"I believe Dr Woolley not only gave me my life back, but that he saved my life."
As a young teenager, Will struggled with anxiety, depression and low self-esteem. After a traumatic experience exacerbated his depression, his problems only got worse, as did his ability to cope. After trying numerous therapies to no avail, his GP recommended seeing Dr James Woolley, at Schoen Clinic Chelsea, and this was the turning point he needed. Will finally felt understood and was able to develop the tools to help him combat his mood disorder. He shares his story today.
Not dissimilar to a lot of people, my teenage years were not a period in my life to look back on with particular fondness. As a teenager life was hard, and I found myself seeing a therapist when I was just 14. I was anxious, had little confidence and, at times, even felt suicidal. I was in a highly-pressurised academic environment where I thought success would naturally lead to the ultimate prize that all young people strive for: self-esteem. Of course, it didn't.
So, here I was in therapy as a young teen. The problem was though, I had figured out how to work the system to minimise or even hide my issues, and therefore didn't receive much help. My life continued like this until I left for university. An abusive relationship, paired with the depression I was already feeling, led me to recreational drugs in order to cope. I was very paranoid throughout this time, and was very close to suicide on numerous occasions. I eventually got help in 2015 where I was put on medication, and I started cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), which offered a lot of improvement, but I knew I wasn't addressing root cause. I just wasn't ready to go 'deep' into analysing my issues yet.
Meanwhile, I went on a gap year from university and I was feeling well enough to be able to reduce my antidepressant medication. However, once back at university, I experienced an extremely traumatic event which fractured my mental health once more, and I found myself using the same old destructive coping mechanisms to cope.
After I finished university, my psychiatrist reduced my medication suddenly without gradually scaling it down. This led to a series of serious panic attacks, which was hard to cope with as my life was actually going well – I just couldn't cope with the sudden drop in medication. I even developed vertigo. I was in denial and tried to get on with my life, and so it inevitably got worse. I felt I would be letting people down if I didn't go to work, but it got almost impossible to carry on.
I took around six months off work where I tried different therapies, including hypnotherapy, but on my return I felt worse than ever. My Psychiatrist suggested adjusting my medication again, but my body reacted badly. I had hit rock bottom.
One morning, I'd woken up and felt very strongly that this isn't how my life should be; however, all my years of avoiding 'deep' therapy meant that I had no tools to get better. Then I met Dr Woolley at Schoen Clinic Chelsea. I'd heard about him both from my GP, and through a friend of my father whose life he completely changed. I found Dr Woolley to be very encouraging and incredibly supportive. He took a lot of time to listen to me, and he saw and recognised my issues. For the first time I knew someone really understood my problems.
And, because Dr Woolley really understood my issues, he suggested that I start attending group sessions which, speaking as someone who had extreme social anxiety, terrified me. He knew I wanted to be seen for who I was, and that I wanted to interact with people who could relate to my experience. Trusting that group sessions were the best place for me, I started attending the sessions three times a week – first in person, and then online once Covid put an end to in-person meetings. I felt completely safe at all times – albeit necessarily uncomfortable sometimes.
At the beginning, I was overcompensating in many ways. I'd had many years of experience in telling therapists what they wanted to hear but, in time, I was able to access deeper emotions and I finally felt safe to go deeper. My walls had finally come down, and I felt a huge sense of relief in that vulnerability.
The pivotal moment in therapy came when I told the class about the traumatic event I experienced years before. Their overwhelming support was incredibly moving, and their opinions really shifted my perspective of the event itself. Over time, I felt myself go more and more deeper, and I was able to process my emotions fully. On top of this, the sessions really supported me during the uncertainty of Covid, and I am still in contact with some of my colleagues now.
Six months on, we agreed that I was in a place where my sessions could be safely reduced without it having a negative affect on me. I had faith in myself, and my clinicians at Schoen Clinic Chelsea, to know what was best for me. Now, I have two one-on-one therapy sessions a week, which is working for me. And although the last six months have been difficult for me, I'm doing as well as I can with the support systems the clinic gave me. I'm exercising and socialising, and I'm sober and meditating, which allows me to control what I can, and let the external factors go.
Perhaps most important in my life right now is the sense of purpose I get from my university work. I'm finishing a Masters degree in Experimental Psychology, which is in no small part thanks to the clinic. My clinicians took the time to sit with me, and really helped me figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Knowing I wasn't totally fulfilled with the American Studies course I was completing, they helped me look for the right course and one of my clinicians, Nadia, even provided a personal statement which really helped my transfer. My next step in a PhD, which seemed inconceivable a couple of years ago.
Dr Woolley and his colleagues gave me a map for when I was totally lost in my life, and I genuinely believe I wouldn't be here if it weren't for them.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an anxiety or mood disorder, contact our caring team at Schoen Clinic Chelsea today on 0203 146 2300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Learn more about our Treatment Programmes for anxiety & mood disorders today.
At Will's request, the images used in his story are of an actor and are for reference purposes only.