Tuesday, May 22, 2012

HfC day 21 (a day late) Healers with Heart

I didn't get round to blogging yesterday; however, I did pluck up courage to share this month's challenge with my FB friends... and got an amazing response. In addition to more visitors to the blog than had ever been on one day before (by about a factor of 10), friends wrote some really touching comments on my FB post and a few even sent messages, which were incredibly powerful and made me feel very loved. Given that the idea of sharing on FB was terrifying to me - because writing about my feelings and then allowing people I know the chance to read about them feels a lot like running naked through a big party of all my family and friends - I was overwhelmed by the encouragement.

However, I don't want to miss yesterday's prompt because, having previously included a letter to Cambridge and Peterborough Foundation Trust, who completely failed to act as "healers" to me, let alone "healers with heart", I want to balance the scales by mentioning the professionals that have helped me.

I was first referred to the ED team at what is now Birmingham and Solihull Mental Health Foundation Trust way back in 1998. My first meeting was with an inexperienced young doctor and I'll admit to finding it traumatic. It was the first time I'd had a psychiatric assessment (I don't remember being assessed like that by the psychiatrist I was under when I was 11). I didn't want anything to do with the service and was cross because she advised against me going off to uni. She was, of course, right that it was not a good idea for me to go at that time, as I realised when I visited a friend in London a few weeks later and couldn't walk unaided down the street. 6 or 8 weeks after that first meeting, things had reached a crisis point. I received a letter one morning saying that the next appt with the ED team had had to be postponed. This threw me into sheer panic: the thought that someone might be able to help me had been my focus and I couldn't cope with another few weeks of how my life was at that stage. My dad took me to the GP surgery. The very young female GP who saw me (a definite healer with heart) cancelled all her other appts for that morning and rang through to Dr Robertson, the lead consultant in the ED team. I think it was a Friday and he said he would see me on the Monday. He advised her on how to keep me safe over the weekend... basically, she kept popping round to the house with Diazepam.

That Monday, I went back to QEPH outpatient dept with both parents. I remember very clearly when Dr Robertson came out into the waiting area, he came straight over to me and said 'you must be Linda'. I had no idea how he knew who I was, but looking back, I suppose I probably looked like someone who was very poorly with anorexia. He spoke to me for a while. I don't remember any of that conversation. Then my parents came in too. He told us that he felt I should go into hospital asap. Unfortunately, he had no free beds on the Reed unit so said he would arrange an NHS-funded bed at the local Priory clinic. We went home with a prescription for temazepam (because I was refusing to let myself sleep - thinking that sleep was lazy) to wait for a phone call with more instructions.

On the Weds, a girl on the Reed unit discharged herself so I was offered her bed rather than the Priory one. Funnily enough, back then the unit was very fixed on its admission days so I had to wait till Monday to go in; nowadays Dr R brings people in as soon as there's a bed and they agree because of the tendency for people to try to lose a bit more while waiting. For me, going in straight away would have saved me a scar on my forehead: I wouldn't let myself sleep even with temazepam and I cut my head open falling down the stairs in the early hours of the morning, attempting to go downstairs and keep busy. Over the phone, A&E advised my mother not to bring me in because they'd have to admit me to a general psych ward and the on-call psychiatrist thought it would be better for me if I could stay at home until going into the Reed. My poor mum (another healer with heart) had to sleep across the doorway to my room for the next few nights to stop me trying to wander again.

I was really poorly when I was admitted to the hospital. I couldn't see it at the time and thought I was too big to be there. I told the person admitting me that it was 'just like when I was the biggest baby in the special care baby unit'. Some of the people from that admission are still there, even though the service is now housed in a new hospital building and the unit has a different name. Dr R, my psychologist, some of the nursing assistants. The NAs that I'm thinking of seem to have infinite capacity to care. They know us at our worst and yet continue to believe in us and continue to encourage everyone to keep going.

It's probably a bit trite to say that I believe BSMHFT saved my life but I think they probably have. On at least 3 occasions. Amongst ourselves, my friends and I can often moan about individual aspects of the service: what is the point of morning support group? why do they keep employing Dr Thingummybob? agency staff should not be allowed to do dining room support... especially if they are going to answer their phone while in there, or stare, or make strange comments.

But beyond the complaints, there is a service that continues to help people and, unlike CPFT, it does not give up on anyone. Within the service there are individuals that to whom I wish I could articulate how strongly I appreciate the things that they have done for me. Some things are big; others might just be a squeeze of my shoulder as I walked out of the dining room after a really hard meal. Through that, they show that they aren't just showing up to pick up a wage but that their hearts are present with them, and with us as we attempt to get better.

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