“Have you heard of first step?”
“First step? No what’s that?”
“It’s a mental health service which you can self refer to to get help for things such as anxiety and depression. From the things you’ve been saying and the way you’ve been recently, I feel like you’d benefit from it”
“Oh..yeah I probably would. Yes you’re right, that’s what I should do”
That night I went online and typed “first step cumbria”, it came up straight away. There was pages of information and also three ways to refer yourself:
- Go to your GP
- Call the team
- Fill out online application.
I went for option 3. The easiest of the three that didn’t feel like I was wasting anybody’s time. The form was so simple that I finished it that night and sent it off. Then I had to wait three working days to ring to book a telephone assessment if my case could be taken on. Of course I rang on Thursday so I would have to wait until Wednesday. I waited then few days and rang, the lady on the phone was so kind hearted and easy to talk to she made me feel so relaxed. I booked myself the telephone assessment to determine whether first step can help me or not. They would ring me the following Monday she said. Perfect.
Monday came, and I had my call. They had sent me a questionnaire to fill out, this would give my practitioner on the other end of the phone a score of how shit I was feeling. I clutched that anxiously in my hand as I talked to her, Lisa she was called. Lisa asked me about how long I had been feeling like this, since 2015 I said. Lisa didn’t miss a beat,
“What has caused you to reach out now? Has something happened to escalate these feelings?”. My chest tightened. My breath got caught in my throat and I exhaled heavily. “Take your time, there’s no rush” Lisa’s calm and collected voice softly told me from the phone.
“Erm well in October my dad passed away and I would say that’s escalated it. I know that it’s not all the grief, a lot of it is the problems I had before being heightened by the grief”. I scrambled to tell her, I knew I wasn’t entitled to grief therapy yet because I hadn’t been through the entire process of it and I was terrified that if she felt that was what I needed I would be turned away.
“That is very understandable, I’m so sorry for your loss. I appreciate your honesty and the clarity of your explanation. We cannot offer your grief therapy until you have truly been through the processes of it, but since things have been going on for long before that I think this is a much more deep set issue. We can offer you a form of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) to help you combat these issues and teach you ways to deal with these emotions”. Tears formed in my eyes. I looked up to the sky and silently thanked God for the relief this brings me. “The plan now then, Alex, is that you will be given 8 sessions so one every two weeks. However there is a 9 week waiting list for your local GP service, however if you can get to others in surrounding areas there are much shorter waiting times. What would you like to do?”
“I can get to wherever I need to be to do this” I almost whispered.
“Perfect, I will put that down on the system and then somebody will call you as soon as a practitioner can take you on. Well done today Alex, it’s really hard to take this step to reach out and it’s not easy to be as open and honest as you have been. We’ll be in touch” her tone really brought the tears on now, I really needed to hear that.
“Thank you so much Lisa, have a great day” I manage to say through my tears.
“You too, Alex, you too”.
That was the end of the assessment. I stood up and just danced around my bedroom. I was finally going to get help. I really fucking needed it.
Throughout the busy Christmas period of work and doing double over time, I forgot about this phone call. I forgot about the waiting list. I just forced myself through Christmas and kept myself afloat. Then one night I ended up hitting rock bottom, I cried at 1am to one of my best friends in spoons about how awful I was truly feeling. The next day I went into work on 4 hours sleep and crashed massively. On the Monday I got a phone call saying I could start my first therapy session on the following Monday. I was so happy, it was less than 4 weeks of waiting and I only had to wait until the next week to start.
Before the session
I was so nervous before the session, I mean it was just going to be an assessment type session but what was she going to say? Was I beyond help? Would I be a fraud? I just didn’t know. I got myself to the appointment 15 minutes early and sat in the waiting room reading my book to steady my nerves. I had planned to meet my godmother after the session, we would go book shopping and have cake together. Before my appointment I was sent a quiz which you had to fill out, this determined where on the scales you placed and it showed the practitioner how you had been feeling in the past two weeks. I had it clutched in my hand ready to pass on when I got in the room.
She called my name and we went into a small yet light room with two comfy chairs, a desk, a small coffee table with tissues and leaflets dotted across it, and a framed poster from Samaritans. We sat and discussed the anxiety I have, had have and any triggers for it. We talked about recent things which have caused me to be anxious and we determined what is the underlying of my anxiety. She explained all about what steps we will take to learn techniques to manage my emotions, and told me the plan of action for my 8 sessions. After about 45 minutes of assessment she sent me away with a booklet and a questionnaire to fill out for the next session and I was assigned my first task of writing down all of my worries, the intensity of the anxiety, the thoughts behind it, the situation and whether it was a hypothetical or practical worry.
After the session I felt freed of a lot of my shame that I was feeling from how I was letting my emotions control and effect me. I felt like I was listened to and actually heard. It felt amazing. A few days later I felt quite torn about it all, on the one hand I was glad I’d had an idea of what was going on in my head and why but on the other hand I felt like now it was always going to present to me. Like it would hinder me. I’m still processing it really, but that’s where we are right now with my journey.
That is the first part of my therapy journey, I hope that maybe this has helped you if you’re looking into accessing therapy or are on the waiting list for it. Thank you for the support and I appreciate you reading this far. If you have any advice for me on this journey then please leave it down below for me.
Thank you so much for reading today and I hope to see you around these parts again soon! If you’re enjoying my content then do leave me a comment, like and follow so I can get all of your feedback. Don’t forget to check out my Instagram, Twitter and Pinterest too which will is down below!