Saying No!

My therapist has a few phrases she loves to say, wise and always practical, she will often remind me of two vital components to living a healthy life, ( its been 4 years, and yet she perseveres, got to give it to her, she doesn’t give up) these two things are:

Self Care and the stories we tell ourselves.

I have been asking myself, what was  it that made me land up in the psychiatric ward last week? There must have been a build-up, a pressure boiler getting hotter and hotter, a story  occurring that eventually led me to my massive Bipolar manic episode.

My episodes are usually few and far between, and are usually over within a few hours. So what was different this time? Why, on this occasion was I unable to stop the racing thoughts, the need to be moving, the terrifying (for myself on some level , for others too) manic behaviour I was unknowingly displaying?

I think the answer is in those two words, self care.

The ability to say no is a skill that the sensible among us have learnt, to know your limits, to be able to say ” I would love to help you out, give you that ride, cook those meals for you, help organise the party, be class mum, take out that sick person, babysit your children, etc, but right now I need to focus on myself”

Its interesting, even writing the above, I felt selfish, as I type the thought  kept running through my head, ” but what if they are relying on you, need you to do that, the fact that they asked you means they thought you were the one to approach”.  The saying goes, “if you want something done, ask a busy lady”. Perhaps that busy lady is indeed so busy because we all keep asking her to do things for us?

Whilst in hospital a close friend came to visit, “Sara” said Abigail in her strictest tone of voice ” You have to stop doing so much for everyone else, do you think that by saying yes all the time, you are maybe covering  up for some kind of insecurity?”. Her perception really surprised me, at first a little hurt by her words but quickly recognising the absolute truth in them.

Do we say yes to people all the time, even when we are falling apart, even when we are crying inside for someone to give to us, even when we are just so tired of doing and doing and doing until we fall, exhausted and worn out in to bed because we have some constant voice in our minds, replaying the narrative that most of us have learned throughout our lives, “good people are the ones who do for others”. We see on all forms of media, the good of humankind, those that risk everything, those that stop at nothing to help the vulnerable, the suffering, the children who are hurting and hungry and that voice will tell us, in order to be seen as “good” this is what you have to do.

No one wants to, or should want to live a selfish life, we all need and aspire to do the best we can with the tools we have been given, but I have learned the hard way over the last few weeks, PRACTICE SELF CARE!

The stress I have been under wasn’t anything radical, we all deal with daily stresses, and need to be able to develop inner strength to cope with them, but it was a drip drip build up, it was a friends illness, a stillborn for someone else, another illness, being confided in about a the state of a friends sadness with her marriage, hearing about loss of finances for another, just doing, doing and doing more.

My body and my mind were telling me to say no, to let them know gently that right now I could not be present, I needed to look after me, but the insecurity inside, the part that drives us to try and please everyone, that part won.

So, what will I do next time? will I be able to say no when that person asks that favour? I hope so, even if it will be uncomfortable, even if my brain is rebelling against the words my mouth is speaking, I hope that I will be able to look deep inside, see what I need to do to be my best self, perhaps take on a little less, indulge in some me time, close the curtains, dont rush to answer those phone messages, learn that, hey, you know what, they will find someone else to do that thing that “only you” can do. Have a haircut, massage, nails done, a day away from everyone an everything.

Most of all, tell, tell the person who loves us most that we need to be selfish, if that person is ourselves, or a spouse, parent or friend, tell. We all need appreciation we all need physical and emotional acts of love.

Please take care of you.

Sara.

 

 

A week in the ward.

Since last Monday I have been on the psychiatric ward.

I tend to sometimes go on and on, trying to get people to understand mental health, to get people to realise that mental health is no different to physical health, that from a very young age it is essential that children are given the tools to understand there is no shame in talking about mental health.  This week  though I have realised that huge steps have been taken, during my first admission many years ago the messages, phone calls and visits were few and far between. The difference is so clear now, I have never had, whilst on the psychiatric ward so many supportive messages, people  wanting to visit and people actually visiting me.  The stigma and fear of mental health issues is slowly ( very slowly) disappearing.

I am aiming this article at staff, those who have chosen to work in a mental health ward, those who, when they started training wanted to do it in order to help those are  vulnerable and unwell.

Control. A word with so many meanings, mainly used in the negative, however there are many positives within the word, control of our spending, health, diet, home environment, hygiene, work life balance and more. We all need to have an amount of control over aspects of our lives.

When a person enters the psychiatric ward, there is no control, every decision is made for us, from the time we eat, sleep, take our medication to the amount we are allowed out, if we are allowed out on our own or need to be escorted, and in extreme cases whether one is able to visit the bathroom alone.

Every person on the ward is suffering in their own way, the staff have a duty of care to ensure we feel safe, cared for and are not invisible. The things  I have experienced within the last week goes directly against the above ethos.

There are staff who will take the time, who will listen to you, who you do not have to beg to be heard by.  Sadly though many staff are cold, uncaring and patronising.

Below I have pasted a few things I have written whilst on the ward.  I have also made a formal complaint, which I have copied  below.

A Poem I wrote after being admitted to the psychiatric ward:

I am back inside
the doors are locked
there is nowhere to hide

It all started I would say a while ago
when the stress built up
I just couldn’t say no

watching your every move and noting the way you have behaved
telling you they don’t understand why your so stressed
to their wants you have become enslaved

is this a hospital or a prison cell
where is the love? the warmth and care
that would make us feel well

fast asleep way before dawn
the monotony of the day making you so folorn
even sleep can not bring escape for the situation
the nurses standing around like statues at their assigned station.

Everything I ask the answer is no
its like they think I am stupid and slow
they say I can not have my phone wire in my room
each time I ask for something the answer is “soon”

Show some respect is what I scream in my mind
I am just as human as you all
please please just be kind

They say that we are here for our own protection
They assume we have no comprehension
Everyone here living a nightmare whilst awake
Honestly I dont know how much more living I can take

The bipolar that I need to live with for the rest of my life
all I want is a quiet brain free of racing thoughts and inner strife.
it may sound so bad for me to proclaim
That I wish I was diabetic, had epilepsy, is that completely insane?

None sets up a meal rota for those with struggling with mental health
All meetings and appointments are carried out with stealth
Just this morning I was hit and my phone thrown to the ground
that incident increased my fear, no peace for my brain can be found

Please someone take this illness away
I dont want to live with this each and every day
always having to be on alert
making sure that myself I never hurt

Can no one understand what I am feeling right now

PLEASE HELP ME SOMEONE, SOMEHOW.

Email ( Formal Complaint):

To whom it may concern.

Please treat this as a formal complaint.

Last Monday (16.12.2019) I was admitted on to the ward above.

I was unwell with my Bipolar and was very manic.

The day staff on the whole are good, kind people, who greet you, take time to talk to you and ensure that you are made to feel like a human being who is unwell.

Everyone on the ward is here for our safety, for support and the care we need to recover.

Thankfully I have almost recovered and hope to be discharged tomorrow.

I would like to make a formal complaint regarding the night staff on the ward.

First, they are just plain rude, I know they are busy but they ( and I mean all of them) do not talk to patients unless they are being disruptive, they talk loudly between themselves, and medication is given at 9pm. We are not children, giving us our medication at such an early hour, ensures for them that the patients will fall asleep and they will have a quiet night. When I requested that medication be given slightly later, again I was ignored, it was as if I was invisible.

This morning I was woken at 5am by a staff member walking down the corridor jingling her large bunch of keys so loudly, the staff member then proceeded to noisily open my door saying to someone else this is Sara.

I have requested a few times that we are shown respect, when we are sleeping ( and sleep is essential for recovery) the staff should not be in the corridor by the bedrooms, laughing and joking on top of their voices.

Every request we make is greeted by eye rolls, sighs and being told, like we are children that “you have to wait, we are busy”. When it is perfectly clear they are not busy, rather shouting and laughing with each other, discussing their secret Santa gift exchange or their Christmas party.

Every morning I have been wakened ( and so have others) by the staff just barging in to the room. Each room has a window with blinds which can be opened from the outside, there is no reason the staff need to wake people so early.

It is a matter of respect, of empathy, of understanding that we, just like them are adults, with lives, with jobs, family and community.

The nights here are horrendous, staff so cold and rude.

Please let me know how you will be proceeding with this complaint.

Yours sincerely.

I am not a trained nurse, rather an observer, some may say I have no idea what it is like to be a nurse on this ward, however, I feel that even those of us who do not have any formal training can give our view, even if that view is met with scorn and dismissal.

A list I wrote, which I will be giving to the ward manager:

Some advice from a patient:

1. We all understand that staff are humans, that they have stressful days, but please don’t take that out on us. We can all hear you yelling at your colleges, or when you come out the office and are snapping at each other.
2. Please smile at us, know that we have a mental health issue, just like others may have a physical health issue, we are not criminals, we have jobs, families, a community, friends etc.
3. It is so upsetting when we are talking to you and you shrug us off, or as we are speaking completely ignore us.
4. We are not in prison, this is a hospital not a jail, give people respect, let those who are able to have certain things, like their phone chargers in their rooms. At times like this when we are in hospital our possessions are everything to us.
5. The rooms are like cells, clinical, cold and bare, perhaps think of something that can be put in to the rooms to make them a bit warmer and homely.
6. Don t be so strict on allowing those who are able to only come and go at prescribed times, if you think that someone is trustworthy but have only been given 4 times fresh air breaks maybe use your initiative and let them go once or twice more.
7. When you promise a patient you will be with them in 5 minutes, then ignore them for hours don’t be surprised if he/she gets angry and upset. We have so little that we control, that when we are told 5 minutes and it turns out not to happen we get upset.
8. If you tell a patient you are going to do something for them, don’t make them ask 100 times. Just do it.
9. We appreciate you have a hard job, but you have chosen to be in the care profession, so do just that “care”.
10. Give people dignity, it is not acceptable that a patient is sitting on the toilet and a nurse is standing outside and the door is wide open, so everyone walking by sees the patient sitting half naked on the toilet, give people the dignity you would want for yourself, sure if you have to watch her, do that but close the door half way, so that the poor girl isn’t sitting there with everyone being able to see her.
11. Today I was attacked twice, for no reason, a girl punched me and then later on she cornered me and threw my phone on the floor twice, a nurse was standing right there and did nothing to intervene, I was terrified, I called help a few times but none came. The nurse saw everything going on and did nothing.
12. Thank you for everything you do for us.

My hope and wish is that someone, even it is one person will read this, and accept that whilst psychiatric nursing is a really stressful job, we all deserve to be treated with dignity. To have our fears heard, to not be ignored and treated like filth on the street.

Thank you to all those staff who do this job for the love of helping people.  It is you who help us recover.

 

With love

Sara.

 

 

 

There is no one available to take your call…..

So, its been a while since I have heard those words, speaking to someone on the phone is a rare, strange, antiquated idea.  Why speak, when you can text, instant message, snapchat, tweet, WhatsApp  etc. etc.

Sending someone a message asking if they can talk usually is met with silence whilst they stroke their chin thoughtfully pondering the correct response to such an unusual and absurd suggestion.

Therapists, especially therapists, NEED! to answer immediately to a message, its a thing us in therapy know, if they don’t answer when we NEED them it is to quote Anne (with an E…great Netflix show!) “truly tragical”.

In our minds, at certain times, especially when we are feeling low or vulnerable sending a message to our therapist is our call out, we want to feel remembered, that we are of some importance to them, that they are there for us. Its a little like a child  meeting a teacher outside of school, children worldwide are continuously shocked that a teacher has a life outside school ( who knew… huh !) Surely the teacher/therapist is sitting, quietly awaiting her pupil/client to show up, contemplating everything that was discussed at the last lesson/session. Her thoughts completely focused on that particular person.

Some things a therapist does not have are these:

  • Family
  • Friends
  • Shopping to do
  • Chores or other issues to deal with
  • Work
  • Other clients
  • Appointments
  • Their own issues and worries
  • Other places to go/other people to see.
  • Holidays
  • Self care time
  • Illness
  • Childcare

And the list goes on.

The last couple weeks have been stressful, lots of different sad situations coming my way, so obviously am feeling a wee bit vulnerable.  If I messaged a friend and they did not reply, I would (rarely) A. pick up the phone to them. B. wonder if I had done something to upset them, and then pick up the phone and call  them. C. Get mad at them and then pick up the phone and call them. D. Forget about it and then eventually pick up the phone and call them.

The relationship to a therapist is obviously unique, as much as we would sometimes like them to be, or on a bad day even have a little fantasy that they are our friends ( or mother/father… but that’s a whole different conversation) they are not, and they have boundaries which can not be crossed.

It is difficult though to remember that even if your ( or mine.. because ultimately I am actually talking to myself here) therapist does not reply immediately, or one day later or two, or even acknowledges your message at all, that does not mean that they  think you (or me) are:

  • Annoying
  • Needy
  • Demanding
  • Pathetic
  • Have no boundaries
  • Selfish
  • Not important
  • your issues are meaningless ( to those they see with “real” issues).

And any other millions of tangled messages your brain sends to you, hitting you over and over again, bringing down your self love and self esteem.

I know that I and others, will scribble a message and press send, swearing or “shouting ” at the therapist, telling them in our frustration that we don’t need them, want them, they are no good anyway etc, then quickly try to “delete for everyone” in the warped hope that maybe they would have glanced at the message, and seen you have deleted a message, and as a consequence we hope they have thought of us, even if for  a fleeting moment.

So, next time your feeling low, and really really need some care from your therapist, here’s something to try…. write a blog!

 

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