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Aliza's Story

My name is Aliza, I'm 18 and I struggle with anxiety. Anxiety is something I struggled with from a young age, however I wasn't diagnosed until I was 14 years old, at which point my anxiety had escalated to the point where I was struggling with day to day life and turning to self-harm in an attempt to cope.

In January 2014, I was in year 9 and had just started Upper School and this was when everything came out. My English teacher at the time was the first one to discover I’d been struggling. She voiced her concerns to my Safeguarding teacher who had a meeting with me and my mum, where it was agreed I would be referred to CAMHS. I spent 18 months doing CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy).  I remember, at the time thinking this was honestly one of the worst moments of my life. However,  I can honestly say this was the best thing that ever could have happened to me and the day my life changed.

Initially, I was extremely anxious about starting therapy. It was such a daunting prospect and I didn’t know what to expect, however after my initial assessment I can honestly say I felt, for the first time in a long time, that there was some hope. My therapist was so kind and welcoming, not making me feel ashamed or embarrassed about how I’d been struggling which was one of my biggest concerns.

Before I started therapy at CAMHS I was a young girl, afraid of everything; constantly in tears, with a sick feeling in my belly, not able to leave the house due to the fear of something bad happening to my family. Panicking over the fact someone hadn’t spoken to me and therefore worrying they hated me. Worrying about what people would think based on the way I spoke, looked and acted. Failing to interact with people due to the fear of losing them. My life was ruled by intrusive thoughts, which were so irrational yet so real. I never ever thought it would go away or be something I’d overcome. Crying at night/Sunday nights/holidays. Throughout my time at CAMHS, it wasn't all plain sailing either. There were still times where I relapsed or had anxiety attacks. However, what was emphasised through my time at therapy was that this is not a bad thing. We would call relapses 'blips' and my counsellor said, they are just little bumps in the long road to recovery and that is one of the most helpful things I've ever been told. I believe once a person has struggled with any type of mental health issue, there will always be a part of it that stays with you. So although I am in a much better place, I still have bad days, but I've learnt that it's okay and I know how to deal with them... that’s probably one of the most important things I learnt. The different techniques I learnt and implemented in my life when I was in therapy, I still use today. {Such as box therapy and twanging hairbands}  I can honestly say, when I finished therapy in mid-2015, I was a different person - a 15 year old doing well at school, on track for promising GCSE grades, with a good social network with family, friends and teachers. The reason for this massive change in my life was learning how to cope and deal with my anxiety and that was all due to the help I received at CAMHS. However, like I said, it wasn’t as if all of a sudden things were perfect. I still struggled at points but the difference was, I knew how to deal with it. I was referred back into CAMHS last year, towards the end of year 12 due to a big relapse and knowing the help was there was just so comforting and beneficial. I’m not sure I would’ve got through what I went through last year if it wasn’t for the help I received when I was referred back into the system.

Alongside all the help I received when I was in CAMHS, another really positive part of my journey/recovery/experience is the participation work I’ve been fortunate enough to be involved in. When I first met Niki and the prospect of participation came to light I remember saying, ‘Niki, I’m happy to help in whatever way I can, however I’d like to remain completely anonymous, I don’t want anyone to know I’ve been through CAMHS, I have anxiety, I self-harmed’ and so forth. This was 2 and a half years ago and I now openly speak about my story and what I’ve been through, in the hope of helping others. Since being involved in CAMHS user participation I have had invaluable opportunities such as being on interview panels, delivering presentations and speeches at various events, having a video made on anxiety and watching it played in the cinema at a Film Showcase Event.

By actively participating in CAMHS it allows me to turn a really difficult and negative time in my life into a positive one and the feeling  is amazing. I can honestly say the help I received through therapy coupled with the participation work has made me the person I am today. A person who is fighting anxiety and proud to be doing so. I hope to go to university and study philosophy and psychology, go on to do a Masters in Psychotherapy and then train as a Child/Adolescent Psychologist and maybe work within CAMHS. My choice to pursue this career path is definitely inspired by my experiences of accessing CAMHS and being involved in User Participation. The confidence and hope I have now is something I wouldn’t have if it wasn’t for the help I received. I just hope that every young person is able to fulfil their potential and not be held back or ashamed by their mental illness because, whilst it may sound cliché, mental illness can either make you or break you, and due to CAMHS it made me.