Customer service

they call it ‘person-centered care’
it’s supposed to be all about the patient
but it’s not.

it’s about the professional, their attitudes, biases.

there are exceptions to the rule of course,
but in the main,
what is it really but bad customer service
by another name?

we are consumers, though we do not pay.
but is that any reason to take our rights away?
our voice?
our choice?

they talk about ‘parity of esteem’
with physical illness
but where is the funding?

and it’s us who pay the price,
they don’t think twice.

so, under-resourced, the system
already overstretched
struggles to meet the needs
of those who need it most
while people get lost
in paperwork.

the call it ‘person-centred care’
but in reality
is it really there?



It seems that mental health has finally hit the headlines. And I’m not talking about awareness days, I’m talking about stories about the harsh realities of mental health.

A quick bit of googling on my part shows that Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) has been in the spotlight. It took a senior judge stepping in for a teenage girl with a personality disorder to receive the life-saving treatment she clearly needed. Obviously this is not the norm. Judges don’t step in in every case. What is the norm is that we’re failing children and young people in general. These news stories are English, but I fear that similar stories could be told of CAMHS care in Scotland. Personally I know of at least one story of a teenager being told that services simply ‘did not know how to help her’. So she was discharged. Thankfully that has recently been rectified, but imagine being told that you essentially can’t be helped? And at such a young age?

In fact, imagine being told this at any age? Because what hasn’t been in the news is that adult mental health care in the UK is woefully lacking. Too many people are told they’re ‘not ill enough’ and turned away from secondary services while GPs and A&Es struggle to firefight.

It took me roughly three years of referrals and re-referrals from my GP, and discharges and re-discharges from the Community Mental Health Team (CMHT), before I landed in hospital and they finally started taking me seriously. And I am by no means an isolated case. Even now, when services have been put in place for me, I am regularly ‘fobbed off’ with five minute conversations when I’m in crisis. I can’t help wondering how much worse it is for those who have not made it this far up the CMHT ladder…how hard it is for them not to give up entirely.

Because this is the reality of the situation. People with life threatening illnesses are being treated like simple pests. And it’s just not good enough. The government preaches about mental health care being equal to that of physical health, and then underfunds it to a degree that seriously ill people are being turned away, something is most definitely very, very wrong. How to fix it? More funding, clearly. Will that happen? Sadly, I am very, very doubtful.


they call us snowflakes
imagine that we think ourselves ‘special’
or somehow better
worth more
in a world that sees many of us as less than.

but so what if we are?
it’s not unreasonable
to reach for more from the world
to expect things to be fair, equal.

and there are more of us
than you’d think.
it’s not just young people.

the beauty of snowflakes is they they come
in all shapes and sizes
each one unique
until they lie together forming part of a whole
carpet of snow.
and, left to gather, that builds.

so if we are snowflakes
expect avalanches.

safe harbour

when I think of what you stole
the hole
you left
in my chest
I feel bereft.

and I recoiled
you finished, I was spoiled
was dirt
and it hurt.

what you took,
it shook
me to the core of my being,
as I watched from the ceiling.

wondering ‘how could he?’
and ‘why would he?’
but it’s plain to see
you thought you were free
to take what you wanted from me.

years have passed
and I wonder
-when was the last
time you thought of it?

I wonder
do you realise what you stole?
how I haven’t felt whole
in years.
days and nights filled with fears.

and (since you asked)
for me, it’s a mammoth task,
to calm the ripples each day.
to fight the compulsion not to stay.

but it’s time.
to take back what was once mine.
the security,
the surety,
with which I walked,

the being
and seeing.
something else

and the comfort
-they say ‘any port
in a storm’

and I needed rescue,
that was true.

but the storm has passed,

and at last
I have found my safe harbour.
I have come farther
than I ever imagined I could go
and I just thought you should know.

the dragon, and the tears

proud, triumphant
the dragon and its gold
and oh! what a story
there is to be told.

there once was a girl
with long black hair,
pale skin and brown eyes
and not a care

in the world.
or so she thought
cos her tears were priceless
they couldn’t be bought.

the dragon he knew this
and he knew a wee man.
a man who was clever
-a man with a plan.

the man climbed through her window
every night without fail
and stole all of her dreams
it caused her to wail.

she cried and she cried
oh my how she wept,
and she shut herself in
where the broomsticks were kept!

a life without dreams
just wasn’t worth living
away went her laughter,
her loving and giving.

the wee man he was quick
he collected her tears
and sold them at auction
without any fears.

he ran from that place,
tried to keep all the gold,
but the dragon had heard
that the tears had been sold.

the wee man kept running
but just wasn’t fast
enough, so the dragon
killed him with one blast!

so now it sits high
on a mighty huge pile
the dragon, the gold
and a great toothy smile!

but what what of girl?
what of her life?
she met the knight of her dreams
and became his wife.


“baby you’re a firework”
– so the song would have us believe.

you were an IED,
an unexploded time bomb.

and maybe I lit the touch paper,
maybe I set fire to you and watched you burn.

but only from a distance.

after all,
we were always taught
never to go back to fireworks.


he stole my car radio.
so I sit in silence.
but sometimes quiet is violent,
pummelling ’til everything’s out of control.
and it’s taking its toll.

I hate driving this car,
it’s careering.
I struggle to correct the steering
– to limit the casualties.

but nobody sees,
the effort it’s taking,
the ease that I’m faking
the noise I’m not making.

I look at the hole
where the thing that he stole
is MIA
and I can’t pay
to replace it.

so I sit.
wound tightly
driving nightly
in ear-splitting silence.


the horizon is low
– sky huge and bright blue,
or ominously dark.

there are no obstacles.
that imaginary line feels like a precipice.

but somehow ordinary.

and you stand with eyes closed
waiting for the moment
– that wonderful second of flight –
before you hit

Doing too much

These past few weeks (or maybe months, I’m unsure. Time passes so quickly lately), I’ve been doing a lot. I have gone from doing maybe a couple of things a week, to doing something nearly every day. I realise this is nothing compared to having a full time job (and maybe doing things on top of it), but after years of doing not very much at all, for me this is a lot.

All the mental health professionals have told me to ‘do things’, to keep busy. That this will help my mood. And I’ve taken them at their word.

I have a weekly routine. I have one MH appointment a week (CPN, psychologist, and – less regularly – psychiatrist), usually on a Monday or a Tuesday. I volunteer for my church youth group on a Sunday evening, and have recently started volunteering for a charity working with young people on a Wednesday evening. I go to Recreational Therapy at the hospital for art group on a Thursday, and writing group on a Friday. I go for coffee with a friend most Tuesdays. Also, my mum and I are going to the gym two or three times a week. These are my ‘regular’ commitments. Individually arguably very good things to be doing, but collectively verging on just too much.

However, in addition, in the past month or two, I have done four training courses, and attended one conference. I have been to a Scottish Mental Health Arts and Film Festival (SMHAFF) symposium (one full day), done induction and child protection training for the charity I’m volunteering for (one half day, and one full day), Scotland’s Mental Health First Aid (SMHFA) Training parts one and two (two full days), and yesterday I did the required face-to-face training for SMHFA-Young People (one full day). Five and a half days may not sound much, but they have come thick and fast, anxiety has been through the roof, and it has taken a huge effort to complete them. And cope with the fallout afterwards.

I have been praised for how much I’m doing and been told I’m looking so much better. But the truth its very different. The truth is coming home and collapsing on the floor for hours, until day turns to night, and I’m sitting in darkness. It is not sleeping, even though I’m physically and mentally exhausted. It is fighting demons, even while busy with ‘good things’. Today, I am done. Those sneaky suicidal thoughts have crept their way into my head again, and I’m struggling to shrug them off.

Luckily, yesterday was my last additional thing, and I have a very good friend coming to visit next week. She is calming, and understanding and the perfect house-guest. In as much as I’m looking forward to anything at the moment, I’m looking forward to that.

In addition, I’m going on a really amazing holiday soon, with some of my favourite people. Depression is telling me that I’m going to ruin it for everyone I’m going with, but I’m trying had not to listen to it. I’m hoping the change of scene and pace will do me some good, and I’ll come home feeling like I’ve had a good break.



actions speak louder than words

Too often, actions
are reactions.
Publicly false, unnatural.
Or privately, raw, shameful.

Sometimes it’s not about
bold moves or grand gestures
but small words
whispered in quiet times.

But even when whispered,
some words cut deeply,
escaping painfully,
slashing and slicing their way into being.

So to writing.
Writing what cannot be said,
finding comfort in words
and safety through the control they provide.

the pen is mightier than the sword