This page contains a shortlisted entry by Leanne Walker for the RCPsych Future Archives Competition.
My name is Leanne Walker. I currently work in the NHS as an Expert by Experience, in the same service I used to use. I am passionate about working with lived experiences to change and improve services. This piece is called ‘Hello. Can you hear me?’ And is about my journey to psychotherapy in the NHS, something many different services had told me I needed for years, yet I never managed to arrive at the right door. In the end, it felt like the louder you shouted the more chance you had of being heard and I can’t help but worry for those who are not in the position to do that. I am happy for this entry to be open to the public immediately.
‘Hello. Can you hear me?’
I’d finally found myself at the door,
After trying to seek this help many times before.
And now I just needed the door to open,
Protect me from the rising seas,
Shelter me from the depths of this misery.
So I shared.
The words tumbled right out into the air.
And occupied the space between,
His and my being.
I’d poured myself out, right into the room,
I’d poured myself out, help would come soon.
Swimming in a sea of intensity,
Hoping that someone would catch me,
And stop me from drowning.
I’d been treading water,
Trying to shake,
The waves from my ears.
But they flooded on in,
Filled my body up with fear.
‘Psychotherapy is what you need, but it’s closed to referrals for the time being...’
‘…and the other service wouldn’t take you because you haven’t stopped functioning,
You’re getting out of bed and hey… that’s great.’
‘And I’m afraid well, the other service… there’s an awfully long wait.’
Had they not heard?
Were they not swimming also in all that I had poured into the room?
I stopped kicking
to the floor
In this circle
I opened my eyes
looked up at him
my eyes said
please jump on in.
You see, I needed a helping hand,
How many times can you arrive at the same door?
With different keys,
Different options, conversations, possibilities,
For it to never open.
‘…I’ll… take it... to team meeting... and discuss it there...’
And I kicked the floor and sped to the air.
A tiny glimmer of hope,
The door had been wedged open,
Not enough to get inside,
But enough to feel the outpour of emotion.
And then came COVID.
A monstrous thing.
It booted the wedge as hard as it could,
The door slammed shut,
And alone again I stood.
How could it be?
‘Hello. Can you hear me?’ I spoke and spoke.
‘Hellllooo, I’m still here.’ I said and heard the choke,
In my voice with each word I spoke.
Until I no longer shouted,
Help wasn’t coming.
It seemed the world stood silent,
As the seasons changed.
It seemed help had vanished,
And alone I stayed.
COVID had changed everything,
How could it be?
For so long I had been trying my hardest,
To get to psychotherapy,
And I felt so close,
And suddenly I was so far away.
Do I give up?
Or try again another day?
I decided to shout again,
This time armed with a megaphone,
Paper and pen.
The megaphone helped my voice to be heard,
And I collected all the keys I could
I searched and searched in the sea right down to the mud,
Pulled them all out one by one,
I had to be prepared
Before I marched right back up to the door
‘Hello I’m still here!’
Hitting the door with my fist.
Had I somehow drifted into the abyss?
Left in the corridor,
Trapped between two doors.
It took many months and many megaphones,
Finally I was joined by someone,
No longer alone.
They told me ‘You’ve made it to the waiting list.’
Relief. I thought I’d been missed.
I thought me and my megaphone had been blacklist’
Millimetre by millimetre,
The door began to open,
But there stood COVID,
Unmoved and unbroken.
But finally my journey to services felt less hopeless.
I didn’t need to physically, step through the door anymore,
Because although COVID remained,
Adaptions had came,
The way services operated,
Now somewhat changed.
So after many months
I finally sat in front of my therapist
The internet both a positive and a negative.
And it is strange to have never met him in real life.
I’ve only seen him on a screen,
But I’d much rather this,
Much rather this,