Tag: peer support

Update long overdue!

It is a really hectic, up and down time at the moment and I’m much overdue posting. It has been hard to gather my words. I don’t make a habit of 2am posts – certainly not the best time of day for coherent writing – but I did not get to finish this earlier and it felt important to write before a big change coming up for me in the morning.

Belatedly, wishing you good things this New Year. I think I can just about say this since it’s still January! I’m praying that positive times and opportunities come for you and God’s blessings are shown to you to encourage you each day.

January is always a strange time, cold and empty in a way, after Christmas. Right now, so much seems unsettled, in the world, for my loved ones and in my personal life. I’ve written that before not long ago and of course it has not magically changed with the new year; if anything it seems all the more apparent. I’m trying to give generously of time and resources and friendship, for example to friends in need, and that’s how we encounter Christ in every day. But I’m feeling twisted apart inside because I come up against my limitations, what I cannot give and cannot resolve.  The family in my block, both of the partners seriously ill, whose Benefits have been suspended unresolved for weeks so they have no food, heating or electricity. My friend who has already suffered terribly and now faces more surgical procedures, my friend who has been homeless for almost a year and whose life may be in danger… to the thousands on thousands of people seeking asylum, the fear taking hold giving weight to insular policies that seem to offer protection but perhaps already spiral out of control. (The Mexico border “wall” seems to me to teetering somewhere between bizarre Divergent- trilogy-esque images and more than echoes of the Cold War era eastern block policies.)

I steer away from political issues in this blog but I think this turmoil hits ever closer to home. We hope that in times of hardship we come together and hold onto what matters most but I’m starting to think a certain level of hardship and fear brings only divisions. Then again, in my faith I believe somehow this must not be true because Jesus became Man to suffer and experience everything we suffer and go through. And He is all Love. Love came here, into the darkness and despair. Nothing changes Jesus. The despair and dark and hurt didn’t change Him, didn’t change love. So Love is here, Love suffers and struggles, but isn’t extinguished, so even in the hardest times, it’s love that remains – not division and conflict . I mustn’t lose sight of that.

This post has diverged somewhat from the update I originally planned. Probably to do with the fact that it’s 2am. I’m going to try to get back on track.

Since Christmas, I feel I have not been able to catch up at all. Usually, I have a big clear out, going through cupboards and drawers and so on and decluttering. I haven’t managed this at all. I’m frustrated with myself that I can’t keep on top of the housework at all. My emotions are bubbling over and have been for some time and I feel I have no resilience to cope with straightforward things. Saying that, maybe a lot is happening at the moment. I’m about to be discharged from the personality disorders community service I’ve had therapy in for the past 2 years. I’ve been trying to find support and things I can get in place for after my discharge. This has not been easy and actually it has been quite distressing because I have been promised a lot of treatment I haven’t had and I’m left with major mental health issues unadressed. On the positive side, I have made contact with a peer support worker and Recovery Coach who are going to help me short term and I think this will be really valuable. I have also signed up for some courses at a Recovery College, which I’ll post about (and explain) next week.

My physical health is not going through a great patch just now. The cold always makes the pain worse so that’s part of the reason. I have had to give in to the fact I need a wheelchair sometimes now and I’m looking at getting a mobility scooter. At least this will help me be less isolated and take a little stress away perhaps, because I’ll be more able to take part in things outside my home, like my volunteer work.

Practically at home, I am going rapidly up the wall at the company who should be repairing my boiler. I have had problem upon problem since November and now have no heating or hot water. I feel they have handled the whole thing terribly (7 canceled appointments for a start, having to phone 6 times to arrange a very simple thing, and so on, then them accusing me falsely of missing appointments). Ggrrr!! I know this is just part of life but in the state I’m in at the moment, I can’t cope with this, and feel very frustrated with myself for that. My emotions explode out of all control. Then I get angry with myself because so many people are going through so much worse.

A close friend has serious housing issues as well as a huge number of health problems. I’m trying to be there and do what I can. Cook hot food and support him with form filling and trying to get him a support worker who could help. It is a little way I can try to help and use the knowledge I’ve gathered from my own housing issues in the past.

I’m going to stop here. Later this morning is my last group therapy session and this will be a really really hard lot of goodbyes. I’ve been writing thank-yous and goodbyes, some of the hardest cards I’ve ever had to write. I’m sure I’ll write more about this last session and ending therapy, in the coming days. At the moment I’m struggling to find the words. I’ve cried so much today.

Ginny xxx

 

 

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Tuesday coffee group

Tuesday coffee group

Today is my day off. This morning was horrible with very bad back pain and feeling really low, but I managed to get out to a weekly coffee meeting. I can’t always go to this because of my work but I like to go when I can. I first started after I was in hospital, when another patient told me about it. It’s a kind of support group for local people with mental health needs, although it doesn’t take any particular structured form and is just like friends meeting for coffee. Most of us, including the lady who coordinates it – a lovely caring person who unobtrusively helps and advises many people in need – have been inpatients at some point in our lives. We all face a variety of mental health challenges. We don’t necessarily tend to be in touch between meetings but it is something regular in the diary to look forward to and where we know that we can talk about how things are if we need to, not talk if we don’t want to, where we empathise with each other and where there isn’t the usual pressure to keep up a front and appear “fine”. I think these sources of peer support are few and far between and I’m very grateful for it and the little cafe that welcomes us for a few hours every week.

Ginny xxx

[Image from “Gilmore Girls” (episode PS I love you) – created by Amy Sherman Palladino, all rights belong to respective artists]

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

On panic, lemons and stitching patterns

I’ve posted before about how I find that colouring intricate patterns can be very calming.

When I was an inpatient I drew and painted a few times, which I had not done for many years. I go through phases of doing a lot of cross-stitch embroidery or making greetings cards. It seems to be something that I do a lot of and then leave for a while then return to it. Sometimes I find it helpful and calming but other times, I really want to be able to do it but am not able to. If I try to push myself to, it just doesn’t work – I go wrong all the time when I try to follow a pattern, or I just can’t put together anything pretty. Then far from helping I feel dragged down lower. It’s as if when I am completely drained and lacking in emotional / mental energy, there is nothing with which to be creative. In those states I often need to sleep, or paradoxically, to do something physical like getting outside and walking.

I’ve been on two different wards as an inpatient. One of them had a variety of craft activities available and support to use them and discover and learn new ideas for projects. For example we learnt to make plaited bracelets, worked together to put together a collage display, coloured stained-glass window images, and so on. The peer support worker spent a lot of time facilitating these activities. The other ward did not really have such resources and there was nobody to support these kinds of activities. The first ward seemed much more an environment in which it was possible to focus on having hope of getting better and learning skills to cope. Of course the access to creative materials was not the only reason (I think the work of the peer support worker was very important and I will post about that separately). However I think it made considerable difference to how the days passed.

I think in working with simple materials to create something beautiful, you can empty your mind, practise mindfulness techniques, slow some of the frantic anxiety as you become absorbed in the task. The concentration it requires and the different sensations you encounter – textures of fabric and materials, sounds, colours, deciding how to combine them, perhaps repetitive and rhythmic motions, the sense of putting together something lovely from all the separate parts – all of this helps occupy your mind. In  a similar way to distraction techniques, by filling your mind with all these sensations, they can become the focus, rather than obsessional thoughts, sadness, anger and so on. It does not solve anything but can replace some of the intensity of an emotion for a time. I can find it helpful in trying to delay self-harming as well as in times of generalised anxiety or after panic attacks. My friend who suffers with an eating disorder said that in particular having something to do with her hands can calm her after eating and help her resist the urge to binge-eat and/or purge.

My clinicians explained that there is a limited number of sensations the body and mind can experience at any one time. In personality disorder, our emotions may reach a higher level more quickly and in this heightened state, we cannot think rationally or mentalise or make good decisions. We cannot see outside of the emotion. It also takes longer than it does in most people for the level of emotion to fall. One thing that can help the emotion to fall, to get to a level where we can start to mentalise, use distraction techniques or choose to do other things that help us, is to “shock” the body with another strong sensation. For example, putting your hands under very cold water, holding ice, or (this one works well for me) eating something with a sharp taste. I use pieces of lemon, or lemon juice, with a sharp and bitter taste. This can help to lead you out of extreme distress or a panic attack, to the point that you can then address how you are feeling with other techniques. Then continuing to do something that gives positive sensations can continue to calm you – for example, something self-soothing like hugging a soft pillow or wrapping up in a soft blanket, or perhaps one of the creative activities which provides a range of tactile sensations.

There is also something encouraging to me in being able to create a picture, object, etc, which is useful or attractive or perhaps can be given as a gift to someone else, even when we are really not feeling great. It’s another way to make it true that the overwhelming emotions are not all that there is and to start to hope that there could be some good somewhere in me.

Ginny

xXx