I remember my first trip to the doctor, at least, this was the first time I had spoken to a doctor about my mental health.
I was 14, anxiety had taken over my life at this point but I did not know what anxiety was. Or what mental health was for that matter.
I sat in front of the GP, I told him my feelings. I just wanted to be listened too and helped, but I got sent away.
I went back again to the Doctors at 16 years old. I now had a not so lovely bit of depression growing inside me like a bad seed. I filled out a score sheet (how can you even rate mental health on a scale of 1 to 10, it’s silly), the GP said there was nothing he could do.
The Doctor told me I was just hormonal and sent me away.
Later that year, it all got too much. I am certain I had attempted suicide at this point (there have been so many attempts I’ve lost track). My parents managed to look into it and they found a charity who would come to my school and give me counseling on a weekly basis.
It was a great excuse to get out of a lesson, even if it was my final year of school. My mental health is more important than my grades after all.
I liked the volunteer who was giving me counseling but after a while, they got inappropriate and began wanting to gossip instead of to help me figure my head out.
I didn’t need a friend, I needed real unbias guidance.
I told my mother I was done with the charity as it wasn’t helping me. If anything, it made me feel worse. Luckily, after my parents had persuaded me to go back to the GP, I was referred through to CAMHS.
I was 17 at this point, I don’t have fond memories of this experience. The counselor, I felt, just seemed more textbook than real. I remember that they made me feel like a scared child.
I felt judged and ridiculed rather than supported.
Because of my age, I was offered 6 sessions, in which I was told to leave a plug switch on (one of my anxieties as it could start a fire). I didn’t feel like the sessions had at all touched on the deep causes, 6 sessions were just not enough.
The worst of it, was that I had to choose between what was more important, my depression or anxiety. Every counselor I have seen only wants to focus on one but they go hand in hand. So not treating one means the other will not be treated either.
Then, after the sessions had ended, I was left alone. I was told there was no more help for me, there was no help for adults. If this was true at the time, I do not know but it sounds wrong. Why wasn’t I offered help as an 18-year-old? I wasn’t cured, my age didn’t suddenly fix me.
By the time that I found the courage to get help again, I was 19 and my world was so different, worse. I was so disheartened that I didn’t want to reach out but I had too.
My anxiety had become chronic and my depression was deep-rooted, I felt dissociated.
Isn’t it strange that a mental illness would get worse when left untreated? Go figure (note my tone of sarcasm).
My father had passed by suicide, which was the worst experience of my life. I was also dealing with my first real heartbreak at the same time.
I had no idea what I was doing with my life, I had no education or work prospects. I spent my days drinking and trying to metaphorically, cause things to burn. I just felt dead inside.
I was not offered counseling or bereavement prior to my father’s death. I was just handed some antidepressants that left me tired and angry.
It was like Doctors thought taking a pill could replace the loss of my father.
I was left to deal with so much trauma on my own. It wasn’t until I made an attempt on my life that led me to the hospital that I was given help. It was a last resort.
Why did it take the almost loss of my life for someone to listen?
This was hands down the worst experience of my life, I had never felt more of a time waster, it’s like I could see them thinking “attention seeker“.
I was put under the crisis team who just gave me more of the same meds I used to attempt. I wasn’t given counseling and I felt that nothing had changed.
I still felt so confused, hurt and terrified of myself.
Needless to say, I ended things with the crisis team and I made the choice to go off the medication. I was doing the best for what I could at the time. While I was not strong enough to fight alone, the alternative seemed toxic.
I muddled through another year before getting help again. I saw a new GP in a new Surgery. I was given new meds and a referral through to the wellbeing. It felt like things were getting better. I hoped they were getting better.
For a short time, I seemed to make improvements on myself, the meds didn’t affect me much but being supported was a drug in itself.
Unfortunately, nothing came from the wellbeing as I was waiting over a year and by the end of it, I was exhausted and angry so I withdrew. It was so frustrating to think that my issues, like many others, were not deemed a priority.
There is not enough funding for people like me, so we have to wait and sometimes it comes too late.
Then, at 21, I suffered a massive crisis after a good year of being in the all clear. I was more suicidal than I had ever been. My mental and physical health took a huge knock.
I spent the year under so many investigations for trying to cure whatever was causing all my pains. I went through so many tests to rule our IBS, cancer and POCS. My hospital record was becoming fuller than ever. I was so ashamed of myself.
After just under a year, with no explanation and a good sense I had been given up on, I just shut myself away from the world.
I felt like it was easier if I just died, an autopsy had a better chance at finding my ailments at this point.
I couldn’t deal with any more doctors who literally told me they couldn’t help or threw meds at me. I needed real help, I needed to understand my head, not mute it.
I spent 3 months in my room, festering in my chronic uncured pain and my mind that had become a full-blown demon.
In the new year, last January, I was so sick of myself that I forced myself to find a new Doctors Surgery and a new GP. I was so terrified but determined.
I spent a year and a half visiting the same GP. On a new set of meds and with a little bit more help. Though as soon as I was referred, our visits became “Meds ok? “Yeh” “ok bye see you in a month”.
I had another referral through to the wellbeing service who I waited about 9 months to hear from, it was an improvement from the previous experience.
Though, I had one call from the team and I was told I could not have primary care as I was like “a Pandora’s” box and it would be dangerous.
Four months passed until I was contacted by the secondary care team. I was assessed for psychosis and bounced to a different team in the same building a month later.
I’ve been under their care ever since. Essentially I am under the CPA (Care Program Approach), so I have regular visits from a key worker. Though I’m not sure what for.
I want to say it’s helped me, but I’ve just been given pieces of paper, conversations that don’t help approached offered group support which isn’t for me.
I’ve was told that my keyworker is leaving in October and that it’s time to think about if I still need the service. This was the moment I decided I no longer felt part of a team and after many sleepless nights, I decided to end contact with the service as it was not helping me anymore and I felt like a burden to them with their comments.
I’ve begged them, doctors and everyone through this journey for some real help.
For me, that is CBT so I can deal with my complex traumas and see if there is a diagnosis – which is important to me due to having mental illness my whole life. I need to make sense of myself, not cover it up.
I feel like this is the reality of health care and it’s so easy as a mental health patient to give up and to suffer on your own.
There are so many hoops to jump that it’s draining and when you’ve spent 8 years trying to get answers. It makes you a little angry that you are not really much further than where you started.
It seems going in circles is the one sure thing for me when I reach out professionally – it needs to change.
I’m so excited though for the future, to see how it changed and adapts to mental health because I can see changes being made, slowly at least.
But if you take anything away from this, it’s that I’m still here. I’ve been through all of this stress but I’m still fighting.
Maybe I don’t have my answers but I can say that you can make it, you can survive.
A few tips to consider when dealing with medical professionals:
- Write down your thoughts, feelings, and symptoms.
- Track your moods the best you can.
- Change Doctors until you find one you trust.
- Make use of hotlines in the meantime, or reach out to a friend.
- Remember you deserve mental health care and you are not a problem.