You won’t hear a word of complaint from me about our wonderful NHS. I have had good treatment every time I have needed something from them.
This time it was my GP who referred me back to Dr Sam. “You really can’t go on like this, can you?” she said gently.
I mutely shook my head while looking at the floor.
“Shall I refer you back to the Mental Health Service?”
A sound of assent.
There was a pause. “But it must be Dr Sam, please. I don’t want to see anyone else.”
Maybe I should take back that initial statement. When I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder and went through the Mental Health process, it was unpleasant and entirely unhelpful. They asked irrelevant questions and it seemed to be a mere box-ticking exercise. At the end they said, “Yes, Bipolar Disorder. Here’s a prescription for Sodium Valproate.” I went away, did some research, and concluded I would rather live with the bipolar than the side-effects of that particular drug.
Fifteen years later I was back, because the mania was getting worse. My family was suffering, my friendships were threatened, my erratic behaviour in business could have harmed the whole company. Something needed to be done.
This time I had Dr Sam. Sam is not his surname. The name on his doctor’s certificate starts with an R, loops all around the alphabet like a crazy rollercoaster and ends up back at R.
I have never met anyone who listens like Dr Sam. His questions fall so naturally you hardly notice them. He takes his time. He is compassionate and gentle. And thorough. Very, very thorough.
When he recommended the medication I use now, he said, “Go away and research this, and tell me what you want to do.” He respected me as an intelligent and well-informed patient and involved me in my treatment.
You don’t just walk into his consulting room; he comes down to the waiting area, greets you and escorts you up.
The first thing I said was, “If you can’t do anything else, that’s okay. You’ve sorted out the mania; I can live with the depression. It’s an inconvenience; it’s no longer a life-threatening condition.”
He thinks, however, there is something that can be done. He thinks we can add another medication into the mix which will make things better. He does not like any of his patients to suffer with severe clinical depression. Which is what he says I have.
Again, he said, “Go away and research this; then come back to me and tell me what you want to do.”
I hope all of you have someone similarly understanding and helpful in your life, whether a therapist or a psychiatrist or your GP. Sadly, I suspect, for many of you, that seems an impossible dream.
But they are out there, and I hope you find one soon.