I have decided to write about my experiences fairly chronologically, but divide it into experiences within that. I don't know when my mental health problems started really, so I am going to start writing about my experiences from the first time I sought help for them. I am a little hazy about the timing of all of this, for example I know that the following events all took place between the Summer of '03 and the Summer of '04, but I may have some in the wrong order. Which doesn't really matter to be honest. Again, it may all be pretty dull, but I have already forgotten so much of what happened that I want to write it down before I forget everything!
First contact - I was 17 at the time, at 6th Form College, and had been feeling very low, and also started making myself sick. I knew this wasn't right, and I ended up going to talk to my English teacher, AJ, about it. She was very supportive, and I ended up talking to her a lot, most weeks for the whole academic year. She persuaded me to go and see my GP about what was going on, which after a month or 2 I did. She also booked an appointment for me to see the college counsellor. She also got me a lot of literature on bulimia, and found out about treatment etc, and also got the college to buy a Self Help Bulimia book that had been recommended to her by someone she had spoken to when finding out about treatment.
First GP appointment - This was not a terribly positive experience. I was obviously very nervous, and went in there and mumbled that I was there because my teacher at college thought I might be depressed. He started asking me the usual questions - how is your sleep, concentration etc etc. When it got to how is your eating I said that I had been making myself sick. His response was 'Why have you been doing that? You're not overweight are you? Jump on the scales. (I did so). No, you're not overweight, so why are you doing that?'. As anyone who has had an ED knows, this is NOT a helpful response. And it almost felt as though he was saying that if I was overweight it would have been acceptable to have been purging. I left the appointment with a prescription for 20mg of Citalopram and instructions to come back in 1 month.
Second GP appointment - When my month was up and I was due to go back to the GP I decided I couldn't face seeing the same one again, as I had left feeling so awful. I decided to see the other GP at the surgery that I sometimes saw. I felt slightly uncomfortable about this, as although I was happy enough to see this GP for physical problems, I did know him personally, having sung in concerts and been in plays with him etc, and so felt a little awkward talking to him about my mental health problems. The appointment went far better than the previous one had though, and he raised the Citalopram dose to 40mg, and made a referral to the CMHT. Although he was very helpful, I did feel a bit uncomfortable talking to him about things, and so made the decision to change to the other local GP surgery, where there was a female GP, so all future appointments were with her. My anti depressants were changed at some point from Citalopram to Sertraline, but I can't remember when, or to what dose.
Counselling - As I already mentioned, AJ had made me an appointment to see the college counsellor. This was a very difficult experience for me. I wasn't used to talking about feelings - I just didn't do that. And this particular counsellor was the type where you both sit there in silence until you start talking. Needless to say I didn't get on very well with this approach. I remember having appointments where we would both just be sitting there in silence until it got too much for me and I would make an inane comment about the curtains or the colour of the carpet or something. I didn't feel like I was getting much out of this, and after a few months I switched to seeing the other college counsellor. To be honest I don't actually remember that much about her. She did ask more questions than counsellor number 1, which I found easier, but I don't remember finding it terribly helpful. I remember her making a funny little 'mm mmm' noise every time I said anything at all, even if irrelevant, which was slightly distracting, and her talking quite metaphorically about bulimia a lot - the purging was about getting rid of the feeling and emotions that I was experiencing, and by throwing up I was attempting to get rid of them or something.
Assessment - At some point, I believe in early '04, I had my assessment appointment at the CMHT. As I had no formal treatment prior to this, only the counselling sessions at college, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. My assessment was with the team Clinical Psychologist, and one of the CPNs. They asked me lots and lots of questions, which I answered as best as I could, which in retrospect was probably pretty badly, as talking about feelings was still such an alien concept to me. It was the usual deal of one talking, and the other writing, and they were both very nice. The outcome of the assessment was that I would be put on a waiting list to see the Clinical Psychologist, which would be about 6 months, and they recommended a self help book in the meantime, which was the same as the one that AJ had already got.
Next time - being under the CMHT, suicide attempt, more anti-depressants, and various psychiatrists.