At our November 2018 TAP Talk, one of the young people who came along to describe their personal experience shared a piece that the audience found so moving we asked their permission to share it with you on the website. The name has been changed but otherwise this is their vivid account of their mental health journey. We would like to thank Jane for allowing this to be shared.
Hello, my name is Jane and I am 19 years old. When being asked to talk about my mental health and the journey it took me on, I stumbled on where exactly I should start. Do I start with the little 8 year old girl and what she felt or more on what being ill has taken away from me. I decided on the latter.
When people talk about mental health, the information that is shared is often correlated with the symptoms presented and how mental health works. The understanding of this is of course very important, but this evening I would like to focus on the internal and external impacts of anorexia and the array of other labels that were thrown at me.
Starting at 8, my world was very small and complex. In my head you see, it all made sense. I won’t be able to explain the cognitive battle that was going on up there, because I am not really sure I understand it now. Never the less I could see me friends were not interested in my anxious temperament and shy ways. I didn’t like seeing them dwindle, because then they were gone.
After I moved up to the senior school, I was met with angry voices and hierarchical ways. My mental health took a dive in the deep end. This was when the world stopped spinning and came to a halt, my world at least. Gone.
Hospital became my home whilst the world stopped spinning. Hospitals that weren’t close to home. Hospitals that were dotted around the country like joining a dot-to-dot. Nottingham was were the furthest dot was placed and the Cotswolds was the closest. I had lost the comfort of my home. In physicality I wasn’t met with familiar faces and two very happy puppies in the morning. Another thing gone.
Everyone else’s world seemed to carry on spinning, I knew that because I would be told on the telephone about birthdays and Christmases. I would be told about new candles on the cakes and countries that had been travelled. I was happy they were living their lives, but I couldn’t bare what my life had come to. Sitting between the same four walls, knowing every door and window was locked. Gone.
My teenage years were spent being weighed and sedated by various concoction’s. My serotonin levels were fake. I saw my friends being happy; real happiness that is. But of course I didn’t get to see the few that were left, because 200 miles (pause) separated us. The simplicity of what I missed was almost forgotten.
A hug. A simple thing you see, but safeguarding rules and cameras understandably restricted staff to patient contact, but there were days when I couldn’t understand why. A hand to hold seemed so far away. Reassurance and comfort swiftly left.
Talks of periods and girly chats were non-existent as anorexia smiled. Gone.
A walk in the garden; gone. Going outside involved being well.
Having a bath by myself; gone. I now had two people awkwardly hoovering over me watching my every splash.
I didn’t have any choice over my care, my voice was not being heard. Gone.
Everything was going. Gone.
Although somehow everything that was going didn’t matter to me. I was okay with what my illnesses were giving me- it felt somewhat safe. I began to feel comfortable in the pain I was causing myself. It was what I knew, and it was who I was. I did not see myself as poorly. I was just myself.
So, for that exact reason I couldn’t see what I was missing. My world had paused. It became a rusty cassette that didn’t know how to play. Coming back into the real world felt near impossible. Rekindling friendships and greeting my two puppies in the morning felt strange. I didn’t have to wait for someone else to unlock three doors before I was met with a blast of fresh air. It was all so strange… I could now have clothes in my room and my blanket to sleep under. At the beginning I felt like a stranger in my own home- naturally waiting to be strip-searched before entering my room.
It did get easier. Sadly it took longer than I would have liked, but I began to like the new world I was living in. It became something I wanted to explore and cherish, the world became a warmer place. The little things in life became my very best friend.
The Jane that was poorly was shrinking. Gone.
Members and guests of TAP gathered once again at the Friend’s Meeting House in Bath Place on 16th November for the widely anticipated Talk by Johnny Scott entitled `Mental Health – A Young Person’s Perspective.
Co-Chair Andrew Wilcox introduced Johnny who is from the Somerset NHS Child Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS). The organisation was created in 1995 and has seen a huge increase in demand for it’s services ever since, although the 2018 CAMHS is a very different service than the 1995 version. Johnny has worked for CAMHS for around three years and strives to develop the service using the experiences and feedback of it’s clients. His role is unique in as much as he doesn’t work clinically with the young people but helps them find their voice. Listening to his young client’s experiences he then feeds back to managers about ways in which the service can involve and change to best serve it’s clients. The organisation offers numerous types of therapy which includes Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Psychotherapy, Family Therapy and Art Therapy.
Johnny was accompanied by a group of young people who had been helped by CAMHS, within it’s `Participation` group scheme, some of which were now volunteering themselves as helpers. Participation groups build self esteem and confidence and give the young people something to get involved in and to look forward to as well as being a social outlet. The groups can be used until the age of eighteen.
As the presentation continued all the young people bravely took to the floor in turn and recounted their own personal stories which included anxiety, anorexia, borderline personality disorder, depression and self harm, to spellbound listeners. As well as their journey the young people spoke of where they are now with their issues and how they manage their lives. Interacting with the audience one young speaker was able to convey brilliantly how unpleasant and intrusive it feels to be asked the most personal of questions when entering therapy. Guided and occasionally prompted by Johnny the youngsters received an exceptionally warm and enthusiastic round of applause after their own individual account from a clearly moved and appreciative audience.
Following a vote of thanks by TAP council member Caroline Barrett, speakers, members and guests availed themselves of a hot beverage and the now legendary biscuits. The next TAP Talk takes place on Friday January 18th 2019 when Olivia Rowlatt presents ` Having conversations about sex`. All are welcome.
David Trott TAP Council Member
TAP Talk 19th October 2018 - Andrew Pritchard of MIND 'A local mental health charity, what it does, when, where and how'.
On 19 October members and guests of TAP welcomed Andrew Pritchard who is Chief Operations Officer of the Taunton and West Somerset branch of MIND, who presented his Talk entitled ` A local mental health charity, what it does, when, where and how.`
As a mental health charity MIND is there for anyone with a mental health problem and nationally delivers high quality services to hundreds of thousands of people each year. Taunton & West Somerset MIND is one of around 130 local MINDs around the country which are their own individual charities with their own trustees and are responsible for their own fund raising, although as a network, they share support, knowledge and ideas. Nationally MIND campaigns to improve services and strives to raise awareness of mental health issues.
Andrew reflected on the familiar statistic that 1 in 4 of us will suffer with mental illness at some point in our lives. It was surprising for many to hear that according to the World Health Organization, by 2020 depression will be the second most common cause of ill health after heart disease. Andrew added that this statement may have been revised and that mental illness will become the most common cause of ill health.
Taunton and West Somerset MIND supports 30+ projects mainly across Somerset but works in Devon, Dorset and other parts of the UK. Over 5000 contacts annually are made locally and these are handled by over 70 volunteers and just over 30 full and part time staff. As Andrew’s presentation continued more astonishing present day data and statistics emerged including the fact that in the UK this week 250,000 people will visit their doctor about a mental health problem and 750,000 prescriptions for antidepressants will be issued. During the same period 104 will have taken their own life.
It is estimated that 1 in 10 people at any one time will be experiencing mental distress. Relating these figures to Somerset with it’s population of just over ½ million this means at any one time 50,000 people could be experiencing mental distress in this county alone.
The next TAP Talk takes place on Friday 16th November when Jonny Scott presents Mental health: a young person’s perspective. All are welcome.