The day of my diagnosis, I went in to inform the school and I was in a bit of a state really so I got sent home. From then on the problems started.
The first problem was finding me help. I was prescribed beta-blockers to help manage my panic attacks, but I needed some other help. After visiting the doctor I was referred to CAMHS (Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services) but in my local area the waiting list was six months long. As my mum has private health cover with work, she managed to find me a psychologist to see, but being diagnosed just before Christmas meant that I had to wait until January to get an appointment.
In the build up to the Christmas holidays I don’t remember being in school much as, at this point, I was refusing to go to school. Although taking my medication, I was still terrified of having another severe anxiety attack. I have found since that taking my medication does not prevent the feeling of an anxiety attack fully, but prevents me having a major one. I was being supported by the inclusion team, but I still felt no-one really understood me and just wanted me in the classroom. I felt a bit like I was considered more as a vital statistic than a person.
Over the Christmas holidays, I think my family began to realise the severity of my problem. After spending all of Christmas Day and Boxing Day indoors, I began to develop a fear of open spaces. My parents tried for 2 or 3 days to get me out of the front door but I would have an anxiety attack trying. Eventually my mum got me in the car and we made it about one mile down the road. I began sobbing and screaming until my mum turned the car around. I remember clutching my mum’s arm as she held the gear stick. Taylor Swift was playing on the radio (it was either We are Never Ever Getting Back Together or I Knew You Were Trouble) which is a weird thing to remember, but I can just hear it looking back. Some day after this, but before my return to school, I had a really bad anxiety attack. I cried and hugged my mum as I felt like I didn’t know who or where I was. She called the out-of-hours GP and they advised her to take me A&E and ask for the Crisis team. My mum took me to A&E and asked for the Crisis team as instructed, with my dad meeting us there. The Crisis team are there to deal with suicidal patients and so I did not speak to anyone in the team. I was instead sent to see a doctor. Warn out and on edge, the only advice I was given was a booklet printed on the internet, before I was sent home. This made me feel misunderstood and alone.
Before returning to school, I think I had my first meeting with the psychologist. They decided Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) was the best way to help me with my condition. At the first appointment my parents went in with me. I don’t remember much, but I think I talked about what tasks, places and things I felt manageable to do and attend again.
By this point I was not avoiding school and not going to dancing or Guides.
Trying to get me to go to school was a nightmare. I would cry and scream everyday. I would go and sit in the inclusion teams office as I was too scared to go to lessons, if they managed to get me in at all. My mum not going to work and my dad was sometimes leaving early to pick me up so my mum could go in. I remember one day where I felt forced into lessons and so I began to resist even more. I resisted advice from the psychologist to go in, the efforts of the teachers trying to get me in and my parents willing me to go back. It all reached a head one day when the education welfare officer came to my house. My attendance hadn’t slipped that low yet, but with me refusing to come in they wanted to speak to me. That was when I really began to hate going to school. I felt like they saw me as a naughty child playing truant. Even after the visit I refused to go in that afternoon because it just got me worked up. I felt so alone and guilty, because I didn’t want my parents to get into trouble. Whilst I avoided school, my mum and I wanted me to be given work to complete at home but I was not always given it. Eventually, my parents and the inclusion team took a harder line with me as I remember being in more and sitting in the inclusion office doing work. After receiving a school report expressing concerns in my attendance to lessons from one subject, I continued to feel lonely and isolated. The next few weeks are a bit of a blur, but I think everyone was getting more and more worried about the state I was getting myself into, especially as my GCSEs were approaching and I was going to move schools for sixth form.
I don’t know when it happened, but one day I reached a bit of an epiphany. I remember thinking, no-one cares about me so I’m going to back with as little of there help as possible and do this for myself. Once again, I remember very little of what happened after this, but by my exams, I was dealing with my anxiety attacks in lessons and staying in the classrooms, instead of leaving like I had previously done. I was in school every day and was trying my hardest with the work. I had previsions in place to help me through exams, like a separate room, and I had a pass to leave lessons if necessary. My parents would take me in and pick me up everyday and I think I went home for lunch sometimes. Teachers would allow me to sit with my friends in lessons so they could help me if I began to feel anxious. I would go to the psychologist’s every Thursday and I gradually came to enjoy going rather than dreading it.
In the end, I passed me exams and got into sixth form. I had to choose whether to go a place I liked alone or with my friends, but in the end I chose to go with my friends so I had a support network already. So then it was on to sixth form…