Saturday, 20 August 2016

What I Wish I'd Known Before Turning Eighteen

Now that I am eighteen years old and eight months, to be exact, I feel that I am now at a stage where I can talk to you lovely people about being eighteen; how it has changed my life, how it hasn't changed my life and some answers to the biggest fears that I had about turning eighteen as I wish I had someone to tell me that it isn't as bad as it seems. This post is mostly linked with mental health as my mind made it difficult to accept that I was moving onto adulthood.

When you have a head that races at thousands of miles per hour, jumping from one conclusion to another, turning eighteen and being faced with 'adulthood', a stage that is associated with lots of life-changing roles and responsibilities can be extremely daunting. I know that because I was absolutely terrified to turn eighteen and I can honestly say that I don't know why because nothing has majorly changed other than the fact that I have more freedom and I get paid more money, bonus! I'm not sure what it is about being eighteen, but its like a milestone in life and when you're ill, they're quite difficult to come to terms with. I remember when I first became ill, not thinking I would even make it to my thirteenth birthday, let alone my sixteenth which I was worried about and turning eighteen was a milestone that I had dreaded for years. Making it to eighteen and still being alive, was a big thing for me, and for many of my unwell friends. I never ever believed that it would happen and the closer it got, the worse I felt about it. I also hate birthdays, I really dislike anything that draws attention to myself and therefore, my birthday isn't my favourite time of the year.

One of the main fears of being unwell and turning eighteen is moving on from CAMHS (Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services) to the dreaded, even less-funded Adult Services. I am fairly lucky in some respects, as my local service has changed to a Youth Service, suited for individuals aged between fifteen and twenty-five so changing services was something that I didn't have to worry about. Having said this, my case manager of two years did leave just before I turned eighteen, making things a bit difficult as I knew that I had to start a completely new relationship with another stranger. The thing with adult services is that, just like CAMHS, they are different depending on which county you live in, which is absolutely ridiculous. An example being, that the county that I live in, has one of the worst services within the entire country. I know that when starting the transition, you aren't just dropped completely and handed over (like I was when my worker suddenly left), you have many introduction sessions with both workers which enables you to start building up a relationship. A positive of adult services is that there isn't just one main service, there are specialist services such as personality disorder services and services that just specialist in all different types of mental health problems. I do believe that an assessment is required, but if you've been in services for many years, you may be used to it and this probably would ease your anxiety a little.

When approaching your eighteenth birthday, I feel that it is normal for everybody to be nervous about the changes, having responsibility, having to be independent and having to actually be able to look after yourself but in reality, nothing really changes. Nowadays, at eighteen, most individuals are still in education at college and moving onto university, most people still live at home with their clothes being washed for them and their dinner being cooked for them. There aren't really extra responsibilities for when you reach the age of eighteen as I feel that we are in a society where we have roles and responsibilities from a younger age and therefore, these are just normal. You have more control over your decisions and you have more options with care confidentiality. You can choose who you tell about certain things although for me, I have just stayed the same as I have learnt that there is no point in hiding things just because you can, when it would be more beneficial to tell certain people. I think another fear of turning eighteen is the fact that many individuals within older generations always tell young people how childhood and teenage years are the best years of your life as you don't have to work, pay bills and you get looked after. However, life is what you make it and I know that recovery is a long process, but everybody is capable of recovering and therefore, there will be brighter and better days.

It is funny how when you are a child you cannot wait to grow up despite everyone telling you not to wish your life away yet when you reach eighteen, all you want to do is be a child again. I struggle with change, both big and small and I can barely even spend the night away from home so you can imagine how much I wound myself up about being an adult and the stress that I put myself through. There's also worries that most likely would never happen such as if you got really poorly again, you'd be sent to an adult hospital which you've grown up learning how they are 'not nice' places to be.

Having said this, there are actually so many positive outcomes of being eighteen which I didn't even realise until I found myself reaching this age. Firstly, you are able to legally buy alcohol and tobacco as you'll have valid identification. For me, purchasing these items within the first month or two of being eighteen was a bit anxiety provoking because although my ID is real and valid, I was worried that people checking it wouldn't believe so. I learnt that the best way to deal with this and dealing with the fear of being asked for ID was to get my ID out before I get to the till as then the shop keeper or bar tender can recognise that you have it out and can just take it out of your hand as an oppose of making a big deal and asking which could draw attention to you. I still use this trick now when purchasing age restricted items as it just makes me more calm. Moving on, once you turn eighteen, you can get a tattoo if you wish which is something that I am yet to do as well as getting as many piercings as you please, without having to worry about parental permission. Another exciting thing that happens when you're eighteen, is that if you are receiving minimum wage at a job, it will increase and all of those hours completed at work will feel so much more worth it. You can vote when you turn eighteen, allowing you to be more involved with society and the world around you. You can legally move out if you feel like you'd be able to cope without your parents, you can get married without parental permission and although I wouldn't recommend it, you can gamble. Finally, the most important of all is that you can never ever be readmitted back to that hellhole of an adolescent inpatient unit which you spent tedious months in as you are too old.

I feel like a post without photos just isn't right and that some of you may switch off so I will include some photos of my eighteenth birthday for you all to see. I hope you've enjoyed this post or found some hope for turning eighteen. The main piece of advice that I can give to you all is to spend it with those you love!

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

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