I’m a 35 year old woman who suffers with Borderline Personality Disorder and other mental health issues and I live in Christchurch, New Zealand.
This blog will be used as a way for me to diarise my ongoing journey through the ups and downs of dealing with the mental health system, from diagnosis through therapy and my ongoing recovery and dealings with the public mental health system.
In October 2015, aged 31 and with three young children, my mental health took a dive, I’d struggled with Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) my whole adult life but this was the lowest I’d ever been.
A caring and concerned friend reached out for help and this is how I first entered the mental health system. Crisis Resolution visited me in my home that night and had me admitted to emergency respite. I was severely depressed and had thoughts of suicide.
I spent a few days in respite until there was a bed available for me at the Mothers and Babies inpatient unit, a special ward for mothers struggling with severe mental health problems where they could be admitted with their babies.
I don’t remember having any psychological input while in respite but once on the Mothers and Babies ward I was well looked after by a whole team of people including a psychiatrist, psychologist, dietician, social worker, physiotherapist, many nurses and paediatrician (for my 8 month old baby who was staying on the ward with me). I spent five weeks as an inpatient on this admission, I had regular psychologist appointments, a change in medication and assistance with caring for my son.
Going home was a gradual and daunting process which started with day trips then an overnight, then a weekend before I was finally discharged in a better frame of mind although not feeling ready to be at home.
I relapsed twice over the following two months and each time spent an additional two weeks on the ward for respite and psychological input, the third admission in January 2016 was without my son as my then husband did not feel I was safe enough to have him with me despite staff reassuring him otherwise. During this admission my marriage ended.
I lost care of my children due to my poor and risky mental state and having nowhere to live when I was discharged, this severely affected my state of mind and due to my son turning one I was being discharged with my care being transferred to DHB community mental health at Hillmorton Hospital. This took some time to arrange and I was thankfully allowed to continue weekly sessions with my wonderful psychologist at the Mothers and Babies unit until things had been arranged for my ongoing care at Hillmorton.
In February 2016 was discharged from the Mothers and Babies unit. All the relationships I had built with my team ended and I had to build new relationships with my new team, going over all my past trauma and treatment right from scratch.
Once I had been handed over I was assigned a case manager who I had weekly appointments with to talk about how I was feeling and he managed my appointments with the psychiatrist and informed me of other services available that could help me such as community support and peer support. I saw a new psychiatrist who diagnosed me with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD) arising from childhood sexual abuse. I now had MDD and CPTSD on my list of diagnoses.
2016 progressively got worse, I moved from house to house with no fixed abode until I secured public housing somewhere around June. I began self harming regularly and overdosed at least twice on prescription medications. Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) was added to my diagnoses and after researching I finally felt like something fit. I had been telling my doctors for months that I was not convinced I just had depression and had begged them to assess me properly.
Hillmorton run a therapy group called Mindsight for people with BPD. I was able to get on the short version of this course for a few weeks but somehow despite my constant crises was considered not eligible to do the more long term group therapy.
Ultimately my mental health deteriorated to the point I had to leave Christchurch and seek treatment and support in Auckland. Auckland DHB run a full DBT programme which I did not have access to in Christchurch. I moved in November 2016, leaving my children behind with the promise of visiting them as often as I could. The relationship with my main support person had turned into a romantic one by this time and he happened to live in Auckland so I had somewhere to stay with amazing support.
So…care transferred again and another new team to meet and work with. I bounced around a bit trying to find the right people as was let down by my initial key worker and psychiatrist. I managed to get onto a short DBT course while I waited for acceptance onto the year-long DBT group/individual therapy at ADHB community mental health.
My meds weren’t really helping and I was already on the maximum dose of Venlafaxine. My first Auckland psychiatrist decided to add Mirtazapine into the mix (a concoction they call ‘Rocket Fuel’). I didn’t last long on this as it turned me into a psychotic, suicidal lunatic. I ended up in respite and a second psychiatrist decided to trial me on Amisulpride. This is where my mental health started to turn a corner. My moods became more even and my irritability reduced, not to the point I was stable but enough that we started to see an improvement.
My year-long DBT contract began in July 2017 and consisted of a weekly group therapy session and weekly individual therapy session. I had also engaged with a new peer support person who I was seeing weekly.
It was tough going and I did relapse at least once, another overdose, again ending in an ambulance trip to ED, hours of monitoring then being sent to respite. This respite stay didn’t go particularly well as the crisis team let me down, basically telling me to sit in the sun and have a cup of tea to boost my mood when I reached out for help. They also promised someone would call to check on me and this never happened. I had my car with me so I walked out, got in my car and found the nearest forest with the intention of hanging myself with the bungee cords i had in the boot. I was in touch with a friend during this time who contacted my partner who then tracked me on my phone and had the Police come to get me. I was taken to Waitakere hospital, assessed as low risk and released back to the respite facility.
Therapy continued and I started to feel better. I had a change in therapist as the one I’d been working with moved to the South Island. I got on well with my new therapist.
I decided to try to wean off my medication. Coming off the Amisulpride did not go well and ended up having to go back on it, but I did manage to wean off the Venlafaxine over several months and felt MUCH better once that was out of my system. I felt so much better and had been stable for long enough to consider a return to Christchurch. A part of me feeling low was due to not feeling like a good mother to my boys even though my mental health issues were not my fault. I wanted to be in their lives more.
I notified my ex husband that I was thinking of moving back down to Christchurch and that I’d like regular contact with the children. Unbeknownst to me at the time he applied for a without notice parenting order which I didn’t find out until several months later due to him claiming he didn’t have my address for service. This threw a spanner in the works as I now had to involve a lawyer and family court and did not need the added stress. It was very hard working through this and remaining in a stable state of mind.
I moved back to Christchurch in July 2018, renting at a friend’s house and with negotiations began fortnightly contact with the children. Their behaviour was a huge issue, had been for some time and I struggled to cope with all three together. We had a court appointed psychologist do a report on the boys, my ex husband and myself and ultimately after further meetings came up with a plan for me to have one-on-one contact with each of them. This made a huge difference to their behaviour and my ability to cope. This arrangement is still in place today but I am starting the ball rolling to increase my time with them.
So my mental health was reasonably stable when I moved to Christchurch. I had been on an income protection claim through my insurance since being off work since November 2015 but when I moved back to Christchurch I was deemed fit enough to work by my psychiatric team in Auckland and was also discharged from all mental health services at that time. I had to find a job, quickly. I did manage to find a job although it was only a three-month contract. It was the first time in years I had worked full time. I managed OK, work gave me a reason to get up and go in the mornings and I felt I had a responsibility to be there, I couldn’t just throw in the towel when life became difficult.
My contract ended and I had a wee bit of stress about finding another job but the manager where I was working found one of the other branches was looking for someone full time and I was basically given a new contract. I have now been working for the new place nearly one full year! I have a great team and my job continues to be what keeps me going even if I don’t feel like being there.
In September 2019 I started noticing an unpleasant side effect from the Amisulpride. My breasts started leaking. After trip to the doctor and blood tests that showed my prolactin was sky high I was referred to an endocrinologist. It was suggested that the Amisulpride was causing the hyperprolactinaemia and that I should come off it. So I requested my GP send a referral to CDHB mental health so they could come up with a plan for me to come off the medication and replace it with something else if need be. I never heard back and managed to come off the Amisulpride myself. However life threw me a curve ball (as it so often does) when my flatmate decided she was going to move out of town to be closer to her job and gave me three weeks notice of her departure. I was only renting a single room so my rent was dirt cheap, her moving out meant my rent would go up from $130/wk including expenses to $400 plus expenses. I near had a break down on the spot.
I called CDHB to see what had happened to my referral and was told they wrote back to my GP with treatment options eight weeks earlier when they had received it. I called the GP and he acknowledged they got the letter but he thought his locum had informed me (she hadn’t) and that despite me going to see him for a script of Lorazepam as I was struggling, he decided I seemed OK so didn’t mention the letter or the treatment options/plans that were in it!? I was furious and now was in a poor mental state again because he totally dropped the ball. I requested a further referral back to mental health and I fired him as my GP.
The second referral was accepted but I couldn’t get an appointment for three months. I booked it but within a couple of weeks I hit crisis point and ended up back in respite then was assigned a psychiatrist through CR within a couple of days.
I was then back in the system, the start of my most recent fight for adequate treatment. This new psychiatrist decided the plan outlaid in the response to my GP was what he would try. This involved trialling a new medication, Aripiprazole. Well, I lasted maybe two weeks on this medication as it made me so tired I couldn’t function and obviously couldn’t work so was no good. I came off that and he put me on Lamotrigine with instructions to very slowly increase the dose, starting at 25mg and increasing by 25mg every two weeks. If I developed a rash I was to stop it immediately (lamotrigine can cause a life threatening rash in some people). I got up to the 50mg dose and the following day I developed severe itchiness and an associated mild rash. I contacted the psychiatrist who instructed me to take antihistamines and see if it would go away. It did so I continued taking 50mg Lamotrigine with an antihistamine every day for a couple of weeks. Last week (early January 2020) I put my dose up to 75mg and this week have ceased the antihistamine with no itchiness or rash returning.
I feel the Lamotrigine is possibly taking the edge off my irritability a little, but my mood has plummeted significantly and I have spent the last month feeling increasingly depressed and suicidal. I don’t know if the medication has caused it or if it’s just one of my low mood episodes. I reached out to my psychiatrist the week before Christmas as I’d been in touch with Lifeline and felt they didn’t help, he just told me to keep going and he’d call me in the first week of the new year and to contact CR if I needed immediate help. Christmas came and went. My partner (M) stayed with me for 10 days which helped a lot as my children went to the Gold Coast with their father so I couldn’t see them until the new year. Despite me trying to open up to M I am not very good at it, I worry that I’m too much effort, cause too much stress, worry and anxiety and that he is always having to look after me so kept most of my worst thoughts to myself. I did email both my psychiatrist and new case manager in the first week of the new year to let them know how I was feeling and that I wasn’t really sleeping which was making matters worse. I was again fobbed off, being told that I had an appointment with the case manager a few days later and we would discuss it then, despite me detailing my hopelessness and need for help.
The psychiatrist never called to check on me as he had promised twice, I didn’t know what I was supposed to be doing with my medications and to be frank I just didn’t care anymore. I did eventually manage to get him via email to fax a script to my pharmacy for something to help me sleep but I still have not heard from him and my next appointment is not until 16th January, 13 days after the day he was supposed to make contact to discuss progress and medication.
I met with my case manager for the first time two days ago. I will start my blog from this point.