Well these last two days have been particularly distressing, consisting of over 6 separate and significant goodbyes before I move to a specialist inpatient placement 100 miles away. There are sad goodbyes, scary goodbyes, tearful goodbyes, and hopeful goodbyes. Therapeutic endings having to be squeezed in to a strange scenario and personal endings that I’m… Continue reading The Last Goodbyes
I move to an out of area inpatient placement on Thursday, 100 miles away from home. This has meant a week of almost non-stop ends of therapeutic relationships. Today has been bookended by particularly tearful goodbyes to my psychologist and the crisis team manager. And the tears have kept on flowing as I reflect on this incredibly touching poem the crisis manager left with me:
I am blown away.
First of all: yes, of course it is a choice. BUT…and this is an important but…a non-suicidal person pointing this out to someone in acute crisis tends to come laden with judgement, whether implicit or explicit, intended or not. It often is: “Well, it’s your choice, so just decide” “It’s your choice, so why are… Continue reading Is Suicide a Choice? A Survivor’s Perspective
It’s 2 weeks today until I move over 100 miles out of area to my new placement. Before Ieave, I wanted to show a small sign of thanks to the crisis team, who’ve provided such vital support in helping me. I know as time moves on I’ll get less and less able to organise things, so thought I should get on and put something together before my brain is nothing but mush (rather than 80:20 mush at present)…
…just a few well-deserved treats but I know how much they will be appreciated and how much some nice, energy-filled snacks/drinks are needed on busy shifts.
Emotions are tricky little buggers. They really are.
And for some of us they feel down right impossible to cope with, understand, recognise and even simply to have. I struggle in many ways with emotions…others’ but mainly my own. I also give myself a hard time about that fact and expect myself to ‘do better’ or ‘feel the right thing’. Knowing this, and knowing that I’m facing a particularly turbulent time*, last week the crisis team manager had me do an exercise where I stood in the middle of a room surrounded by different sized pieces of paper and alotted emotions to those pieces of paper according to how much I was feeling them at the time. We then went through several different scenarios and changed the emotions around accordingly. This was to show me that even if I was being hard on myself and expecting to feel the ‘right’ emotions (e.g. happy or relieved that the placement is definite rather than scared or anxious) or feeling that I would feel one emotion forever, in fact recent history shows that emotions fluctuate massively in their presence or size and that I can feel many things at once without invalidating anything else that’s going on.
I found the exercise incredibly helpful (although it felt quite painful at the time) and today decided to recreate it in a portable and reusable form. I already have benefited from this – working out what is actually going on inside me rather than just a broad ‘overwhelmed’- and thought it’s a concept worth sharing in case anyone else wants to give something similar a go in any of its forms.
So here is a concept borne of the crisis team manager’s work with me:
This is in my visual journal but could be on a standalone piece of card or inside a diary or something similar, with very basic boxes drawn on the page, and colour-coded emotions cut out in card and blue-tacked to the appropriate box at that moment in time.
Let me know if you’ve used something similar or gave this a go!
*in the latter stages of preparing for a long-term specialist hospital placement, hours away from home/family/care team, in a locked and mainly unknown environment, after my last placement collapsed for financial reasons with just 28 days notice and after not fulfilling their promises/purpose
Today I woke up to the crisis team manager calling me as she walked in to a meeting “just because she had 2 mins & knew I was having the toughest time atm so wanted me to know that I’m not alone, she & her team are still in my corner, & she thought I… Continue reading Small Gestures Save Lives
Well this really struck a chord; unfortunately I think it will with anyone suffering from mental illnesses, and especially those with the more stigmatized ones such as personality disorders. I genuinely couldn’t even begin to count the amount of times that mental health professionals, with confidence and certainty, tell me rather than ask me (AKA… Continue reading “Please, tell me more about my own Goddamn experiences”
After a day of shut down silence, I just spoke to one of the most awesome HCAs from the ward I spent 5 months on, now working for the crisis team and still as awesome. Unlocked some emotion. Many tears (actually a good thing for me). Got me to communicate where there’s been just detached… Continue reading Relationships Matter in Mental Health
With the right patient and the right professional (and I really do mean that – it has to be a good balance and appropriate) a bit of dark humour can go a long way. My keyworker from the crisis team came to check on me on the ward this evening. I told him that my… Continue reading Well Placed Dark Humour in Mental Health
Trigger warning: discussion of suicide. I was supposed to die today. My plans were firm, my reasoning was definite in my head, I’d found ways to say goodbye without actually saying the words. I was meant to be dead. Then, in a frenzy, I had a phonecall from the crisis team manager who didn’t have… Continue reading A Befuddling Day
Now this is a piece that must have a story behind it…
And it does. The crisis team and I were trying to work out what strategies I could use to get through the evening. Art is a favourite of ours and, having just spoken about how I struggle to retain people’s actual appearances in my head but instead retain feelings and facts, the support worker suggested I might try to draw what comes into my head when I picture her. Now this might seem a bizarre collection of things but she’s a unique lady: loves unicorns, Disney and horror, and has lots of qualities that make her very good at her job. It was a really interesting challenge and something to explore for me…I just hope she is happy with the outcome!
Recently, the manager of my local crisis team was invited to talk to post graduate nurses working in mental health and A&E about service user involvement in care planning/risk assessments and suicide prevention. She asked if she could use my case as an example both of how badly things can go wrong in this area… Continue reading What it is like to not be involved in risk management, care planning or significant decisions in mental health care
A brilliant nurse in my crisis team has recently been on a Compassion-Focussed Therapy training course and met with me the other day brimming with ideas.
Self-compassion is something that feels entirely intangible and unachievable for me, so we’ve got our work cut out, but thankfully she’s willing to give it all a go with me regardless! I’ll share some of the different exercises as I embark upon them… first up is creating a ‘Compassionate other’.
The notes I took from our session explain this as: Try to come up with a ‘compassionate other’ based upon the following…
- this other will have the three core elements of compassion-focussed therapy: courage, wisdom and dedication
- humans are fallible, so don’t use a real person, although you can think about which characteristics of real people you find comforting/safe/helpful and incorporate those
- could be a person, an animal or a mythical creature [I like the thought of a protective mythical creature, like a dragon or a unicorn, personally]
- use this compassionate other to counteract negative self talk
As drawing things helps me, we decided that maybe the best place to start was drawing this potential compassionate other to give me a visual prompt. Humans don’t feel at all safe to me, so I knew straight away mine wouldn’t be in the form of a human, and very quickly my mind jumped to mythical creatures and, more specifically, dragons. I thought of this dragon as being both gentle and strong, comforting and protective, and something that I could carry with me wherever I go…thus, the ‘Palm Dragon’ was born!
I think he’s rather sweet, but you can tell in his eyes that he can stick up for himself and for what he believes in, too. Now I just need to narrow down and foster his compassionate traits, and see if I can somehow implement him into coping mechanisms to counteract the never-ending, overwhelming negative self-talk and intense self-hatred.
I’m hoping this concept can also be fostered into something protective or safe-feeling that can be carried with me for other uses: my idea of a Muggle’s Patronus (for anyone who isn’t a Harry Potter fan, a Patronus is a “guardian or protector, which takes the form of an animal…one of the most powerful defensive charms…a pure, protective magical concentration of happiness and hope”.
I’ll fill you in when I get further along creating and cultivating my compassionate Palm Dragon. I’d love to hear of any of you have already or will now try to create one for yourselves, too!