One topic that is extremely controversial, particularly within young people, is the mental health system. Everyone has completely different experiences, depending on where they’re at, what they’re struggling with and how much support they’re receiving.
My experience with the mental health system – particularly CAMHS and SAFE in this situation, is long and varying in successful results. I have overall had quite a dragging experience with my mental health and haven’t had the best ending.
The first time I was referred to CAMHS was in June 2013. I was sent by my school for some stuff that I had been dealing with for about 6 months at that point. I went to the local building near where I lived with my mum and it went horrendously. I got assigned a counselor who made me incredibly uncomfortable, I was in a cold room that was really dark and I was asked to ‘draw how I was feeling’. I told her I didn’t feel anything and that I didn’t feel the way my school had assumed I was feeling. It didn’t help with my mum being in the room as I felt so uneasy and I lied my way through it. By the end they stated that ‘I wasn’t serious enough’ and ‘didn’t have to see them again’. I felt somewhat relief but things still weren’t good, I was shocked at how easily I felt I could lie to them and they just sent me away.
They referred me to SAFE for my anxiety (which was very, very mild at this point) but I declined and said that I didn’t need it as I felt very little anxiety – something I regret immensely.
The second time I was referred to CAMHS was in October 2013. This was voluntary. I went to the doctors after dealing with severe anxiety for a couple weeks, to the point where I was restricting my food intake and couldn’t sleep or be left alone. I was referred immediately as I was in such a bad place and couldn’t look after myself and alongside my mental health, my physical health was also deteriorating. Within the few weeks I had to wait before actually getting a therapist, I saw a hypnotist and desperately tried meditation but neither worked.
I had my first appointment with my therapist in November 2013. I was doing CBT therapy which consisted of exposure and focused on the anxiety I was feeling. At this point, my anxiety was the worst thing I was dealing with but I realised that this therapy was neglecting all the other feelings I was feeling.
However, despite this, therapy went very well and I started to feel more comfortable around food and things generally within a couple weeks. My therapist was lovely and I got along with her well and things began to feel lighter quicker than expected. I stayed in therapy for almost 2 years and was discharged in May 2015 after having a really positive experience. I could control my anxiety and was starting to feel more comfortable around a lot of things my anxiety would’ve restricted me from doing. It was still very much there, but I felt I had control and could cope with things.
I had been doing okay until December 2015. Things began to feel heavy and I could feel myself being dragged into old habits but I tried to push against them until Christmas Day, when I had possibly the worst panic attack I’ve ever had. I called my best friend hysterical and my parents had to stay with me until I fell asleep. I continued on that week and tried to get into normal habits again but I spent days having consistent panic attacks and things were bad.
The first week of January was generally an awful week for situational reasons but my anxiety seemed to be okay. I went to school and despite being upset over something awful that had happened that weekend, I was quite calm – just sad. On the Saturday of that week, I suddenly felt this intense fear and from there my mental health took over my life.
I went to the GP immediately, in fact I went the day before I felt the severity of my anxiety again as I’d been feeling especially down and had pushed for a referral to my old therapist at SAFE. It took a couple weeks until I had my first appointment but unfortunately at that point, I was manifested with anxiety and was failing to function adequately. It was probably the worst I’ve ever been as I was also dealing with something that had recently happened in my life and could barely juggle the two situations.
I was so lucky to be referred so quickly. I’m with my old therapist who I was with before (and have endless love for) and am doing CBT again – just a more intense version. This time CBT doesn’t seem to be having the same impact as last time and I feel like I’m getting worse rather than better.
I was meant to write this blog post a month ago, when I felt much more positive about the mental health system but unfortunately, I have found a loop hole in my experience.
Yesterday, I went to my GP and told her that the therapy hasn’t been working particularly well. I was told to come back if I still wasn’t doing well in January, so I did. My GP was incredibly unhelpful and almost insensitive to my situation. She told me that she’d talk to my therapist about what she can do and there may be ‘internet and self-help things’. She told me that I might be referred from the SAFE team to a psychiatric at CAMHS and get a psychiatric assessment to see what could help, however the process within that is a few months long.
For a variety of reasons, I don’t think I can wait that long and my mum said she’ll reach out for me and push at CAMHS to assess me as I’m not sure how else I can be helped and I can’t do much more at this stage. I’m sad to say that my experience with my GP is a million times worse than my experience with the mental health system and they overlap so it’s been a sad end after a 2 year long positive experience.
I’m hoping that things begin to work out and I get the assessment sooner rather than later! I really do recommend trying out CBT as it did work out very well for me the first time, my environment and situation was horrendous the second time I got referred which has meant my whole mind set is completely different. My therapist is lovely and exposure has worked well for me.
I hope this gave anyone who might be being referred to CAMHS at some point some insight of what it’s like and if you don’t like you therapist, ask for a change! Having a shit therapist is not helpful to your situation. Having someone to talk to is really good too, it’s probably the best part of having a therapist.
I’m sorry for the negative end! Hopefully I’ll be able to do an update post in a few months about how I did finally get assessed and am doing much better
Remember: if you’re struggling, ask for help! You and your mental health are the biggest priority.