‘I Have A Headache From Crying’



Fiona Kennedy

Last month, Fiona Kennedy wrote about the barriers she faces when trying to access mental health services.

She has clinical depression and borderline personality disorder.

Today Fiona, who lives in Connemara, Co. Galway, writes:

Eight months ago, I was recommended to stop working with the private therapist I had been seeing for six years, and was put on a waiting list for dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) at the Adult Mental Health Services of Galway University Hospital.

DBT is recognised internationally as being the most effective therapeutic intervention in managing the symptoms of a particularly debilitating mental illness known as borderline personality disorder (BPD), which I was diagnosed with two years ago.

In the last eight months, my situation has gone from barely managed damage limitation, to the point of almost complete mental breakdown. Within three months of finishing with my therapist, I was signed out of work on sick leave as I was no longer able to function effectively. I am regularly suicidal, and self-harm is part of my reality.

When I’m at my worst, however maladaptive it is, it helps me cope. My world has gotten very, very small. I drop my kids to school, I do bits and pieces around the house on the days that I can.

Sometimes I’m able to handle being around people, others I’m not. Those days are particularly tough, those are the ones where I hang on by my fingernails.

But, dragging us through all of this difficulty was the promise of eventually getting onto a treatment programme that would help me to turn it all around.

My family and I have spent the last eight months putting all our hope in DBT. Today, just weeks before the anticipated start date, I’ve been told that it’s not actually going to go ahead at all, because the hospital does not have the resources to provide the programme.

They’ve lost six out of ten therapists from the DBT team, and they have not been replaced. I don’t know where to begin to describe how I feel right now, because the words I have aren’t big enough. Angry, disappointed, let down – they don’t come close. I’m absolutely gutted.

I always had my doubts as to whether or not DBT would go ahead as I’ve been fighting with the extremely under resourced public mental health services for years, but I still can’t quite believe it has genuinely come to this.

I’ve waited eight months. I’ve been told time and again that this is the best thing for me, the only thing that really helps with bpd. To have that hope taken away at the 11th hour is unspeakably cruel.

I realise that this is not my psychiatrist’s fault, and I do genuinely believe that she has done everything in her power to make this happen for me, but right now, that does nothing to change the fact that I’m further than I’ve ever been from getting the help I need.

How is this fair?

We are weeks from an election, and yet services are falling into a worse state than ever before. The therapists who have been lost from the DBT team are not likely to be replaced.

My fear, aside from the obvious impact that not getting DBT will have on me personally, is that the whole programme will just be let slide, will fall way down the list of priorities, and will eventually be dropped.

I’m only one of countless numbers who will be impacted by this, because this goes way beyond the individual. The difficulties of living with and supporting someone struggling with a mental illness are often overlooked, but the impact is very real.

Not getting DBT doesn’t just affect me, it affects my entire family.

I wonder do the powers-that-be know the unique sense of utter hopelessness that comes with being told that your last available option is in fact no longer available?

I want to be angry right now, but I can’t summon up the energy. I’m swinging so fast between moods and emotions that I’m almost meeting myself on the way back.

One of the key features of BPD is emotional dysregulation, which means we find it very hard to maintain a stable mood and can swing from elation to the depths of depression and back again several times on any given day, never mind a day when I’ve been hit with such a phenomenal disappointment. It’s exhausting. I have a headache from crying and am having to work incredibly hard not to let myself be utterly defeated by this

Mental health services in Ireland are in a state of absolute chaos, there simply aren’t the resources available to provide the help that is so desperately needed.

How has it come to this?

How have we reached a point where people with devastating mental illnesses are being told that there is no help available?

Mental illness can kill, and worse, it does kill.

It needs to be taken every bit as seriously as physical illness, and the resources have got to be put back before more lives are lost.

Fiona is an Ambassador for See Change, a national movement that tries to improve attitudes towards people with mental health issues, and she blogs here 

Previously: Access To Mental Health Services

Pic: Congregation.ie

40 thoughts on “‘I Have A Headache From Crying’

  1. ahyeah

    “How have we reached a point where people with devastating mental illnesses are being told that there is no help available?”

    Enda and Joan said our economic recovery is the envy of the western world

    1. Medium Sized C

      Our ecomonic growth was the envy of the western world 10 years ago.
      We spent feck all on this back then too.

      There are certain things in this country that are poop because people don’t care or only pretend to care about.
      And Mental health services are broken because of chronic neglect and apathy by successive governments.

      1. Gorev Mahagut

        The big lie that centre-right politicians tell is this: when “the economy” “recovers” we’ll be able to pay for healthcare, housing and other services.

        It’s a lie because “the economy” is outside the control of any government. Fianna Fáil did not “cause” the economic crash in 2007-8. Fine Gael / Labour did not “create” the “recovery” (although there’s nothing else in this country they want to take credit for).

        Under Fianna Fáil, inequality was masked by a temporary bubble of revenue based on an unstable property boom. The poor got less poor but the game was rigged against them. Under Fine Gael, inequality is masked by the mendacious promise of jam tomorrow, as long as you don’t “endanger the recovery” providing healthcare or decent housing. The poor get even poorer, and the game is still rigged.

  2. Jake38

    The thousands spent by Positive Action on hotels, booze, taxis, flights, “conferences”, massage and other goodies at the taxpayers expense could have gone to provide these services.

  3. Lordblessusandsaveus

    So what is a ‘normal’ personality these days?

    People used to have personalities, good, bad and indifferent. It’s all ‘disorders’ and ‘on the spectrum’ now. It’s like people or those close to them want a label now, an excuse.

    1. orla

      nail on the head there Lord. truly intelligent comment. tell me, was it an easy process for you to get your degree in “online commentary on medicine, with a specialisation in psychiatry”?

    2. Cup of tea anyone?

      One of the barriers to getting help was the shame on both the person and the family that has surrounded mental health issues for generations. so people hid their problems and suffered alone. People are more open to talking about it these days so naturally you are going to see more of it.

    3. Cup of tea anyone?

      and comments like yours were you say they are making excuses is a terrible attitude that makes it worse for those with serious problems.

    4. meadowlark

      If you have ever lived with someone with depression you would not be saying that. It is an illness that takes and takes, that you cannot escape from, that underlies every aspect of your life and your family’s life. Don’t dismiss it. I’ve 20 years experience of living with depression in a family member, and I can assure you that it is no joke, no petty plea for attention, it is a serious and all-encompassing illness.

    5. Fergus the magic postman

      I’ll second that. Anyone who even thinks what you have gone to the trouble of typing is a moron Lordblessusandsaveus. You should be ashamed of yourself, but I doubt you are, while everything is so perfect in your little bubble.

      What a complete Oras Hole.

  4. Shane Gillen

    It’s so sad to see how many people are being let down. It’s a tide that grows ever stronger…

    We were let down too, time and time again, until it was too late. It’s tragic.

  5. 15 cents

    the system to help mentally ill people is a shambles. and it’s not on FGs agenda at all. they never mention it. it’s not something that can generate revenue so theyre not interested. when O’Rourke asked Kenny about it he went into his rehearsed spiel about 200,000 jobs, and stayed clear of mental health altogether. just read yesterday about a lad who got turned away after seeking help, after being told he was fine. he’s since killed his own mother. then theres that man in kilkenny.. every other week has a story like these. the present government do not care. incredibly frustrating.

  6. joe

    extremely unprofessional and lacking in foresight for any MH practitioner to give a patient the impression that any form of therapy is a silver bullet for their condition

      1. sunnyscattered

        Thanks for the clarification!! I know well there;s no one size fits all cure, but as you reiterated…..dbt is recognised as being the most effective therapeutic intervention for bpd.

  7. JimmyTheHead

    “What can happen in some hospitals is sometimes, when they have more beds and more resources, that’s what kind of slows it down. Because they(hospital staff) don’t feel as much under pressure. So when a hospital is very crowded, there will be a real push to make sure people get their X-rays, get their tests and, you know, ‘let’s get them out in four days.”

    – Leo Varadkar, Minister for Health.

    *Quote taken from Ruth Coppingers Fbook*

      1. JimmyTheHead

        Lets not forget that little chestnut from Renua about how they wanted to jail the long term unemployed… would link you the quote but they deleted it from their website.

  8. Shayna

    Great piece, especially from a woman’s perspective. Eight months ago, she “was recommended to stop working with the private therapist she had been seeing for six years, and was put on a waiting list for dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) at the Adult Mental Health Services of Galway University Hospital.
    Who recommended? Clearly, the private therapy was managing her ‘disorder’, to be told that she should plunge into a waiting list for DBT was appalling advice.

  9. sendog

    Surely there is some sort of legal recourse to explore here?
    Evidently the health service is failing this patient and can be argued making her condition worse.
    Is this a human rights issue?

    Would a cancer patient receive this level of nonsense?

  10. Ann

    I hope you’ll be okay Fiona, it’s really not fair. Hopefully there will be some improvement in the healthcare system soon.

  11. Fergus the magic postman

    I really admire you Fiona, although that is little consolation.

    Once again, perhaps more so than ever, our country is failing the most vulnerable. Those who are doing ok, are walking around talking about an economic recovery that the rest of know nothing about, while those of us with real issues are pushed out of sight, like specks of dirt on a seemingly otherwise spotless carpet.

    At least the unemployed were sent letters advising them to emigrate, for their own benefit of course, nothing to do with making the unemployed figures look better.
    Mental health on the other hand does not seem to warrant such attention. Maybe it just wouldn’t benefit the government enough, & let’s face it, that’s all they care about.

    It’s a disgrace, & there are no excuses for it.

  12. Cherie

    I have suffered mental illness since my 20s I’m 42 now. With each pregnancy it makes life 100 times worse. I have borderline personality disorder which was diagnosed when I sought treatment for the sexual abuse I suffered as a child. I have tried so many antidepressants but the side affects are so bad I can’t continue on them.
    I was referred to phsyciatric services where they have put me on meds for schizophrenia (which I don’t have)
    I have a 3 year old little girl that I must mind that has adhd asd and odd. I am tired drained and feel extremely low and very aggressive, something I didn’t have prior to these meds. I phoned my phsyciatrist and voiced my huge concerns,she told me to take the meds every second day and come see them in 3 weeks time.
    I’ve resorted to trying to fix myself ive stopped these hammer drugs and have now tried my original meds combibed with other medications to try ease the side affects . Like you I need to function, my family needs me especially my little girl. I feel so helpless. If something happened in the morning I’d be the worst in the world. You get no real help in this country when you put your hand out or cry for help its seen as a weaknees or defect. We are treated like dirt and treated like fools. Huge mental health stigma in this country

  13. Galway black dog

    I follow your blog. We’re very similar. I’ve had inpatient treatment twice in a private hospital in Dublin. Then once and sometimes twice weekly DBT and schema therapy in Galway city at 100 euro per hour. Only refunded 40% on 8 visits per year by my private health insurance. I attended at least one time per week for over a year. If you do the sums this is about 7k euro. It did a lot got me.

    I got off all meds (they did not work for me despite trying many types many different doses) …. going to group meetings in the community. Still need support and this winter has been tough.

    The DBT is worth it but I will say if the quality and experience of the practitioner isn’t up to scratch yo could waste a lot of time treading water.

    My thoughts go out to anyone struggling with this debilitating daily struggle. X

  14. 15 cents

    its not just the system that needs to change either .. its peoples attitudes. i get terrible lonely, and sometimes ill tell a ‘friend’, or ‘friends’, and they act like you’re a total weirdo and distance themselves from you. and then you feel more alienated. instead of reading the warning sign and even offereing some words of comfort which could be enough. now i never tell anyone, coz its the same reaction every time. for an apprently progressive society, there’s some old ways there that havent died out.

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