Children

Press Out and Colour: Butterflies – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Press Out and Colour: Butterflies, is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow. This book is aimed at children but actually, it’s ideal for anyone who’s young at heart and I really enjoyed colouring my butterfly ready for the review. This book is hardback, a little larger than A5 and spiral-bound. The covers are bright blue and the spine is pink with silver foiling on the spine and the front cover. On the inside covers are white line drawings on a pink background showing 5 of the butterflies fully assembled and named on each. The book contains 10 models of butterflies which you can press out (before or after colouring), colour and assemble and then hang around the house. The pages are made of very thick card/hardboard and are covered in silver foil throughout. The butterflies are white with silver line-drawn patterns all over them which you colour within and these catch the light beautifully when you hang up your assembled butterfly and it moves against the light. The butterflies are printed double-sided, they’re designed to look like real butterflies so some have the same design printed on the top and underside and others have different tops and undersides like their real counterparts thus making them look more realistic when hung up. The cuts around the little sections that need to be removed in order to slot the butterfly together and hang it up are really well cut so that you can push the unneeded bits out with your fingers or something a bit pointier if needed. The pieces slot together really well and are very sturdy and will remain so if you don’t disassemble and reassemble them a lot so they won’t fall apart by accident and they shouldn’t need gluing. Each butterfly has a small hole in the centre of each wing so that you can tie some thread through (the hole is a little small for string) and you could either hang the butterflies separately or together, or even create a mobile or ceiling centrepiece. If you don’t want to keep the butterflies hung up then they can be disassembled and the pieces can be popped back into the guides in the book for safekeeping. The guides can also be used as stencils to draw within (or you could draw around the pieces but be careful to only use pencil so you don’t accidentally damage your finished butterfly) so that you can create kaleidoscopes more than the original 10 you’re getting. Simply draw within the slots and holes on the pieces to make sure it’ll slot together just like the original or, if you’re using thinner card, make them thinner and adjust with scissors as you go if it’s a bit too tight a fit! The butterflies included are: Blue Morpho, Buckeye, Lime, Monarch, Painted Lady, Peacock, Pearl-Bordered Fritillary, Red Admiral, Tiger Swallowtail, and Zebra Longwing.

As mentioned before, the card is very thick hardboard and therefore you can use whatever mediums you fancy. I used alcohol markers on mine as they’re much more fade-resistant than water-based pens and they didn’t shadow at all. The patterns are quite detailed so you may struggle with pencils and little people almost certainly would so I’d stick to pens for this (do put down some protective stuff on the table if letting your child loose with Sharpies or it may not just be the butterfly that gets permanently subjected to their creative flair). These butterflies would make a perfect family project, you could do one each or even do a piece each and see what you come out with, I’m sure you could create some stunning butterflies! It would be a lovely activity to do for or with your children and once you’ve completed all 10 you could hang them at different heights in their bedroom so that you and they are constantly reminded of the fun you had creating them together. The hardboard is really durable and will hold up to a fair bit of bashing, scrubbing, and over-colouring (children can get a little over-enthusiastic with pens sometimes) so these butterflies would be ideal for children of almost any age, if they can hold a pen and colour, they can colour these butterflies! The parts are all fairly big so it’s advised on the book that you don’t give it to a child under the age of 36 months but above that you’ll be good to go!

In terms of mental health, what could be better than an activity that you can share with your children? The process of colouring them together will be sure to lift your mood and if you’re ever having a bad day or feeling anxious, go and check out your handiwork and lie on the floor gazing up at the masterpieces you and your children have created and imagine you’re a butterfly fluttering through the sky and away from your problems; it can’t just be me who’s always wished they could fly?! The intricacy and detail level is surprisingly high for a book that’s aimed at children but the silver lines can either be coloured within by adults, or over by children, it really won’t matter either way and you’ll get some very unique butterflies regardless of the way you colour them. If you want the butterflies to look realistic then you could find some images of the butterfly to show your child so they can have a go at matching it or you can let their creativity loose and have a multitude of rainbow butterflies. All of the butterflies are made of 2 pieces so they’re really easy to assemble and they don’t take hours and hours to colour, even if you do colour each section separately (like I did) so they’re a great quick project to create something beautiful and displayable for your home!

I would highly recommend this book to those with children, or the young at heart. These butterflies are super cute and great fun to colour and they look even better once assembled, a fully coloured kaleidoscope of them hung up in a room will look fabulous and be sure to delight your child and brighten up the darkest of days be those due to weather or mental health. Get colouring yourself a kaleidoscope of butterflies!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available to pre-order here:
Amazon UK – Press Out and Colour: Butterflies
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Press-Out-and-Colour–Butterflies/9780857638755/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The butterfly below was coloured using Sharpies.

Press Out and Colour: Easter Eggs – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Press Out and Colour: Easter Eggs, is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow. This book is aimed at children but actually, it’s ideal for anyone who’s young at heart and I really enjoyed colouring my Easter Eggs ready for the review. This book is hardback, a little larger than A5 and spiral-bound. The covers are bright yellow and the spine is pale blue with gold foiling on the spine and the front cover. On the inside covers are white line drawings on a bright blue background of Easter egg decorations hung on branches. The book contains 20 different sizes of Easter eggs, some of which are flat and some of which slot together to make a 3D shape all of which you can press out (before or after colouring), colour and assemble and then hang around the house. The pages are made of very thick card/hardboard and are covered in gold foil throughout. The Easter eggs are white with gold line-drawn patterns all over them which you colour within and these catch the light beautifully when you hang up your assembled egg and it moves against the light. The eggs are printed double-sided with the same design on both sides so that you can colour it identically and have a 3D egg at the end. The cuts around the little sections that need to be removed in order to slot the egg shapes together and hang it up are really well cut so that you can push the unneeded bits out with your fingers or something a bit pointier if needed. The pieces slot together really well and are very sturdy and will remain so if you don’t disassemble and reassemble them a lot so they won’t fall apart by accident and they shouldn’t need gluing. Each egg has small holes that you can tie some thread through (the holes are a little small for string) and you could either hang the eggs separately or together, or even create an Easter tree out of foraged branches. You may not want to keep these egg decorations up all year round and if that’s the case then they can be disassembled and the pieces can be popped back into the guides in the book for safekeeping. The guides can also be used as stencils to draw within (or you could draw around the pieces but be careful to only use pencil so you don’t accidentally damage your finished piece) so that you can create lots more eggs than the original 20 you’re getting. Simply draw within the slots and holes on the pieces to make sure it’ll slot together just like the original or, if you’re using thinner card, make them thinner and adjust with scissors as you go if it’s a bit too tight a fit! The eggs are in 4 different sizes: 6 of the largest which are all 3D; 2 of the second largest which are also both 3D; 8 of the second smallest which are flat in design and 4 of the smallest which are also flat in design. Once they’re all coloured, assembled, and displayed together they’ll look fabulous and you’ll be all set for the Easter Bunny’s arrival in April.

As mentioned before, the card is very thick hardboard and therefore you can use whatever mediums you fancy. I used alcohol markers on mine as they’re much more fade-resistant than water-based pens and they didn’t shadow at all. The patterns are quite detailed so you may struggle with pencils and little people almost certainly would so I’d stick to pens for this (do put down some protective stuff on the table if letting your child loose with Sharpies or it may not just be the egg that gets permanently subjected to their creative flair). These egg decorations would make a perfect family project, you could do one each or even do a piece each and see what you come out with, I’m sure you could create some really wonderful decorations! It would be a lovely activity to do for or with your children and once you’ve completed all 20, or just a few, you could hang them around the house or on an Easter tree in pride of place so that you and they are constantly reminded of the fun you had creating them together. The hardboard is really durable and will hold up to a fair bit of bashing, scrubbing, and over-colouring (children can get a little over-enthusiastic with pens sometimes) so these eggs would be ideal for children of almost any age, if they can hold a pen and colour, they can colour these decorations! The parts are all fairly big so it’s advised on the book that you don’t give it to a child under the age of 36 months but above that you’ll be good to go!

In terms of mental health, what could be better than an activity that you can share with your children? The process of colouring them together will be sure to lift your mood and if you’re ever having a bad day or feeling anxious, go and check out your handiwork and marvel at the gorgeous colours and look forward to the chocolate treats you’ll be sharing with each other soon! The intricacy and detail level is surprisingly high for a book that’s aimed at children but the gold lines can either be coloured within by adults, or over by children, it really won’t matter either way and you’ll get some very unique egg decorations regardless of the way you colour them. Each egg either has a pattern or Spring-themed scene on it so none of it needs to be coloured realistically and you could either theme them all with a Spring palette or just let loose with ALL the colours! Each egg is either made of one or two pieces so some need no assembly and those that do just require slotting one piece into the other so they’re really easy to assemble and they don’t take hours and hours to colour, even if you do colour each section separately (like I did) so they’re a great quick project to create something beautiful and displayable for your home!

I would highly recommend this book to those with children, or the young at heart. These egg decorations are super cute and great fun to colour and they look even better once assembled, a fully coloured set will look “eggcellent” (not even sorry!) hung up in a room or adorning an Easter tree and they’ll be sure to delight your child and brighten up the darkest of days be those due to weather or mental health. Get colouring yourself some “eggstra”-special egg decorations!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Press Out and Colour: Easter Eggs
Book Depository Worldwide – https://www.bookdepository.com/Press-Out-and-Colour–Easter-Eggs/9780857638694/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The eggs below were coloured using Sharpies.

Press Out and Colour: Birds – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Press Out and Colour: Birds, is published and very kindly sent to me to review by Nosy Crow. This book is aimed at children but actually, it’s ideal for anyone who’s young at heart and I really enjoyed colouring my bird ready for the review. This book is hardback, a little larger than A5 and spiral-bound. The covers are a bright glowing red and the spine is pale blue with silver foiling on the spine and the front cover. On the inside covers are white line drawings on a gorgeous turquoise colour background showing 5 of the birds fully assembled and named on each. The book contains 10 models of birds which you can press out (before or after colouring), colour and assemble and then hang around the house. The pages are made of very thick card/hardboard and are covered in silver foil throughout. The birds are white with silver line-drawn patterns all over them which you colour within and these catch the light beautifully when you hang up your assembled bird and it moves against the light. The birds are printed double-sided with the same design on both sides so that you can colour it identically and have a 3D bird at the end. The cuts around the little sections that need to be removed in order to slot the bird together and hang it up are really well cut so that you can push the unneeded bits out with your fingers or something a bit pointier if needed. The pieces slot together really well and are very sturdy and will remain so if you don’t disassemble and reassemble them a lot so they won’t fall apart by accident and they shouldn’t need gluing. Each bird has a small hole that you can tie some thread through (the hole is a little small for string) and you could either hang the birds separately or together, or even create a mobile or ceiling centrepiece. If you don’t want to keep the birds hung up then they can be disassembled and the pieces can be popped back into the guides in the book for safekeeping. The guides can also be used as stencils to draw within (or you could draw around the pieces but be careful to only use pencil so you don’t accidentally damage your finished bird) so that you can create flocks more than the original 10 you’re getting. Simply draw within the slots and holes on the pieces to make sure it’ll slot together just like the original or, if you’re using thinner card, make them thinner and adjust with scissors as you go if it’s a bit too tight a fit! The birds included are: dove, blue tit, cardinal, cockatoo, goldfinch, hummingbird, owl, peacock, robin and swallow.

As mentioned before, the card is very thick hardboard and therefore you can use whatever mediums you fancy. I used alcohol markers on mine as they’re much more fade-resistant than water-based pens and they didn’t shadow at all. The patterns are quite detailed so you may struggle with pencils and little people almost certainly would so I’d stick to pens for this (do put down some protective stuff on the table if letting your child loose with Sharpies or it may not just be the bird that gets permanently subjected to their creative flair). These birds would make a perfect family project, you could do one each or even do a piece each and see what you come out with, I’m sure you could create some very tropical birds! It would be a lovely activity to do for or with your children and once you’ve completed all 10 you could hang them at different heights in their bedroom so that you and they are constantly reminded of the fun you had creating them together. The hardboard is really durable and will hold up to a fair bit of bashing, scrubbing, and over-colouring (children can get a little over-enthusiastic with pens sometimes) so these birds would be ideal for children of almost any age, if they can hold a pen and colour, they can colour these birds! The parts are all fairly big so it’s advised on the book that you don’t give it to a child under the age of 3 but above that you’ll be good to go!

In terms of mental health, what could be better than an activity that you can share with your children? The process of colouring them together will be sure to lift your mood and if you’re ever having a bad day or feeling anxious, go and check out your handiwork and lie on the floor gazing up at the masterpieces you and your children have created and imagine you’re a bird soaring through the sky and away from your problems; it can’t just be me who’s always wished they could fly?! The intricacy and detail level is surprisingly high for a book that’s aimed at children but the silver lines can either be coloured within by adults, or over by children, it really won’t matter either way and you’ll get some very unique birds regardless of the way you colour them. If you want the birds to look realistic then you could find some images of the bird to show your child so they can have a go at matching it or you can let their creativity loose and have a rainbow robin, pink peacock, or green goldfinch. All of the birds are made of 3 or 4 pieces so they’re really easy to assemble and they don’t take hours and hours to colour, even if you do colour each section separately (like I did) so they’re a great quick project to create something beautiful and displayable for your home!

I would highly recommend this book to those with children, or the young at heart. These birds are super cute and great fun to colour and they look even better once assembled, a fully coloured flock hung up in a room will look fabulous and be sure to delight your child and brighten up the darkest of days be those due to weather or mental health. Get colouring yourself a flock of brightly coloured birds!

If you’d like to purchase a copy it’s available here:
Amazon UK – Press Out and Colour: Birds
Book Depository Worldwide – http://www.bookdepository.com/Press-Out-and-Colour-No1-Zoe-Ingram/9780857637673/?a_aid=colouringitmom

The bird below was coloured using Sharpies.

10 Ways to Help Your Mentally Ill Child

This week is Children’s Mental Health week and with 1 in every 10 children displaying symptoms of mental illness and a great deal of adults (me included) starting their mentally ill journey in childhood, I thought I’d tackle the problem head on and explain what ways you as a parent can help your child who is, or may become, mentally ill. Here are 10 things to do when talking to your mentally ill, or possibly mentally ill child.

1. Reassure them – The first thing that’s really important is to reassure yourself and your child that it’s really common to suffer from mental illness and it’s ok. People can and do recover from mental illness and many of us go on to lead perfectly normal lives either free from mental illness or managing its impact on us. We’re often perfectly capable of being at school, going to university, getting a job, getting married, having a family, and doing all of the things that are considered ‘normal’. 1 in 4 adults in the UK have a mental illness each year and 1 in 3 will in their lifetime – it’s really common and you can overcome it.

2. It’s not about you – The last thing your child needs is for you to blame yourself or start thinking about what you could have done to prevent it or how you might have caused it. If your child became diabetic or got cancer, you wouldn’t blame yourself, you’d just go into overdrive about how you could get treatment, this is the best way forward with mental health too – it’s an illness like any other. You’re not a terrible parent and having a child with a mental illness doesn’t mean anything about you. Keep focusing on them.

3. It’s not their fault – Their condition isn’t because of anything they have or haven’t done and no matter how much it looks like it, it’s not in their control. Telling them to cheer up, think positively, or just eat more, or telling them a list of all the things they have to live for won’t help them at all and will just alienate them further than their condition is already doing. Trust that they are doing their best to manage their condition and don’t EVER blame them!

4. Believe them – The most damaging thing I have experienced during my mental illnesses has been being disbelieved and accused of lying. Children do lie but it’s very rare that they’ll lie about mental illness for any length of time and if they’ve managed to pluck up the courage to tell you that they’re not ok, then you need to sit up and listen because they may not tell you again. Always believe them!

5. Take it seriously – This is not a phase. Mental illness is not the same as raging hormones or having a stroppy teenager. The things they’re going through may well not pass after a couple of rough months of sulking and door-slamming and you need to be prepared for this. Don’t play it down or dismiss it, listen to them and take action if necessary. Always take mental illness symptoms seriously.

6. Do something – If you notice changes in your child’s behaviour that you’re worried about, ask them about it. Don’t be afraid of discovering mental illness because the sooner you know what you’re battling, the sooner you can start fighting it with your child and the more likely they are to recover. Don’t wait, do something as soon as you have concerns!

7. Get help – If you or your child are concerned, go to your family doctor and make sure they believe your child and take them seriously. If they don’t listen, take them to another doctor until someone does. The sooner your child gets treatment, the better their chances of making a full recovery and learning coping strategies and management skills so they can go on to live a happy and fulfilled life. Children are often dismissed and fobbed off (I certainly was), don’t allow this to happen or treatment may be offered way too late. Don’t give up until they get the help they need.

8. Talk to them – Ignoring the problem won’t make it go away and if your child doesn’t have someone to talk to, they may deteriorate faster. It is likely to be very difficult and painful for you to hear that your child is suffering and hurting, but it’s much better for them to be able to confide in someone and for you to be kept up to date with how they’re doing so that you can get more help for them if it becomes necessary. Mental illness is utterly isolating and this is made so much worse when people around you are scared of talking about the feelings that you’re struggling so much with. Try to put your own feelings aside and listen to your child in a non-judgemental way so that they feel safe and able to express themselves. Just talk to them!

9. Research – Read about mental illness and when doing so, ignore everything the media tells you, mentally ill people are not often rampaging serial killers, they’re not crying in a heap constantly, mental illness has many faces and takes many forms and media representations are almost always wrong. Read real-life accounts of mental illness so that you can gain understanding about what it’s like to live with on a day-to-day basis (you can read about my own experiences of mental illness here). Find out about the symptoms and warning signs of the most common conditions so that you can be prepared and know what to look out for (links to useful websites below). Research, research, research – knowing what you’re fighting make it so much easier to fight effectively!

10. You can do it! – Mental illness is scary and unknown, and when you’re thrown into the midst of it, it can be terrifying, but by talking to your child about it, you will empower yourself and them to deal with it in the best way possible, as quickly as possible. Your child will be equipped to help their friends who might start displaying symptoms or confide in them that they’re feeling something different and they will also know that mental illness isn’t a taboo subject in your household so they can talk to you about it if something’s worrying them about themselves or someone else. Most of all, remember that anything you do off this list will be better than nothing and you can become a team with your child to tackle this together. You may not believe it but You CAN Do It!

Please share this as widely as possible so that parents and other adults who children might confide in can be equipped to deal with it. One of my favourite quotes comes from Bill Clinton who said “Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but stigma and bias shame us all”.

If you need more help, information or advice, please visit the following links.

http://www.mind.org.uk/

https://www.rethink.org/

http://www.nhs.uk/livewell/mentalhealth/Pages/Mentalhealthhome.aspx

 

 

Colour Away Your Worries – A Review

Disclaimer – Please read this disclosure about my use of affiliate links which are contained within this post.
Colour Away Your Worries (Buster Activity Books) is published by Buster Books and was very kindly sent to me for review by Michael O’Mara publishing. If you live in the UK and would like to win a copy head over to the pinned post on my Facebook page to enter. This book is a little different because it’s not for adults, it’s for children, but if you have kids or know any then please keep reading. I was genuinely thrilled to be asked to review this book, especially once it arrived and I saw that this is no ordinary colouring book and has a very special message and purpose. Anyone who has read my previous reviews knows that I suffer from severe mental illness which started a month before I turned 16. Mental illness had never been talked about in my life and stress and worry were just things that were accepted as normal, inevitable, unavoidable and something to be ignored as much as possible. This book wants to put a stop to that and I will state right here that I think EVERY child aged about 4-9 should have a copy of this book – yes it’s that good, and important!

While this book is a colouring and drawing activity book, its amazing features are way beyond that and run much deeper. The illustrations are charming and they really draw you, and your child, in to the activities and will keep them interested and entertained with bright, vibrant colours, quirky characters and funny comments. This book is charming to adults and sure to keep children focused and enthralled. So what’s different about this book from other colouring books and activity books? This books focuses on worries – something that on the very first page it states are very important. All children worry, as do all adults, but because we don’t talk about it, children don’t realise that they’re not the only one, that what they’re experiencing is perfectly normal and ok and they’re also not taught what to do about worries to stop them becoming more problematic and potentially even developing into mental illness when they’re older – scary thought I know but let’s face facts, it happens, and we need to do what we can to stop it before it starts. This book, in my view, is a great way to start that process. The book is narrated by a Worry Worm which is such a sweet concept and a great way of instantly making the child feel accepted and “normal” because generally the worm worries more than the child will. Common worry themes are explored and the child is encouraged to state or draw what they worry about which is a great way of them identifying it and also for mum or dad to see immediately what things are worrying their child. Some of these themes include scary films, not being played with, and monsters. The book also helps the child to identify how they look and feel when they’re worried in comparison to when they’re happy and describes the differences between worries that are sensible to have like those we might have about skydiving or bungee jumping, versus ones that might make less sense and be more confusing like worrying about what we wear or being different. It then goes on to explain that worries can sometimes seem much bigger than they really are and that they’re like plants that grow and grow if we let them. Identification of worry is a really big and important first step for you and your child but it doesn’t stop there, oh no! The book then goes on to describe ways in which worries can be managed including organising them, writing them down on paper and tearing them up or even creating a special worry box to put their worries in safely and then think about things they’re good at, thus shifting their focus on to their good qualities rather than their perceived flaws. There are a few pages explaining the importance of talking about worries so we feel less alone and this is a great point for a parent of a child who previously hasn’t wanted to talk about their worries to be there so that they can tell you and lighten their load. It also suggests plenty of ways in which the child can distract themselves from worrying until they’re feeling better. Finally, at the end there is a lovely double page of complicated tiles to colour and a couple of drawing exercises too so that they can focus on something productive (much like us anxious adults do! – If your child enjoys this then have a look through my other colouring reviews and see if any of the books might be suitable for your child to help them when they’re worrying). Right at the end there is a double page checklist where the main tips and suggestions are listed for the child, followed by notes for parents and caregivers so that they understand the message of the book and how to help their child to identify and deal with their worries.

This A4 sized, paperback book has been created by a father-daughter team who are a psychotherapist and primary school teacher and therefore have extensive knowledge and experience of children and their worries. This book has over 100 pages which are printed double-sided in full colour with loads of written prompts for your child to draw or write down their worries or fill in activities. The paper is bright white and doesn’t bleed when using water-based pens and a little of each image is lost into the glue-bound spine but I can’t see any children being bothered by this because they’ll be too busy colouring their worries away!

I highly recommend this book to anyone with a young child who worries because this book is sure to help your child identify their worries and learn how to deal with them – it might even help you as a parent to deal with yours a little better. I really can’t enthuse enough about this book. Everyone I’ve shown it to thinks it’s amazing and such a wonderful book for worried children. If you’d like to get a copy then head over to Amazon and get one before it sells out because this is sure to be very popular! Colour Away Your Worries (Buster Activity Books)

If you live in the UK then head over to my Facebook page where I’m running a giveaway for my copy of Colour Away Your Worries, I don’t have children and this book is too important and useful to leave it gathering dust on my shelf until I know a child that needs it so go and enter!

Now You See ME

This week is ME Awareness Week and today is ME Awareness Day so I’m here to raise awareness of the condition that I’ve suffered from for 15 years, since I was 9 years old. ME is hugely misunderstood, judged and stigmatised and so much more research needs to be done so that people like me can hopefully one day be cured. You can read more about my personal journey here.

ME is often dismissed, discounted, diminished and ignored. People pass it off as a non-serious condition that is preferable to many other diagnoses but recently it has come to light that many people who have other, arguably more serious conditions, would rather have those than ME because of the lack of understanding and treatment. When you’re diagnosed with MS people believe you, they have sympathy for you and don’t tell you try harder. With arthritis they’re aware that they may not be able to see the pain, but nevertheless if you say things hurt, there’s no need to question it. If you’re diabetic and you say you feel faint because your blood glucose levels have changed, people will do what they can to help. With ME you’re regularly questioned, tested, pushed, encouraged and often bullied. You constantly feel like you have to prove yourself and prove that you are as ill as you’re saying you are. Many people think we’re lazy, or just need to try harder but actually ME mostly affects people with a Type A personality who are extremely motivated and determined and it often takes us years to adapt to the condition and finally learn to pace ourselves so that we don’t constantly relapse.

Many people think that we’re making it up but I can promise you that we’re not. No one in their right mind would make up a condition like this and stick with the lie year on year while their life and opportunities pass them by. Anyone that knows me will tell you that I’m one of the most motivated and determined people they’ve ever met. They’re shocked that despite all of the excuses I could’ve made because of my condition that I still attended school, college and university as much as I could and got as many qualifications as possible, against the guidance of doctors and teachers. I’ve never used my condition as an excuse to perform at a lower level than I’d have expected of myself if I was well and everyone I’ve ever met with ME is the same.

This condition robs people of their lives. It takes away years and often decades and many of us never fully recover. People diminish it and suggest that we’re “just a bit tired” and that “everyone feels like that” and often then go on to joke that “maybe I’ve got ME”. We’re often dismissed when saying how bad we feel and are told “well no one ever died of ME” but that’s now known to be untrue. People have and are dying of it. It’s very rare but in the most severe cases people are dying of ME and having it listed as their sole cause of death on their death certificates. In those cases, their spinal cords are inflamed, their organs are failing and their bodies deteriorate with every new stimulus. So little is known about this condition and while promising studies are published every year suggesting a newly found cause, treatment or cure, nothing ever seems to come to fruition and help the masses. We still don’t know the cause or even if everyone with a diagnosis of ME has the same condition. In my view, it’s almost certainly a cluster of similar conditions that vary in severity and symptom-type and probably vary in cause and therefore treatment too. There are no treatments that help the majority and there is currently no known cure. There is no accurate prognosis because the condition varies so much from affecting some mildly for a couple of years and them making a full lifelong recovery, to those who are bed bound and hospitalised who eventually die, and everything in between. There is no blood test that can be used to confirm ME and diagnosis is still made through a process of elimination meaning there is a high likelihood that ME is indeed a cluster of conditions all of which have currently unknown causes.

Our condition is invisible to all but those closest to us. If you met me in the street you wouldn’t know that I have ME, you wouldn’t see the pain in my joints or the insomnia that keeps me awake til the early hours. You wouldn’t see the nausea, the headaches, the constant aching, the brain fog. No, unless you live with me, you’ll never see my condition. Even when I was wheelchair-bound I was accused of faking it because I could still walk short distances or I “didn’t look that sick”. Those closest to me can see the subtle changes and know all too well the white-grey colour my skin goes when the fatigue hits, the yellowish tinge I get when I’ve overdone it, the dark grey circles under my eyes that last for months at a time thanks to not remembering the last time I got a decent night’s sleep. Unless you look closely you won’t notice the tremor I’ve had in my hands since I was 15, or the fact that my legs feel like lead if I stand up for too long without moving, or my eyes glazing over when my brain is simply too tired to comprehend anything anymore. You can’t see my condition, but it doesn’t mean it’s not there and it doesn’t mean it’s not real.

Invisible illnesses are everywhere you look and often those of us with them are hidden away because we’re too ill to function outside our homes but when you see us on a good day and managing to smile, enjoy ourselves and have a rare day out, please don’t question us or assume that we’re making it up. You don’t know what it’s taken for us to be able to go out that day, the time we’ve spent resting, the help we had to have beforehand, the days afterwards that we may spend in bed because we’re so burnt out. The nature of ME means that we often pay the price for overdoing it a couple of days later so we’re forever doing too much without realising because our bodies don’t react immediately. This means we can do far far too much and then pay for it for days, weeks or even months afterwards. You may think we’re faking being sick but what we’re actually really good at is faking being well. We’re pro’s at putting on a happy face and ignoring the pain and fatigue and fighting our way through it so that we can attend important events, write that last essay or just be reminded of what doing normal things feels like. But you won’t see us when we relapse, when our legs give up and we have to crawl because they simply won’t hold our weight, when we have to be helped to bathe because our arms aren’t strong enough to wash or brush our hair, or the fatigue is so bad that we no longer have the energy to cry. You don’t see us when we need help getting dressed, or have to sleep in the lounge because we can’t climb the stairs, or those who are sickest who are hospitalised for months at a time and tube fed in blacked out rooms because all stimuli causes them physical pain. ME is not “just feeling tired”, it’s a cruel condition that is utterly debilitating and it needs so much more research to be done so that a cure can finally be found.

You may not be able to see my condition but I hope that Now You See ME.

15 Years of Trying to be Me with M.E

Today marks 15 years of having the condition M.E/CFS. My life as an ill person started when I was just 9 years old with a common cold. I never fully recovered. On February the 16th 2000 I got a terrible cold and was really unwell with it for 3 days. I was off school because I had no energy and a constant headache. This continued, long after the cold had gone and I was left feeling ill, tired, achy and confused for weeks. After 3 months I returned to school and everyone thought I was fine. I’ll discuss the ins and outs of what happened between then and now in far more detail at a later point but for now I want to focus on what it’s been like to grow up being unwell. To grow up being different. It’s very difficult to look back on my life of 24 years and realise that almost two thirds of it has been spent at least partially under the thumb of a relentless condition that even now, many doctors still don’t believe exists.

The way we diagnose and categorise M.E has changed significantly since I was originally diagnosed when I was 10 by an M.E specialist in London. When I was diagnosed it was classed as a mental illness, huge amounts of stigma were attached to the condition and I was regularly accused of faking it and making it up by children and adults around me. I was told I was lazy, school phobic, skiving, attention-seeking, fabricating symptoms and imagining or willing myself to not be able to do things. These sound like things that children would say in the playground, and they were, but much more damagingly they were said to me by adults too. Adults who I respected and looked up to, who’d often known me my whole life, who now thought I was capable of imagining a condition and lying about it just to skip school. M.E is now widely recognised as a neurological condition and research is increasingly showing that there are significant biological changes in people like me who have the condition. As yet, there is no known cause, treatment plan or cure. We’re diagnosed by process of elimination and have to undergo months of testing to have everything else ruled out – everything treatable, everything that goes away within a few months, everything curable. Until you’re left with one diagnosis – M.E.

There isn’t even a consensus on what my condition should be called. I was diagnosed with M.E by an M.E specialist but what the M and the E stand for has changed since then. The M is Myalgic meaning muscle pain. The E used to be Encephalomyelitis meaning brain, spinal cord inflammation and is now Encephalopathy meaning disorder/disease of the brain. Many doctors prefer to use the term CFS – Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. I personally hate this label and I know many other M.E sufferers do too. While fatigue is the symptom that binds all of us sufferers together, it’s by no means the only symptom. If you tell someone that you have CFS it almost always elicits the response “Oh I’m tired all the time” or “I’m chronically fatigued” followed by “maybe I’ve got CFS too” and then usually laughter. Over the last two weeks there has been a proposal by the US Institute of Medicine that the name should be changed again to try to encompass the fact that the condition does exist and causes patients real, severe and very long-lasting symptoms. The proposed name is SEID – Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease. I think it’s great that health departments are finally trying to give credibility to this misunderstood and hugely judged illness but I can just imagine the comments now: “Oh maybe I’ve got that, I hate going to the gym”, “What a great excuse to not have to do P.E or do exercise, maybe I’ll say I’ve got that” or other such hilarious trivialisations. 15 years of my life has been affected by this condition but people still feel it’s appropriate to joke about it so they can skip the gym without feeling guilty.

When I was 13 my condition got so bad that I spent 3 years using a wheelchair without which I was a prisoner in my own home. I had to choose between walking around or going to school and sitting in a lesson learning something because I didn’t have the energy to do both. I was bullied for months by so many people at my school for using a wheelchair. They all knew I was physically able to walk and not paralysed which to many of them meant I was “faking it” which I was regularly told to my face and behind my back and even had a Christmas carol made up about me by a group of girls. There were two of us at my school who used wheelchairs, I was known as “the one that can walk”. People I’d made friends with stopped speaking to me when I came back to school in a wheelchair, one particularly cruel girl who had visited me during one of my sickest weeks went back to school and told my whole class that I’d admitted I was faking it and said that we’d spent hours playing football in my garden and that everyone should stay away from me because M.E was contagious. The week she had visited I’d been physically unable to walk because my legs would not bear my own weight. I couldn’t shower and could only bathe once or twice a week with my mum having to help me in and out of the bath and washing my hair for me. I was 13 years old and completely reliant on my mum when I should have been gaining independence and going out shopping with my mates and meeting my first boyfriend. That girl’s lies caused me to be ostracised by almost everyone in my teaching group and it wasn’t until months later that I found out what she’d said or I’d have put them right.

Despite being intelligent and near the top of my class when I was at primary school, nothing came easily to me once I got M.E. One of the most devastating symptoms, even more debilitating than the physical pain, aching and fatigue is brain fog. It’s also the one symptom that never leaves me even when I’m at 95% functioning. Brain fog feels like your mind is wading through treacle. Everything is more effort – thinking, listening, talking, answering a question, telling a story, thinking of words, concentrating, remembering, recalling, even recognising. Brain fog means that despite being able to read the local newspaper by the time I started school, I often go for months at a time being unable to read a book because I can’t concentrate hard enough, focus enough on the words on the page, comprehend what I’m reading, or remember names or plot lines. When I’m stressed the brain fog gets worse and is noticeable in conversations people have with me particularly if I’m put on the spot. My mind goes blank, I’m unable to comprehend the question or I lose the ability to construct an argument. This has meant that school exams and job interviews have been really hard for me because I lose the ability to express myself properly. I can’t keep enough information in my head at once to be able to proof read an essay from beginning to end and know that it makes sense so almost everything I wrote for my degree and have written since has to be proof read by someone else because I simply don’t have the skills to do it unless I’m having a really good day.

Despite all of these things, I’ve never given up fighting to get to where I wanted to get to. I’m one of the most determined and motivated people that you’ll ever meet and with good reason, I’ve had to be! When I was told that I would have to repeat my final year of secondary school in order to gain enough GCSE’s to get into college I made sure that no matter how ill it might make me, I’d get my 5 A*-C grades in 1 year just like my friends would and I did. I even got a 6th for good measure. At college my health really deteriorated after the first term and I spent 6 weeks pretty much in bed. I was advised in my second year that I’d have to drop one of my three subjects because I had under 50% attendance and was badly failing. I refused to drop it and told them to give me a chance and I pushed myself really hard and by the end of the year had got my attendance up to 73% and managed to get an E (not a good grade but I passed despite being assured I would fail). Going to university had always been something I’d wanted to do growing up but it never seemed like a feasible option when I badly relapsed every year for the first 8 years of having M.E. I applied to universities close to home so I could commute and not have to deal with moving out as well as making friends and coping with the workload. I was rejected by all of the universities within an hour’s train ride from me so I braved it and looked further afield. I moved to Cambridge following my gap year and enrolled at Anglia Ruskin University to study Psychology. I don’t think I ever believed that I’d get through it but I had to try because I couldn’t get my career in mental health without having at least a 2:1 in a psychology degree. I somehow managed to get myself through it and didn’t just scrape a 2:1, I was just 0.25% away from getting a First! I was in complete disbelief when I found out my results and I can still feel the pride and aching in my cheeks from grinning ear to ear all day when I graduated. I even went back to dancing after 3 years of using a wheelchair and took my Grade 7 and Grade 8 ballet exams achieving Distinction in both.

Many of the mental health issues I have now are because I was so doubted and misunderstood when I most needed to be supported and believed. We’re so quick to judge or advise or make suggestions about how another person could handle things differently or “better” but in doing so we often isolate that person and make them feel that they are failing in some way and should be coping better. I certainly felt that I was failing while I was growing up. I was regularly told I should be grateful that I wasn’t terminally ill or paralysed and told to just smile and “think positively”. What people didn’t seem to see was that I felt like I was drowning and I gave up most of my childhood to the M.E and I wasn’t great at just grinning and bearing it! I now surround myself with people who trust me and know that I’m doing what I think is right and what I think is best for me to make the quickest and best recovery possible. They’re just there for me, offering encouragement when I need it, support and understanding and cheer me up whenever I need a good laugh.

15 years is a long time to share your life with a condition that is still so widely ignored, misunderstood and stigmatised. After too many years of being expected to listen to others’ opinions of me, I’m trying to stand up for myself and through this blog I have a voice. I’m not being ignored anymore and 15 years on from when I started this journey I’m now going to be me with M.E (and a whole heap of other conditions), at least until I can be just me.

For more information please visit the following links:

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/chronic-fatigue-syndrome-gets-controversial-redefinition/

http://www.meassociation.org.uk/about/what-is-mecfs/

http://www.ayme.org.uk/symptoms

What’s Wrong With Your Eyebrows? – Trichotillomania!

Trichotillomania. You’ve probably not even heard of this condition. Neither had I. That was, until I saw a documentary on Channel 4 about 5 years ago where I suddenly realised that other people like me existed and that I wasn’t the “freak” I had first thought. I will point out here that I’m not diagnosed with this condition but I’m 99% sure that I have it and as there’s very little treatment for it, I’m sparing myself from having to add another diagnosis to my official list. But back to the condition and what it is – trichotillomania is an impulse-control disorder where sufferers feel compelled to pull out their own hair. This is often from the scalp but also commonly includes eyebrows and eyelashes. Patients with the condition often experience shame, guilt and embarrassment, and as the condition is quite rare and not well known, most patients only find out through the media or their doctor, potentially years after developing the condition. Treatment, if offered, usually involves patients having some form of psychological therapy as it’s widely believed to be a condition, caused by or linked to stress.

I don’t remember when I first started pulling out my own hair and I’m lucky enough that I’ve never felt compelled to pull out hair from my scalp which often causes sufferers to have bald patches and in extreme cases damage so severe that the hair doesn’t grow back. The earliest memory I have of it is when I was about 12 before I started shaving my legs and I used to pull the hairs out of my knees. It used to hurt at first so I’ve got no idea why I continued but it seemed to give me a sense of relief and I got some sense of pleasure from it. I don’t remember how often I did it but I know it was something I did regularly. When I was 16 I got depression and sometime before or during that period I started pulling out my eyelashes. Again, it really hurt to begin with but it was really compelling and I felt I had to do it. It became completely habitual and I wouldn’t even notice I was doing it. I have very sensitive fingertips and I’d sit at my desk at school or on the sofa or lie in bed and I’d stroke along my lash line forwards and backwards and then pull out hairs. I’d try really hard to stop myself because I started getting big gaps that were becoming very noticeable as I have naturally dark, quite long eyelashes, but I couldn’t stop myself until the urge went away. For months I did this and at various points over the years I’ve had no eyelashes at all because I pulled them out so frequently.

Unfortunately, when I turned 18 I started pulling out my eyebrows too. I regularly end up with gaps in one or both of my eyebrows and it’s really noticeable because I have dark hair and pale skin as you can see from the photos above. There was even a point where I got so stressed one Christmas that I ended up with no eyebrows at all and people thought I’d shaved them off which was awful. I didn’t know which was more humiliating, saying I or someone else had shaved them off, or that I was so stressed that I’d pulled them out. I’ve had some really horrible comments over the years and people are very blunt when they ask about it. I regularly get asked “What’s wrong with you?”, “What happened to your eyebrows?” and even online from a stranger got asked “What the fuck is wrong with you? You look like an alien. Or a man.” On a couple of occasions I’ve even been asked if I have cancer. I’m now very self-conscious and try to have a full or side fringe to cover up my eyebrows so it’s less noticeable. I also used to have blonde highlights because then, at least from a distance, it looked like I just had fair eyebrows and eyelashes that couldn’t be seen. It’s hard though. As a child I grew up doing dance performances on stage and was wearing make-up for that from the age of 6. I’ve only ever worn full eye make-up on stage because by the time I’d have worn it normally, I wasn’t able to. I’ve not been able to wear mascara or dark eyeliner since I was 15 and as silly as it may sound, that’s one of my dreams for when I hopefully beat this condition. I long for the day when I can buy and apply mascara and eyeliner.

My hair pulling is certainly linked to my stress levels as I do it far more when I’m feeling worried or nervous and would often do it during exams while reading the questions or when I was trying to think up the answers. Because it’s habitual I’m not aware that I do it a lot of the time which makes stopping myself very difficult. I’m a very open person normally and there’s not a lot that I won’t talk about, but this is something that very few people in my life know about (until now). In fact, I’ve only told 5 people about it and I feel very apprehensive about posting this online for the world to see. If I didn’t though I wouldn’t be practicing what I preach. I firmly believe that we should all be able to talk about whatever illnesses and conditions we have. People aren’t embarrassed that they bite their nails or smoke so I shouldn’t be embarrassed that I feel compelled to pull out my hair. Maybe if more people knew about the condition, I wouldn’t keep having to deal with horrible ignorant comments about my appearance. So there you have it, I’ve opened up my soul and posted some of my most hated photographs showing just how bad my condition has got over the years but hopefully in the good cause of explaining and answering – What’s Wrong With Your Eyebrows? – Trichotillomania!

For more information please visit the following websites:

http://www.theguardian.com/society/christmas-charity-appeal-2014-blog/2015/jan/09/-sp-trichotillomania-mental-health-10-things-you-might-not-know

http://www.nhs.uk/conditions/trichotillomania/Pages/introduction.aspx

A New Year, A New Start? Not Bloody Likely!

For me, New Year embodies an awful lot of what is wrong with the world. For a start, everyone has the expectation that it has to be “The best New Year’s Eve EVER” and in reality, it’s a flop for almost all of us, almost every year. I’m of the opinion that in a lifetime you’ll have fewer than 10 decent NYE’s and my current count is 2 in 24 years. I can guarantee that today will not be increasing that number. NYE also seems to incentivise people to decide to make utterly unrealistic changes to themselves or their lives under the guise that everything will be different in the New Year. Why is this the case? Why would a date change affect this in any way? Last I heard, it wasn’t the fact that the date was 2014 that made you fat, it was your insistence on eating all of the chocolate biscuits and having takeaways three nights a week. 2015 will not make those things go away, nor will it decide that you “deserve” to be thin and therefore none of the extra calories you consume will count. New Year’s Resolutions are also a completely ridiculous idea because they add pressure but also give you a get-out clause because everyone knows that almost no one keeps to their resolution for more than a month. If you really want to change your life then start today, don’t wait for the first of January when you’re the fattest you’ve ever been after eating your own body weight in Christmas food, smoking like a chimney due to the added stress from family arguments or vulnerable to deals at your local gym that are only actually deals if you ever turn up to the classes that deep down you already know you have no intention of attending. Obviously, you may be reading this on the 1st of January and thinking that I’ve gone mad and am completely contradicting myself but I’m actually writing this on the 30th of December and really mean it for any other day of the year.

I certainly won’t be making any New Year’s Resolutions and will have no one to kiss at midnight because my boyfriend of 3 years will be at work. I will be quietly toasting in the New Year with some form of soft drink (no alcohol allowed whilst on meds) and feeling very flat about the non-event that I should apparently be celebrating. New Year seems to bring with it a time for contemplation of where we are now and where we’ve been in years gone by. I mentioned a lot of this in my last post but am still thinking about where my life has taken me and where I may still get to go. I’m very thankful that I don’t buy into the idea of New Year – New Start or that how your year starts will dictate the rest of it. Last year I toasted in the New Year with two ear infections and a perforated ear drum but I was pretty much the happiest I’ve ever been. I’d been living with my boyfriend for 4 months, work was going really well and I was loving it, I had interviews lined up for a permanent job there, my family life had settled down and I was able to do all of the things I wanted and had an active social life. Little did I know that 3 months later I’d be struck down with an anxiety disorder that has totally crippled my life and turned it upside down. My social circle has become extremely limited ; my life is pretty much restricted to my two bedroom flat and occasionally visiting my dad and my grandparents because their homes are very familiar places to me; and I’ve not worked in over 9 months. This year I will be starting 2015 with an anxiety disorder. But I will also be starting it with a few, very close and supportive members of my family and friends, a blog that had over 1000 hits in the first month and a successful small business that I set up selling items made with a skill I only taught myself in May (if you’re interested I sell crocheted items and greetings cards at Lucy Locket Crafts on Facebook). I simply intend to keep challenging the anxiety where I can and to learn as many new skills as possible while I’ve got the chance.

I will not be making any resolutions because in my opinion they just set you up to fail. I have no specific goals for the year and I have no idea what the future holds so instead I’ll share with you my life’s goal. If I do nothing else with my life but this then I’ll die happy. I want to make a difference to others. When I’m gone I want everyone to say that I made a difference, that I helped change a life, that I was there when no one else was. I want to help those who are like me, who suffer from mental illness, who aren’t listened to, treated, cared for, or understood. I want to get programs set up in school so that we can stop the next generation from developing as many conditions as we see now. I want to help teach children coping strategies so that they’re equipped to deal with stress and change instead of crumbling under pressure like I, and so many others around me do. I want to make people aware of mental illness, of the signs, the symptoms, the help and treatment available, the struggles and the shame. I want to make people understand what it’s like, how they make it worse and how they can help make it better. I want to reduce stigma so that in the future, those with mental illnesses only have to fight the symptoms, not society’s ignorance and judgement. I want to make life different for the mentally ill. That’s way too big to be a resolution, it’s far too important to fail at after a month and it can’t possibly be achieved within a year. In my opinion, the notion that the “slate” is wiped clean at the beginning and end of every year is just nonsensical and you don’t get to “turn over a new leaf” just because the year has changed. Make goals and work towards them, if you go wrong, get yourself back on the right path. Everything I do at the moment is working towards getting myself better so that I can finally go out and help others like me. I will not be miraculously cured as the clock strikes midnight tonight, I won’t suddenly have the motivation I need to shift the extra 3st of weight I’m carrying and I won’t have a personality transplant that stops me from swearing ever again. I will simply continue to work towards my goals, clambering over the obstacles in my path and making sure that I carry on doing everything I can to make a difference to others. A New Year, A New Start? Not Bloody Likely!!!!!

Mental Illness – The Next Generation

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-29954970

According to the above article 300,000 children and adolescents in the UK are affected by anxiety disorders. We need to be treating them quickly and more importantly, effectively, so that they don’t become adults with mental illness. It is well documented that the quicker a person receives treatment, the more likely they are to recover. They also recover faster and to a better extent than those receiving the same treatment at a later stage in the condition. This means that time is of the essence and we need to shorten waiting times and increase access to age-appropriate services which are currently severely lacking.

The month before I turned 16 I developed depression. I had a lot going on in my life and I was struggling to keep up with it all but had been managing it until the depression hit. It was like I’d forgotten how to cope overnight and everything felt totally overwhelming. I felt sad all the time and cried a lot and had no idea why. My parents weren’t getting on, my Grandad’s Alzheimer’s was deteriorating and I was in my final GCSE year and it was all too much. After 2 months of feeling like this every day I went to my GP and explained the situation. I’d done lots of research and figured out that I almost certainly had depression which I suggested to her. I was practically laughed out of the room and told I had “January Blues” and that “every other teenager in the country is feeling like you are right now”. I told her that this wasn’t true and that I’d never felt like this before and that I needed some help and she simply said that it would wear off and sent me on my way.

Two months later I went back to the same GP because I was feeling much worse. The suicidal thoughts had started and I had begun to self-harm as a means of coping. The GP was the first person I told about any of it. She became very worried and seemed surprised that I was now so ill. She offered to refer me straight to the Children and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) at my local hospital so that I could be assessed, and I agreed. I think I waited about a month for that appointment and within 10 minutes of seeing the doctor there I was diagnosed with depression and had a prescription for Prozac in my hand. And so my journey into the Mental Health Service had begun. A side note here – I have had a lot of negative experiences with GP’s who are simply not trained enough to notice, diagnose or even talk properly to patients with mental health problems. They are the first port of call and it is soul-destroying when they tell you to try harder, don’t believe you, or even turn you away from getting the help you’re desperate for. This has got to change and GP’s really need more training in this area!

CAMHS was not a good experience for me, I’ll go more into it at a later date but I wasn’t treated well and was often not believed and patronised by a nurse who was apparently a specialist. I saw a different doctor every time and there was never any talk of therapy, just medication and writing a diary. I was 16 at the time but I was treated like a child and often talked to as if I was stupid and didn’t know my own mind. After a year of this I went to see another GP who wasn’t in the least surprised that CAMHS had succeeded in nothing other than watching me deteriorate and he informed me that he’d been campaigning longer than I’d been alive for them to improve their service. I was lucky enough that at the time my family had private medical insurance and he recommended a psychiatrist at my local Priory hospital. After 3 months of seeing the psychiatrist I’d become so ill that I needed inpatient treatment and in May 2008 I was admitted voluntarily for 9 weeks. Whilst there I was by far the youngest patient at only 17 and everyone else was nearly 10 years older than me and more. Most were the same age as my parents. Being treated like an adult was so much better than being treated like a child, however it was a challenge in the intensive CBT sessions we had because my problems were very different from everyone else’s due to my age.  All credit to the staff there though, they were brilliant at adapting the sessions to me and the patients became like a family (more on this also at a later date).

Circumstances led to my treatment being placed back with the NHS the following year and I was offered group CBT for stress management. Again, I was by far the youngest at 18 years old with the next youngest being in their late 30’s. This caused a huge amount of problems in the session because it wasn’t applicable to my life at all. When we had to come up with a list of stressors I was saying things like college and they were all saying about work. One woman looked directly at me and then offered “children” as a stressor so I looked straight back and said “parents”!  The group wasn’t suitable for me at all and after speaking to the therapist at the end we both agreed that I wouldn’t really get anything out of it and so I left. After that my psychiatrist at the time said that there was very little they could offer me that I hadn’t already tried because I don’t respond to medication and they couldn’t offer appropriate therapy for my age. This, as shown in the article above, is a very common problem. Children aged 8 have very different problems from teenagers, who in turn, have very different problems from working-age adults. We already separate mental healthcare into working-age adults and older adults and I think that there is desperate need to have dedicated adolescent/teenage services. Those who are aged 14-19 should have their own dedicated treatment services because their issues are so different from other age groups in terms of their development and life circumstances. There are so many transitions to go through at this age and older adults who have their own children will simply not have the same problems and therefore there is little to be gained by lumping everyone into one big group session where ultimately everyone feels alienated by a lack of common experience. Group therapy can be great if you get the group dynamic right but placing an 18 year old in with someone in their 50’s just isn’t helpful.

We need to be intervening early with children and adolescents who are showing signs of mental illness so that they can get treatment quickly but it’s essential that they are then given age-appropriate treatment by people who are trained in working with patients of that age group. Without this we’re simply leading the next generation of mentally ill people towards a long journey of poor or even no treatment and increasing the likelihood that they’ll be ill for life.  You may or may not believe that children (and adolescents) are our future but they certainly deserve their own future to be free from mental illness and the first step towards this is creating age-appropriate services dedicated to this!