My journey to understanding mental health illnesses started 5 years ago with my 14 year old teenage daughter.
When our daughter started secondary school she had a bit of a bumpy ride settling in. In Year 8 things seem to settle down a bit and she started to make a few friends but by the beginning of Year 9 things took a tumble for the worse. She became rather recluse, staying in her room and not socialising with us much. We did put this down to being a teenager / hormones changing and as she is our first born, didn’t have anything to really guide us that her moods were anything major. Her friends started to notice she made rather negative comments about herself that they were concerned about, so they spoke to the Pastoral Carer at the school who promptly saw her.
This lovely woman called me out of the blue at work and told me that I needed to come immediately to school to collect her as she was very concerned about our daughter. To say I was shocked was an understatement but we duly went to school to collect her. It transpires that our daughter had informed her that she has tried to jump of a car park building but had been stopped by a passer-by, and she came home instead (it was my birthday so she felt she ought to).
This was my welcome to the world of mental health and obtaining the help we required for our ‘happy’ daughter wasn’t as easy as I thought. Our GP was pretty useless so I went down the private route (thankfully we had this option with my work). I ended up begging a child psychiatrist to meet her that week, who diagnosed her with severe depression and anxiety and suggested that we treat her with antidepressants as well as therapy. I had to find a psychologist to meet her and juggle speaking to both whilst trying to work and hold the family together. .
A week later our daughter took a massive overdose (over 60 tablets) which she didn’t tell us about until she collapse in my arms 6 hours later…Frantic night in hospital and the following day spent being quizzed by CAMHS as to how I could not of noticed her doing this, they agreed that she could be taken on my CAMHS. We had a holiday booked which they agreed we should go on and then they would review when we got back. On our return we met with the therapist who immediately decided she needed hospital treatment and arranged the following day for her to be admitted.
She spent 4 months in the unit and tried to take her life two more times whilst she was in there. It was very tough going for us all to see her there and to see such little progression taking place. She also at this stage started to have an eating disorder too. By fluke we had a meeting with the pharmacist at the hospital unit who suggested that we change her medication which might be more compatible with her coeliac meds she was taking. Within a couple of weeks, she was a different person and there was talk of her being allowed to come home.
Skipping to Years 10 and 11, our daughter regularly missed school with days that she could not cope but f her school was extremely supportive and made it possible for her to see her psychiatrist at any time, and also carry on with her studies (no pressure on her to do homework that wasn’t essential etc) which resulted in her managing to get 8 GCSEs with good grades. She started her A Level course but found her anxiety and depression was becoming worse and felt she needed respite help again. CAMHS agreed and she spent another 4 months in a unit, miles away from home.
A further diagnosis of BDD was made and once therapy treatment began we did see some improvement. She dropped one A Level but carried on with two others, in which she managed to get outstanding results (A*s). She is doing her final A Level this summer and is aiming to go to University in September. She has her final therapy session in two weeks’ time and although she’s a little apprehensive about not having that support, she feels that she has a plan in place to cope with her anxiety and depression.
I’m immensely proud of what our daughter has overcome and dealt with and her level or maturity throughout her journey. I am proud of how open she is with us and that nothing is a taboo subject. It’s made us closer as a family unit; understand how certain situations trigger her panic attacks, what we can do to help her and that mental health is nothing to be ashamed about.
It has felt a long journey and it certainly has not been without some major ups and downs but we have also been supported by family, good friends and in particular my work have been really amazing at supporting me, offering me counselling, time off and options on working from home if I needed to.
Finding Suzanne’s group on FB has been the icing on top of the cake – I wish that I had this when our journey first started as it is a deep dark hole, not just dealing with our children’s emotional needs but also knowing how the NHS system works /our rights and options as parents.
I consider quite a few people in this support group as friends and if I can offer some guidance to someone going through this journey, then I would be more than willing to do so.