Fiona Kennedy suffers from BPD but a programme cut forced her to make a tough decision
Hope is a funny thing. It’s not a word I like, because it’s not a feeling I’m familiar with. Hope disappeared from our lives years ago, and was replaced by getting by - week by week, day by day, on occasion minute by minute. We couldn’t look to the future, because we weren’t sure there was one.
Eight months ago, we were thrown a lifeline of sorts. I was promised dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) through the Adult Mental Health Services of Galway University Hospital. DBT is internationally recognised as one of the most effective interventions in treating borderline personality disorder (BPD), with which I’ve been struggling for most of my life. The promise of DBT was a double edged sword though - to get myself on the waiting list, and ready to begin, I had to stop seeing the private therapist I had been working with for 6 years, as it is recommended not to go straight from one form of therapy to another without a break.
The fallout from this has been horrendous, but not unexpected. Without her support, depression came back (depression and BPD go hand in hand), and I’ve been out of work on sick leave since the end of November. Suicide is never far from my mind, and self harm is part of my reality. It makes no sense, but it has helped me cope, because I knew I was getting ever closer to DBT.
Last week, just weeks from the expected start date, I found out that the programme won’t actually be going ahead, and there is little I can be offered in its place through the public mental health service. That’s a really, really scary feeling. Whatever tiny glimmer of hope we had been allowing ourselves to feel was really and truly destroyed.
A strange benefit to having BPD is that at times when I’m completely overwhelmed, I tend to go numb, which is exactly what happened last week. I spent Tuesday alternating between anger, frustration, intense disappointment and hopelessness, but by Wednesday that was gone. We started to look for alternatives. There are plenty of sites offering online DBT skills programmes, so that was something we considered. I’ve also applied for the Eden Programme with Suicide or Survive, and hope to start that in the next few weeks. But I need more. I need the support of a therapist to help me pull it all together, and that was where we hit the biggest wall.
The cost of attending a private clinical psychologist is immense, and it’s money that I simply do not have - I’ve been attending public services for years for a reason. We found a psychologist who is able to offer exactly what I’m looking for, and has the capacity to take me on now, but there’s the not so insignificant factor of fees to be considered. After a lot of soul searching, we decided to try crowdfunding.
The response to this has been phenomenal. In less than 24 hours, I’ve been given enough to fund almost a year of private therapy. The generosity of those who have donated has left me absolutely speechless. This will quite literally change my life, and that of my family, it’s just incredible. For the first time in as long as I can remember, I genuinely feel like I’m going to be able to get a handle on all this. My husband looks brighter than I’ve seen him in years. This money will give us so much more than just therapy, it will give us our lives back.
However, while I’m beyond grateful, I’m also really angry. I should never have been put in the position of having to ask for money. Treatment was promised, time and again, by the HSE. It’s such an indictment of our health services that this is how it has turned out, and at a time when we’re constantly hearing about keeping the recovery going. Mere days from the election, promises are still being broken.
I also realise how lucky I am to have been able to raise this money - I’ve been blogging for years, have a decent following on Facebook, and so had people who were very familiar with my situation ready to help in any way they could. What about the others who were promised DBT? What are they going to do? And this is just one programme, in one area. How many other programmes won’t be going ahead? How many other people are waking up today feeling like they have no hope left, no future?
If you’ve never felt that, you can’t begin to understand how terrifying it is, and I’m glad for those of you who just can’t identify with it. But for those who can - what will be done? We already know just how little attention has been given to mental health by the main contenders, but this is not something that can be ignored any longer.
People are dying. When you’re already hanging on by your fingernails and hope is taken away, it’s far too easy to let go. This has got to stop. Services have got to be more than just improved, they have to be completely overhauled. The way forward is clear, Mental Health Reform have done huge work in highlighting the changes that are needed. Why has it proven so impossibly hard to make those changes happen?
*You can keep up to date with Fiona Kennedy's blog on Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers where she talks about her experiences with borderline personality disorder.
If you are affected by anything in this article, you can contact the Samaritans at 116 123. They can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Here is a list of other mental health services.