Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Mental Health Awareness Week 2018 The past year.


As the darkness descends, the noises begin
 Footsteps, the wails and the keys jangling.
 Mind numbing pills that alter your mood
Bad dreams and flashbacks, they still intrude.

Mountainous fences to hold madness in,
Pacing of corridors just to keep thin,
Queues at the hatch to get daily meds
Bells and alarms invading your head.

This is no hotel or holiday camp
The pillows aren't plumped but tear stained damp
There is no pass key to access the door
This is your safe place, until we say go.

As it is Mental Health Awareness week I thought it time I posted an update.

My therapy sessions are going well and yes ,Dom is still wearing the purple jumper on a Wednesday.  We have been working on compassion focused therapy which in a nutshell is showing compassion and kindness to yourself and challenging the negative and unwelcome thoughts. This is not something which comes easy to me and involves a lot of homework and self discovery.

So I want to look back on the past year and recognise the achievements I have made rather than focusing on what I haven't done.  Some of you may have kept up to date with my facebook posts but for those of you who haven't, this is my past year.
  Trigger warning............please do not read further if you may be affected by suicidal ideation or self harm.

May 15th I was in my psychiatrists office with my eating disorders nurse for what I thought was a normal appointment brought forward a few weeks. The previous month I had been in a very bad place despite  a glorious holiday and Birthday celebrations.
My disassociation had got worse; I would often find myself in places and not aware of how I got there.
I was not managing my depression or my food intake, was having scary memories and flashbacks and thoughts of suicide came thick and fast.  The rapid change from being ok, to feeling sad or numb was my norm
There is a difference between thinking of taking your own life and planning it.  My thoughts came at different times.  I could get up happy and quickly descend into darkness. When I was starting to get my affairs into order was the day everything changed....
My psychiatrist had arranged a bed for me at a local acute mental health hospital but wouldn't be available until later that day or the next day.
 It was time for the control to be taken away from me.  The threat of a section was hanging over me If I refused to be admitted.  My illness was consuming me and I still fought to hang onto it.

I was luckier than most. At least my admission was slightly preplanned so I had time to get some personal effects packed, some which were taken away from be on admission as they were deemed a risk to myself.

We travelled to Taunton in silence, it was very daunting and I was terrified.
When we arrived at the ward a nurse introduced herself and took away my bags to be checked.She then offered to show us around the ward.  By this point I was already breaking down so we went straight to my room.  It was basic and sparse,  all ligature points had been removed meaning there were no taps just sensors, no headboard, no toilet seat, all furniture was foam and plastic, it was a 'safe place.' 
Kev said it was the worse day ever leaving me there.  I am so sorry for all the pain I put him and my family and friends through and will always be thankful for their support.

I was lucky to receive many visitors during my stay.  I had mixed reviews on whether they thought it was the right place for me.  I too had similar thoughts.  I didn't feel I fitted in and certainly didn't feel ill enough or deserving of the staff support.  In hindsight I now believe it was the right place.  It served a purpose, helped me to adjust to my medication and kept me safe.

I won't go into great detail about my admission but there are many things that stood out.
I began to recognise staff my their footsteps in the corridor.  I would cry at the noises at night, conflict between patients, the sounds of keys and the girl opposite banging her head on the wall.

I kept myself to myself at first, waiting until everyone had finished before I went into the dining room or sitting on my bed with the door locked. The thought of having to eat with strangers or being watched was paralysing.
 The patients came and went,many came back.  I was thankful to meet a few ladies who I was on a level with and we spent many evenings chatting and watching TV in the female lounge.  I am happy to say that they are both doing well and we meet weekly for coffee.

Most of the staff were caring and supportive although we did have a staff nurse who I named Nurse Ratchett.  If you have ever seen one flew over the cuckoos nest you will understand.
The ward was not set up for patients with eating disorders and often my support was inconsistent with my care plan, and recommendations from my Nurse and Dietitian were not followed.  Nurses said they did not have the skills to help me and I will admit to using this to my advantage at times.
I had a real insight into how people I support may feel.  Especially when your movements are restricted.

Because of my low BMI my activity was restricted.  I tried using the activities room but often it was closed due to staff shortages so we were left to occupy ourselves.  The day I was allowed to use my headphones was definitely a highlight.
At first I was allowed out for a walk with the staff or my visitors but this was soon restricted as I was  deemed to be burning too many calories. My Psychiatrist thought I was cycling!  I was actually going out on the back of Kevs motorbike.  The thought of Kev cycling from Burnham to Taunton would be a site to behold.
One Nurse was always happy to take me out for my 15 minutes 'exercise' so she could have a crafty cigarette, others were not so keen.  It makes me smile when I think of the staff member who said she didn't like walking so was not keen on taking me out.  I soon got her lost and exceeded my exercise time.

We had weekly ward rounds which consisted of myself, a nurse, Dr and the psychiatrist discussing my progress, future plans and home leave.
For the first few weeks I was not allowed leave but this didn't stop me asking Kev to take me home one day with a promise I would return.
The feeling of being in normal surroundings, my sofa, using my toilet and own bath made me appreciate all I have.  It was difficult to return to a place where I was not allowed to be free.
The future plan was to wait for a bed at an eating disorders unit in Bristol.  Unfortunately beds are not readily available so after my discharge from Rydon I waited another 5 weeks to move to the specialist unit.  I will save that for another post.

Back to friends.  I am thankful for all the cards, letters, gifts, visits, messages and videos that got me through.  In such a dark place they brought light to my day.
There has always been a stigma around Mental Health units and I want to stress to anyone reading this, do not feel ashamed or judged.  No-one bats an eyelid if you are inpatient for a broken limb, a broken mind is no different.
My story continues.

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