Tonight I had my 6th session of Childline volunteer counselling training which means I am almost halfway through the training. So I thought I would write a linked post not about my training experience or being a counsellor but about my experiences of contacting Childline when I was younger. I have spoke a lot in the media about what I spoke to Childline about and how I went about that but I thought it would also be ice to put this on here as it was part of my recovery and still very relevant as it is the reason I am training as a volunteer.. So here goes;
If I remember rightly I was about 14/15 when I first contacted Childline.. I had been struggling with mental health difficulties (anxiety, panic attacks, low mood, low self esteem and self-harm) for around a year without anyone noticing and without me telling anyone. It was getting progressively worse and I was finding everyday life increasingly difficult. I was starting to struggle to maintain relationships with family and with friends as well as struggling to even stay in lessons in school never mind answer a question in class. I was turning to self-harm for a few different reasons at different times. Sometimes it was about the fact that physical pain was easier to deal with than the mental torture I felt I was going through. At other times it was a form of self-punishment and I genuinely felt I deserved it. A lot was going on and I just had no idea how to deal with it or express it to anyone. I couldn’t even answer questions in class from a teacher never mind talk about these feelings to anyone.. so I had kept quiet.
But it was getting worse and I was getting desperate. I wanted things to change but I didn’t know how to change things. I wanted to feel better but didn’t know how to. More importantly I got to the point where I wanted to tell someone.. I wanted help.. I just didn’t know who to turn to. It would have been too much for me to tell my family.. it would upset them too much.. they’d worry and they had enough going on. I wasn’t comfortable with telling them. I couldn’t talk to teachers.. they wouldn’t listen or understand and they might tell my family.. I had no idea what the outcome would be if I told someone. I barely knew what was going on myself and couldn’t make sense of it all so how was I supposed to explain that to anyone else? That’s when I decided to contact Childline.
I had always known the service existed but didn’t know too much about it. I’m sure a lot of children at some point threaten to call Childline on their parents when they aren’t happy about something. I knew you could talk to Childline about abuse.. but I wasn’t being abused..I’d seen posters though and they said you could talk to them about anything. But again I couldn’t find the words.. ringing would be useless as I wouldn’t say anything and anyway my family might hear me..I knew they had a website so decided to go on and have a look. When I got on there I saw that they had an online chat service. It was at that point I realised I might actually be able to tell someone. I first looked around the website, looked on the message boards, checked their confidentiality policy all while I worked up the courage to see if I could actually make an account and start a chat.. eventually I did. I clicked to start and it said there would be a wait but that was okay.. I’d got this far,, I had to try it.
I got through.. and I was so anxious.. I didn’t know what to say.. do I go straight in and blurt it all? do I say a bit and test it out? Can I really talk to them about anything? people are worse off than me.. other people deserve to talk more.. the thoughts were racing around my mind. I was terrified but I was also desperate. I said Hello and was greeted by a friendly counsellor. I started to go into some of it and then helped me slowly start to talk about what was going on. I was a long paragraph type of young person and I ended up writing loads. We discovered writing was my way of expressing.. where I couldn’t express the words out loud.. I could write them and not just write them but express my feelings quite coherently. Childline didn’t push me to talk about anything I didn’t want to and they didn’t judge me either. It was reassuring to know I had someone to talk to that wasn’t somebody I knew.. it made such a difference. We explored what had been going on and how I had been feeling and what if anything I had done so far to try and change things. Things started to make more sense. Writing my feelings and thoughts down made them less scary.. I could see what was going on but I still wasn’t sure what to do. Stopping self-harming was scary it was my coping mechanism and my anxiety couldn’t be waved away with a magic wand. There was no quick fix but there was someone I could talk to.
I didn’t just contact Childline once.. I contacted them lots of times over the following few years.. they were there when I needed to just talk or to have a perspective from somewhere other than people I knew. They gave me a voice when I needed it most. Different chats were about different things and we just talked about whatever I wanted to. Sometimes it was just a more general chat to distract me from urges to self-harm. Other times we explored my options and the actions I could take to start changing things. Childline had helped a lot by just being there to listen to me but I really did need more professional support. They helped me work out a plan. They recognised how writing was helpful for me in order to express things and was far less scary than talking. Together we worked out that a good way for me to get the help I needed was to write it down in a letter and to give it to someone. We explored who that might be and decided on a pastoral teacher at my school and we also explored what the outcomes of this might be so it wouldn’t be so scary. We talked about it a lot before I actually gave a letter to anyone but in the end I felt empowered enough to do that. Things started to move on and I was getting referrals to mental health services and to school counselling. I was nearly 16 at this point.. so much had fed into what was going on. Exam stress, family stress, peer pressure, not fitting in, body image.. lots of things and none of it was going away anytime soon. I needed therapy from CAMHS so that I could take back control and start to build strategies of coping with the challenges life threw at me. Therapy made a huge difference and finally helped me to stop self-harming.
Without Childline I wouldn’t have got to that point.. in fact I don’t actually know where I would be today. They helped me even once I started to get support. They were there when I felt things till weren’t going right. They were there when I had urges to self harm.. they distracted me and meant for that one extra night I was self-harm free. They gave me a space.. a space to be me.. a space to explore what I wanted to.. a space where I had a voice. At times I probably became quite reliant on the service.. I went through a period at the start when things were really difficult of contacting them every day at times or every few days at least. They were the only people I had to talk to though. They were then there for me through all the ups and downs.. the relapses, finishing exams, getting discharged from therapy. I always knew there was somewhere I could turn. At times I was probably also a pain.. I’d got the timing figured out for how long a chat usually lasted and knew the phrases they used to end chats but would try to keep them going because I just felt like I was really being listened to or had ore to say. But I always understood why they worked they way they did and appreciated that. It wasn’t all great.. they were occasions where I had counsellors who I just didn’t click with and I would end the chat and request another instead because it wasn’t worth me wasting 40 minutes talking to someone who was just getting frustrated with. When I had a good chat though which had been really helpful I always made sure to thank them and to show them why I really valued their support.. they’re all volunteers after all and some of them genuinely did change my life for the better. Childline meant a lot to me.. and it always will. Now is my time to give back and my aim is to complete training and be on the other side of that line.
Childline gave me a voice when I couldn’t talk to anyone. They stopped me harming myself at some of my darkest moments. They kept me afloat until I could get the support I needed. I was lost and they helped me figure it all out. They listened and that was all that I needed.
I am doing a skydive in October to raise money for the NSPCC to give back too.. Childline changed my life and I want them to be able to support as many young people as possible. Please if you can donate to my fundraising page.. it would mean the world to me and to the charity (and this isn’t just about rising money for me.. it’s more than that. I value the NSPCC more than anyone could ever understand and this is just one of the ways I feel I can give back!)
I did really well in my GCSEs and A levels. I went on to study Psychology at university. I stopped self-harming and haven’t self-harmed in nearly 2 years now. I built up my resilience. I am happier and more confident. I am now in a position where I can help others. I volunteer with the young volunteers participation team and am training to be a Childline counsellor. I found my voice.
I will never forget what Childline did for me and will always value the incredible work they do to support so many young people across the UK!
We can beat this!