Beth’s Story

**WARNING: Potential Mental Health Trigger as Suicidal feelings are mentioned**

Hey, Beth here.

The purpose of my story is to give out a greater awareness of psychical disabilities and mental health problems and this will be done by me sharing my life experiences. Hope you enjoy!

I am at Queen Alexandra College (QAC) in Harborne, Birmingham, doing Health and Social Care Level 3 BTEC. My aim is to go to university and study a foundation degree in Psychology at St Marys University, Twickenham London in September 2016. After completing this degree, my plan is to work in the mental health sector. This is because I am able to relate to different experiences.

During my time at QAC I have been able to become a residential student which has empowered me to feel free and independent. Also my dream is to raise awareness for those with Cerebral Palsy suffering from mental health difficulties.

My early years were full of experiences! My Mum was determined to ensure that I had the best possible chance to develop and be included into as many social and educational opportunities despite me being diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy. She knew that early intervention in physiotherapy, occupational therapy and speech and language therapy was critical in me becoming as able to access education and social situations as possible.

I went to Conductive Education (CE) from 9 months old right the way through to 4 years old help with my physical ability as I could not do the things that other toddlers could do like pick up toys, crawl around, climb, or ride toy cars. But CE helped me to become more confident and hold toys. I was taken to playgroup before moving to nursery at 3.

Initially I went to Wilson Stuart special School nursery. My teacher, and teaching assistants were so caring and thought of mine and the other children’s needs individually. I took part in music and drama, arts and learning numbers and letters. It was hard for me to show that I understood the learning as I could not speak verbally. I was taught to use Makaton and Widget symbols to get my message across.

Having Cerebral Palsy, I found it difficult to eat and drink as my mouth control was poor but I loved my food. I would get frustrated that I could not eat independently; I still do now and get embarrassed about the way I look. I would need to be fed and used a beaker to drink. I had a lovely Speech and Language Therapist who looked at my eating and drinking and offered ways of helping me to not choke.
As I got older, my feeding got better and now I can drink from a straw and I’m able to feed myself some foods. I still sometimes choke but not regularly.

My mum used to invite other Mums and their disabled children to our house to play together. After a few years at Wilson Stuart school it was agreed in my Special Educational Needs annual review that I was more intellectually able and I therefore started to go to Kings Heath mainstream primary school half of the week and the other Wilson Stuart. After some time, I went to Kings Heath full time.

My dream is to raise awareness for those with Cerebral Palsy suffering from mental health difficulties.

Have you ever thought about teenagers that are physically disabled but also suffer from mental health problems? Well, you can now! In 2008 I was admitted into Birmingham Children’s Hospital for a normal procedure to have Botox injections in my legs to help with my muscles relaxing. I was having them every 6 months. But this time it went downhill. When I was coming round from the anesthetic I was totally confused with where I was and who I was with. I didn’t even recognise who my mum, dad, his girlfriend and my brother were. I ended up being admitted into hospital for 6 months. Doctors ended up saying that they thought I was having a major emotional/mental breakdown and having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Then it all came tumbling down again! In the November of 2008 I had a massive seizure out of the blue. I ended staying in hospital for a whole year! I was moved from ward to ward – wards with loud crying babies, bright lights, and noises that sent my senses spinning! I ended being seen by a psychiatrist and things started to get sorted between him and my mum. I ended up being admitted into the CAMHS inpatient ward with loads of mostly teenagers like me suffering from lots of different mental health challenges. I had different therapy and talk time. In time I got better with help and was discharged. I saw the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services out-patients team until I turned 18.

It felt like suicide was the only way out of the pain and turmoil. There were quite a few times where I attempted ending my life but being in a chair, it was like it was impossible to physically to get myself into a dangerous place. Looking back my wheelchair actually saved my life.

In April 2013 I had quite of family issues and I was doing my GCSEs. It came to a point where life was too much and ended up being diagnosed with anxiety and a form of depression called ‘major depression’.

However, since this I have grown and got to know who I am. It means a lot to have laugh with friends because I feel like I belong despite me have Cerebral Palsy and mental health challenges. With the support from friends, mental health services, and college I am able to manage my depression and feel empowered to come into my own person.

My life has extremely changed during my two years studying at QAC. Firstly, I want to tell you about my friendships group.
My experiences with inclusion and social situations haven’t been great but when I started a new beginning at college I started to create my first ever social life and friendships. As I settled down into college life, I socialised at weekends as it made me feel accepted despite my Cerebral Palsy.

As time when on I felt like I could share some of my personal past with one or two close friends, and when I did this I found out that we have gone through similar experiences and feelings. Still today, my social life has a massive positive on my life and hope we can keep our friendships beyond QAC. As the weeks passed, the group learnt and observed and I have a voice therefore they started hear my voice. Now, they banter and joke about with me. All of these little things have enabled me to own a social life, be a normal 18 year old student and be included.

During studying BTEC Health & Social Care my tutor has empowered me to reach my career goals despite my disability, by pushing and encouraging me to work hard. She treats me with respect and understands my academic as well as my personal needs.

In the college weeks I have had a great speech and language therapist that has helped my voice to be heard in terms of using my communication aid, letting people know the situation to understand my communication and to inform people that I have normal intelligence, therefore they can interact with me as they would like to be talked to.

When I first started residential college, I was put into a certain house due to the access and it was thought my physical needs were greater than they actually were. As the weeks went on I had feelings of isolation as I was more independent and had the mental ability with living in a more high functioning group that wasn’t being met. Therefore it was decided for me to move to a different house after Christmas. Now, I am living in my stride as I can be more and more independent with daily tasks e.g. making a cuppa tea for myself, being responsible with doing my washing and studying. I know it is not a big deal to a lot of people, but to me it is a dream that has come true!

Also, when I am going through a difficult time the staff respect my needs and support me. Lastly in the evenings my social life still runs, as four of my peers live in too so we cook, chill out and have a laugh. This has made me feel so much freer and included in being a student.

Lastly, QAC has given me a voice with some personal issues that come with Depression. They have given me a chance to deal with feelings by providing me with mentoring & counselling. They have helped me in so many ways: from assertiveness to being non-judgmental when things have got tough. They see past my four wheels and only see where I am coming form. Today, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for these wonderful people!

Thank you for taking the time to enter my personal world! I hoped that you have enjoyed reading this.

Beth.

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