Writing for Well Being

I was afforded the opportunity to attend a ‘Writing for Well Being’ workshop on Saturday and although I have blogged for years now which I do credit with being a prophylaxis in my own sense of well being but this workshop encouraged me to re-examine my sense of perspective. I LOVED this workshop, such a different way of writing for me.
We were encouraged to write with specific prompts given but then the freedom to let words flow as they entered our brains and exited via our pens.

The first task we were given was to think about a word we like, a favourite word maybe. I chose pomegranate, I just like the way it sounds.

We then had some discussion which led to a three minute task of starting with the words “In the garden…” this is what I penned:

In the garden there are flowers and grass and a slide for all of the children. This is my dream, I wish I had a garden. We are fortunate in so many ways but we don’t have a garden, or ‘outdoor space’ as all these property porn type tv shows refer to it these days.
I would like a garden filled with children but I know I am blessed with the one child I have. Some people will never know the joy of hearing a child shout ‘watch me mum’ on a slide at the park so why should I lust after a garden and more children?

The next task was to use the favourite word of the person to our right, and we passed our word on. The word I was given was ‘Blackbird’, so I had to use this word to inspire me to write for three minutes:

Listen to the blackbird singing. Its tune sings summer over and over. Its real; summer is here and my eyes know that as they are blinded by the bright daffodil yellow of the sun. The sun is just rising up from spring and venturing into summer. The blackbird wants to make sure everyone knows that by singing its song. It wants you to know summer brings hope, the cold of winter is past and summer brings more than the blackbirds song.

Again we had some fab discussion about where the prompt had taken us although thankfully we were never asked to read aloud what we have written. Our next task was a little longer, five minutes I think and our prompt was to start with ‘I feel happy when…’

I feel happy when I hear my daughter laugh. Not just a quiet smile but a raucous giggle. I feel happy when my husband and I get time just to be. We don’t have a lot of money at the moment but I feel happy when this makes me realise money doesn’t buy happiness. It does pay the mortgage however and knowing that is paid makes me happy too!
I feel happy when I am reminded how loved I am and when I am held in strong arms. I feel happy when I am well. Not every day because life is not linear it has ups and downs but when I stop to appreciate what I have. I am happy but happiness can be elusive.

The next task I found very difficult. I had to imagine I was an object in a room and write as that object about an emotion I was experiencing. Write from the view point of an inanimate object? What the heck?

I can’t say I picked because it was more like my pen picked as the thoughts flowed through the ink of my biro and I found myself writing from the point of view of a clock hanging on my living room wall:

I am ticking. Tick tock tick tock tick tock. She keeps looking over, I think she thinks I am getting louder. I think I am all she can hear. She has zoned out, she looks like she stopped listening as the nurse described how poorly she had found her upon first assessing her. Tick tock tick tock tick tock.I can see her almost processing her memories, trying desperately to put them in some sort of order. I have watched her for years hung on this wall but never seen her as distant or vacant as she has been in recent weeks. She usually runs the household looking at me but now she doesn’t even shower.
Tick tock tick tock tick tock… She can’t look at me and shout ‘come on we are late’ because she no longer goes anywhere.
The nurses visit and they glance over at me too. They see her desperation and try, try so hard to give her hope but they hear my call also, tick tock tick tock. She understands though, she is a nurse too.
As the weeks go by the nurses get to know her. She is more able to talk freely and without the delay which cursed her for weeks. One day she laughs and it drowned out my voice tick tock tick tock. I wish I could tell her not to count the minutes but to count the moments.
Moments are priceless and it is moments which give happiness which is what she craves. It is that we all crave. Tick tock tick tock tick…

The next task was to imagine we were a detective walking into our own homes and making a judgement about the person who lives there. I was to write from the perspective of this detective:

This person has so much to remember, no wonder they have a white board on the back of the front door. Nurse appointments, Doctor appointments, occupational health appointments and reminders about non-uniform days and money needing to be paid for school trip, Guides trip and Sunday School trip. I move through to the living room to see photos of a happy family, the mother looks so different to the tired looking woman who let me in.
I see a bible and a Christian book beside the fire. A tired woman but a woman with faith and therefore hope lives here. I see a basket of paste eggs on the side board, all brightly coloured. Maybe the mum did these with the daughter? Maybe she is feeling a little better?
I see a pile of paperwork next to a laptop; I am well and it looks overwhelming to me so how must this mother feel looking at this?
Cards on the fireplace suggest she is loved by many and that her colleagues hope she will be back at work soon, coupled with the letter half written on the open laptop which would suggest she wants to return too.
I thought the woman had gone out but wandering through this home I hear her breathing heavily and realise she is asleep.

The final task we did was a reflective piece of writing based upon a graded visualisation the leader of the workshop read out to us:

I found this more difficult than I imagined I would. I dislike sitting with my eyes closed in a room full of people. I don’t feel comfortable with that, I don’t know why. My discomfort with this took me a little by surprise. My dislike of this task overtook my thoughts and I missed the first part of the graded visualisation task. When I re-engaged with the teachers voice I heard her describe walking through a rocky cave or cavern and my mind wandered. I found myself thinking about the 1980’s film ‘The Goonies’ and about the characters walking through the underground cave and caverns. I was waiting to hear the teacher describe an opening leading to an amazing aqua blue lagoon with a traditional wooden pirate type ship. I desperately tried to bring my mind back but I was lost in this happy memory of a thirty odd year old film. Maybe I shall try to watch it with my daughter this Easter holidays?
I heard the teacher say that through the next cave was an opening with light pouring in and a luscious green hill in front of me. I was back engaging with the exercise. The green hill was so vibrant against the pale blue with only a scattering of bright whilte clouds of the sky. I could smell the grass, not the urban smell of grass recently cut but a natural smell of grass which has grown there for centuries and which is home to all manner of creatures. Lots of creatures including the ladybird I just saw, it had four spots and was the brightest scarlet red I have ever seen. The ladybird spread its wings and flew away; maybe it didn’t like being looked at?
I was stood still breathing in deep lungfuls of country air and feeling quite blessed by the absolute glory of God’s creation when I heard the teacher remind us this was an exercise and bring us back in the room.

It was time to go home.

I have never done anything like this before so these short writing tasks were a totally new experience for me. Whether it is any good or not I shall leave to the readers but I did enjoy it and I shall absolutely book on another workshop of writing for well being, it really got my brain ticking over in a way it haven’t for so many months whilst I’ve been ill.
Anyway I have typed this as it was hand written quickly in 3 minute bursts so feel free to ask if anything doesn’t make sense.

I really recommend the Writing for Wellbeing workshops Laura does… check out her website: 

http://www.writingforwellbeing.co.uk/

Circus Skills… CPN Life.

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Oh my word by anyone’s standards 2016 has been difficult for me in so many ways with family illness then subsequent bereavement with one of those family members, our ongoing infertility issues, a cancer scare and a change of job with pressures which have left me questioning my own capabilities daily. I feel like I have spent months walking a tight rope with my own mental well being. I have written recently about how I have felt here

I’m a mental health nurse, not a circus acrobat, so walking an emotional tight rope has felt dangerous. I have stumbled and nearly fallen on so many occasions, arms outstretched with a wobble and a dance the one we all do until just at the last moment we correct out footing and just about manage to prevent the fall. My colleagues and I are all mental health professionals; nurses, psychiatrists, psychologists and social workers to name but a few and whilst we are acutely aware our own well being and that of each other what we aren’t overly good at is being kind to ourselves and looking after our own well being, we are for each other but rely on coffee and a couple of custard creams so sustain ourselves. Turns out that is not enough. Continue reading

Choose Life… (Trigger Warning – Suicide)

TRIGGER WARNING – TALKS ABOUT SUICIDE IN A GRAPHIC AND DESCRIPTIVE WAY, PLEASE DO NOT READ IF THIS IS LIKELY TO TRIGGER YOU.

 

The night I tried to end my own life I was as calm as I had ever felt, I was sure that taking my own life was my only option. I had a new baby, a great husband, a well paid job and a home in a lovely village lined with blossom trees. You get where I am going with this? Suicidal thoughts are often, not exclusively, but often a symptom of mental illness and mental illness does not discriminate, it can affect anyone at any time. It affected me and it nearly cost me my life, my daughter her mother and my husband his wife. Continue reading

Waiting for the rain to fall…

I weep in the shower so no one will see my tears fall,

I scream silently so as not to make people feel uncomfortable,

I smile broadly when people ask how many children I have and I reply “just one beautiful daughter”

I cry when I chop onions and I cry when the wind blows against my face. I cry when no one will ask me why. 
I watch our daughter blossom and smile at the young lady she is becoming,

She doesn’t see my tears in the swimming pool as she says “watch me mum” knowing she won’t seek my approval for much longer.

Once again my tears are hidden by the water, yesterday the shower and today the swimming pool. I have enough love in my heart to have two children shout “watch me mum”, I can’t bear this being how the story ends in my journey of motherhood. 
My smile when I talk about my daughter is so genuine but my eyes remain sad. My eyes tell the story of a journey of motherhood different to the one I always anticipated I would have. 
I envisaged a big table with several children all doing their homework whilst I stood chatting asking them about their school day and cooking something nourishing for their dinner. 
Making the decision to have another child after such serious postnatal depression that left me hospitalised for 5 months last time was huge for us as a couple. We made the decision then decided I must complete my nursing degree first and establish my career again. So long before we were trying, which seems like forever now, we were planning therefore in the years since we made the choice we always anticipated our desire to have a baby would come to fruition quickly. We had an appointment with a perinatal psychiatrist a year ago now and formulated a plan which we anticipated we’d need before long, it hadn’t entered our head we might still be waiting. 

Some women are not as fortunate as me, some women will never answer “yes one beautiful daughter” and I can only imagine the torment they feel. I don’t feel worthy of the tears that fall when I remember the blessing of our daughter. God blessed me with a daughter and my tears are disrespectful. My tears show I don’t trust His plan for my life. 
I pray that one day I will hold another babe in my arms, the thought of not becoming a mum again is too much to bear. We haven’t planned anything this year, no holidays, no weekends away, I didn’t even enter the Great North Run. Why? Because we assumed I’d either be poorly with sickness (I had hyperemesis last time) or that I’d be hugely pregnant and not up to going far. Neither are true and yet our lives are still on hold. 
Each month it gets harder, each month I stand in the rain to disguise my tears for a little bit longer and peel a few more onions. Next time you go to make small talk and ask someone if they ever thought about having another baby or indeed whether they want children at all; don’t. Please don’t. It’s the hardest lie in the world to retain ones composure when waiting for the rain to fall. Hold my hand and stand with me in the rain please. 

Being patient being the patient… 

I offer a disingenuous smile as I accept directions from the nursing assistant to the xray department in our local hospital. I smile to stop tears from falling as I am so afraid. I found the lump in my breast on the bank holiday weekend we had at the end of last month so it was a few days before I could see my GP. I kept telling myself that it was ok and felt sure that my GP would say it was nothing, just fibrous tissue maybe?

My GP was lovely and smiled kindly as she said that usually at my age she would ask me to return in a couple of weeks at a different point in my cycle but that my new found lump was ‘so significant’ she didn’t want to wait and that she would refer me to our local hospital. My ears pricked up at that point when I heard her tell me that she was referring me on the two week pathway. I knew what she meant, she hadn’t said the words but I heard her questioning breast cancer loud and clear. 

I am a nurse, I’m used to examining the evidence base of my actions therefore that’s what I did with the help of Google when I got home. So now full possession of the evidence would tell me that statistically I am in a really low risk group for breast cancer, that most lumps in women my age are harmless but I could still close my eyes and see visions of my daughters graduation and her wedding day without me in it. 

My appointment came through in the post within a couple of days and as per the pathway was within two weeks of seeing my GP. 

As luck would have it, and I say that in the loosest sense of the word, we had a CQC inspection at work during those two weeks so I was left with little time to think about the lump and the implications which could come with that. 

My husband took the morning off work to come with me and my boss told me to take as much time as I needed today and not to rush back to the office, I had told a few friends and they text me to tell me they were thinking about me and praying for me. They reminded me my strength is always in Christ which never fails to make me feel stronger to face whatever challenge life throws at me. 

I arrived for my appointment and was seen by a consultant and a nurse who asked me about family history and my own medical history. The consultant then examined me, he agreed he could feel a lump so gave me a slip of paper to take to another department where I was to have a mammogram and an ultrasound scan. He spoke warmly with a reassuring tone in his voice which was exactly what I needed to hear at that moment. I attended for my mammogram first and realised in the small room how alone and how vulnerable I felt. As I undressed I was struck by how naked I felt, not just physically but emotionally. The radiographer sensed my nerves and talked me through the procedure. She asked me to sign a form to confirm I wasn’t pregnant and as we have been trying to become pregnant for a year now this stung more than a little as I signed to confirm not. The harsh clamp of the mammogram made me hold my breath, I wondered in those seconds whether I would ever breathe again. I felt like I was drowning, not in water but in a lust for life I was terrified I wouldn’t get to experience. I was drowning in moments I found myself wondering if I would maybe never have. 

I was then returned to my husband who knowingly squeezed my hand, we have seen off worse challenges than this as a couple. His hand squeeze told me it would be ok whatever the result. After a short wait I was called through to ultra sound where again I was asked to remove my clothes and felt so painfully vulnerable again. The consultant radiographer and her assistant were both wonderful putting me at ease, they talked me through what could have been a deeply dehumanising process whilst ensuring my dignity at all times. As I lay on my back in the ultrasound room I felt a lone tear roll down the side of my face, the emotions of the day beginning to escape without my permission. The radiographer noticed and offered a caring smile, I explained how long we had been trying to conceive and how I had envisaged being in an ultrasound room for such a different reason this year. I hide my disappointment over that behind a smile daily as people as questions such as how many children I have. I scream silently and try never to show that emotion other than to a select couple of people yet today it spilled out of my eyes and I told a complete stranger in the radiographer. 

Back to the clinic I went clutching an envelope which I knew sealed my fate, she she passed it to me the nurse said to use the walk back round to think of any questions and to use the time with the consultant to clear my mind of any worries so I can go home with less weight on my shoulders. Good advice I thought. It’s a strange thing to be the patient when so often I am the nurse, it’s a good reminder how the small comments of care and compassion make such a difference to a patients journey. I shall think on that this week as I plan the care I deliver. 

Waiting to be called back in to see the consultant my heart was beating so hard I thought my rib cage was at risk of bursting. What if it was bad news?

I suspect the consultant is an incredible poker player because I scanned his face for clues as we entered the room but nothing was disclosed by his face. He quickly told me that he had seen nothing sinister on the scan or the mammogram but as he can feel a lump he would like to do a needle biopsy. I have a blood clotting disorder so a needle biopsy would need clotting factor treatment beforehand therefore given the probability of risk after seeing the scans etc we decided to wait a few weeks and see if the lump disseminates on its own or if it is still there in 8 weeks when he has asked me to return to clinic he will do a biopsy then. 

I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, my heart was going almost as fast as my brain which has been like a hamster wheel for the past week. I headed to work almost on automatic pilot, trying to process the morning. I felt such relief at what he had told me but with a much reduced but still evident sense of foreboding at the fact he may still do the biopsy in 8 weeks if the lump is still there. 

I usually do well to mask my emotions from the world so today was difficult for me to admit my vulnerability. The nursing and medical staff were to be highly commended for putting me at ease, for making a difficult day a little easier. As I reflect upon today I an reminded how frightening being the patient can be. Being a patient today will influence the nurse I am tomorrow with the care I deliver. Those who cared for me today personified the values we all aspire to hold in the NHS, I hope I do that for others. I’m so tired now yet my brain won’t switch off. Hopefully I will rest soon. Good night folks. Xx

Broken Vases…

Last year I published a blog post about my thoughts on the Rotherham report, I received some very kind feedback but also some heart wrenching disclosures from people about their own experiences. One person telling me that I was the first person she had ever told about what she had endured. That blog post was written in anger and not even proof read, I just knew I needed to get it out of my head via my laptop before I would be afforded the luxury of sleep that night. Continue reading

Another chance

So I graduated yesterday, I wore my cap and gown feeling so incredibly proud. Not necessarily because I got a degree but because of what that degree stands for. My BSc Honours in Mental Health Nursing means I get to register as a nurse and do a job I love every day and this means so much more than the qualification itself. It means even more than this to me though, it means society has given me another chance, having already lost a career and a business to my own mental health difficulties this made my graduation yesterday especially poignant.

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A new era in mental health inpatient care…

I was invited to visit and have a look around my local trusts new mental health hospital but it got me to thinking of my first ever impression of a mental health hospital was being driven up the hill to a brand new build where I was to be admitted but passing the derelict red brick asylum buildings with their imposing shadow and being terrified of what was to greet me at the brow of the hill. As it was to turn out the hospital where I was to stay was state of the art and had only opened mere months before I arrived but I will never forget my fear at the fenced off terror I imagined behind the overgrown shrubbery.

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Recovery is a Process not a model

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You may have noticed my tweets recently asking about whether your local mental health NHS trust has a recovery strategy or recovery policy statement in place. I’m asking because I am part of a working group within my local trust considering this but it has got me thinking when I have had lots of retweets but not one person has been able to confidently reply and say that their trust has one in place.

So maybe I ought to start by asking myself what recovery is? I’m a third year student mental health nurse so often hear people talk about working with a ‘recovery model’ but I dispute this; recovery is not a model it is a process. Continue reading

Tightening the student belt..

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I knew that financially being a student again was going to be tough, I had been a student before I knew that there was always likely to be more month left at the end of the money than the other way around. Nothing prepared me for the hardship and sacrifices this past three years have brought us. Continue reading

Coastal therapy anyone?

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I was sat at home preparing a presentation I have to give tomorrow at university dipping custard creams in my coffee and wondering whether I could provide myself with sufficient excuse to not go to bootcamp class tonight. It’s only my excuse for me, it’s only me I need to justify it to but still it needs to be a good reason or I’d have to force myself to go.
My brain was dulled and my eyes sore from staring at the laptop screen so I decided I needed some fresh air. I needed to blow the cobwebs away and the gale force wind out here has certainly done that! Continue reading

The 6 C’s of being a Student Nurse

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All student nurses you will be familiar with the 6 C’s, the areas which the Francis report said nursing should concentrate upon. To be able to look after others though us student nurses must treat ourselves with those same 6 C’s that we afford our patients. This blog post is about how we can use those aspects of nursing we practice for others daily to get ourselves through the three gruelling years of nurse training. Continue reading

Last lap now…

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On the marathon that is a BSc Hons in Mental Health Nursing I am running the last lap, the final furlong, the sprint finish. Whatever you care to call it, THIS year I will be qualified as a Registered Mental Health Nurse. A handful of assignments, a presentation and a dissertation stand between me and that goal. I have a few weeks left in lectures to absorb the last bits of theory then an extended placement for about four and a half months known as the ‘management’ placement. Continue reading