I started going to therapy at around the age of 9 or 10. In the UK, we have a service called CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.) which is used for giving NHS therapy to under 18’s.
When I was first sent to them, it wasn’t that bad. The reason behind me going in the first place was that I was just not sleeping due to anxiety (that wasn’t known at the time), so it wasn’t a diagnosed mental illness for them to treat. They did a simple assessment on me for my first appointment, they may have talked to my parents too but I can’t remember.
The therapist I was given was nice, however she always seemed to be patronizing me. I don’t know whether that was because I made up the fact she secretly hated her job and didn’t want to be there, or if she genuinely thought I couldn’t understand words longer than 4 letters long. It isn’t the character of any of the therapists I’ve had that I’ve hated, it’s the way they give you the help that you’re there for. I was a child but I wasn’t dumb!
After a couple of appointments I quickly realised I absolutely hated going there. Every task or exercise that my therapist was giving me to do seemed to make things worse. Admittedly, I probably didn’t want to accept the help at that time because I thought I could do it by myself. On top of that, I still hadn’t been diagnosed with anything, meaning I didn’t know what they were treating me for.
I think being given a diagnosis early on makes the most of a difference. If you know what you have, you can go home and look it up and educate yourself on the symptoms. If you don’t know the signs of what you supposedly are being treated for, how can you self improve?
I remember one in particular exercise where they gave myself and my family a book to use, it had sleeping exercises, idea’s for how to sleep like music, and so on. It also had a bedtime routine, in bed by 8pm, read a book, lights out at 9pm; and rules, too. For instance, my parents could only sit with me for 30 minutes before they had to go downstairs (This most likely wasn’t the exact rule, I just can’t remember the exact ones!)
I didn’t mind that book. With the knowledge of what I have now (BPD) I think that was a good idea. The authority of something outside of another human seems to have a better effect on me than an actual human does. I don’t know why that is but it is as if I will listen to my planner more than I listen to my mum telling me to do things! It must be a subconscious thing.
As far as I know, that book did help slightly. I did actually do the routine, which I remember clearly thinking that it was stupid for the first couple of days. After I had gotten into the idea of doing it every day, though, I kind of liked it. It gave me a sense of being organised, which again, with hindsight I can see why that would’ve helped my younger self.
After a few appointments of that round of CAMHS, I got discharged after I had managed to start sleeping relatively normal again. I didn’t get discharged because of the amazing work of CAMHS, in my opinion, I got discharged because I forced myself to be better so that I didn’t have to go back to therapy. I physically put myself in uncomfortable situations because I didn’t want to go to a treatment therapy where: I didn’t know what I was being treated for, everything was kept secret from me, people spoke behind my back, most of the exercises were doing nothing for me, AND my therapist was patronizing!
There were a few nights after I got discharged that I didn’t have my parents sitting with me, and I remember that I used to pull my bed covers up right over my head, I had my teddies all the way around my body and my head to ‘protect’ me, and I wouldn’t come out from under there or move my body even an inch. You know when the air is warm and it feels weird to breathe it in, under a cover? I had that, every night, for at least a week or two. I was too scared to move at all, so I woke up with cramps and dead limbs. It was horrible.
I did go back to CAMHS after that, and it was after my personal doctor had given me my first diagnosis of anxiety. I believe this was during the time of my GCSE’s at school, (Final exams at secondary school). I was so stressed during that time, as you can read in the my story post on my blog. I ended up having to have a separate room in which to do my exams in because I couldn’t bare to do an exam in a hall full of 100’s of people.
I hated CAMHS just as much the second time, and my family didn’t exactly approve of them either. It all came down to their bad organisational skills, long wait times (not necessarily their fault), and just the fact that whatever they said to me didn’t seem to do anything for my mental health. It was only at home when I started doing my own research, my own wellness treatments, and self care, that I started feeling slightly better.
Bare in mind that this was back in 2007-2014 periods of time, I’m guessing that CAMHS has changed quite a lot now. My best friend is 15, and she goes to a therapy connected to CAMHS, and it seems to have helped her largely. Maybe I ended up having a rare bad experience, or maybe the CAMHS in my area is just especially bad, but either way I didn’t enjoy it.
In conclusion, this doesn’t mean I’m telling you to completely avoid CAMHS. Even though they didn’t help me, that doesn’t mean they can’t and haven’t ever helped anyone else.