When I first attended CAMHS I was a lost, depressed eleven-year-old girl, who was hospitalized for self-harm just weeks before. A member from the CAMHS team had come to visit me on my last day, wanting to assess me to see if I was in need of therapy. They asked me questions about my life, my troubles. If I knew then what I know now, I would have never said a whisper.
On my first day in I was met with a cold, Italian woman who was very upfront and intimidating. The first thing she had asked me about was my self-harming. I tensed up, this was a sensitive subject for me and made me vastly uncomfortable. She had told me to roll up my sleeves so she could see my scars. I refused. She insisted. I kept refusing and she kept persisting until eventually I gave in. she took a quick glance and said “infected”. (Which I later found out from a doctor that they were in fact, not infected) She kept talking and talking and I stayed silent. She told me that I should go on some kind of medication to help with my anxiety and would see me again in six weeks’ time. I was feeling hopeful, like I was finally getting the help I needed.
Six weeks had passed until I saw her again. She asked me how I felt, and I wrote down I was feeling like a zombie. She upped my dosage. I would see her again in six weeks.
Another few weeks went by until I saw her again. I had made the decision to stop taking my medication, because I didn’t feel like myself. I felt like a shell of who I once was. Instead, we decided to continue with “therapy”. I say therapy lightly because it was mostly me writing down my feelings, and them telling me to “take a bath” or “go for a walk”. Then, a few weeks later having to repeat myself because they never kept records of what I was saying in our sessions. Each time I would express my feelings, I was met with same reaction as previous, like this is the first time they were hearing what I was saying.
A couple years went by like this; I was losing hope. Nobody was listening to me, nobody had time for me. I made the decision to leave, I was sure this wasn’t how it was supposed to go. These people were professionals, they were supposed to be helping me. But all it did was make me feel like I was slowly losing myself.
When I left, I had gone to enable Ireland and got a diagnoses of ASD and Selective Mutism. They advised me to go back to CAMHS to also get help with my OCD. This irritated me but I also thought maybe when I go back, this time it might be different. I’d have a new therapist, maybe they would help me. I was wrong.
That new worker was different, but not in a good way. She would talk to me like I was a six-year-old, who couldn’t understand big words that her and her educated friends used. They only advice I got from her was “have you thought of trying medication?”. She would know what my answer would be if the workers ever wrote down anything I said or did.
I would attend an appointment every few weeks, and every time would feel like Groundhog Day. “On a scale of 1-10, how do you feel this week?” and “have you considered going on more medication?” or “whenever you feel down, maybe you should take a bath or bring the dog for a walk”. Ah, yes, a bath. A great place for a suicidal person.
One day they had told my parents that they didn’t see how they could continue with me because I couldn’t communicate properly, due to my selective mutism and ASD. I left that session feeling abandoned and worse than ever. I felt they had given up on me, that I was a lost cause that couldn’t be saved.
I spent many years after that the same way I had been since I was eleven years old. Except with even more problems than before. I had developed an eating disorder, my mood swings were out of control, I was ruining every friendship I ever had, and I was engaging in impulsive self-harming behaviours again. Things in my life were out of control, and I had no other options left. I had to go back. My naive little brain thought “Maybe this time it will be different. Maybe this time it will be better. Maybe this time they’ll help me”. I was wrong. Again.
I was still seeing my pervious worker, except this time there was another person there to help with my eating disorder. She was blonde and always put together, she often talked about her looks and her obsession with always being tanned. She would make jokes about how she was “tanorexic”, and that is why she constantly needed to fake tan. The treatment was even worse than the failed attempt at humour. it consisted of being weighed, even when I didn’t want to. And then telling me what I weighed even when it triggered me. She would tell me how instead of my fat free yogurt and blueberries, I should have some digestive biscuits or a bar of chocolate instead. She assured me that theses biscuits wouldn’t harm me, in fact she had read some studies that actually said blueberries were really bad for you and caused cancer. So, if I looked at it like that, the biscuits were the better option.
The other session I had with the Italian woman was eventful. I had told her about my severe mood swings, and I had started self-harming again, even worse I was thinking of taking my own life. she replied with “whenever you feel like that you should go for a long walk. At least an hour a day, and also go to your local chemist and get a vitamin B-12 supplement. This should help with your hormone imbalance”. This was the first time I had cried at a session. I felt like I was talking to someone through a sheet of paper, they could hear my cries, but they couldn’t see it. All I said was “what is a walk and some vitamins going to do for me?” she replied, “it helps the brain”. I cried and cried until the session was over. I couldn’t stop the tears from falling. she had opened a gate in me that I couldn’t close.
I had just turned eighteen and was in need of a referral to the adult mental health services, so I had no choice but to stay put, and push through. It was about three months later until I got my next appointment and I once again, met with the Italian psychiatrist. She looked at me curiously and said “wow, you look so different. Like actress in movie. So pretty now” In those 3 months I had lost weight and gotten contact lenses. “Not that you weren’t pretty before, but you know what I mean” she laughed. I didn’t. we walked into her office, and she asked me “so last time I see you was few years ago, yes?”
It had been
The other worker in the room smiled at me and sat in the corner, she was new, and didn’t seem to have much experience. But she was nice to me. The Italian psychiatrist said I looked happier, brighter, and I seemed better now because I was talking more. like I was cured. I told her about my self harm relapse and my how my eating disorder had only gotten worse, how the mood swings were as bad as ever. She asked me over to her desk and draw a picture of a tree. I was confused but did it anyway. After I had finished my mediocre picture of a tree, she pulled out another piece of paper, a drawing I did when I first came to see her. She said she could tell I was happier by the way I drew my tree. The previous picture was dark and there were more leaves. The new pictures were lighter, with less leaves. She said it was a psychology method to determine your state of mind. The only difference between these photos was that I drew them with a different shade of pencil.
The other worker in the room got up and told us she had to go and get something from another room. I sat with the psychiatrist and told her that I wanted to be referred to the adult services. She said that they might not take me, because there wasn’t a lot “going on” with me. Or in other words “you aren’t serious enough”. The other therapist had returned to the room at this point, even she was shocked.
I had enough I was angry, I was upset, I had all of this built-up emotion in me that I needed to let out. I let it out