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/

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. 

My thoughts on The Stanford Uni case…

It has been a while since I blogged but the Stanford University case has left me angry and utterly bereft at rape culture in western society in equal measure so I felt I needed to write about this. I read the impact statement written and read bravely aloud by the victim of Brock Turner with tears in my eyes, the hash reality of her words mirroring the harsh reality of rape. The violation of sexual assault does not deserve flowery verbiage, when she described how “You do not know me yet you have been inside of me” this is a line so many women will have read and related to, even more will have related to yet and yet will have known their attackers.

I’m sure we all remember that famous front page of the Independent newspaper in the UK a few years ago showing the stark difference between the number of rapes which occur, the number who report their rape, those who get as far as court and then the pitifully low number who get a conviction. What that incredibly shocking front page didn’t go as far as to show was for those very few who succeed in conviction following prosecution how poor the sentences imposed often are. It answers the age old question as to why so few women report rape.

The outcry at Brock Turner only being sentenced to six months imprisonment in all honesty would have probably gone unnoticed were it not for the callous remarks made by the judge passing the sentence. Judge Persky shared his concern that a longer sentence could have a “severe impact” upon the life of the young athlete turned rapist. As someone who has experienced rape, albeit not stranger rape, I can assure you Judge Persky that his actions DID have a severe impact however they had that impact on his victim. The impact on Brock Turner has a different name altogether, that name is Consequences!

Next to step in to this by now infamous case discussion was Brock Turner’s father who could have chosen to stay silent out of respect for his son’s victim or even given commentary that he stood by his son but that he recognised he needed to be punished. He didn’t choose either of those options, he chose instead to try to shame his son’s victim again by stating that in his opinion “20 minutes of action” shouldn’t ruin his son’s life. One doesn’t have to look far to realise where Brock Turner got his morals and sense of entitlement. His son’s “20 minutes of action” will have life long implications for his victim, she may heal well but his actions will still catch her off guard on occasion; she may find herself seeing his face instead of her husbands when making love or the pain he caused her physically may return during an intimate examination or may intrude on what should be her perfect experience of childbirth. His “20 minutes of action” will be with her for life.

Brock Turner was found guilty and his victim should have been comforted that he was being punished for his crime, no custodial sentence would ever compare to the life sentence she was awarded on that January night. No prison sentence will ever restore her dignity or her mindset. She can and hopefully will heal emotionally as well as physically however she will forever see the world through tinted glasses. Her vision tinted, tainted even, with the violation of that night.

Actions have consequences and no mitigation offered by Turner such as his blaming of “peer pressure”, “party culture” and “drinking” make him any less culpable for his crime. Although rape culture in western society does take all of these things into account, if it didn’t he would have been sent to prison for far longer. If it didn’t then he may never have felt that his behaviour was acceptable and never have acted this way. It seems that although both Turner and his victim were intoxicated his intoxication is deemed to offer mitigation for his actions yet her intoxication have society questioning if she brought this upon herself.

Let me be very clear here alcohol does not make people rape or indeed make people get raped. Rapists cause rape. Not difficult as a concept is it?

In the same way short skirts or walking home alone or even a premiscuous past do not cause rape. One thing causes rape; Rapists. Brock Turner has released a statement sayig he wishes to educate his peers on the dangers of drinking excess alcohol, here’s an idea – educate them on consent!!! It’s simple really if someone doesn’t say yes then that is a no. If they say no, struggle or are even simply unconscious and unable to consent then this is rape.

As a society we teach our daughters how not to get raped, we tell them not to wear certain things and not to walk home alone late at night but we don’t teach our son’s not to rape. We talk about the dangers of alcohol and drugs but not about consent. Does it make you uncomfortable? Maybe it should! Rape is an uncomfortable subject and a life changing experience. Brock Turner has talked about a culture of promiscuity, I have not heard anyone refer to forcibly penetrating someone with a foreign object as promiscuity, just rape.

The victim in this case has said she has chosen to remain anonymous because “I am every woman” well “I am every woman” too and so are some of my friends and we stand along side her. We stand together to raise each other up when one of us doesn’t have the strength in our legs to hold us up. We stand together to challenge rape culture. We stand together to say victim blaming is not acceptable. We must ultimately teach our son’s not to rape and not simply rely on teaching our daughters to wear longer skirts.

My Journey…

I gave a talk tonight at the Annual Members Meeting of the Mental Health trust for which I am a governor, my talk was about my journey of recovery and what it meant to me as I made the transition from service user to staff nurse, the words that follow are what I read:

My first contact with mental health services was in 2007 following the birth of my daughter, Eve. After she was born I knew straight away that I didn’t feel right. I spent the first five weeks after she was born racing around, I decorated my entire flat and held a dinner party every night for three weeks! When my daughter was five weeks old depression hit me like a shovel in the face, I didn’t just slow down, I stopped. Continue reading

Happy Fathers Day!!!

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So you’d have to be walking around in a bubble to have failed to notice all the father’s day posts across social media today, my facebook and twitter feed have been full of posts varying from those who are expressing their thanks and love felt towards their father to those saying how much they miss their now passed father. Lots of other variations were added to the mix too including the fathers who have posted how much their miss their children who their ex partner refuses to allow them access to and then the single mums posting how they do the job of both parents. All very valid and appropriate points to make. Continue reading

Nearly a statistic; Postnatal depression

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Trigger Warning re childhood abuse/birth trauma/suicide

I have been involved with a piece of work with the midwifery education school at my local university, the same one incidentally I am due to graduate from this summer with a BSc Hons Mental Health Nursing although this is totally separate to my academic studies.
What started as an email saying ‘you’ve talked about having had postnatal depression haven’t you?’ has evolved over the past 14 months into something I am exceptionally proud of. The email was from someone I have come into contact with in a service user voice worker capacity and on behalf of a senior midwifery lecturer at the uni, we agreed to meet for a coffee in December 2012 to discuss what was being asked and how it could work. 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

Nature or Nurture?

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I have just watched the Kerry Katona documentary on catch up for Channel 5, it’s called ‘My Secret Past’ and is worth a watch. I have long believed that my battle with mental illness is a combination of the two, that I have a genetic predisposition but that trauma I experienced during my childhood triggered it off. I guess it’s no different to someone having a genetic predisposition to heart disease but whether that person eats a fry up for breakfast then sits on their backside everyday makes a difference to whether they trigger those heart problems off or not.

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Letter to my younger self…

Ten things I wish I could tell my younger self:

1. To always have hope. Through both mental illness and via situations I have faced I’ve felt hopeless at times in my life. I can’t necessarily change how I think or feel when in the grips of mental illness but I can change how I deal with situations that life will invariably throw at me in the future. I have ‘Dum vita est spes est’ tattooed around my ribs which means whilst there is life there is hope in Latin. I truly believe that no matter how utterly hopeless you may feel at any given moment if you just keep on going moment by moment it can get better. So no matter how low one feels it is important never to take a permanent action to solve a temporary feeling. Continue reading

Was Larkin right?

Did Phillip Larkin have it covered when he penned his famous poem which was entitled ‘They fuck you up your mum and dad’?
I know that my own father emigrating and sending me a post card to say he had moved and my mother choosing her emotionally abusive husband over her child who was already vulnerable did have a profound impact upon my adult life but I feel comfortable that I have processed the emotions linked to my own childhood. I have enough insight to know that whether someone has the seemingly perfect childhood or if someone has some dreadful experiences those experiences all help us from the person we become. Continue reading

Is a mental health diagnosis a modern day equivalent of a straight jacket?

27521_103617956343859_280_nIs a mental health diagnosis a modern day equivalent of a straight jacket? I began to wonder this after a few conversations recently where the subject has come around to the different way people react to a person once they discover a diagnosis of mental illness. Continue reading

The best mum in the world…?

Mother’s Day, like Father’s Day, is a day which until I had my own child I dreaded. It has its own meaning now I am a mother and receive a card and treat, it’s a day to make me smile widely to show my pride at being a mammy.
Nearly all of the cards address ‘The best mother in the world’ and when that is not how you feel it seriously narrows the choice available to choose one. It’s not that I don’t love my mother, I do love her I just don’t feel that she deserves the title of Worlds Best Mother. Continue reading

Disclosure – The Sequel

Last month I blogged about how I respond when someone asks me why I have come into mental health nursing and received some positive feedback on that piece.
This morning a conversation between myself and a lovely, very dedicated and very experienced nurse turned to the subject of ECT or Electro Convulsive Therapy (I will write a whole blog on this in more depth sometime), she asked had I seen this treatment and it felt entirely natural to reply “seen it? I have had it!” Continue reading

Faith in Hope and Hope in Faith…

On a form if I am asked for ‘Religion’ I always put RC or Roman Catholic and recently I have questioned my allegiance to the Catholic Church. By this I do not mean I have questioned my faith as I feel strongly that I am guided in life but I mean that some of the actions or lack of actions of the Catholic Church have disturbed me and also I have been questioned as to how I can class myself as a catholic when I use contraception. I feel this blog may be as much for me to work out my thoughts on being a modern catholic woman as for me to share these thoughts with you.

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