First CAMHS Appointment – What To Expect

Sitting in a blue room, shaking with tears rolling down my face. A strange woman tries to ask me for the fifth time if I know the cause of my depression. For those who want to know what went on in my first CAMHS counselling session those sentences will sum it. I was expecting a lot of horrible things to happen during the session, and I’m glad to say most of them did not occur.

(Not really) Me sitting in the waiting room

(Not really) Me sitting in the waiting room

So at your CAMHS appointment you will sit down in the waiting room (actually… that’s like most appointments). I remember the waiting room to be mostly blue and white, and in fact the other rooms I looked in where also very blue. After telling the woman at the desk I had arrived for my appointment I sat down. There were magazines for teenagers and toys for younger children but I chose to just sit and wait. After about 10 minutes another woman came into the room. They shook hands with me and my mum, then led me to the other side of the building. This was my counsellor.

We were the only two in the room she took me to, however there were six or seven chairs in a circle as you would expect for a group meeting. I chose a seat and she sat down next to me. The first five minutes of our conversation were mostly introductions and her telling me she would try to help as much as she can while taking down notes. Then it begin! “So, what do you think is wrong with you?”, “When did your depression begin?”, “Do you always feel sad?”. Question after question, at first I thought I was on a quiz show, with the grand prize being the eradication of my depression.

What CAMHS Will Question You About:
– What you think is wrong with you, and how it began
– Your home, school and social life
– Who you are close to, and relationship with family
– Symptoms of mental illness (do you? how long?)
– Whether you use drugs and alcohol
– Anything which might help them find the cause of your problems
You can refuse to answer any question, if you stay silent they will move on and possibly come back to it later.

Yes, everything I have mentioned above they asked me about. As the conversation went on I became more anxious. I was shaking within about 10 minutes, and my counsellor kept asking me about it. We eventually got onto the things I did not want to talk about such as my suicidal thoughts and self-harming. I do not mind talking to my counsellor about them when I know them better, but I had only known them for half an hour. I was shaking a lot, looking down and the other way, tears were rolling down my faces and my breathing was starting to become heavy. A panic attack you might say.

Throughout the whole conversation, the counsellor remained calm and did not make me answer anything I did not want to answer. When they realised I was not going to answer any more questions (I responded to the last ten with “I don’t know”) they booked me another session for next Wednesday. This session lasted about 50 minutes, and then we went back to the waiting room. The counsellor collected my mum and they talked privately for another 30 minutes, I presume it was about my home life but it could be anything. Then we left…

I wrote this for those who worry about their first CAMHS appointment (or any appointment). I know I was worrying about it, and I have talked to many other people who worry about it. My message is simple, don’t worry. Okay, so I had a panic attack but nothing bad really happened. Do you have any memorable counselling sessions? Share your stories below.

Delusional: Beating My “Self-Harm Record”

This delusion started around 9pm on New Years Eve, I had a strange idea that I had to beat my “self-harm record”. By this I mean I had to cut myself (until I bleed) more than I had on any other day. This was a delusion, I don’t actually keep a record, so I had no idea what my “record” was. Although I am learning to control my self-harm urges I have had days where I just lost it and decided to cut. During this delusion I predicted that I my current record was around 8. Again, I can’t say if this is true because I don’t keep a record. My delusion had decided I would cut myself 10 times so that I could set a new record.

Earlier in the day I had cut myself once. Why? Me and my family were going for a New Years Eve meal. My family set off my urges. Whenever we are all together there are no normal conversations, we always argue about pointless things. They all believe there is this ranking table in the family and the more you disprove another person the more points you get. Honestly, I cannot cope with my family which is why I never talk to them. Anyway, my delusion recognised I had already done one cut today which meant 9 more cuts to go.

Well at least it's not another one of these bug delusions...

Well at least it’s not another one of these bug delusions…

When the delusion started at 9pm I did 2 cuts in the first 10 minutes. I decided to take a break and went to get a drink. Well, all this cutting would be thirsty work, I’m not going to be able to do 10 cuts without a drink! When I got back to my room with my drink I started to fight against my delusion. I knew it was a delusion so I tried to distract myself while I repeated “it is not true”. I spent about 30 minutes listening to music. For those interested, the song I remember was I Can by Nas.

It was getting close to 10pm and I still needed 7 more cuts. I actually needed to stop myself doing 7 more cuts but my delusion was taking over again. It was a slow process. First I stopped distracting myself with music, I just sat on my bed. About 5 minutes later I picked up my knife. Another 5 minutes later I rolled back my sleeves. And then… cut. After that, another cut. I had reached 5 cuts, which meant only 5 more cuts to go. There were 90 minutes until midnight. In my mind I was doing calculations, working out the “minutes per cut” rate.

Click here to read my first delusional post, where I cut a “bug” out of my hand.

I began to distract myself with music again. While I listened to the music I knew I would need another distraction. I thought about my regular distractions. I couldn’t make a lot of noise, I was at home and my family would shout at me. I could not talk to my friend who was on holiday over the Christmas period. I thought about writing something random, but my delusion was still fighting against me and it told me not to. Tears were rolling down my face, I was silently screaming in my head.

This time listening to music did not last long. At 11:10pm I had reached 9 cuts. My delusion was not satisfied, it was already making plans to reach 15 cuts in the last hour. I knew this was impossible, but I love challenges and my delusion knew this. “You can do it” and “Only 6 cuts to go” were going through my mind. Could I really do it?

Click here for distractions on how to stop cutting, they often work for me when I’m not delusional.

I’ll tell you now, my 10th cut came at around 11:30pm. I would never be able to manage another 5 cuts in the last 30 minutes… or would I? Well, I was fighting off my delusion again and managed to keep it away until midnight. I remember looking at my phone every minute just to see the time change, and know I wont reach 15 cuts with so little time left. Midnight came! My delusion had won by me reaching 10 cuts, but I had a little victory by not reaching the second goal of 15 cuts. I welcomed 2015 with my cut and bleeding arms!

New Years Comic 1

This was a horrible delusion. It was on and off for 3 hours, longer than my regular 10 minute delusions. I will hope that this delusion does not come back, I would rather cut myself once to remove a bug than cut myself 10 times to break an imaginary record (well it will have to be more than 10 times now).

Whether it is a positive or not, I am a little happy that my bug delusion has gone. How did I get rid of it? I’m not exactly sure, however last time I had the delusion I was able to control myself better and recognise I do not need to cut myself open to remove my imaginary demons. Okay, so that’s probably not why that delusion left, I have a feeling it will come back. But that delusion is more controllable now, as long as I keep reminding myself that insects do not appear under skin randomly (if they can, someone show me some evidence because I will need to get it checked out).

Click here to read about the return of my bug delusion, where I try cut an imaginary bug out of my skin.

I will keep trying to fight my delusions. It is working with varied success, but I guess as long as my depression is with me my delusions will try to fight me. I can try my best, I cannot try better than that. My delusions remind me I am only human, it reminds me that life can get better. When I have those 30 minutes in between cutting I know I have succeeded in fighting my delusion, and I still have hope. It may be the worst place to find hope, but I would rather have hope than be back where I was a couple of weeks ago, on the verge of ending it. The book of 2014 closes, you will find it in the adventure section, and I have begun to write my book of 2015. I am the writer, I choose what happens in my book, and you choose what happens in yours.

Seven Self-Harm Myths, Busted!

The UK has one of the highest rates of self-harm in Europe, but many people still do not know these simple facts about self-harm. The stigma created by many of the myths in this post stop many people seeking help about their self-harm problems. Attention seekers? Suicidal? Dangerous? There are loads of myths that can be broken down by simply analysing the statement or doing simple research. These myths have all been proven wrong but not enough people know that, so I have given seven common myths and the truth (and lies) behind them.

“People who self-harm are attention seeking”
Sadly, a majority of people who self-harm do it secretly, it is possible you know someone who self-harms. Self-harm is a common way of coping with problems, it may give a person feelings when they are numb or physical pain to get rid of the emotional pain. There will be a few people who self-harm for attention, but they are likely to only harm once or twice, if they continue to do it over a long period of time they may have other issues in their life. This myth often stops people coming forward and seeking help.

DontDoItBlade

“Self-harm means cutting”
Cutting is one form of self-harm, but there are several others. Excessively scratching your skin, burning yourself, pricking yourself with needles, overdosing, these are all other methods of self-harm. It should now seem obvious that anything you do to intentionally harm yourself could be considered self-harm.

“If someone self-harms they are dangerous”
This is a complicated one, it does make sense but not how many people think. If someone self-harms they could be dangerous to themselves. A majority of methods of self-harm could easily go wrong, for example someone may cut their wrist too deep or hold their hand in a flame for too long. Someone who self-harms is dangerous so you should try to help and educate them to make sure they do not do something they will regret in the future. On the other hand, you are unlikely to be in danger by hanging around with someone who self-harms. They will only harm themselves. When self-harm turns to suicidal thoughts, you should be more concerned for both their and your safety, but remember that the person who self-harms is in far more danger than you.

Want ideas to combat your self-harm cravings? Click here.

“People who self-harm can stop when they want”
You would probably not say this about a drug addict, or an alcoholic. Self-harm can become an addiction, self-harm has been shown to release chemicals that boost the mood. When someone has problems in their life, these chemicals may be their only way of coping so they become addicted. I am addicted to self-harm, and I am trying to stop with the help of my friend and professionals. If someone is addicted to self-harm, they will not be able to stop on their own. Would you expect a drug addict to just give up?

I wanted happy pictures, so I brought my smiley face back. Smile!

I wanted happy pictures, so I brought my smiley face back. Smile!

“If someone self-harms they are suicidal”
Self-harm is a way of living, not dying. As mentioned before, someone who self-harms is using it to cope with the problems in their life. Self-harm can be linked to suicide and can lead to accidental death but a majority of people self-harm to cope.

“If the wound isn’t bad we don’t need to worry”
Just because blood is not pouring out, or the cut is so deep you can see muscles and tendons, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t worry. Personally, when I am suffering the most emotionally I will do lots of smaller cuts. This does not apply to everyone, but you cannot judge emotions based on one wound. Always take self-harm seriously.

“They must have a serious mental illness if they self-harm”
It is understandable where this myth can come from, why would your average person hurt themselves? Self-harm should be used as an indication that there are problems in a persons life, but those problems may not necessarily be a serious mental illness. This does not rule out an illness, but talking to the person will probably give you a better understanding of why they self-harm.

A poem about the feelings of depression, and the battle faced by those who suffer from it.

There we have it, seven myths busted! Or re-busted… or explained again so that people can learn… Anyway, for people to feel comfortable with their self-harming they must know that will not be judged, they must know that those they talk to know the truth about self-harm. Are there any more myths you believe people should know are not true? Or do you want to discuss one of the myths above? Share in the comments below, and remember, if you self-harm you are not alone.

New Year Blogging Resolutions For 2015

The new year is approaching, and it is time for everyone to make their new year’s resolutions. I have made some personal one’s but there is so much I want to do on my blog for next year that I have decided to share them with you. I may have mentioned one or two in a previous post but here I shall go through each one and explain them. Thank you readers for a great year (well I started in December, so thanks for a great December), and I hope you stick around for 2015!

100Follows

Reach 10000 Views
I mentioned this in one of my earlier blog posts. If people are viewing my blog then it must be good, right? If I aimed for 1000 views a month it would not be too hard to achieve, and 1000 views does not seem like a lot. Okay, so I got around 850 views this month however this is my first month blogging so I’m sure it will improve. If you want to help out, check out some of my past posts from this month.

10 Guest Posters On My Blog, And I Do 10 Guest Posts
So I haven’t done a guest post yet, I don’t exactly understand how they work yet either but it sounds interesting. Spread my amazing writing to other blogs, while all of my readers get the perspective of another writer. Sounds cool. I do have a contact page if anyone is interested in me guest posting on their blog, or if you want to post on my blog (if my cat could write a better post than you I will probably say no, so I’ll check out your blog if you contact me).

Publish A Book Of Poems Or Short Stories
Well, I have written several poems for my blog and you may have read them. As the year goes on my poetry writing skills will get even better and hopefully some will be good enough to publish. Either that or I will write some short stories and publish them (I have so many ideas, it is whether I can turn them into quality writing). Who knows what will happen, maybe I will try both.

Click here for my most viewed poem, “Soldier Soldier Fighting Your Battle”

Succeed With My Planned Petition
So I have mentioned this before without telling you what the petition will be about… and I did say you will have to wait until 2015 to find out what the petition is about. It is related to mental health as well as suicide. That is all I will tell you for now, you will just have to wait. I won’t just do one post and forget about my petition, I will keep pushing until I succeed or until everyone convinces me it is a bad idea. Note: It is not a bad idea.

Give Help To Everyone Who Needs It
I know how hard depression can be. I haven’t experienced other mental illnesses but I am sure they are just as bad (some are probably worse). Anyone who asks for help through the contact page or by commenting on a post will get help from me. That is my promise to all of my readers, I am here for you. I will also be doing more helpful posts (like these – and more) because I know there are people reading them and receiving help from them.

Click here for my help article on methods to combat self-harming.

What else? I want to start earning money from blogging (first to help with publishing my book, then to support me at university). I want to make sure I release regular posts, 3 a week I hope. I want a lot, this post could be 10000 words long if I wrote about everything I wanted for my blog. What about your blogging resolutions, have you made any? Here’s to 2015, I wish it to be successful.

2015Comic

P.S. I have a crazy idea about doing a whole post in Spanish, not sure if I’m loco for trying though.

Unusual Methods To Combat Self-Harming [Part 3]

In the third part of the Unusual Methods To Combat Self-Harming series we shall look at 4 more ideas to distract yourself from self-harming including an unbelievable idea I discovered just last week. I have problems with self-harming, I must admit, but when my delusions are not involved I can usually control myself with the ideas written on my blog. So here we go…

This is the end product of the challenge (note: I haven't done it myself, but might do soon)

This is the end product of the challenge (note: I haven’t done it myself, but might do soon)

1. Cutcake Challenge
Such a great idea! I found it on the Childline website but apparently it has been on the internet for a while. Basically, on day one if you do not self-harm you will write “C” where you self-harm. Day two, you write “U”. Day three, “T”, and so on. After 7 days without self-harming you will have “CUTCAKE” written where you self-harm which means you have gone 7 days without self-harming. That would be amazing! The first day will be hardest, but when you go to self-harm and see the letters to should remind you not to. The only problem I can see is that after 3 days you will have “CUT” written, which is a problem if your self-harm method is cutting. Maybe you should just write “cupcake” instead.

Click here for part 1 of the series on combatting self-harming.

2. The Happy Box – Depressionless Edition
I recently read about an idea some people try called The Happy Box. I have decided to adapt it a little, so I call it The Happy Box – Depressionless Edition. Grab a shoebox (or any box with a lid). Now fill it with items that made you happy; photographs, poems, stories, music lyrics, soft toys, jewellery, flowers, names of friends. Keep the box in your room (I am presuming you self-harm in your room). Whenever you are sad or want to self-harm, get the box, close your eyes and take out one item from the box. Use the item to remind yourself why it makes you happy. Happy memories will make you happier, try it!

Yeah, just some of my maths books.

Yeah, just some of my maths books.

3. Research A New Topic
Wikipedia and google (other search engines are available) are your new friends. Learning about something new will distract and engage the mind, and you will be proud of your new knowledge. You don’t have to research extensively or pick a hard topic such as calculus (I don’t find it hard but it has a reputation). Just read around something you don’t know about, it may change your perspective on life. I shall give you a few ideas; venomous spiders in your country, the life of Siddhartha Gautama, Grammy Award winners, how to survive an apocalypse. Turn something you know nothing about into something you want to know more about.

Click here for part 2 of the series on combatting self-harming.

4. Movie Night
The two times I self-harm most regularly are when people say bad things to me and at night time. Being alone in a quiet place like your bedroom will just cause you to think more about your problems, and you are likely to blame yourself. Invite some friends round (make sure they bring popcorn) and put on a movie. A comedy will keep you happy all night, an action movie will keep your brain engaged, a horror might bring you and your friends closer. Some might call it a sleepover but The Man Code rule 38 forbids sleepovers where the guy to girl ratio is above 2:1, so we shall call it movie night. The only negative to this idea is when everyone forgets about the snacks.

And that concludes this post, we have now reached 12 different ideas on how to combat self-harming. Surely you have enough ideas now to help yourself. Whether I create a fourth part to the series depends on whether I can find 4 more ideas that most people don’t know or think about. Do you have a great idea? Share in the comments below.

Unusual Methods To Combat Self-Harming [Part 2]

So just over a week ago I covered 4 unusual ways to combat self-harming, and I’m guessing you want more this time? These activities and ideas may not work for everyone but it is worth trying if you might not damage your body again. So let’s have a look.

Click here to see Part 1 of this series.

Random ducks at my local park!

Random ducks at my local park!

1. Feed Ducks At The Park
The only reason I thought of this one is because I was walking through the park thinking about self-harming, then suddenly I saw the ducks in the pond and started to think about ducks. Maybe only I do that… Firstly, staying in a public area will make you a lot less likely to self harm. Secondly animals seem to make people calm down, so feeding ducks (or squirrels or rabbits or whatever is in the park near you) might calm you down enough so that you don’t want to self-harm. Thirdly the fresh air will be good for you, my GP recently said I should try to get out the house every day to combat my depression.

2. Pick A Random Friend On Your Contact List And Call
Okay, so this will be the least unusual of the unusuals because you are recommended to talk to a friend when you want to self-harm. But why talk about self-harming to them when you could have a random conversation? When I told my friend (the only one who knows about my depression so far) about my self-harming and depression we ended up talking about the seaside and animals. I must admit I would rather talk about that then my depression as random conversations make me a bit happier. Also, a random conversation means you don’t have to talk about your self-harming or mental illness, you can mention that in your own time.

Yes... some of the games I own.

Yes… some of the games I own.

3. Reorganise Objects In Your Room
This could mean your alphabetise your CD, DVD or games collection. It could also mean moving all the furniture around into a new look. Get creative and use your imagination, plan the room you have always wanted. It is a great way to keep busy, and you could always invite a friend over to help you. Keep busy and sociable should stop you from self-harming, especially when you can keep the activity up for hours. While you are doing it, why not throw away your self-harm tools as well?

4. Meditation
Focus your mind, grasshopper, find your inner peace… Something I do to calm myself down, and something many people do to stop self-harming. If I remembered to meditate when I wanted to self-harm I would probably self-harm less, but for some reason I seem to forget. I might try writing “meditate” on my arms so I can remember. Basically, just sit down on a hard surface (e.g. the floor), close your eyes and focus on your breathing. After a few minutes I am generally calm, so you might not need to meditate long to stop the urge to self-harm.

Wow, so we have now covered 8 ways to combat self-harming. Yes! There will be a third part to this series, so follow the blog or check back regularly to see when it is released. It shouldn’t take more than a week, but it’s Christmas soon so who knows. Have you tried any methods from this article or the previous one? Or have you got a secret method of your own? Share below in the comments.

Psychiatric Ward Petition

I recently found a petition from a fellow blogger asking the government to open psychiatric wards specifically for those aged between 18 and 30. Don’t run away just yet, I’m going to explain why you should support the petition and spread the word.

The petition on change.org

The petition on change.org

If you want to see and sign the petition, please click here.

For those who do not understand how mental health services work in the UK, I will briefly explain. Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) are the mental health service who take care of those under the age of 18 providing specialist care for those who need it including therapy, medication and special wards. Patients over the age of 18 will be transferred to the regular mental health services which are designed to take care of everyone over the age of 18, but many people criticise it for being better prepared for those who are middle-aged or older.

If you are aged around 18 and are being treated by CAMHS it is likely that you will move onto the adult mental health services at some point. The transition is very large, moving from facilities that target your age group to facilities that target a wider but older age group (they don’t really target those under 25). However the annual MHMDS report for England published last month found that of the 105,270 patients admitted to hospital, 19.6% of them were under the age of 30. And that does not include all of the under 18’s treated by CAMHS! So we could assume that 19.6% of patients are being treated in facilities that will not give them the full benefit of care expected, and that doesn’t seem right!

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services

Patients can be admitted to hospital voluntarily or involuntarily. Those who enter involuntarily are subject to the Mental Health Act, and are admitted because they pose a danger to themselves or the public. The age group where those admitted were most likely to be subject to the Mental Health Act was 20-29. Just another reason we need to care for this age group. I could sit here all day and throw facts from the report at you, but please read these comments on the petition from some people who have signed it:

Claire Greaves
“Once a person turns 18 they are admitted to wards that are used to dealing with adults around the age of 40-60 years old, the activities are often gardening or knitting/sowing. There is no support for young people who may be studying A levels, college courses or at university. Often people are in these wards for weeks or months, it can be very boring and there is little to do.”

Beth Ingram
“I completely second this. A person is not completely different, needing completely different support the day before and the day after they are 18. The transition between services is horrific.”

Teresa Wright
“I have 2 children who are still in the mental health system, the second is moving over to adult services currently and it is completely inadequate to meet his needs”

I must say this all the time but I do not want to make my posts too long. I’ve presented several facts that should hopefully convince you to sign the petition. You can read the blog post of Claire who started the petition, or look at the MHMDS report for some more statistics. Depending on the reaction and comments on this post I may do a follow-up post. I would like to encourage everyone to sign and share the petition, I hope we can improve the care of those in need.

If you want to see and sign the petition, please click here.