This time a fortnight ago, I had been in my new home for just a couple of hours. Except, my new home is a specialist mental health placement for people with complex needs (focusing especially on personality disorders), set up to offer 24 hour help and support for between 1 and 3 years – a placement that I had been waiting to open for over a year, left in limbo in between. And I am the first – and currently only – resident. So, 2 weeks ago today, I moved in to a 10-bed remodelled house with 15 staff…and just me living there, the pilot patient in a pilot scheme. Not only that, I moved from a very busy and changeable locked Acute Psychiatric Ward, that I’d been on for 4 months.
What a change!
I don’t really know how to summarise these two weeks: it really has been all over the place, and beyond surreal. The staff have been wonderful: kind, friendly, chatty, caring, eager to spend time with/get to know me. I’ve tried my best…but that ‘front’ that I’ve applied 24/7 for the first 2 decades of my life was back with full force…after all, this wasn’t a psychiatric ward, these weren’t staff in a normal therapeutic setting: these were people in my home, in what feels like their home as they’ve been here full-time since April and I’ve just arrived…how on earth could I let the bad things out here, with them?! And so went my first week. Putting on a ‘front’ and having quite casual starts to my relationships; eating together, messing about, having a laugh. But I knew that, although these aspects of therapeutic relationships are important, that alone couldn’t work here; I know I can’t survive like that any more; I know that the only way I’d stayed safe on the ward was by breaking through so many barriers to show and talk about how I was feeling/what I was thinking/what I needed. So, this time last week I broke. And I mean that I completely BROKE. So much crying happened that I don’t know how I didn’t shrivel up entirely. Everything I’d been keeping in started to trickle out. Old coping mechanisms came back in to use. But new ways of reacting to those coping mechanisms were initiated…I took big steps in being honest, and I was rewarded with genuine, caring responses. I scared myself, but the staff weren’t scared of me.
So, I’ve kind of been cornered in to having to talk or face that the alternative would be giving up completely.
I’ve had to continually battle my guilt at receiving help that I know so many others need, and believe they deserve more than I do.
I’ve had to face self harm and its repercussions head on, including having to have a minor operation after just 9 days of being here and being out of hospital.
I’ve had to face the peculiar quietness, combined contrastingly with the well-meaning eager pushing of staff, both of which being quite overwhelming at times.
I’ve had to try to get used to having a whole bunch of strangers in what is technically my home 24/7.
I’ve also been amazingly lucky that the staff here are truly lovely people.
I’ve started to learn that they will support me if I’m honest with them.
I’ve started to realise that they’re truly proud of me and my tiny steps forward.
I’ve started to understand that they’re just as nervous as I am.
This is a chance at a new beginning; I don’t know that I’m strong enough to warrant all of this and I definitely don’t believe I’m worth it, but I am incredibly grateful to have this opportunity and still don’t believe it can be really happening.
When am I going to wake up?