Ali's story: one year on from being admitted to a psychiatric ward

It was the end of April 2017. I spent the morning crying in my car on the way to work about the reason I had gone into medicine.

As a child I had witnessed my Dad going through a severe depression, and not recognising it at my eight years of age, I had developed a yearning to reach out to others.

My consultant colleague found me in my car; I was laughing incongruously about this revelation with mascara streaming down my cheeks. I still went to work and treated patients that day.

My mixed affective crisis reached a climax a few days after and, exactly one year ago, I relinquished my house keys to my unconcerned housemate, packed my car up with every possession I owned and set off on a journey with an unknown endpoint.

I found myself on the A31, with no view out of my left wing mirror because of all my stuff, so when I swerved into the outside lane to urgently take the bypass I had no idea whether I was about to kill a fellow traveller. My final destination: Royal Bournemouth A&E, the exact hospital I had been working in for the last quarter.

Ali Blatcher

I presented at reception after a panicked park in any space I could find and took a puzzling course around the periphery of the hospital, pausing to consider ending it all due to the bewilderment going in my mind.

The automatic doors welcomed me into the Emergency Department and I whispered, "I'm a doctor who works here and I want to kill myself," to the receptionist. Those were the truest words I have ever spoken and getting them out was the hardest thing I have ever done.

I was shimmied into to a side room. In my cubicle, I wrote endlessly. Despite the diazepam the pen I was gripping was frantically moving at 100mph, purging out all my distorted racing thoughts.

About my birth, about my upbringing, about the stresses I had experienced at work.

I had written 10 pages of A4 before my parents arrived. I was diagnosed with dysphoric mania, put under section and transported to Forston Psychiatric Clinic in Dorchester.

Turning things round

I spent 10 days in hospital, encountering colleagues I had worked alongside who I was now under the care of. I had bundles of energy, participating in boxing classes and making soap with the OTs. I got diagnosed with bipolar affective disorder throughout my admission.

I made a vlog whilst I was on the ward to show the outside world what it is like to be an inpatient on a psychiatric ward:

It would be the path of least resistance to scapegoat my work as a doctor for my circumstance. What has been more beneficial for me is unpicking the reasons piece by piece with my therapist.

My life was filled with instability, an unfortunate consequence of my profession choice but also other ways I had been living my life. Living for travelling the world, moving house every 4 months, having a lack of routine, no social support networks in place and no emotional outlet.

All these things led to a stress that built up and up in me until it exploded out. Taking responsibility for why and how I got ill is a really humbling experience and I have felt empowered throughout my treatment to make the wise changes I needed in my life.

I stopped working as a doctor five months ago. 

I have a completely ordinary 9-5 job now, but I have an extraordinary mind that makes life interesting and that I appreciate learning more about everyday.

Mental Health Awareness Week 2017 happened last year while I was an inpatient. I have now been hospital free for a year and I am finally ready to speak out about my admission to hospital. So on Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, I will be wearing my green ribbon (order your green ribbon pin badge here) and vlogging every day to end the stigma surrounding mental illness. You can watch these on my Youtube channel or read my blog. You can also follow me on Twitter.

We need your help

For Mental Health Awareness Week 2018, we're focusing on stress. Stress has the potential to lead to a number of mental health problems. By tackling stress, we can go a long way towards achieving our vision of a world with good mental health for all. But we can't do this without your help - please consider a donation today.

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