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Fran

Brief Outline: Fran is an NHS trainer and lives on her own. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.
Background: Fran had psychotic episodes when she was younger and was hospitalised several times. More recently, she has been feeling better and only visits her GP for repeat prescriptions and to get her benefit forms signed. A community psychiatric nurse visits her weekly and Fran appreciates the practical help she gets.

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Fran started having mental health issues, which were partly drug-related, when she was a teenager. She said that her teachers at the time saw the illness as bad behaviour and expelled her from sixth form. They later had to apologise for their mistake. Fran was living with her mum when she had her first major psychotic episode. She wanted to set the house on fire, believing that ‘it was full of devils’. The GP came to the house and she was taken to a psychiatric hospital, where she spent the next three months. For the next ten years Fran spent three and a half years ‘on and off’ in hospital. 

Over the years, Fran met a lot of health professionals and found that some staff ‘just don’t give a damn’. For Fran, a good doctor is someone who has ‘empathy and genuine kindness’, like her GP who knew from the start that she wasn’t just a ‘naughty teenager’ but needed help. 

More recently, Fran has been feeling better and only visits the GP to get repeat prescriptions and her benefit forms signed. She has a community psychiatric nurse (CPN) that visits her weekly and Fran appreciates the practical help she gets. She got on particularly well with her first CPN, who was on maternity leave. Fran found her ‘really clever, really perceptive’ and motivating. She also appreciated that this nurse told her when she behaved like a ‘naughty little bugger’ but was genuinely proud when Fran did something well.
 
At the time of interview Fran felt ‘pretty good’ and was ‘really, really trying to keep well now’. Her family and friends were her main source of support, and ‘not taking drugs’ had been most helpful in terms of keeping well. She was planning to move away from the area where she was surrounded by people taking drugs to somewhere with ‘loads of green space ....and peace and quiet’. 

Fran works in the NHS, giving training in better ways of restraining people who are aggressive during psychotic episodes. In her free time, she likes to write poetry, cook, and is thinking about going to dance classes again. 

In Fran’s opinion, perceptions of mental illness have changed a lot over the last ten years. Her message to healthcare professionals was that ‘it doesn’t hurt to be nice to people’, empathetic and compassionate. 


Fran’s poem:  

Stealing Song

I'm always writing stealing songs
About things that belong to other people,
other people’s lives.
Criminal poems.

They never just take what they want
They never just say it straight
The things I want usually shouldn't be mine
So my poems reflect those lies in every line.

They slip a metaphor into their back pocket
With a switchblade made out of dark blue ink,
Slashing Similes.

Hiding behind a can of cherryade,
Laced with drawers full of erasers,
Rubbers - every colour of the rainbow,
Tippex, scribbles over scribbles over burn marks on the pages.
Everything clouded over with toxic smoke.

Buried deep underneath is love,
Pirate’s treasure,
Flowers stolen while garden hopping in the middle of the night.

Words are little explosions -
The striking of a thousand matches,
One by one
Like messages from god,
Come and gone too quickly for anyone to decipher.

For more of Fran’s interview see our site on ‘Seeing the GP: Advice and tips for young people’ 

http://www.healthtalk.org/young-peoples-experiences/seeing-gp-advice-and-tips-young-people/fran
 

When Fran, who used recreational drugs, told her mum she thought she was a wizard, her mum said, “well, I’m a wizard and so’s your gran”. She didn’t realise it was serious until Fran tried to burn the house down.

When Fran, who used recreational drugs, told her mum she thought she was a wizard, her mum said, “well, I’m a wizard and so’s your gran”. She didn’t realise it was serious until Fran tried to burn the house down.

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Yeah. And the way I look back on it now, I mean I was the one that the shit really hit the fan with. But I look back on my friends and stuff then, like we were all a bit mentally ill. Like when you’re a 16-year-old and you’re doing, you’re getting that high every weekend. I think quite a lot of my friends weren’t that well, so they didn’t notice it in me really.

Did anyone else notice it? Or if they did, they didn’t say anything?

I think a lot of people thought I was just having a proper like strop at life and I was really kicking out and I was just trying to be rebellious. So like, “Screw you. I don’t need rules.” And that wasn’t what I was trying to do at all. I was genuinely terrified. But and that, I don’t think anyone noticed it. Cos like, it’s like I had a conversation with my mum. It makes me laugh now, but I was like, “Mum, I think I’m a wizard.” And she just thought it was a joke. So she got into this massive thing, she’s like, “Yeah, well, I’m a wizard and so’s your gran and so’s your uncle. And most of your friends are wizards.” And I took it genuinely very seriously and started going about and I was like, “I’m a wizard, yes”. But nobody got it until the shit really hit the fan.

So when the shit hit the fan, was that when you were thinking, you know, you’d burn down, wanted to burn down the house? Was that the point when?

Yeah, I got put in the psychiatric hospital

So first your doctor came round?

Yeah, my GP. I just remember I said to him, something like, “You don’t understand. You’ve got to let me burn this house down. We’re all gonna die if I don’t.” And he, and I had a big bottle of pop, a big bottle of lemonade and I poured it on him. I’d been really ill, yeah, I’d been really ill.
 

Fran describes being taken to hospital.

Fran describes being taken to hospital.

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Yeah, the ambulance people came and I just refused to go with them, point-blank refused. And they, and they were like, “You’ll make it like harder for yourself. You don’t understand that we will get you to a psychiatric hospital.” I was like, “No, you won’t. You can’t force me to go to hospital. You’re talking crap, blah, blah, blah.” And then after that the police came. And they’d been saying to me, “If you wait for the police, you’ve got no choice. They can handcuff you. They can put you in the back of an ambulance.” And I just thought they were talking rubbish. Cos, because I thought, “Well, I’ve not really committed a crime.” But then they came and they put me in handcuffs and just like proper bundled me into an ambulance and took me to hospital.

So they took you? They, they didn’t get the police in or anything?

No, no, they did get the police in.

Oh, right. And then the police took you to hospital?

Yeah, the police turned up and, yeah, they like handcuffed me and everything.

And took you the, to the hospital?

Yeah.

Did anyone come with you?

Yeah, my dad did. And he was just like all over the place. Like he didn’t know, it wasn’t very nice. And then he came and he was like, “This is my daughter. Please look after her.” And he, I don’t think he could really like handle it. So he left and then, yeah, I was just in the psychiatric hospital, yeah.
 

Fran said there are “good ones, amazing ones” and some who “don’t give a damn”. She appreciated people who showed empathy and recognised she was unwell.

Fran said there are “good ones, amazing ones” and some who “don’t give a damn”. She appreciated people who showed empathy and recognised she was unwell.

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He was really nice and he was genuinely like just really worried. Like he wasn’t a bit like horrible. He was like, “Oh, my God. This is like a child almost. Like what the hell’s wrong with her?” yeah.

And over the years, did people, whether it was doctors, GPs or people at the hospital, counsellors or psychiatrists, did they talk to you about what was happening or you know?

They, but I was very hard to talk to cos I was so like hyperactive and all over the place. But, no, with members of staff in general there’s been good ones, amazing ones, and ones that are truly like, you’re like, “Why do you work in the caring profession? I’ve never met a person that cares less about other people.” So some people would really bother to sit down and try and work it out with me. And some people, they just don’t give a damn. They don’t, they actually don’t give a damn. And you’re like, “Why the hell are you doing this job?” really.

So the good ones, let’s talk first about the doctor, the GP. What would you say makes a good GP? How should a GP –

I would say, I mean cos loads of people ask me this question, more than anything just having empathy and genuine kindness. Take away all the bureaucracy and walls and professional boundaries. And I think professional boundaries should be there, otherwise it would just be over the top. But just, if like you’re ill and you’re really vulnerable, and it goes for mental illness or like a physical illness I’d say, knowing that another person cares about you. And not in some false way where they’re just paid to care about you. That it is the best thing that you can get from a professional or just from a person. And he genuinely care, like cared, my doctor. Like I don’t really go to see him much. But he was genuinely like, “All right, she needs help.” And it’s the first person that had gone alright, “She’s not just naughty and trying to prove a point. She needs help and that.” And that was good.

Did you need to hear that to, to make sense of…?

Yeah, I mean I did need help. I really, really did need help and stop being accused of being like a naughty teenager. Cos I wasn’t being one at all. I wasn’t well.
 

Fran works in a training centre for mental health staff and thinks there have been improvements in training about restraining patients.

Fran works in a training centre for mental health staff and thinks there have been improvements in training about restraining patients.

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That’s not really a hospital. It’s a training centre and it’s not really dealing with ill people. It’s more dealing with staff. And that’s a completely different vibe really. I mean they’ve tried to get me to go on to the wards and do whatever before. I’m not massively on it because I’m gonna know loads of those people on the wards from when I was ill. So it’s just like too much.

Yeah, yeah. So when you, when you say, when, when you say training, like working with staff, training them or training them about different issues and things, what, what do you do?

Ah, first, ah. Trying to think. Yeah, in, I was gonna say in the olden days I remember, it’s not that long ago. When I first got put on a ward, it all completely kicks off on a psychiatric ward. And people do a lot. And they become very dangerously violent. And usually it’s not their fault. But you get them in a restraint hold and you put them in a cell which isn’t that different to a police cell. You inject them with loads of drugs and basically you pin the person down until they’ve calmed down. That has been looked at, the restraint process, and they’ve said, “This isn’t right. We shouldn’t be doing this to ill people.” 

So they’ve kind of engineered a completely new way where you lock arms instead. And so when you put the person in the room you don’t drag them. You like walk them. Actually it looks really sweet and really funny like three people, like that. And then you don’t hold them down and put the injection in their bum. You make sure they’ve got in to the room in a safe way. You give them a tablet to calm them down, which is more if they want the tablet, and you wait for them to calm down. It’s only in extremes that you put it... And basically I do stuff like help to teach people to do stuff like that rather than… Or there’s kind of care plans, where, most mentally ill people aren’t involved in their own care plan at all. And I’ve helped to design the new care plan and stuff. So I do stuff like that.

It sounds good.

It is really interesting as well. I like the psychology of it, yeah.
 

When Fran was having delusions and thought that others were trying to kill her, her school thought she was just being “naughty and aggressive” and expelled her.

When Fran was having delusions and thought that others were trying to kill her, her school thought she was just being “naughty and aggressive” and expelled her.

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With, I mean it sounds really crazy now cos it’s ten years ago as well, but I was really getting ill. Nobody understood that I was getting ill. So at school, I was in school, I was in the sixth form at school and they expelled me. Cos they were like, “Your behaviour’s out of control. What do you think you’re doing?” And they didn’t understand. Then they had to apologise later, but that’s a different story. 

No, they always thought I was being like kind of really cheeky and naughty. And it’s like when you go in to school and you genuinely think that people are trying to kill you and stuff, you’re going to be a bit naughty and aggressive. And it got completely misconstrued. And they expelled me and they expelled my best friend as well. And they had to apologise. They had to, like, write a formal apology for it. Which made me feel quite good. 
 

Fran lives in an inner city flat where alcohol and drugs are everywhere. She wants to move to the countryside where she can get the peace and quiet she desperately needs.

Fran lives in an inner city flat where alcohol and drugs are everywhere. She wants to move to the countryside where she can get the peace and quiet she desperately needs.

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Yeah, it’s part of my plan. I mean I’ve had to tell so many people to go away, and that’s not the easiest thing to do. But then when all these people are your neighbours, it’s just like, you’re just desperate to move. Because I’ll go to the shop and I’ll see like, “Come for a can.” And it’ll be like, “Mate, it’s 8, it’s 8 in the morning.” And then I’ll be like say, “I’m not coming for a can.” “Oh, you think you’re too good for us now, don’t you?” It’s like, “No, but I just ended up in the psychiatric hospital. Enough’s enough.” Like, yeah, but.

So moving will be really good for you?

Yeah. And it’s, basically it’s still like [place name]. It’s quite near my mum’s house. Which is nice. I can get one bus into town, so it’s not too far out, but it’s basically in the countryside at the same time. And I’m just like, really love the idea of just walking around. And there’s some really beautiful walks round there.

So your mum and family will be nearby?

Yeah.

You’ll know, it’s not like you’re in the middle of nowhere?

Nowhere, yeah. So I’ll know my way back into town and everything. I just need peace and quiet. I need peace and quiet like seriously.

Will you still be able to get to work and all your other..?

Yeah. Not as easily, but one bus. So it’s alright.
 

The things that help Fran stay well are friendships, and staying off drugs.

The things that help Fran stay well are friendships, and staying off drugs.

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On and off, I was on and off for years and years. Then I got well for about, I’m crap with like time and stuff. But I got well for a really long time. And then I got really, really ill again. Then I got well for about four or five years. And then last winter I came again for two months in to hospital. And then since then I’ve been pretty good. Like I’m really, really trying to keep well now. And that makes a massive difference.

What’s helped most?

Quite a lot of things really. The people I love. Had some amazing people just stick by me, like all of my family and my friends. Some friends left, like some friends didn’t, but the ones that stayed it’s like they’re worth their weight in gold. But good stuff sometimes to a certain extent and self-motivation. But I’d say more than anything not taking drugs. I’m not a person that can take drugs.

So every time you got ill between the years, was it cos of drugs? Or were there different reasons or?

I think there were different reasons. But the different reasons always had an undercurrent of drugs, yeah.
 

Fran loves dancing, cooking and also enjoyed writing poetry and doing art therapy when she was unwell. They put her “in a zone” and she forgets about everything.

Fran loves dancing, cooking and also enjoyed writing poetry and doing art therapy when she was unwell. They put her “in a zone” and she forgets about everything.

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No. Basically like I went to dance classes. I really enjoyed that. I wanna get back into doing that. But, yeah, I’m pretty like content with things as they are at the moment. As long as it keeps going well, I’m like happy. When I was younger, I really wanted stuff. Like I was like, “I’ve got to see the world. And I’ve got to go and do amazing stuff.” And now I’m not really like that anymore. I just really appreciate the fact I’m not on a ward really, yeah.

Yeah, yeah, that’s really good. Is there anything else you want to mention that I haven’t asked you about? Anything that was important to you?

No, it’s been pretty thorough. Oh, yeah, I had an art therapist for a while. And that was good. That was another thing that really worked.

Was that in hospital or community-based?

Both. While I was in the hospital she continued the sessions.

So that worked for you as well?

Yeah, I mean she was just a really lovely woman. And she just gave me a space to draw, and then explained all these crazy drawings that I was drawing.

So now at home, the things that you keep going on with are like writing poetry that works for you?

Yeah.

Writing down your thoughts, that works as well

Yeah.

Any other things that work for you?

I’m quite a good cook. I like, I like cooking. I’m good at cooking.

Oh that’s good.

I think my food, I mean I cook really tasty food. I’ve got a good palate.

And you find that relaxing?

Yeah, yeah, I love cooking. I absolutely love it. It just puts me in a zone where it’s like I’m just doing the cooking. And that’s what I’m like when I dance as well. I forget about everything. I mean I’m not a good dancer particularly, but I go out and dance a lot on the weekends cos it’s more fun than just being sat in the pub bored. And, yeah, the same thing. Everything that puts me in the right there, right now. I like that feeling.
 

Fran had been using recreational drugs socially, but remembers after splitting up with her long term boyfriend, doing a lot more and it “tipped” her “over the edge”.

Fran had been using recreational drugs socially, but remembers after splitting up with her long term boyfriend, doing a lot more and it “tipped” her “over the edge”.

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To be completely honest, I had the same boyfriend for almost three years. And then we broke up when I got in the sixth form. I just started, I mean I’d always been a person that got wasted, but I just did a lot of intoxicants really. And lots of Ecstasy, stuff like that. And it just tipped me over the edge like properly. I mean I don’t think drugs are good. I think they’re bad for you. I don’t think they’re good for people. But at the time I didn’t really know the severity of what they were doing to my brain. 

Yeah. And was everyone that you were hanging round with also doing it, so it’s just that –

Yeah. And the way I look back on it now, I mean I was the one that the shit really hit the fan with. But I look back on my friends and stuff then, like we were all a bit mentally ill. Like when you’re a 16-year-old and you’re doing, you’re getting that high every weekend. I think quite a lot of my friends weren’t that well, so they didn’t notice it in me really.
 

Fran says that if you are using recreational drugs and alcohol and this is affecting your mental health you’ve got to “look hard in the mirror”.

Fran says that if you are using recreational drugs and alcohol and this is affecting your mental health you’ve got to “look hard in the mirror”.

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What would you, any message or advice that you would give to someone, a young person who’s in that --

Just, “don’t take drugs.” Or you will end up like me and spend three and a half years of, if you are prone to that sort of mind. That is to know, don’t take drugs anyway. Or you’ll, I mean my best friend died, died of like, like a heroin overdose. It’s not nice. 

And I’ve spent three and a half years locked up. I couldn’t leave. A building not much bigger than this, for six months they wouldn’t let me out of the building. 

At the hospital?

And banned from going to like, from like, to like America for another eight years or something. And it’s like just, and it, that’s not worth it, is it? If I could go back, I wouldn’t do it all over again, not at all. It’s scary.

What would you say to someone who, who’s been in the same situation and they’re wondering, “How can I move forwards?”

To move forward, you have to look at your life and go, “Oh, my God, my life is awful. Oh, my God, I’ve been a dickhead for like years. If I don’t sort this out, I’ll just be a revolving door psychiatric patient who’s got a drugs problem and serious emotional problems.” And you’ll lose everybody. You’ve gotta look that hard in the mirror. Then you’ve gotta completely change your life on like a radical level. 

And you’ve got to accept there’s loads of stuff you can’t do no more. You’ve got to like spend nights in bored out of your mind while all your friends are going out to parties. Because you’ve got to maintain your mental health. And then it starts to get better. But you have to want to make a change that badly. Cos when you get as ill as I was, they said I’d never get better.

So you’re proving them wrong aren’t you?

Yeah. I know a few other people who have, they were told they’d never get better. And now, like my friend [friend’s name], they, he was on a ward for like three years straight and in a psychiatric prison. And now he goes round the world doing talks and lectures and stuff. And they told him he’d never get better. 
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