Friday, 3 February 2017

My Experience with CAMHS

So I haven't posted in a while, but since it's child mental health awareness week next week, I thought I'd write something on how'll my experience with the child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) over the years.

I was first referred to CAMHS in early 2014 I think, but I'd been struggling for a while before hand. My mum took me to my GP who made the referral and said I should be seen within a few weeks. Three months later I finally got seen for an 'initial assessment'. I got asked a few questions about my personal life, only to be told I'd be put on a waiting list for an 'urgent' referral for the specialist community team. But what came from that? Another six months of waiting with absolutely no news.

My mum, desperate by now as my mental state was increasingly deteriorating, enrolled me in private counselling. Which I found mildly helpful, but the fees were steep. So back to the GP it was, as the counseller was becoming worried that he couldn't cope with me and I needed more help. Surprise surprise, I was re-referred to CAMHS. Nothing again, and three weeks later, I attempted to take my own life. I can't imagine what my parents were thinking as I still hadn't had any help whatsoever from CAMHS! So off I went to my local A&E.

I was seen by a duty CAMHS worker the next morning after they said I was fit and well with no long lasting internal damage. To my body that is... and off I went, armed with mindful colouring sheets and a sheet on anxiety to help me in my struggles. Just what I needed.

The next week, I was told I'd be seeing a duty practitioner at my local CAMHS. Rose, as she was called, even though half the time she even forgot her own name, asked me to rate how likely I was to try to take my own life again. Despite the fact that I rated 7/10, she declared me low risk and sent me home. I saw her weekly from then on, which no surprise, was completely and utterly unhelpful. I was told to 'relax my mind and I'll be fine'.

Three weeks after the previous incident, I disclosed to my mum in a text message that I was going to kill myself on this date and that there was nothing anyone could do to stop me as I was fed up. It was a cry of complete and utter despair, saying I was sorry for the trouble and upset I had caused my family. GP said she needs to go to my nearest A&E and refuse to leave until I got the help I needed, FINALLY, this got through to someone and I was kept on the children's ward.

Four days later, a psychiatrist came to see me, who diagnosed me with depression and anxiety, and talked me through the option. That night it was decided that they would look for a bed on a child and adolescent psychiatric unit. Two days later, I was off to the unit. Still not having received any help from CAMHS. Why did it have to come to this before anyone would see me?

5 months later I was discharged, finally with a CAMHS team to keep me going out in the community. But it's completely shocking what I had to go through in order to reach their radar. The funding at the moment is absolutely awful and something needs to be done about it. If children could be seen when their issues first arise, there would be no need for money going into inpatient beds and specialist care. It took them to the point where I was on the edge of my own life, to even see me, and talk about some form of care. It's disgusting really.

If you notice that you or somebody else start struggling - get on the waiting list ASAP because who knows how long it could be before you're seen. Do it sooner rather than later. Please share this too, in order to help raise awareness for how poorly funded CAMHS is and maybe something just might be done about it. There's so many stories in the news at the moment about children and teenagers commuting suicide - but it doesn't have to come to that! If they were to have received the help they needed sooner, it wouldn't have reached that stage. But sadly, with the current NHS status, things aren't going to be looking up anytime soon, but maybe we can change that together

Thursday, 29 December 2016

Coping with weight gain in Anorexia Recovery

When you're recovering from an eating disorder such as anorexia, one of the most frightening things in the world is to know that you aren't the thinnest person in the room anymore. And for it to suddenly be true not just once, but most of the time. After spending months of regaining all that weight that you lost, there comes a time when you suddenly realise that your body doesn't look the way it used to. Maybe you loved your old body, or maybe you hated them but loved and needed what it represented: the illusions of control, strength and purity. Whatever happened, in the decision to recover, you decided to obliterate those things. And now, to yourself, and to other people, you are no longer 'the sick one'. You are just an ordinary person with other, more interesting qualities.

Now I don't know what this felt like to you, but to me, I know I felt less important, less cared for by others and overall just like a normal person again - which I didn't like. And having decided to make these changes happen, doesn't mean you'll find it easy, so I thought I'd write a blog about how to make it that little bit easier for you.

The first thing to be aware of is that everyone has days in their recovery where they feel absolutely disgusted by their new, bigger body and will do anything to have their old, sickly thin body back. It's to be expected with quite sudden change. What's important when you feel like this is to cling on to those thoughts about how awful your life was with your eating disorder. Remember how hard everything was for you, how little energy you had, and how intolerable your eating disorder made life for you. Remember all the reasons why you chose to recover, and wait for the horrible feeling to pass - which it will.

Remember that in the re-feeding process, fat will not immediately distribute itself evenly - it may start around your middle or even on your face to protect your organs. This is perfectly normal. Be as patient as you can, and if you give it time, you will fill out more evenly, as long as you continue to be strict and eat as planned. Remember that body dysmorphia also goes along with eating disorders, so it will take time for you to see your body as it really looks. This won't be instantly be cured, but if you keep going with consistent eating, your mind will become clearer and you'll be able to see yourself clearly and embrace your new body.

It sounds really cliché, but try not to fight against how your body is changing. Listen to your hunger cues. Throw out all your old clothes that you used to wear! Trying to put them on again will only upset you and make you want to turn back. Some of them may actually look better on you with your new, fuller body. Embrace that. Be kind to your body.

Remember that just as you have to construct a new character for yourself after anorexia, you also need to construct a new body for yourself too - one that will be physically fit enough for the adventure of you being fully alive in the years to come. Think about all the possibilities of what you can now do, now that you're no longer trapped in a state of being weak. Enjoy them, and always remember:

There's still time. Nothing needs to happen immediately. It can take time, but the most important thing is to keep going. It will be so worth it.

Saturday, 17 December 2016

THE PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL: 8 things I didn't expect to learn

As most of you may have read in my story, I was recently discharged from a five month stay in the psychiatric hospital. It was a very interesting experience to say the least, and I gained a lot of knowledge over those five months.
However not everything that I learned was what you might expect. Here are just a few of the unexpected things that I learnt during my stay:
1. The friendships I made were unlike any other - I don't think I could ever recreate them even if I tried. I could tell them anything and I wouldn't get judged, because they understood what I was going through. I could laugh with those people, a proper laugh which gave me a small glimmer of hope. Shoutout to Meg - I'll never forget our friendship. 2. Without having my mobile phone or any form of social media, I discovered the many joys of letter writing, and phone calls. You wouldn't believe the excitement of receiving a letter in the post, or being told a friend is on the other end of the ward phone for you. Hour long phone calls with friends from home definitely kept me going when times were tough. 3. When you go on a home leave for a few days and come back with a new outfit, a new hair colour, or a new pair of socks, get ready for more compliments than you've ever received in your whole life. Everyone notices the little changes. 4. Get ready for marathon movie sessions of Harry Potter, high school musical, or friends. Edward scissor hands was a popular choice for my unit! 5. Hidden talents won't stay hidden for very long, trust me! Whether it's gymnastics in the soft room, singing along to the music channel at the top of your voice, or creating new dance moves in the lounge, they'll all come out at some point. 6. Who knew that a competitive game of badminton in the function would be the best way to get out all angry emotions of an evening? Not me! But it worked - I certainly got a lot of practice in during my stay in the hospital! 7. I've realised that I'm a hell of a lot stronger than I originally gave myself credit for - I was taken away from my family and put in a place where I knew no one and had no personal items or anything to give me comfort. And I still got through it?! That's pretty amazing and I've realised that I'm a lot stronger than I once thought. 8. When I came out of the hospital, I wasn't fully recovered - but I was so much closer to recovery than the day I went in. With this post I want to give a shoutout to all my priory friends and some of the crazy stuff we did in our spare time - which was in fact the whole time... from making a fort out of sofas to sticking sanitary towels on the cameras, and switching off all the water facilities in the unit because we thought it would be funny - I'll never forget some of those hilarious times!

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

My Story

So - where do I start? It's not often I get to sit down and literally explain my whole story from start to finish to someone. I've decided that to start off my blog, it would be a good idea to introduce myself.

I'm Emilia, I'm 16 years old and I live in the United Kingdom.

 I love hearing someone introduce themselves without using their labels, because you aren't defined by your mental illness. But just for the sake of this post, I'll explain my story and experiences with mental health. I am going to put it out there that there is a possible trigger warning coming with this post. Well, here goes... 

I had always been an anxious child growing up, but no one really noticed, I like to keep my problems to myself - as people who know me well will have noticed! People started noticing when I was around age 13, when I started restricting my diet and self harming as an effort to control my anxieties. Drastic, I know. But I didn't really know what else to do. Because I had never told anyone, I had never developed any positive coping mechanisms to deal with my anxiety, so I turned to negative ones. 
It got worse by the time I was 15, and I thought that my sole purpose in life was to be thin and beautiful. So I did everything I could to get that way. Restricting my diet, over exercising, you name it. My mum noticed something was up and took me to my local GP. They referred me to CAMHS. I was on the waiting list for four months and had still heard nothing after my initial assessment. During this time, things became worse and worse. 
I started to see a mental health practitioner at CAMHS who assessed my risk weekly, but did nothing other than that in order to help me. Many people will know what it feels like to be failed by the mental health system, and I can't even begin to explain how annoyed I am at the further cuts to the budget. Anyway, my risk got higher, and I decided that I couldn't go on living any longer - so I took it upon myself to end my own life: yes, you read that right. It seems unusual, but you'd be surprised how many people are feeling this way and keeping it to themselves because of the huge stigma surrounding it. 
I ended up in general hospital where they were talking about sending me to a psychiatric unit. This time they sent me home, but without a doubt, due to me having absolutely no help, it happened again. I found myself in the same situation again at the general hospital discussing my situation with a psychiatrist. This time they opted for the second option as I couldn't keep myself safe at home. Two days later I found myself in hospital transport on my way to an adolescent psychiatric unit, 90 miles from my own home. 
I was terrified, and unsurprisingly, the first two weeks were the worst two weeks of my life. I didn't know anyone there, the psychiatrist and all the nurses scared me and they dosed me up on medication. I immediately received the diagnoses of anorexia nervosa, depression, generalised anxiety disorder and social anxiety disorder. What I didn't know was that they didn't even have a psychologist on the ward so I wouldn't be receiving any therapy anyway. I started to think I might as well have been at home! 
But actually - this psychiatric unit saved my life. After the first few weeks, I made some of the best friends I ever could've imagined, and some of the nurses were the nicest people I've ever met, and give some of the best 1:1s. I was told I'd be in there for 8-12 weeks in total, and I received home leave after 6 weeks, and was allowed to attend my school prom and a trip to Brighton. 
However, I had already decided that these would be a send off for me and a chance for me to say goodbye to all my friends before I died. So that's exactly what happened - I got back to the unit and that night I had another attempt to end my own life. 
The next few weeks were like hell on earth for me - my best friend on the unit got moved up to HDU, I got the absolute pleasure of experiencing 1:1 eyesight at night, day, toilet, shower, and to top it all off, I wasn't allowed visits for two weeks. It was tough but I got through it, and from then on, I decided I was going to recover for good. 
I regained my home leave, and got discharged on the 12th September, after five months. Will I miss the ward? Absolutely not. But of course I will miss all of the lovely friends I have made and the nurses support dearly. But I am so thankful for the help I received, and I am now recieving help from CAMHS and my medication is really helping me. I have also received the diagnoses of borderline personality disorder - I'm slowly getting used to it and learning ways to deal with it.
 Recovery isn't about saying from this day I will no longer self harm, I will no longer restrict my diet, I will no longer binge eat - it's about changing your mindset to tell yourself "everyday is a new day, if I mess up today, I'll start again tomorrow." Slip ups do not cause you to fall all the way down the mountain - the beauty of it is that you don't have to keep re climbing the same patch you've already climbed. So if you take one step back: wake up, smile, and take a few more steps forward on your journey. 

Let me tell you this - recovery is the best decision I've ever made. I'm so much more free than when I was in the dark depths of my mental illness. Talk to someone, get help - break the stigma.