I started to become unwell when I was 12 years old and I was referred to mental health services when I was 13. In total, I’ve been accessing support from mental health services for 10 years.
Before I was diagnosed with severe OCD I struggled with daily life; I couldn’t complete tasks like getting dressed without having to repeat myself numerous times. It was really hard at school too; I couldn’t hide my behaviours and people looked at me as if I was strange. I didn’t fully understand what my condition was at the time and it was scary for me and my family as no one understood why I had the need to complete compulsions and control my thoughts to an extreme extent.
Recovery wasn’t a consistent trajectory. I got better but then I got worse again and needed more therapy. I became a recluse whilst at university and didn’t want to go outside or go to classes. I went back to square one.
I’ve been with my consultant for 3 years now. She has supported me by helping me understand the underlining issues of my diagnosis. We spent time recognising how my inner voice was punishing me as well as how to be in touch with reality by removing myself from the alternate world that I had created to protect myself. It’s been challenging tackling these issues and more not mentioned here, but my consultant has given me the tools to understand what my diagnosis does to me and how to stop it from getting worse again. She has also made sure that I am continually supported for the next two years by referring me to group therapy as I’m feeling better but still struggling in some respects.
After I graduated from university my consultant referred me to an Employment Specialist (ES) as she recognised that I had the potential to reach my goals but knew I would need help to get there. My ES and I spent a couple of sessions completing a vocational profile in which we identified: my current situation, barriers, strengths, areas for development, and transferrable skills. We also identified employers that I could seek employment from and we put together a plan. She spent time discussing my mental health in the workplace, disclosure and accessing support from my employer.
My Employment Specialist (ES) and I found an internship role to help build my confidence but starting was difficult for me. I became really upset as I felt I wasn’t good enough. Like I mentioned earlier, my inner voice is not kind and it can still belittle everything I do and destroy any achievement or confidence I have. My consultant and ES both discussed how I was doing as they could see my mental health was deteriorating significantly. They came up with a plan which was to start with little steps and gradually build instead of going straight into a graduate role or full-time employment.
Currently, I’m still building my confidence. I’m still struggling and getting upset but my ES is with me for support. We’re reading a book together called ‘Designing Your Life’ and trying all sorts of challenges like volunteer roles to help me gain the life skills I don’t have yet. Whilst we’re doing all these challenges my ES is always making sure my mental health takes priority. I’m truly thankful for my ES, she gives me hope that in the future I can live the life I see for myself but can’t acquire just yet.
“Knowing I have the ES with me for support really helps. She isn’t just finding jobs for me and leaving me there, she’s making sure that I use the opportunity to gain skills and to sustain employment and a healthy lifestyle for the future.”
James received his IPS support at Central and North West London NHS Foundation Trust (CNWL). CNWL’s IPS Service has helped many people into paid employment since it was set up in 2004. The Centre for Mental Health has recognised its effectiveness by including it in its IPS Centre of Excellence Programme.