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Sarah - Interview 28

Age at interview: 17
Brief Outline: Sarah is 17 and works as a sales assistant. Sarah says her problems started when she was badly bullied in comprehensive school, although she's struggled with low self esteem ever since she can remember. Sarah's gotten a lot of help from young adults' group counselling service and psychotherapy and says that since, she's been much more able to cope with life and its lows. Sarah also enjoys doing art, travelling and getting out and about. (White British).
Background: See 'Brief outline'

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Sarah is 17 and works as a part time sales assistant. She says that ever since she can remember she’s always felt poorly about herself and struggled with low esteem. Sarah was really badly bullied in comprehensive school, from the age of 11 onwards. Her school didn’t take the bullying seriously and after a while Sarah said she too stopped caring about herself. She felt that since nobody else cared about her safety or wellbeing, “why should I”. Sarah started to self-harm, “getting plastered” and “doing stuff you shouldn’t be doing at 14”. She also stopped eating properly.
 
Sarah moved onto 6th form where the workload was mounting up and Sarah started having panic attacks. Although she was doing well in school, Sarah stopped going because of the panic attacks and the pressures and missed out 4-5 months of 6th form. Around this time Sarah went to see her GP for help. Her doctor took her concerns seriously and referred her quickly to Young Adults’ Transition services for group counselling. She was also diagnosed with depression. Sarah says it’s really “hard to know you don’t function the same way as other people” and to be able to trust other people enough to talk to them.
 
Group counselling has worked really well for Sarah. She enjoys the group aspect of it because it’s “much more relaxing” and the focus is not on just one person. Sarah says she’s benefited both from the counselling itself but also from meeting other young people who’re in a similar situation to her. Since she finished the weekly counselling sessions, Sarah’s been to see a psychotherapist monthly. Sarah says life’s been different since she’s been to counseling. She can cope with things better now and even though she can at times get down and upset, she can function with these feelings like anyone else.
 
Sarah enjoys doing art work, particularly painting. Doing something creative and constructive really helps her and it’s also great because she can see a concrete positive outcome of the work. Sarah also likes traveling and getting out and about to see and experience new things. She says she sometimes thinks too much about the future and what will happen. She is very determined to succeed, be happy and live a normal life; “I will do it. You might as well just get over it instead of living a lie all your life.”
 

Sarah says she had a really comfortable life as a child but sometimes felt she didn’t get her...

Sarah says she had a really comfortable life as a child but sometimes felt she didn’t get her...

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I’ve never had a bad home life like, my parents have always looked after me, we’ve never, we’ve never not had stuff like, we’ve never not had food, never not been able to go to school ‘cos we can’t afford the bus fare, we were quite well off so we were lucky compared to what some other people have.
 
But I think that’s where the problem was I had a lot of stuff like, well not necessarily not stuff but I had a comfortable life and my parents were just you know used to it. And because my brother’s got loads of like, he’s like deaf in one ear, he’s got learning problems and all sorts, so they paid more attention to him than they did for me from the off and it made me think well I’m not really worth that much otherwise they’d be paying more attention to me, they’d be going to school when I’ve had problems. And they’d be taking me to the doctors when I’m ill, but they didn’t, it was just, it really knocked you.
 

Constant bullying led Sarah to start self harming. She was bullied even more because of the...

Constant bullying led Sarah to start self harming. She was bullied even more because of the...

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I was different and my friends were different and the majority, we were the minority in the school so we’d have like just loads of abuse hurled at us all the time like, dictionaries chucked at us and "Have you goth the time?" and, stupid stuff like that, and I remember one lad turned round to me and he goes, “Who lass, what’s that on your arm?” “Oh it’s nothing; it’s none of your business.” And he goes, he turns round and goes, “I wish my front lawn was like you and cut itself.” And I just looked at him, I just could not but laugh, just thought, “It’s great that you’ve got to pick on somebody for having something wrong with them. You wouldn’t pick on somebody in a wheelchair why pick on somebody that self harms. It’s the same thing. If anything you’ll probably gonna, I know self harm’s not, got nothing to do with killing yourself but like you’re going to drive them into doing it more aren’t you, you’re just making the problem worse” but…
 
People got really invasive and wanted to know constantly what was wrong. And the school would always phone my parents up and say, “Sarah’s got marks on her arms,” and as my parents would ask me, “Oh I hurt my arms, I hurt myself in woodwork ‘cos I’m clumsy.” So I always did have like bruises and that but I just said, “Oh I’m clumsy,” oh I’ve done this or I’ve done that, and they believed it.
 
That’s when it really started going wrong and I realised I could get away with it and I realised that nobody noticed how I felt and nobody really cares if like, it’s obvious what’s happening so why is nobody doing anything about it, so I thought why should I try to stop it if nobody else is gonna? Why should I care?
 

Sarah says it’s really hard to feel that you don’t “function” the same way as other people.

Sarah says it’s really hard to feel that you don’t “function” the same way as other people.

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The way I think now, it’s, it’s so drummed into my head that I can’t, I can’t change, I can change but I can’t change at the present moment like I’ve got so many like negative connotations to things and you just, it’s really difficult to change that, you’ve got to sort of force yourself out of the cycle and forcing yourself is the hardest bit.
 
It’s really, really difficult to do that, especially after such a long time of thinking in certain ways. It definitely makes it more difficult because I’m used to thinking like this and now all of a sudden somebody says it’s not normal, it’s not how you’re meant to be and that’s really, I don’t like it. But there is something, it’s not just me, it’s not, everybody doesn’t act like me, not everybody thinks the same as me, I, it’s hard to know that you don’t function the same way as other people do. It’s harder for you to get along with people, it’s hard for you to make friends and trust people, and just do things everybody else does every day.
 

Sarah's parents put her problems down to just being 'a teenage thing'.

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Sarah's parents put her problems down to just being 'a teenage thing'.

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But like my parents sort of put it down to teenage blues so I, mopey, like stroppy but when they found it wasn’t like, I think they felt a bit bad like they’d done something, like they sort of felt it was their fault that I’d never told them and that. And they’ve been called loads of times like not eating, self harm and things like, and I just said it was nothing and that it was just like a teenage thing.
 

Sarah started drinking with older mates and getting “absolutely blitzed on cheap cider”.

Sarah started drinking with older mates and getting “absolutely blitzed on cheap cider”.

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‘Cos my mates like, we were the youngest so we were sort of following the rest of them like, a year or two older than us, and really so we were like, they were all, we thought they were cool, we thought they were brilliant you know, like they were older than us like, they’d drink and they dressed cool and listened to cool music and they’d all got boyfriends and girlfriends. And you know, it’s sort of like, “Oh sod you Mum,” you know, “I don’t need you.” Just running about, complete anarchy and we thought it was brilliant.
 
We thought it was absolutely excellent the way like ‘cos we were all like, well quite well off kids so like we were all from the middle class so like seeing all these kids do like all these other people doing all this stuff, we thought, “Oh we want to do that.”
 
So we’d start going to a shop and getting drink, we were 14 and they were serving us, believing we were 18. We weren’t, you could tell we weren’t. And we just started drinking all sorts, started off on like cheap like cider like £2 for three litres and things like that and drink the whole bottle and be absolutely blitzed and try to go home and convince your parents you’re sober. And they knew you weren’t but they’d let you go to bed anyway, just to sleep it off. And then you’d get wrong in the morning, but you kept doing it and you, you’d start smoking and you’d, like, “Ah, what are these doing in your bag?” “Oh they’re just my mates.” You know, they were like fair enough, but you started going out with boys and you started doing stupid stuff that you shouldn’t have done. You started getting chased by the police and into loads and loads of bother, not just drinking but fighting with people.
 

Sarah says drinking caused her moods to fluctuate, made her angry and lose her temper easily.

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Sarah says drinking caused her moods to fluctuate, made her angry and lose her temper easily.

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When I was drinking I was fine, but otherwise I was awful at, it was really nasty, I was really angry and I’d snap at anybody for anything, I’d shout and I’d scream and I’d kick and I’d trash my bedroom because I hadn’t had a drink. And it really did knock my moods, I had moods up and down, I was all over. You’d have thought that I had bi-polar or something the way my moods were flailing about. And they were so extreme as well, it was like being, I’d be absolutely, you’d think, I’d be bouncing about the house one minute and the next minute I’d be stand, stood screaming at my Mum because she’d done something stupidly wrong like, she’d misplaced my school bag, like she’d have moved it and I couldn’t find it, and I’d be screaming at her for it. And you felt really bad for it afterwards but you never said sorry because, you felt bad, but you didn’t feel bad enough to say sorry, you thought it was there fault so.
 
You know it really did affect your moods. It affected your behaviour as well, you weren’t, you didn’t care anymore, you just thought, “Oh well sod it, other people go by life with no GCSE’s, no A’ levels, no degrees, and they do fine. So I can do it.” But it not like that in the end.
 

Sarah says when she wasn't drunk she 'felt like hell', was paranoid and shaking. She stopped when...

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Sarah says when she wasn't drunk she 'felt like hell', was paranoid and shaking. She stopped when...

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And it wasn’t a nice feeling at the end like, when you weren’t drunk you felt like hell. You really, if you weren’t hung-over or drunk you felt like hell. You were paranoid, you couldn’t concentrate, you were shaking because you’d got an addiction to it and you couldn’t like if you would go out on Friday nobody get’s served for a drink, we were stumped, we didn’t know what to do. We didn’t know to have fun without it. It just ruins you, it really did like. I mean you’d friends taken away in ambulances.
 
And by the time we were 16 we had 13-year-olds and 14-year-olds out with us, and it was starting again. We were drinking heavy so they started and that’s when I realised, I can’t do this ‘cos they’re gonna end up like me and I don’t want them to end up like me.
 

Sarah is now much more able to deal with life’s hurdles. She just gets “upset like any normal...

Sarah is now much more able to deal with life’s hurdles. She just gets “upset like any normal...

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I’m not breaking down at every little like hurdle. Like since then obviously like other things happen like in life as they do which I think I’ve dealt with much better than I would’ve before. I think I would’ve went into a total breakdown over some of the things that have happened, whereas I’ve just got upset like a normal person would. I haven’t gone into depression for like a week or two and just not talked to anybody, not left the house, not like I haven’t skived college, I haven’t stopped eating completely. I mean obviously like I became a bit more finicky eating my food I got upset, like you normally would, like when something like really bad happens. But I think it’s made is much easier because I’m not getting as upset over things, I’m getting as upset as a normal person, like a person who functions normally would.
 
And it made it a lot easier but, it’s the things in the past that are coming back and that are hard to deal with, it’s not what happened now, it’s getting over things.
 

Sarah was bullied in the new school as she was smarter than others and stood out.

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Sarah was bullied in the new school as she was smarter than others and stood out.

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I started and because I went to a, I was enrolled to go to one of the sort of gifted and talented schools and I hadn’t got in. And I’d ended up in like the rubbish school for all the thick people and things like that. And it was really like you felt really, I felt really bad about that then, but then when I went there and realised that I was so much, like I was smarter than other people, other people picked up on that and sort of started bullying me for it. And as well as that I didn’t know anybody else there, there was just me so I didn’t have anybody to stand up for me, it sort of started within the first week.
 
I mean everybody picks on, picked on the year 7s anyway, it was like ‘cos they’re like you’re in that. But like they sort of target, seemed to target me more than other people, like locking us in the toilets so I’d miss lessons, and the teachers would come and shout at me for not being in lessons, I’d go, “well I was locked in the toilet, you know I couldn’t exactly get out.”  
 

Making art helps Sarah to feel she’s doing something constructive rather than just “going at my...

Making art helps Sarah to feel she’s doing something constructive rather than just “going at my...

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If something’s going like horrifically wrong I’ll sort of like, I’ll dive into my work like. I’ll like really go headlong and just sit for ages and do my college work. And if I’ve got none of the work I’ll sort of sit in my room and I’ll just get my paints out and I’ll just sit and paint for hours and hours and hours. I’ll paint till sort of half three, four in the morning and then I’ll feel much better after that, it’s much more constructive than you know going at my wrists or anything like, much more constructive than that. And at the end you’ve got something to look at and think, out of everything that I felt now is something positive come out of it, like I’ve got a picture, I’ve got a collage, I’ve got, it’s sort of like a chapter of a book writing or something like that.
 

Sarah says small moments can have a big impact.

Sarah says small moments can have a big impact.

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I go fishing sometimes with my Dad and we’ll just sit there for ages, like, in the rain or whatever and eat fish and chips and talk about nought. And just sit there and not catch anything for like 6 hours, and then come home and it’s nice ‘cos you just get those moments with people when you, you could stay there forever, ‘cos it’s just, it’s something nice, you’re not you know worried about anything.
 

Sarah found it difficult to fit in with her new Sixth Form. She was bullied for being smarter than others, started having panic attacks and missed out months.

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Sarah found it difficult to fit in with her new Sixth Form. She was bullied for being smarter than others, started having panic attacks and missed out months.

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I was enrolled to go to one of the sort of gifted and talented schools and I hadn’t got in. And I’d ended up in like the rubbish school for all the thick people and things like that. And it was really like you felt really, I felt really bad about that then, but then when I went there and realised that I was so much, like I was smarter than other people, other people picked up on that and sort of started bullying me for it
 
I went to the rival like 6th form, so like the teachers were a bit dodgy, people were dodgy and, the workload was like, it was much bigger than you get in your GCSE level. So I, like I started panicking. But I was doing well, I was like keeping high, I was doing quite well, and then I just sort of stopped going. ‘Cos I couldn’t cope, I was having panic attacks, I was like starting and I’d feel dizzy and sick in the classroom so I missed about four or five of month of sixth form altogether.
 

Sarah found group therapy sessions “a relaxing environment” and it was great to be around people...

Sarah found group therapy sessions “a relaxing environment” and it was great to be around people...

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The best thing was about it is you’re with other people that are in exactly the same position as you are. You felt like you weren’t alone. I mean a lot of us swapped numbers and we keep in contact, and things like that, but, I think it wasn’t just the therapy that helped but the people, like meeting other people the same as me.
 
It really did help, because you could talk about it and it wasn’t weird, it wasn’t like, it wasn’t like they didn’t understand you, they understood perfectly like what you were, like how you dealt with things and it was really, it was nice like being in that environment with everyone. It was relaxing.
 
So how did you find, that it, that it was just a group counselling, rather than one to one. Was that good for you?
 
Yeah. I got, it was to a certain extent, it helped me sort of see how other people dealt with it as well. Like how the positive things they did to deal with it helped me pick up positive things to do with it. And like I don’t know, it was weird ‘cos you sort of, you were thinking, you weren’t even thinking “Oh my God I’m not going to be the only person like this, oh.” Like oh gosh you know like. Then you get in and when you’re with the people you start to feel more relaxed, you felt more like you were just like talking with your mates like you just felt like you were the same ‘cos you, you’d laugh and you’d make jokes about things and you’d just acted normal and because we all knew how each other felt it was easier for us to sort of click and get on. Like because we knew like, we, we trusted each other but I don’t think we entirely trusted each other if you know what I mean.
 
But the group therapy was much better because it was a much more relaxing environment like. You, you didn’t feel as nervous, because like there was other people there so, if you got upset there was somebody else there that would, you know. It wasn’t just you, they could move to focus on somebody else, like it wasn’t all on you constantly. It was nice how you’d go around in a circle and deal with things and it was just like a nice environment. It was easier.
 

Sarah describes being “a nervous wreck” before her first counselling session but says how happy...

Sarah describes being “a nervous wreck” before her first counselling session but says how happy...

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I’m really happy that I made the step that I did because the first step really is the hardest part. Waiting to go in into the doctors to say, can I have a referral, or therapy or, or even going to your first therapy session, you’re stood outside you know, you know you stand and chain smoking you know, you might just stand there and like be a nervous wreck beforehand, but as soon as you get in you sit down, the first words that come out of your mouth are just tumbling, it’s so easy and after that it’s you’re not falling anymore, you’ve stopped yourself. And you can climb back up and stand up and say well, I’ve got through this and it’s a nice feeling once you’ve made the first step. ‘Cos you realise that you can change, that you’re not alone, that there are people out there who do genuinely wanna help you. It’s definitely the hardest step though, the first.
 
But you know it only gets, it gets harder but it gets easier again you know, you have your moments when like, you’ve talked about things in the past and they’ll hurt, and then afterwards you’ll feel so much, so much lighter you could like, you know you feel like you could float off into space, it’s nice. It’s good, it’s good to make that first step and everybody should do it, if you’ve got a problem definitely just not sit alone.
 

For Sarah, feeling able to trust friends is the “hardest thing”.

For Sarah, feeling able to trust friends is the “hardest thing”.

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It’s still really hard to talk to people about because you don’t know what they’re gonna say or whether they’re just gonna dismiss it and not listen to you. Or if they’re gonna tell other people and laugh and their just, it’s really hard to sort of trust people and you have to tell ‘em, I think that’s the hardest thing about getting over it, you’ve got to find somebody you really, really trust.
 
It’s getting over that hurdle of trusting them is the hardest thing with the relationship you just break down the trust, there’s no trust, I mean I trust people now but it’s, it’s still difficult to truly believe that they’re not gonna hurt you.  
 
Even though you know that, you know they’re not going to, but something tells, and inside you it’s telling you, “Oh they will.” But you know that they won’t, for a fact you know they wouldn’t hurt you. They wouldn’t want to do that, but something still tells you that they’re gonna, they can do it. But it’s just something, it’s so, it’s such a confusing. It makes it hard to read people as well, like you find it really hard.
 

Sarah doesn’t want to talk about depression at great length with her friends. They just touch the...

Sarah doesn’t want to talk about depression at great length with her friends. They just touch the...

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With one of my friends we do sort of touch on it, we don’t go too deep because I’m not like, I don’t really open up that much to like people. But we do talk about it, we’ll touch on it, and we’ll sort of then, it’ll have some sort of really long winded conversation about it. And we do touch on it, but not much, it’s not a topic of discussion ‘cos at the end of the conversation we just both feel a bit you know, run down by it.
 
It’s not something you really, if you’re drunk, and you’re together like you go out and you have a couple of drinks and play pool and then you, it all starts up again, you’ll all, you’ll talk openly, you’ll say anything when you’re drunk ‘cos the truth comes out, doesn’t it? But, well not always but a lot of the time the truth comes out and you just talk about it then and then you wake up in the morning and you think, “Oh God what’ve I done?”, you know. But yeah, we do talk about it, now and again.
 
Like just touching on the surface, it’s getting to the point we’re getting deeper and deeper about it, but it’s still not really that intimate like, you know. I mean I don’t about like eating or anything like that to them like, that’s a no go subject, but, that’s the same with everybody. I don’t like to get too intimately attached ‘cos then it’s just gonna get broken at some point, so that makes it weird definitely. We do, we try, my mates try and get me to open up more about it but it’s just no, it’s not working for them. They try and help but I told them, when I’m ready one day I’ll probably just sit down and, probably could be out somewhere and just say it, and just let ‘em look at me like what, that was a long time ago, you know.
 

“Don’t let it get worse. Be determined, focussed and make yourself do it.”

“Don’t let it get worse. Be determined, focussed and make yourself do it.”

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I would definitely tell her, people going through this like, like God tell somebody, don’t sit there and let it get worse because it’s not gonna help you, you have to tell someone, you really need to ‘cos it’s hard, it gets harder as it goes on. It gets much harder, it’s get hard to lie, it gets hard to cover things up and just cope with it in general. In the end you’ll probably do exactly what I did, you know drop out of a college and end up drifting in between loads of different things. And you need to focus on what you want and realise that you have to get there because giving up won’t do.
 
You have to do it and prove to yourself you can do it and that you are worth something because sitting there crying in your room when you’re alone it’s, it feels like the end of, it’s the end of the world, it feels like it’s Armageddon and it feels like there’s nothing you can do about it. But being determined, focussing on what you want to do, and making yourself do it, even when you really don’t want to do something and still doing it, it’ll help in the long run. You’ll realise when you look back, you’ll laugh and think, I’m so glad I made myself do that and didn’t sit in the dark on my own. It’s it’ll be worth it if you make yourself do it.
 

“When you make the first step you realise you can change and you are not alone”.

“When you make the first step you realise you can change and you are not alone”.

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I’m really happy that I made the step that I did because the first step really is the hardest part. Waiting to go in into the doctors to say, can I have a referral, or therapy or, or even going to your first therapy session, you’re stood outside you know, you know you stand and chain smoking you know, you might just stand there and like be a nervous wreck beforehand, but as soon as you get in you sit down, the, the first words that come out of your mouth are just tumbling, it’s so easy and after that it’s you’re not falling anymore, you’ve stopped yourself. And you can climb back up and stand up and say well, I’ve got through this and it’s, it’s a nice feeling once you’ve made the first step. ‘Cos you realise that you can change, that you’re not alone, that there are people out there who do genuinely wanna help you.
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