Drinking and Why I Went Back to the Booze (or What I Learned in Nine Months Sober)

I admit it, I caved, and I drank alcohol again. Not vast amounts, enough to be tipsy, but not wreaked. In total I drank two pints of cider over several hours in four half pints. I was at the local pub and too distracted by the karaoke and chatting to drink any faster. I also find I drink less if I have halves as I do not drink so much at once and do not want to keep going up to the bar too often.

I decided after nine months of sobriety that I could drink again without it being a problem. I have never actually been a problem drinker. One of the main reasons I drank that night was due to anger and a ‘who the heck even cares any more’ attitude. Finding myself newly single and having had a birthday that week I thought, here I am at thirty-two single again, being good has got me nowhere so stuff it. I partly gave up drinking to help my ex when he was really struggling with drink problems and seeing what alcohol could do to him scared me. However seeing as he left me I was feeling pretty annoyed at the whole no alcohol thing. ( Although he was not the only reason I quit drinking.)

Actually when I was with him I found giving up alcohol pretty easy. I was happy and did not need it for a good time. He managed at least eight months sober and together we were getting our lives sorted. However on my own alcohol became tempting again. I know being left by someone and being angry and upset is a stupid reason to drink, but frankly at the time I did not care and I know I can handle drink better than some people anyway.  I think this song by Train sums up why I drank that night rather well

However I am very glad I did spend nine months totally alcohol free. I was starting to drink more than I should have and looking back did need to take a break from it. I also got to see how it looks when you are sober around drunk people. No one very drunk looks good to a sober person, no matter what you think the alcohol does to you, it is not helping you become more attractive or better at things trust me on this. Drinking heavily on a very regular basis can make you a tedious person to spend time with. Far from enhancing your personality it makes you overly emotional and dumb. Drunk people tend to say stupid things and end up in situations that I can see could easily have been avoided if they had drunk less that night. I found some occasions actually more enjoyable sober. My cousin’s wedding for example, was easier being fully sober with all my wits about me to deal with so many people at once. I found I saved money sober as well as I had better judgement on what I was spending at the bar. Coming home from a night out with change from a £20 is quite nice.

I have decided that alcohol is fine in moderation and not too often. I will drink again, but not every time I go out, just occasionally when I feel I am able to handle it. I also plan to not drink too much at once. You do not have to drink heavily to get a nice buzz from alcohol and the hangover is not so bad in the morning this way. If you need at least six pints to have a good time maybe you have a problem or at least could do with a break from alcohol for a while. In fact everyone could do with a break from alcohol now and then, maybe not nine months like me, but a month or two so you can see things from a sober prospective.

Some people like my ex can not do moderation and in those cases should remain totally alcohol free. For them one drink will never be just one drink. I however am lucky and can do moderate drinking, so why not? I never did get much pleasure from being very heavily drunk. I also plan to keep my flat an alcohol free zone. Living alone, solo drinking is the worst kind of drinking, it tends to be depressed drinking. Alcohol is best when with other people enjoyed sensibly in moderation.

 

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Scams, Cold Calls and Junk

Almost as soon as I moved into my flat the cold calls started. I had to register with energy suppliers, which is when the calls about getting a smart meter began. Mostly I get phone calls about it, but I have had the occasional sales person call at my door. My previous energy supplier nearly managed to get me signed up to a smart meter, but before they came to fit it I made sure I read the booklet they sent me about it. I am glad I did, turns out on a prepay meter a smart meter is actually worse value for me than not having one. I would have had to change to a different tariff that would cost me more per unit, so I cancelled it. I also could not see much point in a smart meter when already being on a prepay meter. I can see how much gas and electricity I am spending when my meter goes down. I know myself what appliances I have switched on, so know what is using up my credit. Maybe smart meters are good for people who use billing, but not in my case.

Another energy supplier nearly got me to switch to them. I had already worked out the best deal for me and switched companies only a month earlier. I made the stupid mistake of letting a cold caller into my flat. He somehow got me to sign something which I feel rather stupid for having done so now. I realised almost as soon as I had done it that it was probably a mistake, so decided to do some online research about the company. They were not cheaper than my current company despite his claims as I was not on the average tariff, but on a much lower deal one. The company had very bad reviews for customer service. People complained of relentless cold callers who would not go away till they signed up. I tried to cancel my sign up, but they took so long to answer the phone sometimes I gave up and even when I did get through they kept failing to put me through to the right department. In the end my current company sorted it out for me, but even they struggled to get the company to cancel. I am glad I am aware of my right to cancel an energy switch over within fourteen days of signing up. I am also glad I am able to do my own online research, as I know some people are unable to do this. I had only been in my flat a few months at the time and it is the first time I have lived totally alone with my name on the energy supplier’s information. Anyone who moves into their first home alone is vulnerable as they have no experience in dealing with this kind of thing. Now I have a no cold callers sign on my door, say no thanks to them and shut the door on them.

Another group who regularly cold call people both on the phone and at the door are charities. They never get anywhere with me as they are asking directly for money which is not something I feel able to give a lot of, and I already give to charity in the form of time by volunteering. The elderly seem the most vulnerable to this kind of cold call. A recent consumer programme on the radio reported of people finding their elderly relatives bank accounts linked up by direct debits to lots of charities without the older person being aware of just how much money they were giving each month. Often these people are easily confused or suffering some kind of dementia and can not work out the long term costs or remember how many charities they have already signed up with. Charity giving is a good thing if you can afford it, but some of these people are struggling financially. A lot of charity cold callers work on commission and get a bonus for singing people up, and some have to sign up a certain number each day to even get paid at all. I do not always blame the cold caller, but the system they work under, the payment set up is geared so that vulnerable people are going to be targeted.

Then there is the fake or scam cold call. There is the now quite well known Microsoft computer scam who claim to be Microsoft themselves calling you and that they noticed a fault with your computer. They say they can fix your viruses or hacked computer over the phone if you follow the instructions they give you. However what they actually want is your bank details to pay for the so called service. Some of the scammers actually go so far as to get you to download a programme that lets them remotely control your computer and if you fail to comply with the instructions they start to delete your files! I know that a company such as Microsoft do not even do computer repairs on individual computers. They rang me once whilst I was at home and I had the enjoyment of telling them truthfully I have no internet in my flat and my laptop was switched off as it lives at my parents house (since they do have internet that is where it is most useful to keep it). The elderly are at risk from this scam sometimes as they often understand computers less well.

This article makes interesting reading on the scam, http://www.wired.co.uk/article/malwarebytes

There are various scam calls out there and a good rule of thumb is to never give bank details to anyone who rings you up.

Text messages are also used to try and get people to sign up to things. I have had texts from British Gas about smart meters, texts about phone deals when I was with EE and about online game deals. It is easy to delete a spam text, but disappointing when a text turns out to be spam since I do not get many texts.

Junk mail, the old fashioned way to try and part a fool and his money. However most of the junk I get is not even relevant to me. I do not own my flat so do not need building insurance, can not sell it and am not responsible for my drains (no matter how many times South West Water tell me that any drains on my property are my responsibility). Almost all my junk mail goes straight in the recycling sack. Some people in rented accommodation may sign up for some of the services on offer without realising their landlord is responsible for them, not them.

The internet is a whole other minefield of junk email, scams and banner adverts trying to sell you stuff. If you have a vulnerable family member who uses social media add them as your ‘friend’ so you can keep an eye on who they talk to and what things they are signing up to.

The learning and mentally disabled can be vulnerable to cold calls if they live alone without much. support. They can end up signing up for all kinds of things. Some are lonely and welcome any kind of human contact so let themselves be engaged into conversation with these people. Giving people more support when setting up a new home could help, teaching them how to get good energy deals and to ignore cold callers.

I gather the law is changing to make cold calls without prior consent illegal. However not from abroad, so I expect a lot of companies will just move their call centres. Also I am willing to bet that if it is a call from your own energy supplier or a company you already hired then it will count as prior consent as you already hire a service from them, even if they are trying to sell you something additional. Also what is going to count as prior consent, if it ticking or unticking boxes online when filling in forms, a lot of people are still going to get cold calls.

I think we can all be more careful what we agree to and sign up for. Also I think we should help the vulnerable in society more learn to deal with cold calls, scams and junk mail.

'You sound familiar. Haven't I swindled you once before?'

OCD and how it is not funny if you really have it

OCD, I know I have talked about this before in other posts, but it recently became clear that I need to discuss it again and this time from another angle.

Yet another post about OCD on Facebook came up the other week.  ‘These three targets all look the same to people without OCD, click the link to find out how OCD you are’, or something along those lines.  I have OCD and the targets still looked all the same to me.  I commented on my friends post that this was the case and that I thought posts along these lines stereotype and trivialise my condition.  Another friend accused me of trying to start an argument when it was only a game.

I have seen too many posts along these lines about OCD being a perfectionist neat freak thing that can be judged by silly games.  I see memes and jokes posted around social media quite often that are starting to make it seem like OCD is some kind of joke condition.

OCD is now used as a phrase to describe neatness or fussiness. People often say ‘oh I am a little bit OCD’ but, as Connor Heapy wrote in the Independent newspaper ‘Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is a debilitating condition characterized by unwanted intrusive thoughts and repetitive behaviors or mental acts. Although OCD is often associated with cleanliness and orderliness, it can manifest in a variety of ways. Some spend hours each day worrying about whether they have committed a paedophilic act while others are plagued by the thought that they may have caught HIV from their toothbrush, towel or phone’.  For me during a bad phase OCD can be a disability, stopping me from living my life a fully as I would like.

It is exhausting both mental and physically.  I get up and down over and over to get comfy sometimes and fiddle with my clothing or cushions or hair till I feel things are ‘just right’.  I have to listen to my own head nag me all day on my worst days.  I have had full on arguments with family members over OCD issues, and even argued with myself and the world around me at times.  I have been known to yell at inanimate objects at times.  It just spills out and I cannot help it.  You can learn to manage OCD up to a point, but it never fully goes away.  There is no full rest-bite from it.

For me OCD is about a feeling.  Getting things ‘just right’ does not always mean things have to be perfectly symmetrical or straight, sometimes I do not mind mess, but in my flat it is an organised mess.  My OCD also gets mixed up with my autism, so it is complicated.  OCD is not as simplistic as a lot of these social media posts make out.  My own head is full of mess so I like to be able to order and control the mess outside my head.

I never post jokes, memes or silly games on disabilities online and I ask other people to do the same.  Please respect my right not to have my disability made into a joke.  I can be a fun person and enjoy a laugh, but not at the expense of those already suffering.

downloadGawd, well I cannot tell any difference and I have OCD.

i-have-cdo  A very common meme I keep seeing

Communication

I communicate a lot with my family and friends electronically using text messages, social media and email. I know a lot of people communicate this way now, but it has been brought to my attention that I may do this more than most people my age. This post looks at why I like to use electronic communication so much.

hands-holding-mobile-devices-human-set-phones-electronic-communication-concept-vector-illustration-41976985

Practicality

My relatives live spread out across the country in many different counties. I also have friends that live a long way from me that I met at university. I find the internet a fantastic way to stay in touch with people at a distance. I send letters and cards by post, more than a lot of people do these days, but post takes time and often I want a much quicker response. Also the cost of postal services seems to be getting more and more expensive.

Staying in Touch

I would of lost contact with a lot of people if it was not for Facebook. This includes friends from university, people I met at various events and distant relatives. I have never had many friends and would like to keep the ones I have got. I also managed to get back in touch with a few friends from school that I had previously not spoken with in many years.

Generational

From about my age group and below it just seems to be the natural way people communicate. Although some do so less than others, it is common to use Facebook messenger to stay in touch with friends and even family. Text messaging seems to be becoming normal for people of all age groups now including my parents generation. I am a little bit too old to have had a mobile phone or the internet as a small child, but since I was about fourteen I have regularly used the internet to chat with friends. I got my first mobile phone when I was about sixteen when I decided it would be practical since I was at college and that is what everyone else was using. A lot of my university friends are three or four years younger than me and some of them seem to use electronic communications as much as I do. They grew up with it from a younger age so it is what they are used to. At university I actually would have missed out on things if I was not on Facebook. We would invite each other to parties and nights out using Facebook as it was a great way to invite a lot of people at once. We would use Facebook messenger to group chat as it was very handy for us as drama students to share ideas or work out rehearsal times for our practicals.

Autism Friendly

My autism sometimes makes face to face chat harder for me than it might be for some people. I struggle with eye contact; even my diagnostic report says that I do. When I talk I tend to get carried away and say too much or the wrong thing. When I have to write down what I want to say first either online or in a text message it means I can look back at it and have time to think about what I am saying. It means I am less likely to say the wrong thing and can cut out the waffle, get to the point better. It is common for autistic people to use the internet to chat; it has less social skills to learn, although there are some social rules and I by no means always get them right online. I do enjoy face to face chat, but it can be more tiring for me sometimes and often requires more effort, although this depends who I am talking to and on the situation. Face to face people use non-verbal communication such as body language which can be tricky for autistics to pick up on. There is less hidden meaning in written text chat. I feel like I am more in control with this way of chatting. I do not have to talk to someone when I am not in the mood. If I am having a bad day mentally I can chose to ignore a text message or email and deal with it later when I am more able to. This way I do not upset people and take my bad moods out on them. I do use the phone, but have never been totally comfortable with it. Once I start chatting on the phone I often relax and am fine, but the initial thought of it sometimes makes me anxious. So text messaging is often easier for me. (Although I am getting better with making phone calls and do makes calls when I need to.) Another thing I like about written communication is the more definite response rather than ‘hmm’ or a nod of the head that I can often misunderstand. Even an OK or emoticon is at least a response that shows they took on board what I was saying. I find there is less pressure and less hassle with this way of communicating.

Can Just Say It

I like how I can say what I need to whilst I think of it with electronic communication. If I am not sure if someone is free to chat at the time I can still text or email for them to read later before I forget what I was going to say. Plus sometimes I have to say stuff as I get anxious if I do not. I worry if I do not say certain things as soon as I can to people. I do not mind if people read it later as long as I know it is out there.

Writing is my Skill

Writing is something I am quite good at and I feel confident at it. When talking in person it sometimes gets misunderstood. When I write I seem better at putting at my point across.

How Others Want to Communicate

It often seems to be how others want to communicate with me. Maybe they find it easier as I can bore people with my over talking in person. Also I have no land line phone and calling a mobile phone can be costly so maybe texting or emailing is just cheaper for people. I have relatives who email me rather than phone. I think this could be as they do not know when I am free to talk and do not want to disturb me if busy. I Facebook with some relatives responding to statues and comments as it seems a good way to communicate with each other when we do not actually know each other very well in person. This way I am getting to know them without so much pressure. I text with some family since they are often busy and they do not have time to see me face to face or phone very often.

This way of communicating does come with its own problems. When I do not want to talk I can chose not to, but in turn others can do the same to me. If people ignore me for short periods I am fine, but if it goes on for long periods it can worry me. The trouble is these days people are often expected to be instantly available 24 hours a day when it is not always possible. Another problem is of course when technology lets us down. What with lack of phone signal or devices breaking down or running out of charge sometimes old fashioned post or face to face is just easier.

I do not mind which way people choose to communicate with me, be it face to face or electronically. It is just nice when people want to chat with me.

Social skills are just that, a skill

‘A social skill is any skill facilitating interaction and communication with others. Social rules and relations are created, communicated, and changed in verbal and nonverbal ways. The process of learning these skills is called socialization. For socialization, Interpersonal skills are essential to relate one another.’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_skills).

You may not think that socialising requires a set of skills, but it does. Some people are better at these skills than others. I found learning these skills difficult and still struggle with them at times. I am getting better at socialising, but still have things to learn.

After a while a lot of people tire of me. I know I can be hard work to spend a lot of time with. In fact I find myself hard work to spend a lot of time with, hence I do not like to be alone for too long. The trouble is I also find socialising hard work sometimes so things do not always go smoothly. On a bad day when I am tired or something has annoyed me I can get worse at dealing with people.

I try to join in conversations with others, but sometimes seem to bore people. My recent autism diagnosis report says I sometimes miss social cues from others and my conversation can lack flexibility. So I guess it can seem like I am giving a lecture which has to be tedious for those listening. To make matters worse the report also says my speech can lack variation in pitch at times which could make me sound like a robot stating facts. If I had not studied drama I dread to think how even more dull my speech could sound. (I think my drama training has helped me understand others a bit better, especially when it comes to reading emotions.)

I can go into excessive detail at times and do not always realise others have lost interest according to my autism report. Since reading my report I have noticed sometimes when people are trying to move conversation on and I am trying to allow conversation to flow more, but it is not always easy for me. When I am passionate about a topic I tend to get carried away. However I realise not everyone is interested in the same things as me to the same degree.

I seem to struggle when people do not sure my point of view. I know others will have different opinions on things and I am fine with this in theory, but sometimes in discussions I find myself not excepting that people may think differently about something from me. I am told I can come across as dictatorial at times, but I honestly do respect other people’s opinions. I am trying to work on coming across better.

cf4fa83670592037a4daeebdf19cd33b--social-skills-social-workI need to take note of this!

I am argumentative which obviously is not a good thing. I do not always think I am right and do not think I know it all. I am often wrong about things, but have been told I can come across as a know it all sometimes. This is not how I feel about myself and do not like this description of me. I need to let others speak more, interrupt less and at times bite my tongue. Sometimes saying nothing can be better than saying something that upsets people. Knowing when to express my opinions is tricky. Sometimes it feels as if people would prefer me to act brain-dead and follow the heard so to speak, regardless of my own thoughts. Maybe I do not express myself well and my points come across wrong. I have been accused of being overly negative and selfish quite a few times, which I really try not to be and hope to change to this opinion some people have of me. Although lately I am starting to think it does not matter what some people think of me as it will not actually affect my life long-term anyway.

'How do you think I ended up alone on the top of a mountain?'

I often find large social gatherings hard work. They are often fun, but require a lot of effort as there is usually a wide range of people to negotiate. I have often been known to end up saying the wrong thing to someone and only realising ages later or someone points it out to me.

If you could take a class on social skills for adults I would. Adults are expected to have picked up social skills as a child, and although I did to some extent, clearly I still have a lot to learn.

Thoughts on why I am still unemployed

‘Many managers make a hiring decision within the first 90 seconds of meeting you’ (Clare Whitmell writing in the Guardian).  The exact time of judgement in an interview varies according to different sources, but all agree it is within the first few minutes.  As an autistic person I think this puts me at a disadvantage.  I do not think I always make a very good first impression.  I take a few minutes to work some situations out.  My OCD often plays up when I first enter a new situation, with me worrying about my hair or clothing.  It often depends how stressed or nervous I am beforehand, which can often be related to how well my journey to the place went.  Once the interview really gets going and I am distracted my OCD almost always dies down and I am fine again.

I think interviews are often not suited to autistic people.  I like to plan ahead, at least in my head, but I often can’t do this very well for interviews as I often do not know what kind of interview it will be.  Will it be one on one, a panel, a group interview with tasks, who knows?  This means I can be thrown in at the deep end, although sometimes employers do give you a good idea of what will happen in advance and this can help.  I prefer one on one interviews mostly as they are a lot less stressful with only one person to focus on at a time.

I am aware that I often talk way too much, so in an interview I try to say less.  However I think sometimes I end up not saying enough and going too quite in interviews.  I struggle to get the balance between saying too much or too little.  I have always been bad at picking up on social cues as to when I should and should not speak.

Maybe I just do not interview well and it has nothing to do with my autism, but I suspect it has at least something to do with it.  I have had so many interviews and yet still have no job.  I cannot think of another reason for it in most cases.  I dress well, turn up on time, answer all the questions sensibly and am always polite.  Employers are often vague as to why they did not hire me, leaving me to suspect that I come across as somewhat odd or ‘special’.

I might be going for the wrong type of work that does not suite me, but I am not sure what other kinds of work I should go for or how you even get other kinds of jobs.  I would really like some decent careers advice, but this seems surprisingly hard to get.  The Job Centre were less than helpful, asking me what kinds of work I would like, rather than trying to find out if a different kind of work would suite me better.  (After over two years in the system you might think they would.)  I have done almost all the courses the Job Centre has to offer.  I can get the interview, for me that is the easy part, which is annoying as once you reach interview the Job Centre seem to think that is it.  Job courses seem aimed at people who lack any kind of qualifications which is not the case for me.  Courses very rarely spend much time on interview techniques and seem to concentrate on the CV and job searching stage.

It has been suggested by numerous people that self-employment is the way to go.  However they never suggest what work I should do to achieve this.  I do not have a hard skill such as plumbing or carpentry that people need and despite trying cannot think of a good business idea.  Also once you start your own business the benefits you are on get cut and what am I supposed to live on whilst I wait for the business to make a profit, if it ever does?  Plus I want a job that gets me out of my flat, not stuck working from home.  Too much time alone is not good for me.  I know autistics are often said to prefer being alone and I do like time to myself, but too much time alone and my own thoughts start driving me mad.  I end up over thinking with my OCD getting worse and my anxiety flaring up.

‘It’s not what you know, but who you know’ as the expression goes.  Clearly this is true as some people seem to get a job from knowing someone in the company and not from being very good at it.  However most people I know are also unemployed or retired and were in the wrong line of work for me when they did have a job.

Someone suggested I try the online careers planner from Prospects (www.prospects.ac.uk/planner).  It asks a lot of work and personality related questions and then suggests suitable jobs for you.  Almost all of the job suggestions it made for me were obscure and not very realistic outside of a major city.  The first job it suggested was a trade union research officer, a job I have never heard of before, let alone seen advertised.

I think I would suit office work, but not really sure how to go about getting it.  I looked at NHS administration jobs as it was yet another suggestion from someone, but a lot of the jobs require you to know how to use computer programs I have not heard of and I suspect mean they are looking for internal candidates who have learnt to use these NHS only programs.  How an earth do you learn to use them in the first place and get your foot in the door?  A lot of office administration work these days requires you to be able to do a lot more than it used to such as accounts and pay role so they do not have to hire another person to do that.  I do not trust my maths skills to do accounts and doubt I could do pay role either.

People judge me too quickly.  I would love a chance to prove myself to an employer, but they never give me time.

My Experiences of the NHS Mental Health Service

 

I would like to share my experiences of the NHS mental health services.  I have found it a patchy service at best, with very little flexibility.  I am not saying that you should not seek help with mental health issues, there are some positives in the mental health system, but it is far from an ideal service and needs a lot of changes to make it work better for more people.

My first experience of therapy for mental health came aged eleven or twelve when I was referred by my GP after my mum asked.  I think she had to ask more than once.  I was diagnosed with OCD by the psychologist.  I had talking therapy once a week, often with my mum.  I got a new psychologist later who put me on medication for my OCD.  I am still on that medication.  I think it used to help, but no longer think it does anything for my OCD.  No doctor willing to properly review it.  One doctor did agree it probably did nothing for me now as I would have become immune to it and put me on a much lower dose as you can’t simply come off it. I know it is one of the hardest medications to come off and the side effects of not taking it for three days once when I ran out at university were awful.  I do not know if the medication has any side-affects as I have been on it so long I am no longer sure what is me and what is the medication.  It could be one of the reasons I am tired so much and would love to be able to try life without it, but right now that does not seem possible.

I started group therapy once a week for a couple of terms.  I am not sure if it was helpful or not, but I liked going as it got me out of school for the morning.  The trouble was I did not fit in with the others very well and some of them could have been a bad influence.  Some of the girls tried to talk me into smoking with them during the break, not that I ever did.

Autism, more specifically Asperger’s syndrome were raised as something I may have.  I can’t remember if it was my mum who brought it up or if my psychologist mentioned it first, but I remember it being discussed.  However I never was sent for testing, which I do not understand as I clearly had major issues and think it would have helped a lot to have a formal diagnosis.

At the age of thirteen I left my first secondary school as I was being bullied very badly and the school was not really addressing it properly, nor were they helping me with my mental and physical issues which were clearly getting worse.  I ended up spending a term in a new education program for children struggling with school run by the childrens mental health services.  It was just a classroom in the mental health services building and not really a school, but it was better than nothing.  Then I ended up in a special needs school, supposedly for those with physical disabilities, but I think my hip was just an excuse and really it was the fact that no other school would have me and the education authority did not know where else to put me.  I think my report from my previous school may have put other schools off.  I admit I had become very difficult to teach by this point, having become very angry a lot of the time and not really being able to handle it.

I had anger management therapy for a few sessions with a mental health nurse.  This was based around mindfulness.  It helped me a little bit, but mindfulness only works if you can feel the anger coming before it is too late, which often I cannot.  The trouble is I tend to go from fine to angry in about a nano second, which gives me no time to put the mindfulness in place.

When I turned sixteen I left the children’s mental health service and that seemed to be that.  I was not transferred to adult services.  Some years later I asked my GP for support with my mental health and I was offered counselling through my surgery.  It was not very helpful as I did not get many sessions and I do not think the guy really understood my problems.  A few years later at university I had some counselling that was more helpful to me.  I think it helped that she was used to working with students so it was more tailored to my situation at the time.  She taught me about mind maps, which helped with my coursework to make it seem less daunting and stressful.

Since then I have gone to my GP for support with my mental health and been told about the anxiety and depression service.  I have tried this service twice, once for depression and once for my OCD.  As a self referral service I found it hard to get an appointment.  Last time I had to ring them three times before they answered the phone and they totally ignored my emails.  For depression this is not helpful, a depressed person is not very likely to keep trying once they fail to get through.  Once you do get an appointment you are told you get twelve sessions mostly over the phone.  I found phone therapy very unhelpful as it meant I could sit at home and wallow in my depression or lie about how much of the homework I had actually done.  I found the phone calls quite uncomfortable and would just say what I thought he wanted to hear to get it over with as quickly as possible.   When it came to therapy for my OCD I found it pretty much useless.  The only kind of therapy they seem to offer is CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy).  At first the program seemed to be helping a bit, but I soon realised it only got rid of one OCD trait to replace it with another.  The therapy never looked at the causes of my OCD behaviour, just the individual symptoms.  Despite specifically asking to have only face to face appointments, I was soon given only phone calls, which were not very affective.  The next stage was to sign me up with an online program that only therapists could add you to.  Some of the exercises on the program required that you logged in daily to the site.  I did tell my therapist that I was in the process of moving and had no internet in my new flat, but despite this she kept on at me to use the program.  Some of the exercises were simply impossible to do in the local library where I often access the internet.  In the end I gave up as even the exercises I could do seemed to not be helping.  I have since been told that CBT will not help me anyway as I am autistic and it hardly ever works for people on the spectrum, so that was a waste of time.  No other service is offered for OCD on the NHS in my area according to my GP.

Last year I was finally diagnosed as High Functioning Autistic or Asperger’s after my mental health assessment flagged it up as something to get tested for.  I was about thirteen when it first came up as a possible diagnosis and it took till I was thirty-one to be tested!

I find it hard to get a GP or anyone else in the health service to take my mental health problems seriously.  I have never self-harmed or been suicidal which maybe one reason I get so little support, despite finding my anxiety and OCD crippling some days.  I have never had a psychologist as an adult.  I did get some support from one GP after I cried in an appointment and asked to sign on as too sick to work.  She got me a mental health assessment, the first and only one I have had as an adult.  This did help as it led to some positive changes in my life.  However I think it helped that I had changed surgeries not long before this as my previous surgery had always seemed to dismiss my mental health problems.

I think mental health services need to be more flexible to meet a patients needs.  People end up costing the NHS more if they are left till they are so ill they need hospitalizing or longer term care.  CBT and mindfulness therapy is proven to work well for a lot of people, but it is not going to suite everyone, yet they seem to be the only things the NHS offer.  Even if it does help, you get so few sessions that as soon as you make a tiny bit of progress the therapy runs out and you go back to square one.  I think the NHS would save money if they invested in better mental health services, as some physical symptoms can be brought on by mental health issues being left untreated.

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