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When To Push And When Not To

So where do I start from? Maybe year eight of school. I started having a lot of panic attacks, and got to the point were going out of the house was very difficult, very anxiety-provoking. At some point, I started seeing the support people they had in place at school. But they soon realised that wasn't enough. So I got referred to CAMHS, in maybe 2012 or so. I went through a lot of workers there, probably four or five different workers until I was eighteen. They kind of changed quite a lot with the CAMHS. I'd have one worker for a few months or so, and then it would change to another person. There was one person who I was making quite a bit of progress with, he was helping me go outside a bit and do some cooking, buying food and stuff. But then he stopped that line of work. So he dropped out and I lost that support.

Doing anything was difficult. Going outside at all was difficult. I wouldn't go outside, no interaction with anybody, no hobbies, just sitting inside, my eating wasn't good. Obviously, a lot of general health things wasn't really that good. And I didn't really have a set doctor or anything, so we had to sort all that out. Every time we would go to the GP, it was a different person. So to try medications and stuff, it was a bit difficult. You know, to build up trust with a new person there, because they usually just throw things in your face without thinking about it.

That stops once you get to eighteen, the service at CAMHS. So then I got referred to the Elmore team. Then we were put on a waiting list, which was pretty long. I didn't see start seeing Maron until I was maybe nineteen, or twenty. We would mostly just sit inside at first, to lead up to going outside more, and creating goals and steps. To sort of really feel the impact of those meetings and work, it took quite a while. It was a lot of slow progress. I'm now twenty-four, almost twenty-five. So four or five years of slow progress. A lot of small steps and small goals. It wasn't jumping into things quickly.

Basically, it takes me about three to six months to make a decision. Previously, I could not go out even into the backyard without panicking. When I was eighteen, my mum applied for Personal Independence Payments (PIP), but they rejected it. She said I shouldn’t bother because of her experience with them, but once I was connected to Elmore, we ended up applying – after a lot of deadlock over the interview, trying to make me come to Reading, and Elmore explaining that wouldn’t work, they sent someone to my home. At that time I could only say ‘Yes’, ‘No’, or ‘I don’t know.’ The assessor was shocked at my state, and he said he was thankful Elmore could reach isolated people.

I remember, we talked about medication for a long time, we probably talked about it for a year before we went to the doctor and got anything. For a long time I wouldn’t see a GP, since my old one died when I was thirteen or fourteen. I wouldn’t take anything in pill form after I got ill one day as a kid after taking tablet medication. But eventually we worked out that there was medication I could take in liquid form. It was a long time before I started taking it, but that liquid diazepam then helped me start going out to an evening course.

We just did a lot of small things, like going sometimes outside for the meeting, or going in the car, and driving down somewhere to sit and talk. Lately when Maron’s come, we go walk because of Covid, we’ll walk down to the park and just talk on a bench for a bit. At the start, I wouldn't do that. If we had gone back five years, and he had come and said, ‘Can we go for a walk outside?’, I would have said no. So that's something that now we do. I feel comfortable doing that.

It's been very helpful. Because Maron didn't push me. Or maybe he kind of knew when to push and when not to push. He understood that side of me, whereas some people in the past that I've worked with would maybe push you when they shouldn't. It’s also helped things between me and my mum. My mum’s the only person I have, but we have trust issues. When I have attacks, she has to leave work and be at home. Working to address this between us, for Maron, it was like walking on a thread. Now we’d both say that our relationship has improved a lot. I have honest conversations with my mum.

Since we started working together, I did a year at college, in carpentry. It was only beginner-level, but it was a big step. But then that was just before all the coronavirus stuff. I made all that progress, and then went into the massive lockdown. So now it feels like a lot of regression, if that makes sense, because I kind of got stopped in my tracks. When lockdown started, it was kind of like going back how I used to be as a person, being forced to stay inside all the time. But this time, it was not by choice. You kind of had to do it. So that was very triggering.

I’ve worked on getting back to where I was prior to lockdown. It’s a lot of small steps again. This time around it is a bit different mentally, though. Before, it was more anxiety that was stopping me. This time, it's kind of more feeling down and depressed. Because I made all that progress. And it wasn't me that took it away, it was outside things. I don't have as much anxiety as when I first started. There are places where I'm comfortable now, I’ve built up to going outside around here. That's not very anxiety-provoking, but if it was a new situation, say if I did have to go to college again, or a job, that would probably be a big trigger.

But before the lockdowns, we did work towards a lot. I was going to college, I was taking meds. Then it got to the point where I stopped taking them, and then the coronavirus stuff, then the lockdowns. I would say I had an eating disorder before, when I weighed the lowest was maybe six stone seven or eight. That was around the time I started with Elmore. And we had worked on that. So my eating habits were good. Then during the lockdown, I lost quite a bit of weight again. I think going to the gym introduced good eating habits, it would make me want to eat and eat good foods. So having that taken away, led to the diet spinning out. I couldn't really get into a consistent pattern at home. We couldn't really make much progress. During the lockdowns we would have probably a phone meeting once a week for fifteen, twenty minutes. But it's not really the same over the phone.

The lockdowns were just a bit of a headache really – you have progressed and then it gets kind of taken away. Then it gets kind of tiring to keep doing the same thing again. But I'm getting too comfortable. I need to kind of push towards other stuff. I've been working on making sure I eat enough, I’m back at the gym now a few times a week. That is probably one of the biggest mental health things for me. That definitely helps with a lot of stuff. Losing that in the lockdowns was a big trigger.

Now I have a driving license, and I’m thinking of applying for a job as a driver. I’m going to the gym on a regular basis, even though I’ve taken many steps backwards, because of Covid and lockdowns. But I can use the techniques that we’ve worked on. We're trying to figure out what next, we’re back setting goals, hoping there are no other lockdowns. What I've learned from anxiety is, even if you don't want to face it, that is the best way.

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