CAHMS – Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services
At the age of sixteen, my GP referred me to CAHMS. During this time, I was very anxious, very unsure and very frightened. I remember walking up to the building with my Mum. It was a medium sized building. There was nothing on the outside to show what we were walking in to, but I can clearly remember the blacked out windows. As I remember, the inside was bright.On the walls sat pictures that had been coloured and drawn by the children that had attended the service.I did not notice this on the initial appointment – but further into my time at CAHMS I began to notice distressed small children (probably coming out of therapy) which in turn made me feel distressed. I remember thinking to myself, how can a child so small even begin to cope with various mental health disorders – all I wanted was for them to feel better.
I have very vague memories of my diagnosis – I can only remember being in a room with my Mum and a Physiatrist. He informed me that I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. The Physiatrist prescribed me medication and a course of Therapy.
The therapist a saw was a woman. She had blonde hair, glasses and always seemed stressed whenever I spoke to her about my intrusive thoughts. My mum and I often still talk about how red in the face and shocked my therapist seemed when I discussed my OCD to her.
My therapist often read extracts from books. She gave me self-help worksheets and tasks to complete at home. The clearest memory I have from CAHMS involves a raisin and myself. My Therapist asked me to put in a raisin in my mouth. She asked me to consider – the taste, texture, smell and how it felt in my mouth etc. – this exercise really frightened me because I had a panic attack. Little did I know that the technique she was showing me, I would still use 8 years later and is referred to as Mindfulness.
My overall experience of CAHMS was OK – from what I remember. Although just before I reached the age of 18, I had to leave the service and had no direction where to go next.
IAPT – Improving access to physiological therapies
My first encounter with IAPT was at the age of nineteen. My GP referred me to the service and I attended 2 sessions and left.
I have been currently waiting for therapy since March 2018. I received my initial phone call from a therapist towards the end of April. During the telephone conversation, I confirmed my scores that I had rated myself on the sheet they had sent me a week earlier.
In June, I received a letter stating that I had to attend a group therapy session and the local gym – if I did not attend, they would me discharge me from the service. Although I was hesitant and late – I did attend. The meeting consisted of two people flicking through a power point presentation explaining the meaning of anxiety and depression. At the end of the meeting, a man sat next to me went to the back of the room and explained that he had been in the wrong place for over an hour – because nothing was relevant to him. I found the meeting to be extremely uncomfortable and completely pointless.
Towards the end of July, I received another letter in the post asking if I still needed/wanted therapy – if I did not contact the service within 10 days, they would remove me from the waiting list. I contacted IAPT over 5 times in one day – I left voice messages that have still not been returned.
I managed to get in contact with IAPT at the beginning of August – I spoke to a woman on the phone that agreed the waiting times were much longer than they should be. She told me that I am at the top of the list – so I feel greatly for the individuals that have to go through the same process I did.
Last week (12.09.18), the service wrote to me to offer me an initial appointment.
My therapy starts tomorrow, 28 weeks after referral.
I do not have much confidence in the service given the contact, procedures, and waiting times I have experienced. Nor do I feel ready to fight my demons. The thought of resisting my compulsions seems impossible to me. I cannot imagine going for a shower without tapping the floor sixteen times. How is my body going to feel if anxiety is no longer present? Will I be able to walk around my house without stopping every two minutes to check everything is in order? Can I leave my room without taking multiple pictures of everything to ensure the plug sockets are off? Will I be able to have a drink without passing it from one hand to the next sixteen times? Will I be able to dry myself with a towel without experiencing thoughts that I am inpregnating myself? How can I stop myself from asking for reassurance?
I have a hard 12 weeks ahead but tomorrow is a step in the right direction and hopefully a clear path to where I want to be.