Yesterday we had double CAMHS. L’s weekly appointment with her psychologist and K’s initial Choice appointment. Choice is a big deal in the NHS, politicians of all parties trumpet about the need for choices in our healthcare system. Unfortunately, “I choose not to be ill” isn’t an option. Nor is “I choose for you to make me better” in many cases. At times of ill health it seems we must be active participants in our care plans, possibly at a time when our only choice is to wrap in a duvet until it all goes away.
Anyway, we head to the clinic, park in our usual spot, walk past the family clinic downstairs, nodding to the receptionist and head upstairs. We announce ourselves somewhat superfluously to the receptionist and sit in the waiting room where the familiar sound of Heart Radio fails to soothe us. We are asked if we have filled in our blue and yellow questionnaires designed to assess if we have ‘improved’ over time. I say that I think I may have lost them, when in reality I know I placed them in the recycling bin. We are invited in to The Room. We know this room. Today the curtains are pulled over the two way mirror but the chairs are the same. The kindly psychotherapist says he has met us before. Yes, we nod. And he notices we are here again later. Yes, we nod.
So we talk about K. As ever I am determined to keep silent to allow her to talk. The questions are directed to her and she looks around, opens her mouth, wrings her hands and a foot slides over to kick me. We agree I will talk and she will correct. I explain her anxiety and the triggers and the crippling impact on her life and indeed ours. She intervenes and starts to talk a little. There is the usual nodding and uh huh-ing. There is no thorough questioning, no Generalised Anxiety Disorder questionnaire or depression test. We are reminded this is a choice appointment and asked what kind of treatment we might be considering. This is the atmosphere of primary mental health services, as if illness were a choice and treatment a pastime. Just as one might consider reprinting the hallway, we could also contemplate a spot of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, just to cheer us up. The focus is on K, because obviously an anxious and depressed teenager probably knows what she wants already and her pushy mother shouldn’t get in the way. K looks at the floor and shrugs. Options are explored, medication ruled out (by them, not us, seemingly medication isn’t on the Choice menu) and the different therapy approaches. K still looks confused. I suggest that what I think K wants is for CAMHS to work out what’s wrong with her and make it better. And that we should try CBT and just get on with it. The psychotherapist suggests that he thinks K wants time to think about it. This does prompt K to contradict him and say, no! she just wants to get on with it. I feel a small sense of triumph at the man who thought after 40 minutes with my daughter he knew better what she wanted being proved wrong. We discuss dates, times. And then we leave, earlier than expected. As we depart, K reminds me of the joke we shared about having a CAMHS loyalty card. The therapist smiles and says, “Ah, but what would you get for the points?” I suggest a day off mental health issues. There is a silence, softened by rueful half smiles.
I call L and tell her we are at home and I will take her to CAMHS. She replies that she is with The Boyfriend and will walk there. It is her own appointment with the psychologist and I am there for her weight check. Sighing, I decide to leave her to it, but will call in for her weight. Which has gone down as I knew it would. I catch up on work for the rest of the day. L comes home, resists food. Life goes on as always.