*** TRIGGER WARNING *** – Depression, suicide, self-harm, domestic violence
Depression, its just sadness, right? That is what I believed prior to June 2017. On the 11th June 2017, it started off as it was a normal day however by the evening my life would change.
I had a luxurious childhood with regular 5-star holidays and being spoiled rotten however it wasn’t easy. My father was diagnosed with Kidney failure when I was around 5. He had a kidney transplant from my uncle which lasted 3 years but then failed. After the failure, he had to have dialysis every other day and eventually had the machine installed at home. This led to me becoming essentially a nurse. I would help set up the machine, make sure he was ok on it and help him come off it. After a few years, he had another transplant which failed and nearly killed him but he survived so back on dialysis he went. Occasionally there would be problems with the machine and one time he fainted so I had to emergency disconnect, get an ambulance and stop him from choking on his vomit as he was fitting. This was a hard childhood, I saw more than most kids my age. Finally, in 2015 he had his 3rd transplant which worked well. However, the part I missed out was the violence. He would regularly be violent both verbally and physically towards my mother.
This violence has happened from as early as I can remember. The shouting, the doors slamming, the screams, the tears and much more. It got to a point where my mum was living out of her car, changing on a driveway, lost contact with friends due to smashed phones, lost jewellery and suffered injuries. The constant degradation by my father led to her attempting suicide. She also had black eyes, broken ribs, broken fingers yet she couldn’t speak out due to the fear and what could happen to me from social services.
Finally, on the 11th of June 2017, I sought help. She was bleeding from her mouth, crying and had bruises developing. I texted a friend’s mum as I was scared about what would happen to me if my father saw me on my phone and she called the police. They arrived and arrested my father. The next day the police told my mum she had to leave as she didn’t have any interest in the property, which effectively made me and mum homeless. I also lost my personal space, my comforts, my pets and my normal life.
The next 8 months led to us sofa surfing with friends and family, staying at Travelodge’s when we could, this had a detrimental effect on my mental health. I started losing interest in life, I saw everything as a chore, I had no motivation, my school work fell, I was irritable and constantly tired. I first reached out for help in October 2017 by going to my GP. She made me feel like a liar and not worthy of her time. She defended my father saying he was a nice guy and wouldn’t ever hurt anyone. I broke down in tears, eventually, she referred me to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service known as CAMHS.
I waited and waited and 6 weeks later they said I had an appointment in December. The Dr was nice and said I needed counselling and that I had been referred. Again I waited and waited and called and called CAMHS to see where my referral was and they said it will be soon. At this point, I started thinking of self-harm and also what is the purpose of life. I went and saw another GP who prescribed me Sertraline 50mg, after 3 weeks they upped it to 100mg. This helped slightly but I was still waiting on CAMHS. In the following months, I started self-harming by cutting my wrists. I did this as I couldn’t feel anything and couldn’t cry. I had tablets in my hand ready to take but I didn’t and I don’t know why to this day.
February 2018 we finally were able to secure a house in Epsom and I saw a new GP they told me to continue with Kingston CAMHS whilst they referred me to Epsom CAMHS.
My private school wasn’t very helpful towards my mental health. They constantly applied academic pressure and didn’t give me any breathing space. Most teachers didn’t know what to do and one teacher said: “I don’t care what you are going through but in my lesson put everything to one side and just focus.” This damaged my confidence and made me want to skip school more. Another teacher in the PE department made me rake through the old, dirty and damaged clothes to wear as I didn’t have my PE kit. This was extremely embarrassing and led to me skipping PE.
In April 2018 my mum called relate, the counsellors, directly who said they were waiting on CAMHS to approve the funding. A week later CAMHS did and I had my first appointment, the lady was nice however she was treating me like a child. The sessions were intermittent as I had my GCSE’s and after 5 sessions I stopped them. My self-harm continued throughout my exams.
Throughout school, I put on a brave face. I would always smile and seem happy even though I was suffering internally. I had friends making comments indirectly about mental health which felt like a blow to the guts. I skipped schools as some days I was too tired and scared. I would regularly break down in tears with people saying “why are you crying” and “what have you to be sad about”.
After my exams in late June, my mum received an email saying that she had 2 weeks to provided £5,000 or set up a payment plan otherwise I wouldn’t be allowed back. This was the tipping point for me and led to me taking an overdose in an attempt to end my life. I ended up in the hospital and was discharged the next day after seeing the CAMHS duty nurse. She called CAMHS the following day and they told her they had lost my file but would fast track me so I received an appointment a week later. I saw a guy, Jaz, who talked to me and said I needed some therapy. About a month later I saw him briefly in Starbucks and a week later left me a voicemail saying he is leaving and will pass my case to someone else who should contact me within 2 weeks.
4 weeks later I call up CAMHS and am told that he discharged me. This just destroyed my confidence and sent me back into a dark hole. I saw my GP again who couldn’t believe it and didn’t even know that I had been discharged. They said they would refer me again however they couldn’t as CAMHS were overwhelmed and understaffed. I continued struggling and taking my meds.
I started a new school and was supported very well. I saw their counsellor who was lovely and helped whilst I waited on CAMHS. I had a dip in march 2019 and my GP sped up my referral and I saw CAMHS. The dr was lovely and upped my meds to 150mg then eventually 175mg. He was lovely, funny and caring but after 3 sessions I received a call saying the dr has left and I was waiting for a new dr.
My father was found guilty of common assault with beating and given fines totalling £900 and a suspended sentence for 12 months. My mother also sought a non-molestation order which he broke and was given another sentence suspended. However to get there was a battle. We didn’t find out the criminal court date until 5 days before as the police gave the court the wrong number for my mum. To get the non-molestation took a lot of form filling and a lot of stress.
Social services blamed my mum for staying with my dad and said she put me at risk but after fleeing they blamed her for not providing a house. They constantly failed in all aspects and have since issued an apology.
So far I have focused on the negatives, however, there have been some positives. I decided to use my negative experience to make a difference. I became a YoungMinds Youth Activist in April 2018. I joined Time To Change to help reduce the stigma and have spoken out to help raise awareness and to change a broken system. I have also since qualified as a youth mental health first aider.
My top tips if you are struggling are:
1. Talk to someone you trust – its scary but important
2. Don’t be afraid to cry, especially if you’re male – it helps to release emotions and you feel better
3. Find a distraction technique – we all have different one it could be jogging, music, art, reading…
4. Practise self-care – take a bath, have your favourite meal/snack
5. “There is always a light at the end of the tunnel, you just need to keep on walking until you reach it.”
My vision is to see the government reform social services and housing teams so they understand mental health, CAMHS needs more funding, exams need to be reformed so pressure is reduced on children, the courts need to have easier forms to help vulnerable people and finally teachers need to have mental health training as well as schools teaching more about mental health and practising mindfulness.