Me: “I’m not doing very well in the mental health department. My severe clinical depression depression comes more than it goes and for all the time it’s actually there. Is there anything else for me in the NHS system?”

GP: “No.”

Me: “Can I have some kind of therapy beyond the limited six weeks you offer?”

GP: “No.”

Me: “How about antidepressants? Can I be put on a higher dose?”

GP: “No. You’re already on the maximum permitted dose.”

Me: “Maybe the ones I am on aren’t working anymore? Can I try some different ones?”

GP: “First of all, you’d have to stop the ones you are on now and once you’ve done that you could start a course of different ones. And they might not work.”

Me: “So, basically I’m stuck on these, then?”

GP: “I wouldn’t recommend changing at this time.”

Me: “What would happen if I had a full-on mental breakdown, completely lost my marbles, tried to kill myself?”

GP: “Is that how you feel?”

Me: “No, not really.”

GP: “But if at any time that changes and you do feel like self-harming or suicidal, please ring one of these numbers. There is help out there.”

Me: “But there isn’t help available if you are very ill, but not suicidal?”

GP: “Well, it’s not quite as simple as that.”

 

This was not one conversation with one doctor. It’s a compilation of conversations with doctors over a long period of time. Every single doctor was fantastically sympathetic and caring, even as they told me there was nothing more they could do. This is why I am stuck in the middle.

If I completely lost my marbles and started to behave even more erratically and irrationally and there was a threat to my well-being, the odds are I’d be carted off in a straitjacket to some kind of institution. If I was a wealthy sportsperson or celebrity, I’d be able to fork out a hefty wedge – say £6k a week for a two month period like the TV presenter Anthony McPartlin – and go into some kind of luxury rehabilitation centre and get all the help I needed, but I am not, far from it, so I rely on the decaying remnants of the NHS. Which means that unlike Anthony, I get literally no help at all. Keep taking the tablets, as they say.

If I’m only mildly mental, the NHS offers time-limited therapy sessions and antidepressants, but that’s it. Hopefully, in most instances, with most people, a combination of these measures may effect a cure. For those of us stuck in the middle, between mild mental illness and full-on suicide-ready, no more hope, there lies nothing. In being treated for mental illness, you need hope. I have none. I’m stuck with this son of a bitch forever. But there’s worse.

GPs and therapists have been telling me for a while I should take a test for ADHD. I take on-line tests, answer honestly and all suggest that not only do I have ADHD and have always had it, I have a severe form of it. So, two years ago, pre-pandemic, I asked for an NHS assessment. I was told there was a long waiting list and after two years of waiting to get on the waiting list, I’m finally on it. How long will it take to be assessed? Oh, it can take years.  Jesus Christ on a bicycle: there’s a strong possibility I’ll be in an urn on the sideboard before I get assessed. Clapping on the doorstep every Thursday night back in 2020 didn’t really achieve much, did it?

So, clinically depressed, probably an ADHD boy and life goes on as it always has. And I learn, painfully, that mental health is not regarded as a serious condition, despite all the weasel words and promises from politicians. It’s true that some attitudes have changed since I was a boy, wondering why I felt so crap, couldn’t concentrate and being told by everyone to stop feeling sorry for myself because no one these days actually says, “Stop feeling sorry for yourself. Pull yourself together. There’s plenty of people worse off than you.” But in truth, that’s how things are. And it’s why I always tell people that when they are low it’s good to talk, but be careful who you talk to.

I’m brutally honest with my mental health these days and tell prospective employers about my illness. I don’t know whether it’s affected decisions on whether to employ me because it’s entirely possible I interviewed badly or didn’t have skills they needed. I’m getting on now so I can afford to tell a new boss what they might be getting. Whether it’s wise for a younger person to do so, I’d say not because the only change I’ve seen with attitudes to mental health are words, not actions.

Stuck in the middle of a system that cares only for those at the lower end of mental illness and the extreme crisis end. Nothing for day to day issues but a creaking emergency service for people in crisis.

I warn you not to get depression, anxiety or any other mental health condition because mental health isn’t regarded as important as physical illness. I’ve all but run out of hope that I can get out of this mess. Do your best to stay away from your own mess. Because if you fall, there may not be anyone to catch you.