A tough transition
Posted Thursday 27 September 2012
Turning 18, becoming an adult, is a momentous occasion for everyone. For me, it was more so than most. It meant that after 4 years, I had to leave the child mental health services (CAMHS) and move to the adult mental health services. This was scary for me. At CAMHS I had become comfortable, they knew me and I knew them. The environment was warm and welcoming, the staff smiled and they were there whenever I needed them. After being diagnosed with depression at 13, CAMHS played a large part in my development as a teen and growth into an adult.
It was at CAMHS where I had hour long cognitive behaviour therapy sessions, as often as I needed them. Through these I developed an understanding of my depression, how it was affecting me and my life. I learnt a lot about myself and how I coped in different situations, and I learnt how to cope with my illness. Looking back, I don’t know if I appreciated at the time how lucky I was to receive such treatment and how much of a positive impact it was having on me.
When I got my first appointment at the adult mental health service, I didn't really know what to expect. I arrived at a cold and miserable looking building. I walked in and I couldn't see many staff. I announced my arrival with the receptionist who ushered me towards some seats in a room. In that room were other patients with severe mental health issues. It was a very emotional place to be. The people being treated seemed a lot more ill than me, and I wasn’t sure if I was in the right place. I sat there terrified, wanting to run away. I waited and waited. It was 40 minutes before a lady came into the waiting room, with large bags under her eyes, looking exhausted and stressed. When she called my name I realised the lady was my doctor.
I was led down a corridor to an equally dark room, with a small vase of flowers, which I was surprised to see were still alive. The doctor didn't smile. She didn't apologise for running late. I realised that I was not going to get reassurance that all would be well from the doctor, so I sat quietly whilst she got my notes. She took very little time to get my background. I was in and out in 10 minutes, not really knowing what we had discussed. I felt like I had been punished for her lateness with a short appointment. Only to find out you can only get a 10/20 minute slot. I don't find it is enough time at the GP surgery, so at the mental health services I certainly felt robbed. I left that day bewildered, with a prescription for new medication to try.
Thankfully, I had been in the system long enough and knew the only way to ensure I did not need to be reliant on the service for too long was to get better. So I swore to myself that I would get better, so I would only have to return once or twice before being discharged. And I did.
I count myself incredibly lucky that I had such willpower and determination to not let the horrifying situation destroy me, but to build me. Instead of feeling in despair that I may truly be a hopeless case who would never get better, I put all I had learnt at the child mental health services into practice and stabilised for over a year – my longest period of stabilisation since diagnosis.
However, I can imagine some are not so lucky and may not know any different from what they see on their first visit to a health service. If they had been faced with what I had, would they have been able to help themselves get better like I did? I know I was lucky. And I must note that many consider the health service I visited to be very good and I have visited two other adult mental health services in different cities since and had much better treatment and care.
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