Where are my human rights? Mental illness in the NHS

Over 3 weeks ago I wrote an open letter to the NHS and the Adult Mental Health Services:  https://charlottefarhanartactivism.com/2016/09/06/open-letter-to-the-mental-health-services-england-nhs/ Charlotte Farhan - Open letter to NHS

Since this letter things started to look up, after tweeting my desperation and crisis live to the world and my followers, the NHS services in my area contacted me and so did the patient liaison services at my GP surgery.

However it has now become clear that my plea for help and my right to basic medical care was in fact interpreted as an invitation for further discrimination and stigmatisation from NHS staff, leaving me defeated, suicidal and so very ill. Ableism reared its ugly head, as did the neurotypical privilege of the service providers. Surprisingly after all I have been through – I was shocked, naive some may say, but when you are desperate – hope is all you have. My hope is almost non existent now.

The main issue seems to be a complete lack of understanding for complex mental illness and disabilities as well as a lack of empathy. I understand that these bureaucrats are not medical professionals, however if they do not have the knowledge – they can get it, and if they are un-empathetic – should they be put in these roles?

Another problematic situation was the abrupt stopping of access to my medication which happened which left me without medication for several months and no doctor at my practice seemed concerned that this had happened due to me not being able to attend a review which they set for my medication, so due to my lack of ability to attend (which they were well aware of) they just stopped it. Now there are not many meds I can take for my mental illnesses, anti-psychotics make me zombie like, mood stabilisers seem to make me physically sick, most anti-depressants do not work for me, however Citalopram is a drug which minimises my anxiety disorders (C-PTSD, Generalised Anxiety Disorder, OCD, Body Dysmorphic Disorder and Agoraphobia) I take the 40g dose which is the highest (when not in hospital) – it takes the intense feelings away, the feelings which cause me to be in constant fight or flight – a hyper vigilant mind, which feels like your entire body is trying to kill you and save you from imagined danger all at once. Even though it is not a miracle cure and does not make me more able, it allows me to exist in a calmer mind set, which is a life line when dealing with complex illnesses.

As you may be aware it is dangerous to stop medication abruptly as it can cause side effects and withdrawal symptoms. Personally my withdrawal was hell and life threatening, some are lucky enough to not even experience any issues, however there is no way of knowing.

The danger I was put in by the doctors stopping my medication access abruptly led to: suicidal thoughts and plans, anxiety, panic attacks, brain fog, concentration problems, insomnia, migraines, confusion, depression, dizziness, nausea, mood swings, fatigue and irritability. 

This then had a knock on effect to my other illnesses, being under so much stress led to my diabetes and PCOS symptoms to become worse, my borderline personality disorder became more intense and more dangerous for me, intensifying my suicidal desires and my inability to regulate emotions. Also I experienced psychosis – with delusions and hallucinations due to my psychotic depression.

The ridiculousness of this is once I started to complain on social media, the doctors were made to give me an emergency prescription of 30 days, but with no accommodations being made for me to access my GP and as this is not on a repeat prescription in exactly 15 days time I shall be in the same predicament and have to go through this ordeal again, which I fear I will not survive.

In my correspondence with the NHS several things were said to me which constitute as discrimination, ableism and some were just unhelpful in a stressful situation.

Some of the most frustrating things said to me:

“it is a shame your husband can not attend evening appointments”.

Well as far as I am aware just from all the people I know in this country, none of them can access evening appointments due to normal working hours, with only one evening being made open for late appointments, this is ridiculous and very unhelpful to me a disabled person – house bound, with only my husband as my access to the world outside.

“you say you are out of medication”

This may be semantics, however saying “you say” indicates a lack of belief, what would be wrong in saying, “you have no medication, we can help with this”, this was very triggering for me and my conditions as it made me feel unheard and disbelieved.

“There are other surgeries which may offer what you need”

This made me feel so angry and discriminated against. As no real effort has been made here for my disabilities. A ramp is put in place for wheelchair users, WHERE IS MY RAMP! If they are suggesting that some one like me is so difficult and must be put through the added stress of finding another GP surgery just because a GP can not message me via email or text when they are on their way to my house, so that I can answer the door to them, well this is disgusting! This is what we are talking about… Nothing more!

“This appointment could have been had by another patient needing a home visit”

Now this is called victim blaming as well as ableism. I made it very clear that my disabilities mean my communication skills are impaired so I can not answer the phone or make phone calls, I also stated that due to my disabilities I can not go outside alone, sometimes not at all, that a handful of people are safe enough for me to go outside with (all of whom work during surgery hours), and that I can not answer the front door if I have no idea who it is (giving me a time or texting when outside is how I can open the door). Saying that another patient could have had the appointment I so desperately need is so discriminatory against my mental illnesses and has put unnecessary stress onto me when already so unwell.

This is why it has taken me 3 weeks to write another article, as I feel defeated. My only motivation is that by fighting for myself I can fight for others, as so many people have messaged me in the last 3 weeks telling me how they are in similar situations, so holding on by a thread my mission is to create change. However when the next wave of withdrawal happens whether this fight is sustained is anyone’s guess. As there are times when I am not in control of myself. For now my fight is waning but still intact.

Here are my email correspondence with the NHS (this is done for full transparency):

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence


NHS Correspondence


NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence


 

NHS Correspondence


NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence


NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence

NHS Correspondence


For more information on Citalaopram please follow these links:

Mind: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/drugs-and-treatments/antidepressants-a-z/citalopram/

Head Meds: http://www.headmeds.org.uk/medications/10-citalopram/use_and_action

Mental Health Daily: http://mentalhealthdaily.com/2014/05/21/celexa-citalopram-withdrawal-symptoms-how-long-will-they-last/

Withdrawal symptoms:

  • Anxiety
  • Brain zaps: Most SSRIs can lead to a person experiencing “brain zaps” or electrical shock sensations upon withdrawal.
  • Concentration problems: a person may feel mentally slow and/or foggy when they stop the medication – this is likely due to changes in levels of neurotransmitters.
  • Confusion: Your cognitive functioning can become impaired to the point of experiencing general confusion. This confusion may be a result of memory retrieval problems, but could also just be confused thinking.
  • Crying spells: Some people report increased depression to the point of crying spells. Low serotonin can cause people to cry excessively.
  • Depression: This is a result of their brain no longer inhibiting the re-uptake of serotonin to the degree that occurred on the medication.
  • Dizziness: Feeling dizzy is one of the most common symptoms to experience during SSRI withdrawal.
  • Fatigue: It may be difficult to get out of bed in the morning or even make it through a work day. The tiredness and lethargy may be pretty severe.
  • Headaches: This is another classic symptom of SSRI withdrawal.
  • Insomnia
  • Irritability: This is because the brain no longer is receiving the calming effect of the drug and it can be difficult to regulate emotions.
  • Memory problems: It is common to experience memory problems to the point that you think you have lost your memory.
  • Mood swings:  They may persist for a long time, but will eventually subside.
  • Nausea: You may feel nauseated all day and in some cases, want to vomit.
  • Sleep changes: It is very likely that your sleep cycle will be affected when you withdraw from this drug.
  • Suicidal thoughts: It is very common to experience suicidal thoughts when discontinuing an antidepressant. Any SSRI that is withdrawn from is likely to lead a person to feeling suicidal.

If you have experienced anything similar with the NHS or you wish to help me and want to know how? Please fill in this form:


If you have an emergency due to your mental illness please be safe and contact Sane: http://www.sane.org.uk/what_we_do/support/

mental-illness-meme by charlotte farhan

Make it Stop – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

Make it Stop - Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan
Make it Stop – Art and Poetry by Charlotte Farhan

Waking up,
whipping eyelids open in panic,
heartbeats pound at my chest,
a frame of mind completely manic,
inside is emptiness,
depressed,
with nausea rising as if volcanic,
anxieties flood and infest,
unwanted thoughts,
borderline satanic,
the compulsions arise,
obsessed,
a lump in my throat,
gigantic,
memories pushed down,
repressed.


 

If you would like to know more please contact me via this form…

 

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.

 

screenshot-100

screenshot-101

 

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

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.

If you would like to know more or have any questions please fill in this form:

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

The right to vote is great; but how about the ability? Neurodiversity

Have you ever thought of the fact that the voting system is a neuro-typical system which alienates many different people with varying abilities.

I just want you to think about this….

If you don’t have to think of how you will be ABLE to vote, then this means you are privileged.

 

a8aef209003ebf94a823e49f2258d17f

 

 

Neurodiversity is a concept where neurological differences are to be recognised and respected as any other human variation. These differences can include those labelled with Dyspraxia, Dyslexia, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Dyscalculia, Autistic Spectrum, Tourette Syndrome, Schizophrenia, Personality Disorders, Bipolar, Psychotic depression and others…

As you may already be aware if you follow my blog that I have several illnesses, disabilities and learning difficulties. As a child my neurology was always in question, with early indications of being on the spectrum as well as being a massive contradiction with a high functioning intelligence but also several learning difficulties such as not being able to read at the appropriate level for my age, having Dyscalculia and experiencing sensory overloads. My interpersonal skills were weak as eye contact was not a strong point and I did not understand boundaries like other children. When you are seen as high functioning people do not understand your difficulties as they judge and label you; lazy, disobedient, delinquent and a trouble maker.

3d452c6e2ddb0d9fc893029ba8f43e6f

 

Read more about this HERE

Now lets get back to the topic at hand – voting.

Voting is a right which is great, many have fought to get this right from the white privileged male and won. However this does not mean that this RIGHT is made easy for everyone to obtain. My point is – many of us can’t even if we wanted to due to being neuro-divergent, disabled and ill; my issues impact all my voting options.

Lets me give you 3 examples on why it is impossible for me to vote in this neuro-typical system in the UK:

Voting in person: This is a NO for me due to my agoraphobia, C-PTSD, Psychotic depression, ADHD and OCD – the fear of people, open spaces, small spaces, germs etc… As well as experiencing extreme anxiety attacks and becoming detached and unable to hear and process information due to derealization and depersonalization Makes this scenario impossible for me to do.

Voting by proxy: This is impacted by my psychotic depression and Borderline Personality Disorder as my psychosis and delusional thinking, tells me this would be taken and used against me or that this is mind control. My mind become split and then I am trapped in a black and white world of confusion.

Voting by mail /online registration: When I am faced with forms I get something which is called sensory overload and sometimes it is so bad I pass out from it, plus I loose time regularly and get distracted on a loop for days sometimes due to ADHD. When I was able to have a social worker this would have been taken care of by them assisting me. However this service is not available to me anymore due to the area I live in.

If you would like to know more… follow this link HERE

“There is, however, an answer to this crisis.  The concept of neurodiversity provides a paradigm shift in how we think about mental functioning.  Instead of regarding large portions of the American public as suffering from deficit, disease, or dysfunction in their mental processing, neurodiversity suggests that we instead speak about differences in cognitive functioning.  Just as we talk about differences in bio-diversity and cultural diversity, we need to start using the same kind of thinking in talking about brain differences.”

(Source: http://www.institute4learning.com/neurodiversity.php)

 

Then there is the issue of voting in a system which denies your rights and leaves you to die as there is no help available, as I slip through the cracks with others; one wonders if these are cracks or specially designed filters.

Having been politically minded and active since a young age due to my French heritage and privileged education as a child and then going on to do politics, international relations and political philosophy at degree level, my awareness for the “political systems” has been of a high standard. Engaging with others to vote, political protesting, writing to MP’s and campaigning for civil rights was just the beginning in my 20’s, however as my situation grew more bleak and my interests in alternative politics and activism grew I decided after a long process to disengage with the “neuro-typical politics game” as well as the rigid patriarchal paradigm of “the ideal political structure”. Instead I concentrated on non-profit work, anarchism as a political philosophy and fighting each day to better the lives of people who are marginalised and stigmatised. This was my way of taking back the control which had been taken from me as a human being.

All I ask is that you think of this before you next judge the “non voter”, do not say things like “if you don’t vote, you can’t complain about anything after the fact” as this is a further way to silence the unheard, the people like me cast aside through no fault of our own, for things beyond our control. Try and remember that ticking a box does not give you the right to judge others, especially if this is all you are doing to create change, think of the varied ways that a citizen of this planet could help, or make a difference.

Also shaming people for not voting is ignorant, you know nothing of another persons life and why they may feel disenfranchised or due to socio-economic /class structures has been shown their voice means nothing or does not believe in the powers that be.

How about before you write your next FB status which tells people who do not vote they are stupid, or you tell those who have decided to not vote (which is their right) to keep quiet over other issues; why not take a moment – hold back and think…

Is this really the best use of my time?

Do I know everyone’s life and experiences and what has led them to this decision which is theirs to take?

And could I be a better ally to those who have no voice?

 

23373ba8cc8fa524907088631d74ab62

 

I ask you to remember this when you next use a label associated with mental illness

As an activist and campaigner I fight everyday to end stigma against the mentally ill and do this as a person who has been stigmatised since being a child – for my disability due to neurological damage from trauma and my genetic neurodiversity.
When there are mass shootings, murders and acts of terrorism the common labels are thrown about. Now I can not stop people from using words which stigmatise the mentally ill in everyday life, as this would be impossible, the words which come out are often misguided or just common place. However this does not mean they do not have an affect on me, and our community.  In challenging these reactions and the usual rhetoric we must first admit that there is an issue, that words are not just words – they have impact and consequences. We must look at labelling, stereotyping, cognitive separating, emotional reactions, status loss, and discrimination. As we must do with all the diversity in the world.
As someone who is married to a Muslim, my husband and I often sit there and see which one of us will get the blame when a news report states a mass murder or a shooting/stabbing/beheading, more often than not, both of us do. A mentally ill, Islamic terrorist is normally the go to. However if the individual is white – then no religion or political persuasion is highlighted, but mental illness as a label and cause remains. None of these factors are relevant in the end, as the criminal was a murderer – a killer of humanity at its essence. Hate has no religion, disability, sexuality, gender, race – hate is hate.
However I am speaking as a mentally ill person so this is my voice and focus.

Here are some facts on Violence & mental health (from Time To Change)

Over a third of the public think people with a mental health problem are likely to be violent – in fact people with severe mental illnesses are more likely to be victims, rather than perpetrators, of violent crime

The Facts

  • The majority of violent crimes and homicides are committed by people who do not have mental health problems.
  • People with mental health problems are more dangerous to themselves than they are to others: 90 per cent of people who die through suicide in the UK are experiencing mental distress.
  • In 2009, the total population in England and Wales was just over 43 million. It is estimated that about one in six of the adult population will have a significant mental health problem at any one time (more than 7 million people). Given this number and the 50–70 cases of homicide a year involving people known to have a mental health problem at the time of the murder, clearly the statistics data do not support the sensationalised media coverage about the danger that people with mental health problems present to the community.
  • According to the British Crime Survey, almost half (47 per cent) of the victims of violent crimes believed that their offender was under the influence of alcohol and about 17 per cent believed that the offender was under the influence of drugs. Another survey suggested that about 30 per cent of victims believed that the offender attacked them because they were under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In contrast, only 1 per centof victims believed that the violent incident happened because the offender had a mental illness.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the incidence of homicide committed by people diagnosed with mental health problems has stayed at a fairly constant level since the 1990s
  • Substance abuse appears to play a role: The prevalence of violence is higher among people who have symptoms of substance abuse (including discharged psychiatric patients and non-patients).

Reporting stories featuring violence and mental health problems

  • stick to the facts – don’t speculate about someone’s mental health being a factor unless the facts are clear
  • consider including contextualising facts about how very few people with mental health problems are violent
  • seek comment from a mental health charity such as Mind or Rethink Mental Illness
  • speak to the perpetrator’s family – often they are victims too with compelling stories to tell

So I ask you to remember this when you next go to use a label associated with mental illness / disability / neurodiversity:
When YOU use the words: nut-job, psycho, maniac, crazy, insane, psychopath, nutter… to describe criminals and their actions YOU put us back in the dark ages.
When YOU associate mass murder with mental illness you demonise us.
You put me and others in danger.
You isolate the already isolated.
You cause further illness to us.
You criminalise us, which we have been fighting to end since the asylums closed.
You excuse hate and name it “mental illness”.
You echo the rhetoric of the far right, the fascists, the eugenicists, the people who have robbed us of our humanity and freedom, the people who want us destroyed.
You take away our civil rights.
You hand us the knife, the noose, the pill bottle.
You are part of the problem and YOU need to STOP!
Also:
Could non disabled / neuro-divergent / mentally ill people
STOP speaking for us!
Stop pushing us down with your privilege!
Stop telling people how “we” feel.
Be our allies – support us, just DON’T speak for us.

neurodiversity
Charlotte Farhan Quote

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)

 

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 – 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.