Joined: February 10, 2015
A STORY OF HOPE AND RECOVERY
Scott, one of our youngest volunteers recently decided to share his story of hope and recovery to help support a piece of work that University of West of Scotland were undertaking. Scott has asked that we share his story here to help and inspire others.
" My journey started at the young age of 8 years old. At school I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was attending a mainstream school and was given no specialist support at school to help. I was seen as disruptive in class, and struggled through until primary 7 like this. I was seen as disruptive in class – which I probably was but instead of having support, I was taken out of class and given “jobs or duties” to do for the teachers, photocopying etc. I was constantly separated from other children.
In primary 7 I was moved to a different primary school to get the additional support that they recognised that I needed. I had a really good experience at Robert Owen and for the first time I felt supported in school. I was included in class and activities like everyone else.
Me and my family pushed for me to attend a mainstream high school with support. I had spent enough time being made to feel “different”.
I attended High School. During first year my attendance really started to drop. I was having problems which I can now see were related to my ADHD where I would be awake all night, unable to sleep. Then at school I would be falling asleep in class, or being so tired that I couldn’t focus on the work. This resulted in me getting excluded from class and sometimes being sent to the pupil support base. When I got there I was told “there are kids in this school that want to learn and want our support”, insinuating that I didn’t.
I was separated from my peers again, given an earlier lunchtime. The other kids were talking about me and I knew it because I could hear them.
I felt isolated and different from everyone else and that there was nothing that I was good at. I felt really left out as I did want to be part of school life, but I was really struggling. The pupil support team and behaviour support team were telling my mum I was immature and attention seeking and suggesting I should be attending Ridgepark which was a specialist behaviour school. I didn’t want to attend that school – I just wanted help and support to manage in mainstream school. I didn’t want to be different.
I think looking back that between 1st and 3rd year I was excluded for a 2 week period every 3 weeks. This was due to real difficulties I was having in physical education. I was very self-conscious and didn’t want to wear shorts at PE and the teacher instead of supporting me would actually ridicule me. This would result in me retaliating – all I knew how to do. I would get warnings then I would be excluded. My parents were constantly at the school trying to get more support for me.
I think this is when my mental health really started to deteriorate. I started to withdraw and I became very isolated. I gave up trying at school as it felt like they had given up on me.
I started having anxiety attacks and I couldn’t leave the house. My moods were up and down and it felt like I was on a roller coaster. I was self-harming.
Understandably this was causing great difficulties in relationships with my family and I could see the negative impact it was having on them. This then contributed to my own depression and I felt very suicidal. I was about 15 at this stage. I became homeless, living in a scatter flat.
I turned to alcohol and drugs. These were the only things that helped to give me confidence, and in my mind masked my problems – for a little while. I felt able to leave the house and go to the shops, go on buses etc. This carried on for the next 2-3 years. I did try to attend AA at this time, but I was the youngest there and felt so much pressure, and I felt like the other members were looking down on me. After about 2 months dry I relapsed. I was drinking about 1 litre of vodka a day or 2 litres of cider. Buckfast too – 2 bottles at a time. I started smoking cannabis and then moved onto diazepam. At my worst I was taking 14-28 diazepam a day. This helped me to feel what I thought was “normal” and allowed me to function. The drink and drugs to me took away my fears and masked my pain.
But it only worked for a short time. I was regularly waking up thinking why am I here – I should be dead. I would black out and waken up in police cells. I was charged with drunk & disorderly, breech of the peace. One time I was found on a bridge – my plan was to kill myself. I wasn’t taken to hospital – I was taken to a police cell and charged with breach of the peace. I was seen as a trouble maker but I was unwell – very desperately unwell. I would wake up in the police cells and police would be saying to me “folk like you are a waste of NHS money, there are worse people out there than you.
I would be released from the cells at 7am and would find my own way home – and just start again. Anything to block out the pain. For about 6 months every other weekend was spent between hospital and police cells. At first hospital was great, but then I felt like they started to wash their hands of me. I then ended up in an 18 month court order.
My GP referred me to Lanarkshire Drugs and Alcohol partnership and Meridian. I was too young for LAADS and they sent me to CAMHS.
At CAMHS I started to do CBT with a counsellor. Looking back it wasn’t the right time – I was still in crisis. Here I was sitting looking and feeling crap. I wasn’t looking after my own personal hygiene, couldn’t afford nice clothes and was sitting with a guy who in my eyes at that time – was speaking down to me. I felt intimidated by this guy who was well dressed and dealt with me in a very professional manner.
I kept attending the CAMHS service and was seen by a Psychiatrist and also a Social Work student. I felt they helped in the sense that they helped me with medication to manage some of the symptoms of ADHD and also diagnosed me with Emotional Unstable Personality Disorder. I was happy to have a diagnosis that could finally help explain some of my compulsive behaviours and my tendency to take everything to extremes jumping from obsession to obsession.
I would have liked someone to spend time with me explaining my diagnosis and helping me learn ways to deal with the behaviours but no one seemed to have time to do that with me. It felt like it was there is your diagnosis now take these drugs. Most of what I have learnt and now understand about my diagnosis I have learnt myself through searching for information and speaking to others.
I was attending Meridian at this time too. I was being seen by two different teams at NHS – addictions and mental health team. This was causing big difficulties as I would go to the appointment and they would say oh we are waiting to hear back from the other service – we can’t do anything until we hear. A lot of wasted appointments.
My MH started to deteriorate again, I started having hallucinations. I felt numb and detached and started being unable to leave the house again. I was not looking after myself – or I was becoming compulsive about it. I went to hospital and got admitted to the psychiatric ward for 2 weeks. The main aim of this was to detox my body which it did and then I got discharged. When I came out I was referred to adult mental health services. I found this time really difficult as I just didn’t feel that the staff could relate to me. I felt like they were only interested in what the books said and my medication – not in me as a person.
I was also working with LAADS service now as I was the right age for the service. I found them really down to earth and really easy to talk to. I felt like they really listened to me and wanted to get to know me as a person. The staff told me a little bit about themselves and that really helped to build up a relationship as it felt like they were very genuinely wanting to help me. For the first time I felt like I could speak about my problems and not feel judged.
I also got some support from Loretto housing who helped me learn to budget and pay bills etc, and then they fought to help me secure my own tenancy. They were an amazing service.
I was also working with a counsellor from Meridian too. I felt they too were listening to me and treating me with respect. I built up a great relationship with my counsellor and it really helped me. I felt they showed me compassion and didn’t judge me.
Unfortunately I didn’t feel that way about the mental health team. They seemed to only want to focus on my mental health, and would give me a row if I attended their service and had a relapse with alcohol or drugs saying “whats the point in coming to us if this is what you are going to do?” But I needed them to understand that it was all part of my mental health. But there were many times where they told me they couldn’t help me as I was using alcohol or drugs which was really frustrating as I was using alcohol and drugs because of my mental health problems. I felt the way I was being dealt with was that they wanted to treat all the different issues separately – but I just wanted them to treat me as a whole person.
My time with Meridian came to an end but I continued to work with LAADS.
I heard about a new café in Lanark called The Hope Café. That was in March this year. I was in a really bad place, I was about to appear in court for another charge of breach of the peace and I was using drink and alcohol.
I heard about Hope Cafe via my Mum who had been attending. I decided I had nothing to lose so went along. I was surprised by the very friendly and open environment, and for me the fact that no-one judged me for my mental health & everything else was great. People were so friendly and I got access to free complementary therapies – reiki and other things. I felt accepted, not judged and very comfortable. I started to find myself going every week, and every week I felt more confident and comfortable. I started taking part in activities, but the most helpful part for me was just talking to people who accepted me for who I am.
I spoke to people who had similar experiences to me, and I started to realise that although others could things to help me – there was a lot I had to do for myself.
After 6 months I asked about volunteering and was so chuffed to get an interview. I was afraid that my past experiences may have stopped me from volunteering but Donna the manager explained that everyone makes mistakes – its what we learn from them that matters. I was accepted as a volunteer. I felt so happy.
I have been volunteering now for about 2 months and I absolutely love it. What I love most is that I am now helping other people – but at the same time I am helping myself. Through volunteering I will be able to access lots of training courses and learn more about helping others but also helping myself. I will soon be doing a self-management course called WRAP which I hope will help me even more to stay well by helping me to really get to know myself and my diagnosis.
I can’t believe how much has changed over the last 6 or 7 months since going to Hope Café. I wasn’t even sure what hope was – what it meant. But I now have a reason to get up. I have friends, I have new opportunities and I actually believe in myself. I have been thinking about going to college next year. I have learnt to set myself small achievable goals – but to have a big goal in the future I am aiming for. My big goal is to keep learning new things and gaining new skills so that I can get a job – most likely in mental health.
So I now understand what hope means to me – because I have it. "