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Hazel’s story: rediagnosis and compassionate support

Hazel’s story highlights the difficulties that people with mental illness face. Previously dismissed and misdiagnosed, she found strength and resilience with Change Mental Health

Hazel’s story is a testament to the resilience and despair many people with mental illness face daily. Since she was a teenager, Hazel faced difficulties with her mental health. She reached out to doctors and nurses for help, but they couldn’t quite understand and address what she was going through. She self-referred herself to Change Mental Health in Tayside. With our support, she created coping strategies and built resilience. Sarah helped her continue a high-quality life with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD). 

 

Hazel recalls that problems with her mental health started in her teenage years. She sought help from healthcare professionals, doctors and psychiatric nurses. Initially, she was told she was too young to act on it. This early experience of dismissal created a pattern where her concerns were often overlooked.

As she persisted in her search for support, attending numerous appointments, the frustration of not being heard or properly diagnosed began to mount. She faced the painful reality of her concerns being minimised, leading to a cycle of repeated visits with little progress.

In August 2021, her mental health declined drastically and she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder type 2. Due to COVID restrictions, diagnosis was done over the phone and did not involve an in-depth interview. She was given a prescription for mood stabilisers, which she recalls didn’t help and caused severe side effects. She went through multiple medication changes. She ended with advice from her doctor to stop taking all the medication she was prescribed.

“My body went through huge withdrawals. Loads of things happened during this time. I ended up shaving my hair because my skin was on fire. I would have those moments when my whole body would start jerking. I phoned NHS three or four times, saying that I felt suicidal, but because I didn’t want to act on it because of my family, that wasn’t a good enough reason to need help. So, I got brushed off again. Only my husband and family were still trying to get me help.” suicidal thoughts

Juggling part-time employment and the responsibilities of caring for her children added immense pressure to an already challenging situation. She felt that every day presented new hurdles. Despite the suicidal thoughts, she didn’t receive support. Having her family in mind, she didn’t want to act on them, which made it not severe enough to provide her with help on time. Sadly, her struggles escalated to a critical point where she tried to take her own life.

“So I think that’s once I had actively acted and had a suicide attempt. That’s when they started actually to care a little bit. I haven’t left my bed other than to go to the bathroom for about a month. So leaving the house was a big thing. My husband explained that he’d stopped working to look after me, where the person we met with said that my husband has to go back to work and I had to get a grip and start dealing with everything.”

During this dark period, she recognised the severity of the situation. She decided to seek counselling independently and found Change Mental Health in Perth.  

 

Hazel self-referred herself and was contacted by Sarah from the Tayside team. Sarah approached Hazel with empathy and a genuine interest in helping her. During the initial interactions, Sarah ensured that Hazel felt comfortable and safe, giving her various communication options based on her comfort level. One of the most striking elements of Sarah’s support was her ability to create a safe and open environment for Hazel to share her thoughts and feelings. Sarah’s engaging and approachable nature made it easier for Hazel to open up, “She was quite chatty, so she did all the talking and I was able to finally feel easy to talk.” recalls Hazel.

 

Sarah’s active participation extended to accompanying Hazel to medical appointments, forming an essential bridge between the clinical aspects of Hazel’s treatment and the emotional support she required. Rather than focusing solely on revisiting past experiences, she explored how to improve Hazel’s situation and address her needs. This practical support was a lifeline during moments of confusion and vulnerability, ensuring that Hazel was never alone in her healthcare interactions. During one of the appointments, Hazel had her diagnosis changed from Bipolar Disorder type 2 to Borderline Personality Disorder.

Hazel was worried she would be pushed to go on medication and judged for her decision. She was positively surprised by the support from the Change Mental Health team, which understood that with her experiences from the past, she might feel reluctant. Instead of judgment, she received support in developing coping techniques, encouragement and understanding.

“She’s built up my confidence a lot, and even when I was feeling rubbish, she could find the good things happening. She praised me on everything I’ve been doing and reminded me how far I’d come. Whenever we met, she quickly pointed out things like how I’m acting now and how different everything is compared to those times before.

“It’s just been a big boost. So, I went from being unable to leave my house to being able to go out and meet her and have a laugh and then getting back into work as well. It has been a massive thing for me. After the day I passed my driving licence exam, she came with a card and she had a wee gift, which made me feel really important.”

As Hazel’s account with Change Mental Health came to a close, she expressed gratitude and shared her hopes for the future: “My account was closing, but the fact that I know that she’s still there if I need her is a big thing.” This reassurance provides Hazel with the confidence to face whatever challenges may arise in her mental health journey. She had learned to identify the cues and triggers that signalled potential setbacks. The ability to recognize and address her own mental health needs gave her a sense of control over her wellbeing that she had never felt before.

 

“With mental health, it’s never set in stone. You could go for weeks. After a few years of being wonderful, something happens and it falls back again. And you mean recovery in any situation is never plain sailing. You’re always going to have dips, and there will always be things that happen, but it’s knowing that you have that support system that makes a difference.”

The support from Change Mental Health also profoundly impacted Hazel’s family. Her husband, who had endured the stress and worry that often accompanies supporting a loved one through mental health challenges, was now in a better place. He was no longer burdened with constant anxiety, wondering what he would come home to each day. Hazel’s children also benefited from her improved wellbeing, witnessing a mother who had learned to manage her mental health effectively. Hazel’s family had learned how to face the complexities of her mental health and offer their support more effectively.

In closing her case with Change Mental Health, Hazel was not bidding farewell to support but instead welcoming her future confidently. The support system she has in place and the valuable lessons she has learned made her feel well-prepared to tackle any obstacles that lay ahead. Hazel’s journey is not a story of unbroken success, but one marked by resilience, growth and the unwavering support she received from Change Mental Health.

“I’m quite self-aware now. I didn’t know a lot about what was going on with me. I wasn’t able to put it all together. Now I can, so it’s a lot easier. Before, I was lost and didn’t have anybody, and nobody was helping. So yes, it’s completely different. Everything’s completely different. It’s like I’m back to being like a normal person. It’s normal now.”

support

If you need support, our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10 am to 4 pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our own Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies.

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page.

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