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Fran

Brief Outline: 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.
Background: Fran is an NHS trainer and lives on her own. Ethnic background / nationality: White British.

More about me...

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.
 

A nurse carried out Fran’s STI and cervical screening (smear) tests. Fran doesn’t like going to the doctors’ but this nurse was kind, jolly and talkative.

A nurse carried out Fran’s STI and cervical screening (smear) tests. Fran doesn’t like going to the doctors’ but this nurse was kind, jolly and talkative.

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I’ve been for a few like STI tests and stuff.

And has he [GP] been understanding, you could, do you feel…?

You go to the female. I don’t, I don’t like a man doing STI tests on me. It freaks me out.

So do you go to the nurse in the GP’s surgery?

Yeah.

So you just phone, you would just phone her?

Yeah, I had to have a smear test and stuff. But I don’t go to the doctor’s if I can help it. I don’t like the doctor’s. It’s just cos it reminds me, actually, no, that’s not true. Because I don’t think I’ve ever liked the doctor’s.

So when you’ve gone to see the nurse, has it been different nurses every time or. . 

No, it’s usually the same nurse, and she’s really nice as well.

So what makes a good nurse there at the GP’s surgery? Cos you said she’s really nice.

I think it’s just kindness and genuinely being nice to people. It doesn’t hurt. Like you’ve been nice to me today, so I’ve been nice back. It doesn’t hurt to be nice to people.

So it’s just those…?

She’s just a nice person. Like she spends a lot of time going to dance classes and stuff. And she’s just like really into dance and she’s talkative, it’s just nice people, nice person.

So she just talks about normal things as well as what have you come in for, that kind of thing?

She’s really jolly, that nurse. But again I don’t think about her that much, no.

So when you’ve gone in, you’ve gone for things like smear tests, STIs? Does she ask lots of questions or do you feel that…?

Yeah, she just gets on with it, yeah.

And you feel quite comfortable?

Yeah, I like that like attitude, yeah.

Did you ever ask her any questions, did you ever want information about anything? Or do you more or less go there?

Just go and get it over with. I don’t like the doctor’s, even though they’re nice people. It’s not their fault. I just don’t like going to the doctor’s, yeah.
 

Taking drugs and breaking up with a boyfriend tipped Fran over the edge. She didn’t realise how drugs were affecting her and doesn’t recommend taking them.

Taking drugs and breaking up with a boyfriend tipped Fran over the edge. She didn’t realise how drugs were affecting her and doesn’t recommend taking them.

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I was still living with my mum then and I tried to set the house on fire because I thought it was full of devils. And they rang the doctor. And the doctor just came and he was like, “She’s really, really ill. She needs to go to a psychiatric hospital.” And he was actually really nice. He was a nice man. Cos I wasn’t that nice to him. And he’s still my doctor and he’s still really nice. And he was just calm, but he was shocked I think. He’d never seen anyone quite like that I don’t think. Like somebody who was really trying to burn down the house, yeah.

So he was the doctor. He came to the house?

Yeah, my mum rang him cos she was like, “Something is seriously wrong with my daughter.”

So you said you were getting ill at school but nobody realised what was really happening?

No, they always thought I was being like kind of really cheeky and naughty. And it’s like when you go into 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. They, yeah....

Did you, what did you feel at that time? Did you feel that something’s not quite right? Or did, did it –

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.
 

Fran’s GP called for an ambulance but she refused to go. She was very ill and confused. The police were called and she was taken to hospital.

Fran’s GP called for an ambulance but she refused to go. She was very ill and confused. The police were called and she was taken to hospital.

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I got put in the psychiatric hospital and...

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.

Yeah, yeah. So do you remember what happened after that?

Yeah, the ambulance people came and I just refused to go with them, point-blank refused. 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.

In the last ten years for three and a half years I’ve been there overall. The first time I was in, I was in for about three months. And then I came out. And all my friends were either going to university or getting jobs or x, y, z. And I was just unemployed and really, really miserable and didn’t know what to do with my life, yeah.

And you were on and off then, on and off…?

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 into hospital.
 

Fran is trying hard to keep well now. Good family and friends helped. The biggest difference has been keeping off drugs.

Fran is trying hard to keep well now. Good family and friends helped. The biggest difference has been keeping off drugs.

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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 will be putting in a special request to stay with the same GP. He’s known her since she was a child and knows all about her health problems.

Fran will be putting in a special request to stay with the same GP. He’s known her since she was a child and knows all about her health problems.

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I’m waiting to move because I’m sick of living in a place where there’s drug dealers everywhere, really, really sick of it. I’m trying to move. I know what I was gonna say, cos you’re not from [place name], are you? So you won’t know the areas. Basically I’m trying to move, and I will do it because I’m really determined to do it, to like an area where there’s loads of green space. And it’s outside the inner city but you can still get a bus. It’s just gonna be peace and quiet, and a lot of old people live round there.

It’s away from all that?

All that crap. Right now I’m living, I’m in a big inner city like block of flats with a couple of other... It’s doing my nut in. So I stay with my mum quite a lot. But my nurse [Community Psychiatric Nurse] is like helping me with stuff like that. That’s what I like, like use her for, well, not use her, but you know what I mean.

So have you got any time plans about when that might happen? Did she say how long that could take?

Probably a couple of months. But I’ve started the process. I mean I wanna move to [place name] eventually. So, but at first it’s like steps and that. You can’t take one big leap. You gotta, yeah.

And say, once you do move, then will you still have the same GP? Or would you have to change?

No, no, but I’ll always have the same GP if you put in a special request. Then if you have mitigating circumstances.

Is that what you will do cos you --

Yeah.

Would you want to stay with the same one?

Yeah, I wanna stay with the same one cos he understands the situation. So I don’t have to go, “Oh no, but I need this drug.” He’ll, he can write it up because he understands it. Cos he’s known me so long, yeah.

So when he sees you when you want repeat prescriptions and everything, do you feel comfortable then to see him or do you do you feel understood?

Yeah, I mean – ish, I don’t, to be completely honest, I don’t think about him day in, day out. I mean if I like go to the shop and I see him at the shop or somewhere, I go, “Hello.” I mean he’s a nice man, he’s a nice man. And I think I did scare him. I mean ten years later he’s still like, “I can’t believe what happened with you.” And that was like ten years later. So, but, no, I think he’s genuinely nice and we do like each other in the way a person’s meant to like their GP, yeah.
 

Fran disliked one of her psychiatrists and thought he was only interested in making money. Another one, though, was kind, jolly and like ‘a really sweet grandad’.

Fran disliked one of her psychiatrists and thought he was only interested in making money. Another one, though, was kind, jolly and like ‘a really sweet grandad’.

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My psychiatrist, he’s, he’s not, he’s a really arrogant man. He’s just like so arrogant. And it’s like he thinks he’s right.... And it’s almost like, he’s got this smirk like, “I’m not here to help you. I’m here to fill my bank account.” It’s like, “Then why are you, can’t you go and do something else to fill your bank account and like not mess with . . ?” yeah. Psychiatrists, I’ve had a couple of good ones. I’m not a massive fan of them.

What were the good ones like?

Kind. And really like, it’s like there was a doctor called Dr [remove name] and it’s when I was on the ward. And I couldn’t really talk to like anyone. I was, and I used to go out and smoke and he used to come out and smoke his pipe with me and just have a chat. And I was like, I’ve never had a grandad. And he was like this proper, he was that old, he was like a proper, really sweet grandad. Like he just really engaged with his patients. 

And I’m not sure, like I’m never really sure what the role of a psychiatrist is, to be honest. Cos it seems to be the psychiatric nurses do all the work. Probably the psychiatrists just have such big caseloads or whatever. But he was just really nice and jolly. And he sat down with me and he was like, “All I need you to do is explain what’s going on in your head.” And I did that. And without really, so, yeah, he was an exception.
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