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Holly - Interview 18

Age at interview: 18
Brief Outline: Holly is 18 and studying at college. Around the age of 12 things started going wrong for Holly; she was missing school and having behavioural problems. Home life was also difficult as her parents were going through a difficult divorce. Holly was referred to CAMHS for counselling and later on also spent a month on a ward. Since then Holly's felt much better and stronger to go back to college and is now able to plan ahead into the future. (White British).
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Holly is 18 and a college student. Holly used to be “a happy school girl, a model daughter” and top of her class. Around the age of 12 things changed, and Holly started getting into the habit of not doing her work, getting kicked out of her lessons and her grades started slipping. Around this time, Holly’s parents were going through a difficult divorce and she says, “It was world war III at home”. Over the next couple of years, Holly started to feel more depressed and she also started self harming.
 
Holly herself didn’t notice the change in herself but the school picked up on it and referred her to CAMHS. Holly went for family counselling which didn’t help her much at all at the time and her family got discharged. Because Holly was still self harming and now also feeling suicidal she was referred back to CAMHS some time later. This time round she got a great counsellor who helped her a lot and she also spent a month on a psychiatric ward. This gave Holly a break from all the complications at home, time to think things through and she had people around ready to help and listen at any time. After she was discharged from the ward, Holly saw the counsellor as an outpatient for a while and has since been completely discharged.
 
Holly was very recently diagnosed with dyslexia. She says if it had been diagnosed earlier she could have gotten help for her school work and studies – she often felt like she wasn’t doing as well as other members of her family. Holly is also currently going through an assessment to see if she might be diagnosed on the autism spectrum, and she says she’s probably got Asperger’s syndrome. “It would explain a lot” Holly says; she always had difficulty reading people’s emotions or knowing how to behave in some social situations.
 
At the moment Holly is at college and loves it. It’s made a big difference to change from sixth form school to a college where everyone is out of their own choice, and is also a bit more mature. The college staff know about Holly’s depression and past experiences and have been really supportive of when she needs a bit more extra time, for example. Holly says she can finally look forward to her future; she’s looking into university courses and planning to move away from home at some point. Holly says that help for depression is out there but that it’s a long process which takes time and patience. It’s also really important to try and find a counsellor with whom you feel able to talk about things; “if it doesn’t work with the first one, it doesn’t mean it never will”.
 

The usual relaxation techniques didn’t help Holly’s sleep problems.

The usual relaxation techniques didn’t help Holly’s sleep problems.

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I just used to sort of watch movies at silly hours of the morning and stuff, but that just changed so I don’t suppose there is anything to help you sleep. I mean things like sort of having a bath before bed and, things that most people do they never seemed to work. And a lot of people that I’ve met that have had depression have found that as well, you know, that the normal relaxation things didn’t work. And someone suggested once before that a kick boxing before you go to bed is quite useful, I’m not sure why, but apparently so. I didn’t really try that one. But I don’t think there was anything that helped me sleep itself.
 
And is that better now?
 
That is better now, it took a long time to get better.
 

Holly says she has always had low self-esteem because she didn't do as well in school as her sister and cousin. She felt like the 'black sheep' of the family.

Holly says she has always had low self-esteem because she didn't do as well in school as her sister and cousin. She felt like the 'black sheep' of the family.

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I think it’s [self-esteem] always been quite low, again because I mentioned my sister, and obviously since she’s you know, she’s very articulate and she’s very clever, I always felt, ‘cos our family is, it’s quite an intelligent family, and I didn’t know at the time because of the dyslexia I couldn’t reach the goals and so, whereas they were getting all the good grades, I wasn’t. And that, I think that initially started the self esteem problems ‘cos I felt I wasn’t as good as the rest of the family and I was sort of the black sheep, I was the one that, that wasn’t as able, sort of with GCSE’s I think my cousin got, was in the newspaper for six A stars and five A’s. And I got all D’s and things, so obviously there’s … The same, oh in fact on the same day where I finished, took my sixth form because they said obviously you can’t catch up, so you may as well leave, on the same day as I left that school, my sister got, at the college was awarded Learner of the Year for the whole of [county name], so obviously there’s, there’s a bit of a , you know, it’s not that difficult to notice there’s a difference between us. So I think that started the self esteem problems, and the things sort of like with friends sort, when they were going out and they were inviting me out sometimes it was they were clothes shopping, ‘cos I’m a larger size so I couldn’t buy the same clothes as they were doing, at the same shops so I thought well I’m not going to go to things like that, and that didn’t help my self esteem either.
 

Holly was a quiet child but says that depression made it worse. 'Speaking was an effort' for her.

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Holly was a quiet child but says that depression made it worse. 'Speaking was an effort' for her.

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I’ve always been quite a quiet child, because my sister’s quite a talkative child, ‘cos she’s quite intelligent, it sort of covered it, so I could hide behind her talkativeness, and, ‘cos we went to the same schools and things together. But it would, the not talking sort of became more of a problem during the depression because I didn’t really feel like it because talking was a challenge. It was an effort, it was something that I thought I had to do rather than I wanted to do. And because when I was depressed I didn’t want to do anything, therefore I didn’t speak, because it was an effort. So it’s something that’s always existed but, it was made worse by the depression yeah.
 

Holly improved after she stopped taking the antidepressants. She felt more 'animated' and had...

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Holly improved after she stopped taking the antidepressants. She felt more 'animated' and had...

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I was on anti-depressants when, just shortly after I was first referred to her and obviously as the appointments got more and more, so the doses got a little bit higher. And after I was discharged I decided I’d had enough of taking them, because you know they gave me a bit of a headache, and whereas I’m sure they were helping they also weren’t making me feel any better, so I just stopped taking them straight away, which you know you’re not meant to do, especially with things like anti-depressants, it’s meant to be about six-month, a six-month-process to wean you off of them and I just stopped.
 
And in fact it was quite strange because everyone thought that the dosage had been upped because I was suddenly a lot better, I was suddenly, a lot sort of animated I had a lot more energy, and they thought that the dosage had been upped but actually I’d just stopped taking them. And they found that out ‘cos you know obviously the amount of tablets that I had was still the same and I wasn’t asking for more prescriptions, and, you know if you’re not asking then obviously you’re getting the tablets somewhere else, or you’re not taking them. So you know it was quite a strange experience and even on a person that, and who initially put me on the tablets, had never seen it happen before, they’d never seen someone stop taking them and be fine, normally there’s a lot of withdrawal symptoms and a lot of problems. And I was better for not having them. Which was odd.
 

Holly explains why therapy can be difficult for someone on the autism spectrum.

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Holly explains why therapy can be difficult for someone on the autism spectrum.

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So the process of sort of find, working out that I was depressed and getting it sorted might have been a lot shorter because you know the thing, like I went through CBT with the person that referred me and sort of things like, “Well how do you feel at this moment? And how do you change that?” Well I didn’t know how I felt at that particular moment to be able to change it. ‘Cos the, it was, it was alien to me, I didn’t understand, I could work out on the days when I wasn’t happy, and I could work out the days when I was, but I didn’t understand why or anything like that so.
 
Yes and I suppose because a lot of it is to do with emotions and feelings and depression and the mental health and counselling?
 
And when you’re autistic you don’t know your emotions and feelings and things so yeah. It was quite difficult. 
 

When Holly and her parents first went for family therapy with CAMHS, most of the time she wasn't...

When Holly and her parents first went for family therapy with CAMHS, most of the time she wasn't...

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The head of year that I said before was really quite nice suggested to my parents that I went to the doctors and said, “Look, this is the problem, and she’s having behavioural problems,” ‘cos I was deliberately getting myself kicked out of lessons. And obviously to do that you have to be behaving pretty badly, and so they said, “You know, can we see someone?” And so we were referred to the child and adolescent mental health service, called CAMHS, and they suggested it would be good to do some family therapy, which didn’t really work because it was just people arguing the whole time.
 
And so we stopped doing that because it wasn’t helping the situation. And so then they said, “Well okay, what about we have just your Mum and your Dad there?” And so for the majority of the time I wasn’t there at all, it was it was just them, a child and adolescent service trying to talk through their problems and things, which I thought was quite strange, and again that didn’t work. And so we discharged ourselves from the service and said, “Look, sorry but it’s not working.”
 
When I started sort of the self harming and the suicide attempts we obviously we were re-referred straight away and the person was different ‘cos we said we didn’t want to see the same people as before ‘cos it didn’t work. And the person that I went to see was actually really lovely, and she, she understood, she’d looked through the files from before and saw that there was a, a problem with the parents, and didn’t include them, and it was just sort one to one things, and, and getting to know me, and things like that.
 

Holly says people have negative stereotypes of people staying on a mental health ward but she met...

Holly says people have negative stereotypes of people staying on a mental health ward but she met...

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I think a lot of people have a common stereotype about mental health wards and think you know that there’s people quite unwell, and the people I met there were some of the best people that I’ve met, I can honestly say that, and there were one or two characters that were, weren’t, well really quite unwell, and they didn’t stay there for very long. Most of the people that I’ve met there were sort of, became, and the best people that I have met, and I’ve made some very good friends there.
 
And whereas they had their own problems as well there were people there who were sort of in rehab for drug abuse, or alcohol, and there were people there for depression, there was a lady there ‘cos she was quite old and obviously the senile thing was kicking in. But they were lovely people and yeah we have a sort of a good friendship, we have sort of go and order takeaways and things and sit and watch movies and, it was, yeah it was, it was good. , and whenever I hear people say you know, “Where were you for that time?” And if I said, “Well I was on a mental health ward.” They always think, you know, she’s a really quite strange and quite unwell, but it wasn’t, it was just a space where I could take myself away from everyday life and have that, just to somewhere completely different. I didn’t have to worry about the schoolwork, I didn’t have to worry about home, I didn’t have to worry about sort of paying my bills, none of that. I could just spend some time thinking about my own life and how I got to the state where I’d have to be in that ward in the first place.
 

Having staff around to talk to at any time really helped Holly.

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Having staff around to talk to at any time really helped Holly.

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I don’t know what changed but, I think, I think it was the staff that helped because there were these people that were there all the time and I’d never had that before, I never ever had, aside from the teacher that I didn’t realise that relationship at the time, I didn’t know that she was deliberately being there, no-one else had ever been and there were all these staff all around saying, “Do you want to talk?” You know, “Is everything all right?” And it was quite strange, for me to have these people around at every moment of every day saying, “Are you okay?” It was quite odd.
 

Holly distanced herself from her friends on purpose because she didn'’t feel she “deserved” their friendship.

Holly distanced herself from her friends on purpose because she didn'’t feel she “deserved” their friendship.

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I did have quite a good group of friends, but because I was sort of distancing myself from things so I was deliberately trying to lose and trying to alienate myself and I still see some of those people now, but the relationship wasn’t one it was at all. Because I missed out on that, that time, they have bonding times sort of when people went at the end of the year to their different schools, I didn’t have that relationship to continue on because I hadn’t built up to it until the end and I missed out a main chunk of it so.
 
I didn’t feel that I deserved their friendship, they were all very nice people, and because of the way that I had a view about myself I thought well I’m bringing the group down, I’m sort of depressing them, so if I take myself away from them then they get to have a friendship they can have without me being of part of it because I’m bringing it down, they don’t, they don’t deserve me to, there, they don’t deserve to have me there making that situation more difficult so, I moved, I moved myself from it sort of. After a while they stopped inviting me to things ‘cos they knew, they knew I’d say no.
 

“The help is out there even if you can’t see it.”

“The help is out there even if you can’t see it.”

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The help is out there even if you can’t see it. Because at the time when I was depressed there were people offering to help and I just couldn’t see it at all, I thought I was on my own, and, why would anyone else care. And there is the support out there, I mean through the therapy and things I saw quite a few people, and it took a while to find that person where it worked with them, where I could have that sort of relationship to be able to discuss problems. And sometimes it takes time to find the right person. So just, if it doesn’t work with the first one, it doesn’t mean that it’s not ever going to work, and you’re not ever going to be able to get the help, or that it’s your fault that it doesn’t work. It’s just sort of that clash in personalities I guess. And just to sort of look around for information.
 

Joining an online support forum for self-harm has helped Holly.

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Joining an online support forum for self-harm has helped Holly.

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That website that we were talking about before the, the audio track went on, I joined that I think it was December last year so just when I started this college year and I was still trying to wean myself off the problem sort of self harm and things ‘cos that website is for people, young people or for anyone really who has mental health problems, although it’s mainly centred around self harm and things like that, so just the support of the people there because, because I wasn’t sleeping and if I was up at 3 o’clock in the morning feeling the need to self harm there was no-one there at all, and then suddenly this world on the internet has opened up people sort of in various different countries across the world or people who also weren’t sleeping, that were up at the same time, were able to just distract me or talk me through it or whichever it was. And whereas they were completely strangers, so I had no idea who they are, they helped me through it, which was great.
 

Holly used to be “a mode student” and top of her class. Gradually her grades started slipping and...

Holly used to be “a mode student” and top of her class. Gradually her grades started slipping and...

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I was like, a sort of typical naive happy schoolgirl, I got on with all my work and sort of I was a model student, top of my class and things, and typical, the perfect daughter I suppose. But I got into the habit of sort of not doing my work and things, and because I stopped doing work, I got bored and sort of started looking at different things and so I suppose it was school when it was picked up because, you know all of a sudden I didn’t have the energy to do any work, and I couldn’t be bothered with it all. And so my grades were slipping and it was the teachers that picked up the problems initially, and they put it down to the parental difficulties because they were getting divorced and things, so obviously they thought well that’s the cause of it.
 
And so we went into some sort of family therapy kind of thing, which never works, ‘cos when you’ve got parents that are about to divorce, putting them in a room together and say, “Talk,” probably not the best idea. So it was sort of, it went on from that really, but it was initially the school that picked up on it.
 
 
 
Because of my behaviour changed straight away and I used to be a good student and I was getting into trouble, I was getting myself deliberately kicked out of lessons because I just didn’t want to be there, I didn’t want to be in the room with everyone else, I wanted to be somewhere else. And it got, at first it was sort of just one lesson every now and again, and it got so bad that I was being kicked out of pretty much every single lesson, for every single day, and obviously they’re going to notice, if I’m not in any of my lessons. And so it was the, the school that suggest that I got some kind of counselling sort of thing. 
 

Holly moved from Sixth Form to college to do her A-levels and she loves it. She says people are...

Holly moved from Sixth Form to college to do her A-levels and she loves it. She says people are...

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When I was discharged I went back to sort of my normal home life and my old school life, and because I’d missed so much work it turned out that actually I couldn’t really take the exams, having missed this big chunk in the middle. And so, you know before missing it I’d been not attending all of my lessons, so it was sort of a slow slope in and to get back into the life, the way I was doing it, I didn’t attend all my lessons just to sort of gradually go into in, and so I missed quite a big chunk of the year. And so we decided it would be better to sort of write it off and say, well that’s it, we’ll start again, and that was at the sixth form, and so in the September I started again here and it was completely different because just the way they treat you, they, whereas before I was continuing with people that, that I’d gone to school with and such, whereas here it was all new people, and they treated you as adults. It was, it wasn’t sort of assumed and you know, teachers on first name terms and things.
 
And whereas before it was saying Sir or Madam and it was, here was just a great change to be able to have that responsibility and to do my work. All the people that are here want to be here because, you know, it’s their education whereas the schools I’ve been before were just people being there because they had to be there. And so they didn’t work, they didn’t get on, and yeah, I actually love it here.
 

Holly tells about one of her teachers who supported her through school.

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Holly tells about one of her teachers who supported her through school.

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There was one teacher that obviously noticed the difference, that I was in school, but I wasn’t attending the lessons. And then I’d be in school for sort of, from 7 o’clock in the morning until 7 o’clock at night simply because I didn’t want to go back home. And so there was one teacher particularly that sort of stayed later so that I could stay later. Which was quite nice, and we’re still good friends now actually, she became a head of year towards the GCSE year, and obviously because she knew what other people didn’t know, and I hadn’t told her, but she picked up on it. And we never spoke about it up until quite recently in fact, but she still knew, even if I was sort of putting on a front and saying, “Everything’s all happy and lovely,” she would always know, and I never knew how she did it, but she would always know. And, she, she was a great support to me at the time, and she called social services a couple of times because things at home obviously weren’t great. And yeah, she was brilliant.
 

Holly says for parents to get angry about self-harming is not the best way to help.

Holly says for parents to get angry about self-harming is not the best way to help.

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The only time they [parents] only found out about the depression and the self harming when I went into hospital obviously, and because I’d taken some tablets I had to have a blood test, and you can’t wear long sleeves when you’re having a blood test and so they saw obviously. and they were quite good about it in fact, I was surprised how sort of okay they were, because, because I’ve got eczema as well we had a dermatologist so they booked an appointment straight away and said what can we do about the scarring, how can we make them heal better, and I was expecting them to go completely mad but they were, they were quite good about it.
 
So they were kind of trying to think what we can do and how we can help, rather than being you know angry?
 
There was that part as well, but it was initially how we can help her, and then once things were sorted in their eyes there was sort of, “Right why the hell are you doing this”, and so.
 
Were they sorted in your eyes at that point?
 
They sorted out the sort of you know the cuts and things, and once, and medically I was fit and well, then it went onto the, “Why are you doing this,” and a more aggressive approach to it, sort of, whereas on the outside I was all healed up, on the inside I wasn’t and I was still you know, I was still self, wanting to self harm and I was still quite depressed, and so getting angry about it wasn’t the way to help.
 

Holly says there's very little information available about self-harming and she's never known...

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Holly says there's very little information available about self-harming and she's never known...

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I think there’s a lot of information available about depression because it’s quite a common thing, apparently sort of 1 in 4 people have some kind of mental health problem during their life, and it normally is depression. But you don’t get any information about sort of how common it is so, but the idea that you being alone in it still exists. It was only afterwards that I found out that it was quite common, and you know the self harm thing that sort of 1 in 10 people do it, ‘cos I’ve never known anyone else to do it.
 

Holly felt like 'the “black sheep in the family'”

Holly felt like 'the “black sheep in the family'”

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I think it’s [self-esteem] always been quite low, again because I mentioned my sister, and obviously since she’s you know, she’s very articulate and she’s very clever, I always felt, ‘cos our family is, it’s quite an intelligent family, and I didn’t know at the time because of the dyslexia I couldn’t reach the goals and so, whereas they were getting all the good grades, I wasn’t. And that, I think that initially started the self esteem problems ‘cos I felt I wasn’t as good as the rest of the family and I was sort of the black sheep, I was the one that, that wasn’t as able, sort of with GCSE’s I think my cousin got, was in the newspaper for six A stars and five A’s. And I got all D’s and things, so obviously there’s … The same, oh in fact on the same day where I finished, took my sixth form because they said obviously you can’t catch up, so you may as well leave, on the same day as I, I left that school, my sister got, at the college was awarded Learner of the Year for the whole of [county name], so obviously there’s, there’s a bit of a , you know, it’s not that difficult to notice there’s a difference between us.
 

Parents easily blame themselves and don’t appreciate the time it takes for things to change for...

Parents easily blame themselves and don’t appreciate the time it takes for things to change for...

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I mean I’ve seen people that have come from really happy families, that have got really good school life, and yet they’re still quite depressed, and there isn’t any particular reason for it sometimes. Sometimes it just happens. And the parents are thinking well, it’s the fault, it’s this problem or it’s that problem. Or to be overpowering, I mean I know people that have self harmed and their parents have gone round and removed all the knives from the house, or anything sharp and thought well if I remove it then it will stop. And I think some people underestimate the time it takes to stop. I mean the self harm thing went on for a good couple of years and it’s, you know, like smoking it’s an addiction, and just saying, “Right I want it to stop now, and that’s it.” It doesn’t really work like that I’m afraid.    
 
 

“Have a bit of patience.”

“Have a bit of patience.”

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And just to have a bit of patience. And there was, I’ve had friends that have sort of, that have looked like they’ve not wanted help because they’re still continuing and the, they’re not, they don’t look like they’re trying to stop and sometimes it takes a bit of patience. When I was first sort of diagnosed and I wasn’t listening to any of it, I thought, “Well it’s all rubbish what they’re saying anyway and I’m gonna continue what I’m doing and it took a while to realise that actually what I’m doing it probably wasn’t the best idea. Sort of it took a while to be able to accept that, because I thought, “Well I can do it on my own, why do I need these people anyway?”
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