my friends and family for short periods of time which means being on a unrealistic high around most people, confusing the situation more, as you are never truly yourself. Many people like myself take drugs for pain relief or some kind of mind altering substance in order to “function” as best they can in company. Through societal pressures to conform, we do this more for you; the able ones. Many of us learn early on how we are received when we are “out there” with our disabilities on show – as much as you can when they are unseen. After being told we are attention seekers, drama queens, liabilities, hand-fulls, trouble, a worry, or after just losing people as they up and leave because you are “too hard work”; this is when the survival skills kick in, conformity becomes your best defence, until you are unable to maintain the facade and become the reclusive “weirdo” society deemed you to be all along.

There are so many things to discuss with regards to being in an able dominated world, with everyone’s story being different. These are my musings on the subject at this present time, with the hope to add more to this discussion. Since being rejected and my civil liberties being taken from me I have been awoken, my only chance to survive is to change this, is to stand up and scream at the top of my lungs;

“I will not go silently, you can’t erase me, I have rights and I shall be heard”

For all those who call me: “a victim who wears her disabilities as a badge of honour”  you seem to be confused?

The way to survive after being a victim, marginalised, discriminated against and continuously pushed down is to play to your strengths and extend your hand to those who can not even do this, there is no shame in having been a victim or even if you are right now. Victim is NOT a dirty word! Chances are if you are a “victim” it means you have survived – you have faced something which unless experienced by others they will not understand, all experiences are unique and can be hard to understand even when you have the same disabilities – however checking your able privilege is not difficult it just means you must place your ego to one side and accept another humans experience.

Even though my fight may not always be as strong each day, as some days feeling defeated is all that can be felt, just breathing is too much to bear. The commitment inside me to this is my purpose for existing. Not being able to have children, with no blood family; this is my legacy, my nurturing, me giving of myself as selflessly as possible. This is my art, my activism, this is my life and not a “trend” or “fad” for you to disagree with.


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Ableism: when educating people on their own struggles is harmful

Ableism
This is not my usual post and contemplated not writing this at all, however the urge kept coming back and the reason for this was simple, I had been silenced and needed to be heard. Before I begin this is in no way a post to shame anyone, it is to highlight an issue which many do not take seriously as they are privileged in not experiencing the persecutions and discrimination that people such as myself have to endure most days.
There is this woman, called Laura who has a popular blog called Skinny And Single and she often writes day to day stuff. Her tag line is already problematic as it states:
 “Single and Over 40 and Not Suicidal About It”
Recently when reading her posts, which has been over the last few month I noticed her use of certain language, which was stigmatising towards mentally ill people and people with disabilities – as well as finding her writing exceptionally privileged, with little care for who she judges, belittles or creates further stigma for. Under the disguise of humour, with the attitude of “well it’s all OK if I didn’t really mean it” kind-a-thing. With a get out clause which seems to be a very “in” thing to do at the moment, which is to state, “I am just being honest or real” as if this were a license to cause harm wherever one wishes.
ableist bingo
After her most recent post “Seven People That Need Punched In The Crotch ” I decided to un-follow her blog and social media sites as I just didn’t like her style, judgement and writing, having tried to see the funny side but failing as her use of what she calls “satire” is not my understanding of it. Being French/British – in both my countries we relish in satirical humour which is a great way to poke fun at current affairs, it is by definition:
The use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people’s stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporarypolitics and other topicalissues.
In England and France we use this humour to expose and ridicule the elites, those in power and the upper classes, and now celebrities; it is rarely used against people from minority groups. This is why when I saw her blog posts in our online community of #LinkYourLife I gave them a read before coming to these conclusions. This is what led me to contact her with my feedback as a mentally ill person, in a calm way – to maybe highlight something which she may not have realised was even in her writing.
I tweeted her and told her in a playful way:
“I am glad I am in the UK so you can’t punch me in the crotch”
thinking this would be a nice way to address the issue, trying to be humorous was my attempt at connecting on a level (especially on twitter with so few characters). The tweet didn’t really get me anywhere so thought to myself:
“just be direct Charlotte”
tweeting her again and telling her that she had used stigmatising language and I referenced her latest blog post and the last sentence; which needed addressing, where she stated:
“I am not a crack pot either. I am a regular woman,”
which was in reference to not being a feminist.
You can disagree with feminism all you wish, but the use of the word crackpot just left me feeling stigmatised, for I have been referred to as crackpot, and have been pushed down by so many with these kinds of words – ringing in my ears.
Ableism
In response to this she became very defensive and told me outright that this was not the case, she even had a friend join in who writes a blog on her issues with bipolar disorder, (someone who I thought would at least let me speak), but they both decided to educate me on how this language was not stigmatisation and that in fact, Laura does a lot to help people with mental illness.
Not me – but others.
This was very silencing for me – an actual mentally ill person, who has sever mental illness and has had this since being a child, I know first hand what discrimination against the mentally ill can feel like, having to fight for almost every right I have, and still my civil rights are very limited, with no earning privileges or work opportunities, no medical health care due to austerity in the UK and there not being the services, having to fight my way through education to get the same chance as other students, and these are just a few examples.
Laura, decided to bombard me with questions and was pressuring me to tell her exactly what it was she was doing wrong, the tweets felt like someone knocking loudly on my skull, I couldn’t think and twitter wanted me to write it to her in so few characters, the pressure mounted so high that I experienced sensory overload and had to lay down, before leaving my laptop, I tweeted her to say this had happened and that I would do my best to reply to her as quickly as possible.
Feeling so defeated by this I left it for a week before trying to respond to Laura with my rebuttal to her questions and stance. The following Friday the same post of hers came up in my news feed and reminded me that I had not replied to her and needed to. I tweeted her and explained my position.
She tweeted back:
“I don’t care and I feel sorry for you”
Wow! This hurt so much, I could feel the tears rising in my eyes and my throat got tight, my thoughts started racing and the anxiety hit me like a ton of bricks. Laura then decided to tell me that I did not know what ableism was?
She even sent me a handy Wikipedia link, this was devastating, again it was like she was reaching inside my throat and ripping out my vocal cords as she took my disabilities and used them to prop herself up and exert her privilege over me even more.
This woman does not know me, or what I suffer from, which are both physical and mental disabilities, as I have mobility issues as well as my mental health and neurological issues. This may have been an attempt to make me look stupid, as she had clearly just googled “ableism” and thought in this quick search that she knew all there was to know about the community of people including myself – fighting everyday to have our rights taken seriously and for the abusive language which has kept us as an under class in society for hundreds of years – to stop, making us untrustworthy, unemployable and so many more things which of course are not true and just discrimination.
including-kids-and-teens-with-mental-illness-in-the-church-and-community-7-638
Ableism was first a movement for people who were discriminated against by able-people, this was just a “physical” thing at first, however as the community grew and became more aware of the discrimination people with mental illness and neurological conditions faced, the movement merged with what was known as sanism, so that there was no difference made between physical and mental as we try and educate people that mental/neurological, is also physical as it causes so many physical problems for its sufferers. With more and more research being done within these fields, we now know that physical differences can be seen in peoples brains who have mental illness as well as certain conditions such as PTSD (which I have) can cause physical pain, and is considered neurological damage.
This is why when she tried to educate me on my own discrimination it felt so isolating and cruel. There is no hate for Laura and her blog, all I wish she could have done is taken a moment to listen to me, understand where I was coming from and possibly check her own privilege over the matter.
Never would I tell someone to not post something, but rather to think before posting, and if you don’t care about upsetting the cause then own this too. Don’t pretend to be a champion for us when you stigmatise us with your own language.
All I had to do was un-follow and move on, however before moving on, my voice had to be heard and my cause had to be fought.
The last comments before she blocked me were that she felt sorry for me. Another terrible thing to say to someone with disabilities, in no way do I need anyone to feel sorry for me, especially when it is said with disdain.
All I and others want in our community is less discrimination, stigma, marginalisation and the chance to be the voice of our own lives.

As an example let us dissect what “crackpot” actually means and how it has been used against the mentally ill and those with neurological damage and injury.

‘crackpot’ is a shortened form of ‘cracked-pot’, which splits into its constituent parts, cracked and pot.

Cracked:

Cracked is itself a shortening of ‘brain-cracked’ (or cracked-brained’). ‘Cracked’ simply meant ‘impaired’; ‘faulty’. Both of these terms were current in the 17th century. For instance:

In John Canne’s A Necessity of Separation from the Church of England, 1634, we find:

If Mr. Bradshaw had found such a reason in Mr, Johnson’s writing, he would surely have called idle head, cracked-brained, fool etc.

Pot:

In the Middle Ages, ‘pot’ was used to mean ‘skull’ or ‘head’; for example, this piece from Guy de Chauliac’s translation of Grande Chirurgie, circa 1425:

Ye pot of ye heued

So, a ‘cracked pot’ was a ‘faulty head’ and crackpot is synonymous with our more recent terms ‘numbskull’, ‘blockhead’, ‘brain-dead’ etc.


Further Reading:

Here is some further information on the continued discrimination of the mentally ill depicted and perpetuated trough media:

 These key facts and statistics about mental health problems can help to challenge the myths that can contribute to the stigma that many people still face.

http://www.time-to-change.org.uk/mental-health-statistics-facts

And here is a great list of things which need to change and I suggest anyone who is unfamiliar with this movement and issue read this too:

https://mic.com/articles/121653/6-forms-of-ableism-we-need-to-retire-immediately#.LB7ZlAV1C

Upworthy-MEME

Waking up from Terror to Panic – PTSD Awake and Asleep

Art by Charlotte Farhan
Art by Charlotte Farhan

Waking up this morning was a torturous affair, opening my eyes, feeling that sensation in my stomach, the one that feels as if you dropped off the earth but your body is still looking over the edge waving you goodbye. It feels like sinking in pain – as if pain was quick sand, if I did not know better I would say someone had opened me up in an operating theatre, during my sleep and rearranged my internal organs and sewed me back up.

Laying there with only feelings not thoughts, no rational thinking commencing in this lucid state. However the pain is reminding my brain of other hurt, other ordeals. Like a back catalogue of torture, my mind runs through a long list, flashing images in front of me, in an attempt to condition me or subliminally coerce me. Then with no warning, I am awake! My fight or flight has been triggered, blood is rushing from my head to my extremities, preparing me to run away. There is no where to run, no where for me to escape this danger, for the danger only exists in my brain, my own neurology is basically trying to run me out of town.

Peoples opinions and past criticisms enter my stream of thought, “It’s all in your head”. I chuckle maniacally to myself and say repeatedly “Yes, it is indeed in my head”. The idea that this is said to us, the mentally ill, the neuro-divergent, is laughable to me at this moment. As if our species has taught itself that the head/brain/mind are not part of us, not part of our physical selves or bodies. We never say to a “physically” disabled person, its all in your legs/arms etc.  All the while my brain is trying to desperately stay in the moment and ponder on the complexities of people’s lack of understanding for anything related to the unseen, our illnesses are less believable than Father Christmas, fairies, lizard people and the all powerful dude sat above us and the evil one living down in the depths of hell, but mental illness is utterly unbelievable without being in a straight jacket throwing yourself into walls, dribbling and wanting to kill people – because of course it is perfectly believable that the mentally ill are criminals.

My body is still preparing itself for battle. The pins and needles in my arms and legs are going crazy, there seems to be no blood left above my heart. My mouth becomes very dry and then my need to vomit takes over, as apparently the sickness is trying to escape me. The blurred vision begins, bringing with it more panic – I am certain I am about to die. With my breath getting quicker and my body perspiring at a scary level, the only option is to lay on the floor and accept my fate.

With no ability to leave the house, on my own – my only choice is to call someone, something I can only do with a few people. So with my double vision, tapping away at my keypad, the ring tone begins…

“Lisa?? I am dying! I can’t do this anymore, I am sure I am going to die alone here”, the uncontrollable need for safety and reassurance is like someone giving me oxygen, I hear Lisa’s voice, she knows how this feels, so I do not need to explain. Lisa try’s to distract me and get my brain out of the immediate fight or flight state that I am in, trying to focus my attention outside of myself, so that every sensation that is felt is not interpreted as a sign of dying. Eventually she gets me from the bathroom to my living room, all I can do is sedate myself now, lay in my chair and hope to sleep.

Before long sleep takes over, my parallel world opens up, a world created from old buildings which are derelict shells, past homes, schools and locations where trauma was created. There is no day or time here, no summer and no order. It is grey with darkness lurking everywhere, like every horror film ever watched muddled up with my own life events. Old faces appear behind corners and in the darkness, natural disasters erupt on a frequent rotation, buildings collapse without warning, stair cases and corridors never end, fluorescent lights flicker, music plays in the distance – songs played as soundtracks to the violence endured, smells are vivid with scents of perfumes and aftershaves by the oppressive abusers. This is where I come to rest. This – the place my mind rebuilds and orchestrates every night, a haunting performance of memories and trauma.

Sometimes the only thing my brain conjures up are flash-backs, which can be on repeat for what feels like an entire life time. The brain is able to retrieve the most long forgotten detail and with a force of pure malevolence this detail is forced down your gullet like an over-fed goose. Chocking on the terror and the overwhelming taste of bitterness, my eyes often feel pulled open, when in fact they are closed – being forced to face the shame. Upon awaking from this, the particular detail is seared into my conscious mind and begins infecting my hippocampus and amygdala, whilst poisoning my thalamus and hypothalamus, and the sickness spreads to my peripheral cortex and temporal cortex. Soon I start to feel physical pain in the places most violated, there is no time to slowly open my eyes, stretch and ponder my day, the alarm has been raised, high alert is here and my day begins again as it ends.

Here are some facts about Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, brain damage and sleep:

“When patients re-experience traumatic events and flashbacks during sleep, these nightmares can be accompanied by real physical reactions to feelings of fear, such as a pounding heart and sweating. The re-experience can occur at random or might be triggered by sights, sounds, or smells that remind the person of the trauma. Therefore, patients suffering from PTSD often try to avoid objects, places, events, or even emotions that trigger memories of the traumatic event.

In addition to nightmares, people with PTSD can manifest a state of hyperarousal, in which the individual is subconsciously “on guard” to protect himself, and as a result feels anxious, has difficulty falling asleep, is irritable, suffers emotional outbursts, or is easily startled.”

(  https://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/ptsd-and-sleep )

“Psychological trauma has great effects on physical aspects of patients’ brains, to the point that it can have detrimental effects akin to actual physical brain damage. The hippocampus, as mentioned above, is involved in the transference of short-term memories to long-term memories and it is especially sensitive to stress. Stress causes glucocorticoids (GCs), adrenal hormones, to be secreted and sustained exposure to these hormones can cause neural degeneration. The hippocampus is a principal target site for GCs and therefore experiences a severity of neuronal damage that other areas of the brain do not. In severe trauma patients, especially those with post-traumatic stress disorder, the medial prefrontal cortex is volumetrically smaller in size than normal and is hyporesponsive when performing cognitive tasks, which could be a cause of involuntary recollection (intrusive thoughts). The medial prefrontal cortex controls emotional responsiveness and conditioned fear responses to fear-inducing stimuli by interacting with the amygdala. In those cases, the metabolism in some parts of the medial prefrontal cortex didn’t activate as they were supposed to when compared to those of a healthy subject.”

Tarara, R., Else, J.G., Suleman, M.A., Sapolsky, R.M. (1989). Hippocampal damage associated with prolonged and fatal stress in primates. J Neurosci 9:1705-1711.

McNally, Richard J. (2006) Trends in Cognitive Science, Volume 10, Issue 6: Cognitive Abnormalities in Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. P271-277)

 

Amadeus the Poodle with a Purpose and his First Week – Psychiatric Assistance Dog

As you may be aware in the recent months a campaign has been launched for me to have a psychiatric assistance dog through GoFundMe.

Well on the 21st of May 2016 we finally went and got our puppy Amadeus, a standard black male poodle.

Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog

However…

We are still fundraising as Amadeus needs lots more stuff!

  • pet gates and pens for safety
  • specific training
  • pet passport
  • neutering
  • car safety equipment
  • agility toys
  • leads and harnesses
  • psychiatric assistance dog vest and badge
  • training toys
  • food and treats
  • dog clicker
  • dog whistle
  • grooming

Our target is £2000 we have raised £825 which has paid for Amadeus himself, his starter essentials such as toys, food etc. his jabs, chip and crate.

So if you would like to donate please follow this link:

https://www.gofundme.com/PsychiatricDogFund


This is our first week together…

Here is Amadeus in the car on our way home after picking him up from the breeders.

Charlotte Farhan and Amadeus
Charlotte Farhan and Amadeus

First real cuddles with Amadeus xxx

Amadeus and his favourite cuddly toy, Blue
Amadeus and his favourite cuddly toy, Blue
Amadeus
Amadeus learning about his surroundings

 

He is not much of a barking dog but he loves to say hello…

 

Amadeus and Mohammed love their sleep…

 

Logan our Bengal cat loves puppies and has been taking his time to get closer to Amadeus, they love to play fight and roll around.

 

Our other cats Omar and Isabella are teaching him boundaries – not his biggest fans!

Omar is the alpha and Isabella the Beta in our pride/pack, obviously Mohammed and I are the Alpha pair that sit right at the top.

 

Amadeus on a two hour road trip
Amadeus on a two hour road trip

We went on a car journey and then went to visit Amadeus’s God Mother and trainer Bex Smith. Amadeus and Bex got to know one another and he loved the garden.

 

Bonding with his trainer is very important!

Mohammed (Daddy) is having some play time with our little dude.

 

Amadeus also met two other cats at his God Mothers house, Toulouse and Twigglet.

And last but not least before we went to see my two little surrogate nephews on Sunday we gave Amadeus his first bath/shower so he was all clean for his first visit.

Amadeus and Charlotte
Amadeus and Charlotte

If you would like to find out more about my disabilities, illnesses and neurodiversity then please follow this link —–> HERE

And read my survivor story —–> HERE

Also please check out Bex Smith’s (Amadeus’s trainer)

website and blog —-> HERE

 

GO FUND ME - Charlotte Farhan

 

 

Mental Health Awareness Month: Donate to get an original piece of art by Charlotte Farhan

As you may already be aware a close friend of mine Lisa Reeve, has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money for me to get a psychiatric assistance dog as I have not been able to leave the house on my own for over 9 years now due to sever mental illness and neurological damage from trauma.

To find out more please click HERE 

To help raise money for this I have decided to sell some of my paintings from my old collections for a limited time only at MEGA low prices, so that people can donate and receive an original piece of my art in exchange.

 

I can only offer FREE POSTAGE & PACKAGING to those of you who live in the UK / Europe.

However if you are from other countries you can still donate and get a piece of art, but I can NOT offer FREE postage and packing and will have to charge you for this.

To take part you need to fill out this form below with your details, tell me which one of the paintings you are interested in. I shall then allocate the painting to you and confirm this, then you follow the GoFundMe link, donate the correct amount for the painting to the campaign, once I get the confirmation of your donation I shall ask you for your address and send you your painting.

This is a Firstcome, firstserved deal.

Here are the prices:

Small paintings are £10.00 each:

  • She is the Sky,
  • Cat Among the Flowers,
  • Isabella,
  • She is a Warrior,
  • True Colours,
  • L’été À Ma Fenêtre,
  • With Flowers in her Hair,
  • Autumn Flowers,
  • Omar,
  • Feeling Love, 
  • Sitting Pretty

Medium Paintings are £20.00;

  • Escapism,
  • Body Positive,
  • Amman (Rainbow Street),
  • Autumn Tree,
  • Just to Make Your Smile,
  • Summer is Coming,
  • Amman at Dusk

Large Paintings are £25.00 each:

  • Dans les rues de Grasse,
  • Laying in Flowers,
  • Earth

X-Large and Framed is £50.00:

  • Maison des ville, Grasse, France

Here is the form:

 

Escapism - By Charlotte Farhan
Escapism – By Charlotte Farhan
She is the Sky - By Charlotte Farhan
She is the Sky – By Charlotte Farhan
Cat Among the Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan
Cat Among the Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan
Dans les rues de Grasse - By Charlotte Farhan
Dans les rues de Grasse – By Charlotte Farhan
Isabella - By Charlotte Farhan
Isabella – By Charlotte Farhan
Body Positive - By Charlotte Farhan
Body Positive – By Charlotte Farhan
True Colours - By Charlotte Farhan
True Colours – By Charlotte Farhan
L'été À Ma Fenêtre - By Charlotte Farhan
L’été À Ma Fenêtre – By Charlotte Farhan
Autumn Tree - By Charlotte Farhan
Autumn Tree – By Charlotte Farhan
Amman, Rainbow Street - By Charlotte Farhan
Amman, Rainbow Street – By Charlotte Farhan
Maison des ville, Grasse, France - By Charlotte Farhan
Maison des ville, Grasse, France – By Charlotte Farhan
She is a Warrior - By Charlotte Farhan
She is a Warrior – By Charlotte Farhan
With Flowers in her Hair - By Charlotte Farhan
With Flowers in her Hair – By Charlotte Farhan
Amman at Dusk - By Charlotte Farhan
Amman at Dusk – By Charlotte Farhan
Autumn Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan
Autumn Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan
Summer is Coming - By Charlotte Farhan
Summer is Coming – By Charlotte Farhan
Just to Make Your Smile - By Charlotte Farhan
Just to Make Your Smile – By Charlotte Farhan
Feeling Love - By Charlotte Farhan
Feeling Love – By Charlotte Farhan
Earth - By Charlotte Farhan
Earth – By Charlotte Farhan
Laying in Flowers - By Charlotte Farhan
Laying in Flowers – By Charlotte Farhan
Omar - By Charlotte Farhan
Omar – By Charlotte Farhan
Sitting Pretty - By Charlotte Far
Sitting Pretty – By Charlotte Farhan

 

We have already raised £750 of our £2000 target and I am so grateful for all the love and support offered.

To read about why this is so important to me and for my health please read my article on this:

Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog – Please help me have a better, more independent life.


Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog


Thank you for your support xxx

GO FUND ME - Charlotte Farhan

 

Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog – Please help me have a better, more independent life.

Charlotte Needs an Assistance Dog

 

My friend, surrogate sister and colleague Lisa Reeve has very kindly started a fundraiser for me to get the assistance psychiatric dog which I desperately need so that I can live a more independent life and access more help for my sever and complex mental illnesses.

Lisa Reeve and Charlotte Farhan
Lisa Reeve and Charlotte Farhan

 

Here is what Lisa had to say:

Help us raise money for Charlotte Farhan to get a psychiatric assistance dog so that she can lead a more independent life as a sufferer of C-PTSD.

 

 

Hi I’m Lisa I am writing this having battled a long term mental health condition since childhood. I am passionate about recovery and believe in helping others and the cause.

My best friend Charlotte not only has been my rock, she has been my life line through some terrible years in which I am starting to see the light again. Unfortunately for Charlotte she suffers from C-PTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder) from sexual abuse in childhood and sexual violence and assault as a teenager, due to this Charlotte has not been able to live a “normal” life and has progressively got worse, which has led to several mental illnesses such as psychotic depression, borderline personality disorder, generalised anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and OCD. This has meant Charlotte has no independence and has not been outside alone for over 9 years, as well as not being able to leave the house at all at times even with a carer.

I feel it is now time I give back to her some of the hope she held for me. Since being told the NHS can’t do anything more for Charlotte she has grown more isolated.

I really want to help her out of this and this is why I want to ask the world to help raise money for Charlotte to get a psychiatric service dog. Charlotte responds very positively to animals and with a dog she could in time, adapt the skills to be independent and manage her symptoms with a more fulfilled life.

As we know service dogs help people both mentally and psychically and help reduce unwanted symptoms that have a disabling impact on one’s life. Unfortunately this service is not given to people like Charlotte here in the UK, even though many places round the world do, in the UK service dogs are only given to those with psychical disabilities, children with autism and war veterans with PTSD.

We plan to take direct action with the donations raised. A puppy has already been chosen for Charlotte, a little male poodle puppy called Amadeus who is only 3 weeks old but will be ready for his forever home with Charlotte at the end of May 2016. Charlotte has a team of friends who are helping her with this as well as her husband. We have a dog behavioural trainer who is offering her time and skills, called Rebecca Smith, I shall be on hand as well as Charlotte’s other friends: Lesley and Anna, we will be helping Charlotte with exposure work and getting her used to being outside with the dog. Money raised helps towards costs for: the purchase of the puppy, veterinary care, vaccinations, a dog passport, insurance, food, leads, a dog crate, car modifications for the dog, training etc.….

Research in pet therapies reveal that a service dog can help manage symptoms by helping you feel less stressed and alone. As Charlotte spends her days working non-profit as the MD of Art Saves Lives International from home, a visual artist, the editor of ASLI Magazine, a feature writer for OTV Magazine, and she is also about to enetr her last year of her degree in Philosophy, Psychology and Creative Writing with the Open University. She is alone at home with no human contact or ability to go outside, she often feels abandoned and scared, reinforced by the fact that she cannot go outside by herself at all. She would love to be able to do what ‘ mentally able’ individuals can do and carry out simple tasks such as crossing the road and walking to the corner shop to buy milk, as well as exercising more (which will help Charlotte as a diabetic), meeting people for her charity work and as Charlotte is an artist she dreams of painting outside in the summer.

A suitable dog would be a dependable companion, helping aid her confidence and give her more freedom. Dogs are great lovers of affection and their unconditional love can help overcome self-loathing problems and inward negative thoughts.

An assistance dog would help Charlotte feel more comfortable with the idea of being able to stand closer to strangers and have more contact with others. This is a fear of Charlotte’s, brought on by her trauma, she feels unsafe and in danger around others causing extreme anxiety and emotional regulation problems. This would also positively encourage her in new situations without scanning for danger. As we know dogs are particularly vigilant and are able to assess whether this danger is real or fantasy, something Charlotte is unable to do, offering a form of logical determination and protection. The dog will also help with grounding exercises in situations that are overwhelming due to too much sensory information which will stop Charlotte from detaching as much and having debilitating anxiety attacks.

If you would like to make a donation, please follow the link HERE

GO FUND ME - Charlotte Farhan

As well as Lisa’s support, my Friend and other surrogate sister Bex Smith is a behaviourist for animals and will be doing the specific dog training needed.

Bex Smith and Charlotte Farhan
Bex Smith and Charlotte Farhan

Here is Bex’s New website: CLICK HERE

Sign up to her blog as we will be documenting the training and the story of how this will help me.

Also my amazing friend Lesley who I have been best friends with since I was 11 years old, who is like family to me, is going to be helping me with exposure work and supporting me.

Lesley Hallett and Charlotte Farhan
Lesley Hallett and Charlotte Farhan

And not forgetting the lovely Anna (we call each other brain twins) who has said she will help taking me to locations for long dog walks.

Anna Bispham and Charlotte Farhan
Anna Bispham and Charlotte Farhan

Being able to be independent is something I dream of daily. I know my neurological damage from severe trauma will mean I shall be different and neuro-diverse forever, but I also know that just because we live in a Neurotypical world that I do not have to accept this fate. I want to be as functional as possible, I am a victim who survived which is why I know I can do this.

I feel uncomfortable asking for help and am so grateful for Lisa doing this fundraiser for me, for Bex who is giving over her time to train our puppy and help me be independent, for Lesley and Anna who have agreed to help me with my exposure work, and for my husband who helps me every day in so many ways.

Together I know we can do this, I can see me and our new member of the family, Amadeus – I can see us waking side by side into our future.

Mohammed Farhan and Charlotte Farhan
Mohammed Farhan and Charlotte Farhan

We have already raised £410 out of our £2000 goal. (29/04/2016)

All the donations have been from my amazing family in Jordan and the Isle of Man, my supporters and followers from around the world and dear friends as well as some anonymous lovelies.

Thank you for your support.


Facts on Psychiatric Service Dogs

Medical Alert

Just as a dog can be trained to alert to seizures and other medical conditions, a dog can also be trained to sense the changes in a person’s body when they are beginning to have a panic attack, flash back, anxiety attack, or other psychiatric condition. The dog is able to paw at the leg of their disabled recipient and interrupt what would otherwise be a debilitating and destructive behaviour for the individual. This helps the handler to refocus on their dog and work through the problem.

Deep Pressure Therapy

Just as medical wraps are used to alleviate anxiety in persons with psychiatric conditions, dogs can be trained to put the pressure of their body weight on their handler’s lap and abdomen to physically, and then mentally relieve anxiety and induce a sense of calm.

Boundary Control

When the individual suffers from anxiety due to the close proximity of others, or due to claustrophobia in a crowded room, the dog can be trained to stand in between their handler and others to gain more personal space. The dog is not being protective, but is simply following a simple cue from their handler to move their body into the space surrounding their handler.

Corners

A frequent problem for those suffering from PTSD is to negotiate corners without the fear of what is waiting on the other side. Our dogs can be trained to go around corners in front of their handler and then alert their handler if there is someone waiting on the other side. Over time this form of therapy can assist the disabled recipient when becoming more comfortable with going into public.

Signal Alert

There are many situations when a recipient will need to excuse themselves from a classroom or meeting due to personal psychiatric concerns. With a discrete signal to the dog the handler can command his dog to paw at the leg, making it look like the dog is seeking attention. The handler is then able to comfortably leave the situation with the excuse that his dog needs to relieve itself.

Companionship

It goes without saying that any service dog’s greatest assistance is the emotional support they can offer their handler. Most disabilities present trials than can be relieved on a mental level simply by the dog’s presence. A well behaved dog can help to lower blood pressure and give a sense of ease to anyone who is near.

For further information:

C-PSTD – what is it?  http://outofthefog.website/toolbox-1/2015/11/17/complex-post-traumatic-stress-disorder-c-ptsd

Agoraphobia – what is it? https://www.anxietyuk.org.uk/get-help-now/anxiety-information/anxiety-disorders/agoraphobia/

Borderline Personality Disorder – what is it?http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/borderline-personality-disorder-bpd/#.Vxd50TArLIU

Psychotic Depression – What is it?https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychotic_depression

OCD – What is it? http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/types-of-mental-health-problems/obsessive-compulsive-disorder-ocd/#.Vxd6UzArLIU


 

neurodiversity

Outsider Art and Poetry – Chained to the Past – By Charlotte Farhan

Chained to the Past - By Charlotte Farhan
Chained to the Past – By Charlotte Farhan

Chained to the Past – By Charlotte Farhan

Chained to my past like a prisoner, with only sorrow to comfort me,
at night the mattress swallows me whole, it becomes pitch black,
let me escape this anguish, this nectarous misery – let me be free,
my torment clenches me tight with gripped arms – holding me back.

Recollection chokes me with the thought of violence,
memories leave me for dead, crying for liberation,
no ability to speak up – I offer silence,
chains are pulled tighter constricting me in my damnation.

Punishment is not a fetish when it is kept unseen,
my head is pulsating, the pressure is mounting in my veins,
steel and blood mixed with sheets I am always unclean,
whose hands are those, the ones holding my chains?


If you have any questions on my work, if you wish for me to exhibit in your gallery or would like to purchase a piece , please contact me via the form below, thank you.

 

Outsider Art – Unlocked by Charlotte Farhan

Unlocked - By Charlotte Farhan
Unlocked – By Charlotte Farhan

Unlocked – By Charlotte Farhan

A pressure builds inside my head like a boiling liquid,
spilling out of me, the security lock has been breached.
The fear that anything could escape – this is unscripted,
witnessing my life – my credibility is impeached.


This illustration is of my inner turmoil spilling from my mind, when experiencing a locked in state from flash backs and psychosis as a result of having complex post traumatic stress disorder and psychotic depression.

As I get older the locked safe where my darkest thoughts and memories have been kept, since being very young; has started to erode with time. Rusty and old, the hinges are no longer able to hold it all in.

Since starting reliving therapy in 2014 there have been many disturbances to my treatment, such as the NHS only being able to offer 6 weeks and then leaving me worse than before, opened up and dumped.

Then last year I found a therapist which was able to offer a reduced fee (as we are on such a low income) all was going well, even though it was soul-destroying and painful and made me cry in those 6 sessions more than I ever had. Still it was a process and felt as if maybe I would be able to deal with the trauma of my rape and sexual abuse as well as all the other issues which had developed as a consequence. However this was not to be the case, due to my borderline personality disorder I ended up splitting my therapist in my mind and however much I tried, this could not be changed. From thinking “she is my saviour” to “she is trying to kill me”, which then led me to become dangerously suicidal. So having no real choice, the therapeutic relationship had to be terminated.

So I am left unlocked and wide open…


 

If you have any questions on my work, if you wish for me to exhibit in your gallery or would like to purchase a piece , please contact me via the form below, thank you.

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
If you have any questions on this topic or about my journey, please fill in this contact form: