When I learnt that my brother died and was cremated already without our knowledge that he died 5 weeks before we found out, I went into a horrific state of shock and at the same time auto-pilot. I am still now 5+ years later contacting the German police and court system to get an apology and changes in the system. The president of the court in the city where my brother lived and died has semi-apologized after 2 years of me writing to the police and court. The court that appointed a person to look after the estate of my brother as they supposedly couldn’t find next of kin in an efficient country like Germany, where my mother lived at the same address for over 30 years about 50 miles from where my brother lived. And Germany having an efficient and mandatory ID system, the police couldn’t find us? If the police want to find people they will! EVERYONE is registered! The court president responded in that she finds bringing the news of someone’s passing via an email is “obscene”. But nothing more is done to tackle this issue. And I keep contacting them and now seek ways to find a lawyer to help me!
On top of this, very soon in the early weeks of grief I was targeted and bullied at Pret, which if I wouldn’t have been through this, I would not believe this can even happen!
For new readers, my story is scattered throughout this blog, but easiest to find on the home page or the very bottom of this page in the audio player.
Not only does the bullying situation at Pret seem so unbelievable, I’ve never thought that 5+ years later I’d still be fighting to get adequate help via the NHS mental health service.
My ordeal through the NHS system, into which I have paid my share for 20+ years, is a book in itself. And maybe due to age and years of trauma am I coming to the conclusion that we live in class systems that I never before realized so clearly.
After I learnt that my brother died, was cremated and all the surrounding disturbing information and lack of answers and support, having received the news via an ice cold email that reads like a shopping list, his urn sent via postal service, something that’s supposed to be normal in Germany and other countries … I went into extreme places where I went on an emailing spree that I still struggle with today.
All the sh!t that then happened like a Domino effect, losing friends early on, the bullying in Pret, 3 years later my father dying, now my mother having died, all the other traumas that latched itself on to the catalyst of my brother’s death … could and should have turned me to go on shooting spree 10 times over.
I went on an emailing spree and after initial undeserved loss of support, I made sure I now DESERVE to lose support and friends.
But the ONLY support I kept fighting for was to get help from NHS professional therapy because they are NOT friends and close to me. They are paid strangers who supposed to “know” how to navigate through the minefield of trauma and grief. Well, that’s utopia as I am still experiencing the REALITY of the lack of NHS mental health services.
I received counselling sessions relatively fast, a few months after I got the news of my brother’s death. It was a trainee counsellor who used to be a business man turned therapist who after a few sessions started to talk about himself, which always puts on red flags for me.
Most therapy or counselling is limited to 6 sessions under the NHS mental health system. I paid out of my own pocket to go to bereavement charities which also is limited to mostly 6 sessions, sometimes more. And now with the coronavirus deaths, any and all health systems and charities are at breaking point. But I took everything and anything the NHS offered me. If the NHS would have sent me to cooking classes, I would have gone! I was in an extreme traumatic state and like a zombie walking through an emotional war zone! The inner storm was immense, unbearable and indescribable. And when you then lose support from friends EARLY on, the trauma is magnified and hopelessness coupled with anxiety becomes your constant companion.
I had one charity bereavement counsellor fall asleep by the clock every week as she seemed to have gone through menopause. This was one of the private sessions I paid for. She started off sitting with a poncho wrapped around her shoulders as she was freezing, and then by the clock 20 minutes into the session took off the poncho and started to sweat profusely and then nodding off as I waffled away about a dead brother and a bullying company … E.V.E.V.E.R.Y week her eye lids became heavy around 20 minutes in! I could have set my clock to it and should have left no later then after the third week. I had no problem with her going through menopause, but it was unacceptable that she didn’t do anything about it, like having a glass of ice water and a fan nearby. I wanted to go over and slap her awake!
I waffled on and then stopped the sessions after a few weeks. It was a waste of money and time. In those days I was too polite. Now I would not accept things like this beyond 2 sessions.
Then when I contacted the former CEO of Pret A Manger, Clive Schlee, after I tried for around a year to approach Pret’s HR to stop the bullying by an area manager not realizing at the time how much HR was involved, Pret then paid for a few sessions of private counselling to appear supportive. Yet, the bullying and targeting at work continued which is another book and my whole website is “dedicated” to this vile company that portrays itself to be ethical and caring, while having ignored multiple customer warnings that led to 2 people having died, at least one as a direct result of having ignored warnings to label their products for allergen.
At one point the NHS sent me to three anger management group sessions during the first year of bereavement and being bullied on top of it.
I came around in circles, started from scratch and hardly anyone touched the subject of trauma and bereavement, let alone traumatic bereavement.
Fast forward 5+ years, my family gone, friends gone, work gone and me pushing support away completely traumatized, EXCEPT support from the NHS and charity, I raised a complaint because 2 Psychiatrists since over a year now keep working on me to avoid getting trauma therapy.
They downplayed the bullying at Pret, they downplayed my loss, they (victim) blamed me after I successfully raised a complaint after they did NOT tell us during introductory “MBT” therapy that the main sessions will be video recorded. In a nutshell, in December 2017 and January 2018 I had assessments for therapy. I was offered TWO types of group therapy. One, a general therapy that would go for 24 months starting in the fall of 2018. The other a new form of therapy called Mentalization-Based Treatment (MBT) which would go for 18 months and also start in the fall of 2018.
We looked at both and I ended up choosing MBT. The reason was because it seemed like a very structured therapy form while the general group therapy was just people meeting and talking. It lacked structure and a goal compared to MBT. What made me also choose MBT was that it was a group session once a week with two therapists AND a single therapy session once a week! So, two sessions per week for 18 months!
I felt I’ve won the lottery after waiting for years for long-term help and counselling that was not appropriate for my traumas. Workplace bullying in itself is extremely traumatizing. And maybe one reason I survived was that I was running on “adrenaline” from the horrific loss of my brother and the search to find out what happened. What I didn’t know was that the Psychologist who held the MBT introductory group sessions with a Psychiatrist in the meetings, was in training with the Psychiatrist being the supervisor who was mostly silently observing and rarely spoke. And we in the group were like guinea pigs, as this is still a relatively new form of therapy.
So, in the fall of 2018 twelve INTRODUCTORY group sessions started to introduce us group to this therapy. Then after the 12 weeks, there would be a few months break and then the MAIN 18 months group AND individual weekly sessions would start. In the 12 weeks introductory sessions we were NOT allowed to speak about our issues, traumas etc. Only when the 18 months weekly sessions start were we allowed to speak about personal issues. We were also advised not to speak in private outside of group sessions, supposedly to avoid having mental health issues when influencing each other with our issues. But my alarm bells always go off when I am told to not speak with others outside a setting. Later I had a hunch that they did not want us to share any doubts and influence each other should things be fishy. The 12 weeks were purely about MBT itself and how we would feel about it. That was already hard to again not speak about my brother or the Pret sh!t, but again I gave it all the benefit of the doubt, having been glad to have been “picked” for this therapy that felt like a lottery win after all the wait and ineffective or wrong forms of therapy that NEVER touched my trauma and bereavement!
Then, after 6 weeks of the intro sessions, the Psychologist dropped a bomb half-way through the session and first asked us all to share each how we felt with this therapy so far. Basically, she was taking stock to see how we’re feeling with this. And then after we took rounds and shared each how we felt, she said in these words that I will never forget: “Something else I need to stress is that the main 18 months group and individual sessions will be video recorded.”
It was a complete matter-of-fact sentence that she felt she had to “stress” after a year waiting and 6 weeks intro sessions! Our jaws dropped. For several reasons did a shock wave go through the room. One is, most of us had the initial assessments ONE YEAR prior and we waited a whole year until the 12 week intro sessions started. We were NEVER told this in our assessment to then be able to make informed decisions. It felt like they purposely withheld this information to get us “groomed” for this therapy where it then would be hard to decline as we already started and were 6 weeks in.
The other thing was, they NEVER told us that we can decline, that they cannot force us to consent to recording. We were just given some vague info that the recordings would be deleted after a few weeks and that they just want to go frame by frame in what we were and were not saying etc. By withholding vital information they made us believe that we have to make a choice: either give consent to video recording or having to leave this therapy opportunity. I learnt later that I could have stayed on and decline to be video recorded! But they left us in the air about a lot of this info.
Someone in the group made a great point. We were explained that MBT is mainly about NOT assuming what the other person is saying, but to inquire before we jump to conclusions and pre-judge a situation. And yet, one client pointed out that looking frame by frame at our video to see what we are “not” saying is exactly doing what MBT is trying to teach us not to do: judge a situation, pre-judge and making assumptions! The 2 therapists didn’t quite have an answer for that brilliant point! I only realized later that we were like guinea pigs for the psychologist to be trained! If they would have laid out ALL the info from the first assessment on, it wouldn’t have been an issue and I could have either not partaken in MBT or with the CORRECT information could have declined to be video recorded! But they withheld these pieces of information for a reason! And it seemed like, yeah, the NHS is giving us long-term 18 months group AND individual therapy per week, oh how generous!!! But they failed to mention that in exchange we should consent to be video recorded during extremely vulnerable and personal time during therapy, sharing our most personal issues!
Nothing, absolutely NOTHING is ever for free! And if it is, they’re not telling the full information. This is FOR the NHS training, NOT for us as clients. The NHS gives us “free” therapy (which we paid already for via our taxes!), and in exchange we strip our souls naked in front of a camera! Therapy porn at its best! Forget Dr. Phil!
The lottery win turned into a feeling of being in great debt!
I and another guy got up and left! I raised a formal complaint with the NHS that was fully upheld! Months later I bumped into one from the group and he said that the group sessions are NOT video recorded as even just one person didn’t give consent. But individual sessions are recorded if the individual client gave permission.
A recent Psychiatrist (I call him Dr. Gaslighter here) avoided tooth and nails to diagnose me, even though that was the agenda set forth by another Psychiatrist (I call her Dr. Devil’s Advocate here) whose email I quote below after I started raising a new formal complaint. The lead Psychiatrist over the MBT video issue (I call him Dr. Did Little here) was pissed off with me when he met with me to look at other therapy options after the video blunder. He first tried to discourage me to be put on yet another long waiting list and patronized me with one of two options: Either be on a long waiting list for therapy or volunteer in a hospital and if I had a mental crisis I could reach out to a professional there! I couldn’t believe it! I said, even if I have to wait 10 years, I would like to be put on a waiting list! He then agreed that I would be on a new waiting list for alternative options. Yet, 2 years later, I’m still waiting and just found out that he never has put me on a new waiting list! I feel penalized because I successfully raised a formal complaint with the NHS. Of course they deny that this is retaliation because I ruined Dr. Did Little’s video project!
So, the new Psychiatrist Dr. Gaslighter found reason after reason, excuse after excuse why a diagnosis isn’t a good idea. He told me that the previous mental health team (above MBT therapists and lead therapist over this team in my area of residence) that withheld the vital information on video recording, may not give me “another chance” (in a new therapy). I told him and in a new complaint that it is not I who needs another chance from that team, but it is them who get another chance from me! The gaslighting and manipulation by professional NHS doctors is beyond believe!
And the only positive I take away from the horrific bullying I experienced in Pret during the WORST time of my life is that I can smell horse sh!t miles away now and call it out for what it is! Gaslighting me to make me believe I don’t really have issues except how I relate to others? Yeah, good one!
And then I came across two videos on YouTube while searching if I am crazy again for thinking that after years there’s still no adequate help, on the verge to buy the BS that maybe I am too sensitive! One video is by a client of the NHS who shares that the NHS mental health care does not exist. The other is by a Psychotherapist who is gobsmacked that the NHS REFUSES to diagnose trauma and the BS they give him. Both videos absolute worth watching. Both people share what I myself am going through since 5+ years.
Client: Who lost his young son and other bereavement.
Psychotherapist: One needs a little patience at the beginning to watch his video as he is a little “slow” in sharing, but it’s absolutely worth the 15 minutes!!!
He asks why the NHS refuses to diagnose trauma. I think it’s clear, innit?! It’s ALL about money of course. If trauma is the basis of a diagnosis, trauma therapy costs too much and takes too long. So, they diagnose all sorts of things, diagnosing “around the bush” and providing mainly 6 session therapies that never go to the core of the trauma and as this Psychotherapist then says that people are dying a slow death. The biggest cause of death in men in their 40s in the UK is suicide!
And then, like in my case, they victim blame the patient why no therapy is bearing fruit. Dr. Did Little blamed me, and I was in shock at the time, but now understand that this is just another system again that only looks at the financial side of services given under a Government that has made cuts for a decade. They take my money for 20+ years and then try very hard to not deliver life saving and life changing services when needed.
Many people say to me after my ill emailing, lashing out, flipping out, pushing friends and strangers away (except NHS), often in a degrading way, “my, you have issues, you need help…” or “Have you ever considered getting help?” … And they never ask this out of true concern, and many who do not know the NHS mental health system don’t understand how difficult it is to get adequate help. So, I am again in the middle of a formal complaint after appointments were not kept or they tried to talk me out of a diagnosis, or they blamed me that this or that therapy didn’t work for me and that it seems to be MY fault. The worst thing is that they use and instrumentalize my NHS file against me in a very manipulative way, which I added to my complaint and that I don’t want any and all NHS staff to just access my file like a tabloid paper to then use against me!
One Psychiatrist (Dr. Devil’s Advocate) with whom I am now STILL in communication as she’s trying to find the “right” therapy asked me in the first assessment in what way I was bullied at work during bereavement, I gave her the different scenarios and explained the various types of bullying, from right out being shouted at to the subtle ways that I explain in the audio interview at the very bottom of this page here. I gave her examples and shared that I’ve been through the whole pallet of bullying one can experience. And then she said, “I’m going to play devil’s advocate for a moment here and want to ask if you are not seeing this as too sensitive?” She really asked me if I may be too sensitive about the bullying DURING bereavement, let alone bullying on its own being a traumatic event! Another gaslighting attempt. That was over a year ago when I started mentioning that I will raise another complaint, that I believe that I suffer from PTSD that they REFUSE to even look at the possibility.
I later responded with an email and wrote, “While you as a Psychiatrist want to play devil’s advocate, let me play Psychiatrist and give you the symptoms of PTSD and which ones fit in my situation like a glove on my hand! And only because of the new complaint now, they reluctantly admit that I have “some” trauma and what the way forward could be.
And now, I received a new email and responded to it today. Email from the Psychiatrist aka Devil’s Advocate last week. And this Psychiatrist kept missing getting back to me when she said she would on several occasions and also took weeks to speak to a Psychologist. Quote of part of her email, some sentences I deleted for personal reasons:
My apologies that it gets so late to write to you. I had to attend some unplanned managerial work earlier today, so my plan was disrupted.
I asked a co-lead of our psychology and psychotherapy service to consider how to get you access therapy that will put a focus on trauma related issues as well as …. I gave her a summary of what I already discussed with you. She also accessed your notes (just enough to form her initial recommendations).
Below is my summary of her suggestions:
- She sees impact/consequences of trauma in your presentations.
- She thinks pitching therapy like a journey of stages might be more helpful for you than a service for a single therapy.
- She thinks you would benefit from skill-based therapy interventions as a first step of therapeutic journey, rather than seeking/waiting for a complex trauma work.
- There are a few options of skill-base therapy groups starting soon and you might wish to consider joining one of them.
So, she is suggesting for you to start some skill-base group therapy, and move on to more complex trauma work when you are ready for trauma processing with newly gained or redeveloped skills to feel more regulated.
It is not our intention to keep you away from a trauma focussed therapy. It is good for you to start something small but helpful sooner rather than later, and you can move to your next step of therapy.
I can obtain more details of available groups from her and pass them to you, so that you can consider and tell us your preference. Alternatively, I can arrange a meeting/call with her (with or without me), so that you can ask questions and get answers more quickly.
I am aware that you prefer written communication, but on this occasion, I would recommend considering speaking to her. I spoke to her before I learned about your mother’s passing. She may need to know a bit more about how you are dealing with the loss (as an acute traumatic event) to recommend specific group and/or start time.
Please let me know what you think and how you want this to move on.
Sounds great you may think! But they’ve been promising me to look at trauma since over a year. And “when you are ready for trauma processing with newly gained or redeveloped skills to feel more regulated ” … To feel more “regulated” what the fudge cake does THAT mean?! Speaking in riddles, giving all the options to AGAIN avoid putting me on a waiting list for trauma therapy!
I am being suggested to join some new group thing to learn some “skill” until I am “ready” for trauma therapy. And this means AGAIN, I will wait another year or two or more, and then they find new excuses as to why I’m not “ready” for trauma therapy! Back to square one. I’ve heard ALL the excuses in the book: NHS cuts, the Pandemic makes waiting longer as if I haven’t been waiting before the Pandemic already! Now I have to learn new skills before I’m ready. Etc. etc. etc.
This Psychiatrist uses words that are dead give-aways they again bullsh!t me. And it took her several weeks to speak to this Psychologist while updating me every week. Words like: “pitching therapy” as if to “sell” the Psychologist team that I may really need trauma therapy. Or “rather than seeking/waiting for a complex trauma work”. Rather than seeking … and … rather than seeking “complex … work” making me fear the complexity and that it will take work! Of course any type of therapy isn’t a walk in the park. And for the NHS it certainly COSTS money! So, how should she “pitch” now to ME that I should NOT get trauma therapy!
And keep in mind, I haven’t even STILL been diagnosed! I was only told that I “meet criteria for PTSD” and then endless “but, however, yet” … from Psychiartrist Dr. Gaslighter who was tasked by Dr. Devil’s Advocate after I started raising a new complaint to do a diagnosis. He gave reason after reason why a diagnosis isn’t a good idea!
His BS didn’t work. So, back to Dr. Devil’s Advocate and new reasons why I am now not ready for trauma therapy. And so the NHS saga continues and is now turning into a case study on what length NHS professionals go to, to avoid getting people adequate help.
I responded already and explained that I have had friendships and relationships for years, some dating back 20, 30 years. And when my brother died, I lost friend after friend, opportunities, work etc. Today I wrote a new response and copied in the case worker (advocate) from POhWER who is helping me with the formal complaint. After I kept waiting, taking their “reasons” and excuses for months and years, my response today in a nutshell is saying ENOUGH of the bullsh!t.
My email, Quote:
“If you fractured your leg in several places in complex breaks, in a terrible accident, and you go to A&E, the doctor will not tell you that the NHS isn’t properly funded, that you need to first go to Physiotherapy to learn how to walk before they do the complex work on putting the leg back together.
You can’t relate to others because you are in so much pain, unable to walk and your doctor expects you to re-learn the skill to walk again before they put your leg into a cast or operate on the complex fracture. They may give you pain killers, but the medication just works for a while. The leg is still broken. and medication will not fix the fracture. You are supposed to learn how to walk on a broken leg before they put it in a cast or operate on the fracture.
This is exactly what you are doing to me! You want to avoid that you have to explain (pitch) why the NHS needs to fund trauma therapy after I paid for over 20 years into the system without ever having to need anything from that system.
So, you downplay my “complex” trauma and divert to “therapies” that won’t address my trauma. I am supposed to learn some “skill” in how I relate to others while my trauma is AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN and AGAIN NOT addressed and worked towards healing.
I was sent to “anger management” sessions within months after I learnt that my brother died, was cremated and completely GONE, I was supposed to learn how to “control” my anger WHILE I was in horrific grief and being bullied at work!
I was sent around in circles because in this country MONEY is ALWAYS more important than getting people better!
I walk around with a fracture, in constant pain and being send around in circles, lied to, excuses given, appointments not kept etc. etc.
I am supposed to learn skills and am supposed to buy yet another lie and excuse why my trauma can’t be addressed.”
End of email.
This is too direct and blunt you may say. Yes, it’s about time! And before anyone judges a mentally ill or challenged person why they don’t “seek” help with a professional, ASK first WHAT help they have received so far, if at all! And STOP comparing people and traumas with other people and traumas …
I worked at Pret A Manger and survived systemic workplace bullying during bereavement that involved HR, the top leadership, HQ and even the now “retired” former CEO Clive Schlee. I declined 4 settlement offers if I am silent about my ordeal. But I rather speak out to help others. For an overview of important blog entries of my experience with Pret, please visit “My Ordeal with Pret A Manger”. The little arrow to the right next to each heading will lead directly to the post.
An incomplete list on what other Pret staff say about Pret’s bullying environment: Caught in the Act Bullying at Pret.
I tell my story for the first time verbally in below audio player interview on a podcast by The Adam Paradox, and wrote two articles in the Scottish Left Review.
Thank you for reading/listening.
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