Desperate remedy

    Six weeks ago, I started deliberately cutting my veins so that I
    would bleed heavily. In the past I’d lost blood from wounding my
    arms and even needed multiple blood transfusions, but this was
    different.

    I had five transfusions – 26 pints of blood – in three weeks.
    Afterwards, I felt nourished and hopeful I could return to some
    normality. But, once discharged from hospital, I would come up
    against the same problem of finding each day intolerable.

    I’d be anxious about whether I was physically able to let blood and
    would try again. Having a transfusion showed others my distress and
    desire to be taken seriously. Being in hospital overnight gave me a
    break from my flat and the feeling I wasn’t safe there. But
    wherever I was felt like the wrong place.

    The doctors at the hospital wanted me sectioned and my arms put in
    plaster casts. My psychiatrist said sectioning wouldn’t help. A
    professionals meeting was called and I was invited to it. An
    A&E consultant set out the medical dangers of repeated
    transfusions.

    Two week later my support package was discussed at a care programme
    approach meeting. I continued to see my support worker for five
    hours a week and re-engaged with my former community psychiatric
    nurse. If we feel the working relationship is not effective there
    are other options: psychotherapy or the eating disorders service.

    I’m also going to have an occupational therapy assessment and hope
    to find ways to structure my day. An advocate helped me prepare a
    statement to give the care programme approach meeting asking for an
    acknowledgement of the distress that was bringing me to the
    desperate act of bloodletting.

    I can work with the crisis resolution and home treatment team for
    four weeks. A large part of what they offer is resocialisation –
    going out with their support workers and chatting about anything
    except mental health. This is a refreshing change because my life
    is completely taken up with my distress and I have been in the
    system for nine years.

    The team’s social worker and community psychiatric nurses made a
    list of coping strategies with me, especially ways to make the
    bloodletting less dangerous. These included stemming the flow,
    using the computer as a distraction and trying to go into voluntary
    work for an hour at my most difficult time of day.

    I want to get to the bottom of why I self-harm and struggle to get
    through each day. By gaining an understanding of my problems, the
    services will, I hope, help me do so. I want to feel some peace of
    mind and not be tormented by urges to harm myself. My goal is to
    enjoy at least small parts of the day.

    Alex Williams is a mental health service user and volunteer

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