Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Road To Hell

The shrink arrived this morning with a medical student in tow. I told her I was much, much better now. I had charted my mood, alcohol intake, sleep and chlorpromazine use over the past two weeks. As ever, she was concerned about the alcohol (70 units/week) and spoke for a good half hour, doing the old motivational interviewing crapola... "so what do you think would make you want to change" etc. Eventually she stopped harping on about it and I got a chance to tell her the good stuff. How I was now taking pictures, restarted my blog and even been to Glasgow for the day. She asked how I had gotten to Glasgow and I told her I'd driven. "YOU STILL DRIVE? DO THE DVLA KNOW?". What the fuck is she on about?

She then explains that the DVLA must be notified when you are diagnosed bipolar and she presumed this would have been done by one of her predecessors. Nope, never heard of such a thing. She says it never occurred to her to check as she had "inherited" me and presumed this was all taken care of long ago. Why does it matter, I'm not epileptic nor do I have narcolepsy. She says that I wouldn't be allowed to drive for about 3 months following a hypomanic episode. Fair enough. BUT she then says her main concern is my drinking and that I shouldn't be driving with my current consumption (only 10u/day). I need to inform the DVLA of my diagnosis or my car insurance will be invalid. They will then send questionnaires to the shrink and my family doctor who will provide them with information not only about my psychiatric condition but also drug and alcohol use. If the docs indicate that I am misusing alcohol I will have my licence taken away. I AM DEVASTATED!

How come Joe Public can drink as many units as he likes, confide in his doctor and continue driving BUT if he happens to have a diagnosis of bipolar diorder his licence will be removed. This is discrimination, no doubt about it. How many fuckin' doctors drink more than 21 units per week? And they keep talking about fighting the good fight against the stigma of mental illness. BULLSHIT. The more perceptive reader may have picked up that I am a wee bit annoyed about this. And before you say it, NO, I can't get the train, there are no stations in my entire region of four counties! No I won't get the fekn bus cos I don't fit into the seats which are designed for tiny munchkins and unable to accomodate 18 stone whales like me.

I live in a remote rural area and without the car I am fucked. A trip to the likes of PC World means a half hours walk to the bus stop. The bus to the city takes two hours. Then there's half an hours bus trip to the retail park. Add on to that lengthy waits for a irregular bus services and you are looking at about 8 hours to buy a memory stick. I can drive there and back in about 3 hours (and without anxiety and physical discomfort).

When I feel up to going for a walk these days, I invariably drive to someplace where I am unknown or where no one will see me. Without the car I simply wouldn't go out. This ain't no psychological breakdown, this is the road to hell.

There's one thing for sure, I will NEVER confide in a doctor about my drinking again. In fact I plan to keep my cards close to my chest and reveal as little as possible about my mental state in future. How can I confide in a service that isn't completely confidential but is willing to inform other government agencies of my condition.


Kate said...

Don't panic Mo,
I don't think your shrink has got her informaion quite right. I'm not aware that there's any obligation to inform the DVLA about a mental health condition unless your GP believes there's a genuine risk. I will try and check this out properly tomorrow at work (I'm a mental-health advice worker wih a diagnosis of BP so I really ought to know!).
As for the drinking - I would tell her to mind her own f**king business.
Take care.

David said...

Hiya Mo - this happened to me last year - I had the license taken off me for 13 months :-(

The facts are (as far as I know) - you don't have to tell the DVLA, but you won't be insured if you have an accident and it comes out after the event that you 'should have told the DVLA'.

That's the facts as far as I worked them out anyway. But once they've got it off you, it's a bastard getting it back.

I kept thinking about causing a carcrash and killing someone, and them not getting any compensation, and surrendered my license. My choice then. I wouldn't be so soft again. I live in the sticks too.

Take care, David

David said...

p.s. I have to have a medical once a year to keep it now... :-O

David said...

And if I remember rightly, their guidelines are something like 3 months for hypomanic, 6 or 9 for manic (can't recall), and 12 for mixed state.

I'd recommend keeping quiet personally, knowing what they are like to deal with.

Feel for you on this. D

Mo said...

Kate that is so kind of you. Thanks so much. But I emailed right after the shrink left. It was then or never. I wish i hadn't now cos i found the guidelines at
Both Depression and hypomania have the catch all phrase.. “where psychiatric has been associated with substance misuse, continuing misuse is not acceptable for licensing”

Looks like I'm fucked. I did explain that 10 units of an evening are expelled over 10 hours so I am always fine by the afternoon unless I've been on an all night bender.

"Substance misuse"... over 14/21 units/week.. the roads should be empty then!

David, I remember reading your blog when you were without a licence. I don't know how you coped. I couldn't, I mean I just wouldn't go out. Thanks for all the info. I hope you manage to keep them off your back.

Sorry if I'm sounding totally selfish at the moment.
Thanks guys

NiroZ said...

Eh, I can empathise with you. As much as people harp on about the dangers of driving and alcohol and mixing them, in rural area's if you can't drive, you really are fucked.

Kate said...

Hello there,
I've been too busy filling in DLA forms and yelling at social workers all day to enquire properly about the licence business. I did however save a page or 2 of notes from Advisernet (only acessable through CAB or advice centres)which i was going to email you but can't find an address on your blog.Most of it seems to be on the govt site..
..which I'm guessing you've already looked at.
I think David's advice is sound but since you've already gone ahead with disclosing, it's probably too late to keep shtum. I'll have a read through the info I've got tonight/tomorrow and if there's anything to add, I'll leave another p.s. It's stuff I ought to know anyway although in 10 months of advising, i haven't had a client with a motoring enquiry (other than selling a dodgy car!). Plus, it's got me a bit twitchy as I'm in possession of a car, a licence and a diagnosis of bipolar and it's never occurred to me to tell DVLA/insurance. Even though i only use the bloody thing once every 4-6 weeks to visit the old dears, I'm paying through the nose for it as it is.
I've always been devious with shrinks/GPs concerning just about everything but especially my alcohol consumption as I had a feeling they'd start shit-stirring if they knew the truth of it! I believe I'm quite capable of monitoring myself and would never get behind the wheel after any amount of alcohol. You're right - it's discriminatory and like you say, the roads would be very clear indeed were it to be diligently applied to the population at large.
Stay sane,

Mo said...

Thanks NiroZ. You're right, in the absence of public transport, no car is a disaster. I've never mixed drinking and driving. In fact 29 years of driving I have a virgin licence and haven't even got a parking ticket.

Oh hell Kate. This has turned into a busmans holiday for you. That's plenty info thanks. I guess I'm just gonna sit and wait it out now.


PS I should have mentioned for folks that my email addy is and the preceding bit is bipolarmo

Morte said...

HI There,
There is some confusion about this it seems, and likewise I've also fallen victim to it (it seems), as I'm due to lose my licence on Friday for no reason whatsoever.

My Pscyiatrist said I should inform DVLA, so I rang them. I was advised by DVLA that as long as my GP had said I could drive (which he had) then there's no problem at all....carry on.

Fast forward several weeks and I get stern letter from DVLA basically revoking my licence, and asking me to fill in questionairre and sign permission for them to access my medical records.

I'm in process of sorting mess out now.

Mo said...

Hope it works out OK for you Morte

PPLIC said...

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