A patient in our care shares her story...

"Hello! I’m WelshStar and I’m beginning this blog to share with you what my life is like living in St Andrew’s Hospital, Northampton. I’m going to explain how my day-to-day life runs, what opportunities I have access to, and what it is like living in 2019 with a mental health condition. I’m really excited about this new project. I think it is important to share the positives and negatives of my life in St Andrew’s Hospital. I feel passionate about breaking the silence surrounding mental health, and quashing the stigma that is associated with it. So, this blog is now live. I intend to write most days, although there will be a slight time delay. Please feel free to send any feedback to [email protected] and they will pass it on. I will be back soon." 

Note: Blog entries appear most recent first.

March 16, 2019

"The first thing to say is congratulations to the whole of the Welsh Rugby squad for achieving the 2019 Grand Slam. I feel proper proud to be Welsh (not always easy when you are in an English hospital) and hope that everyone in Wales parties happy & hard tonight. Scotland, you did your country proud too!

My whole day has been taken up by the rugby but it has also been a patient's birthday so we have celebrated with 'Mocktails' (cocktails without the alcohol) and if I'm honest, I didn't miss the vodka one bit. We have also had a pub quiz with nibbles and a finale of chicken & chips (plus lots of extras). As I think I have already mentioned, we take pride on our ward in celebrating birthdays, we always go big and do some pretty cool things together as a community. It has been a good day although I think I will be singing the Welsh National Anthem in my sleep.

Good Night!"

March 14, 2019

"I thought it might be interesting for you to hear what an average day looks like for me on my ward in St Andrew's.I am up at 7am most mornings as the bedroom corridor opens at 7.30am with the expectation that everyone comes into the day area at that time. In reality there are probably 4 or 5 of us that come though at that time; those who can't wait for a hot drink, and me. I don't drink hot drinks but like to get up at my own accord rather than constantly being prompted by staff!

During the next half an hour whilst the day shift are getting handover, the patients gradually come to the day area in dribs & drabs and mostly snuggle back up in their chair for as much rest as possible. I have done the same myself although annoyingly can never fall asleep in the day area so I mostly enjoy the quiet time or read, I read so much nowadays! Medication times throughout the day are 8am, 12pm, 5pm and 9pm and mealtimes tend to follow. So, breakfast starts as soon as morning meds are finished, lunch is at 1pm, tea at 6pm and there are snack times at 3pm & 8.15pm. I tend to eat at all mealtimes; I don't especially like breakfast but it is a condition if I want to utilise my leave on the grounds that morning.

I tend to get 30mins ground leave a day where I can go to finance, the post room, Tompkins cafe but mostly just a nice walk. The grounds here are pretty amazing where I could never get bored! Although most of us have leave written up for more than 30mins a day, due to staffing it is difficult to offer us anymore on a regular basis, however if there is something specific we want to attend like the hairdressers, beautician or activity sessions then leave is normally facilitated. I attend quite a lot of extra sessions so I spend a lot of time off the ward which I find rewarding and enjoy. We also have quite a lot of ward-based sessions everyday ranging from Healthy Lifestyle groups, Mindful music, Arts & Craft and Self-soothing groups. There is a rota so that we can use the therapy kitchen to make breakfast and lunch, and there is also the opportunity to do the weekly food shop at the local supermarket for these cooking sessions. Generally our sessions stop around 4.30pm however, there are some evening social sessions on the grounds on a Tuesday & Thursday night, with us also having a ward movie night on a Friday evening. All of our sessions are decided with our OT team and they are always keen to hear and try out new ideas so that our timetable doesn't feel too repetitive.

I am fortunate to have a really busy timetable because I also attend Community Leisure groups and have 1:1 Community leave. I am also really involved with the Patient Engagement and Experience team so take part in our fortnightly inductions for all new starters to the hospital. There are opportunities to attend meetings & forums, taking part in research projects and to sit on the panel to interview potential new staff for our hospital. It is a role I feel proud to be a part of and one that I am deeply committed to.

My mind is in overdrive thinking about all the things that I take part in at St Andrew's but I am sure that overtime as you get to know me you'll get to find out exactly what I enjoy and I what I get involved in. We have an area here called 'Workbridge' that I have not even touched on but is a place where so many great things happen; I will tell you more over time.

So, as you can see that my days are structured around medication & mealtimes but what goes on in between is based on my hobbies & interests. I am on a DBT therapy ward (which I will talk more about in a later post) therefore 1:1 & group therapy is very important to my weekly timetable and is something I take seriously. Therapy is tough but that is a whole another conversation!

I hope that this has given you some idea to what an average weekday looks like here for me at St Andrew's. Will write more soon..."


March 9, 2019

"I've had an amazing evening with 2 'life-firsts' and a first for about 10 years! At about 5pm I went out to eat at a Turkish restaurant, which I have not done before but I will definitely be doing again. I then went to the cinema to watch Captain Marvel, with it being my first 3D movie and I loved the experience. I wear glasses anyway so wasn't sure about putting on an extra pair but I found it fine. I did however feel like I was going a little cross-eyed at times, but it never took away the excitement or the enjoyment. The screening didn't end until about 9pm so I had referred to it as a "late night viewing" all week, much to the amusement (and ribbing!) of my Ward Manager! I feel sooo grateful for the extra opportunities St Andrew's offers me, and I am proud of myself too. It has not been an easy road for me over the years and these may seem like little things to you, but it has been 10 years since I was last out after 9pm so it has felt like a real achievement tonight. My next aim is to attend a midnight viewing, so watch this space!

Oh before I go, a big shout-out to all my fellow ladies with International Women's Day being yesterday. #gogirls."

March 7, 2019

"Hey! I hope this entry doesn't take too long to upload as I've had a few teething problems with my team this week. They wanted the blog to be a weekly thing as they didn't want me taking on too much. I want it to be more frequent, so at first I was really frustrated, but in fact I can now see that their concern is only because they care. Rule number one is always reflect. It definitely helps me to become more centred and allows me to see the bigger picture! Fortunately I have built a good relationship with my team and was able to express how it was important for me to remain in control of this project. I also discussed how I wouldn't put myself under too much pressure, and if they become worried then we should re-evaluate my commitment (albeit the commitment is only to myself and how I visualise this blog going!). And I say not "too much pressure" because I always put pressure upon myself. I see it as I'm a bit of a perfectionist and work better under a 'healthy" level of pressure anyways! I've just realised that I have rambled on about dynamics that you probably have zero interest in, although I guess it does show that I'm not just "me" whilst I am in hospital, I am "me and my team" and sometimes this can cause difficulties!?

What I really wanted to tell you about today is my attendance at the Charity's Quality and Safety Assurance Committee (or if easier, QSAC!). It was a first for me and for patients to attend in general, although fortunately I was joined by another patient from the Essex site. I received the papers for the meeting a few days ago - all 60+ pages of it. It was definitely heavy reading and if I'm honest, all a bit over my head too. So, as you can imagine, I was a little anxious prior to going today and a little concerned that I had agreed to attend a 3-hour board meeting but... I feel good. Everyone was really welcoming and made me feel comfortable to raise my points, whilst most importantly I felt listened to. I feel my points were valued and will make a difference meaning that I have achieved exactly what I was hoping to do. I feel I have "given" today; given to my peers, to the staff, to the charity and to myself. I am learning that little voices can make a difference, and today, my little voice was heard.

Signing off."

 March 4, 2019

"Hi! I've done some really nice things over the last few days which help you to not quite forget, but minimise the negatives of being in hospital. Birthday celebrations have always been a big affair whichever hospital I have been in, and here in St Andrew's is no different. I kind of make sense of this by the fact that it gives everyone a focus to look forward to; there is the feel good factor of contributing and a real sense of togetherness as we join as a sort of mini community. So for me, yesterday was joining in with a variety of party games whilst food was being prepared for us to sit together and enjoy a pizza night. Which is nice about these events is that the staff join in with us too, so there isn't that patient/staff divide that I have experienced at previous hospitals,

Now, today is the official birthday so I woke up my friend by playing "Happy Birthday" to her on my ukulele that I have been practicing all week! It is also a member of staff's birthday who I get on with really well and is on my team, so a few of us celebrated by going for a meal at a local restaurant this evening. It was really nice and I am now really full! A little nicety for me was the fact that we had candles which is normally a big no-no in hospitals. Sometimes it is easy to forget that the little things in life are the things that you actually value - and miss - the most. All in all it has been a lovely couple of days, both of the birthday girls have enjoyed themselves and I have noticed that when we come together as a ward doing something positive we have far less incidents, which is a good thing all-round.

I am going to rest nicely tonight before falling asleep,"

March 1, 2019

"Hello! so if you have read my introduction then you will know that I WelshStar and I am beginning a new blog from within St Andrew's Hospital, Northampton. This is a first for St Andrew's and a first for me. I hope that over time we can build that relationship between writer and reader that mutually benefits you guys and my mental health journey.

This is an exciting opportunity for me and I feel fortunate for the full support that St Andrew's have given me. I have a passion for writing (although make all sorts of judgements for not being great at it!) and I have an even bigger passion to help quash the stigma surrounding mental health.

I have not thought too much about exactly what my entries will  include as there are never two days the same,  but here are a few facts that you might like to know about me...

I am a 35-year-old female with a Personality Disorder diagnosis and I have been at St Andrew's for approximately 8 months. I enjoy the outdoors, being creative and the simplicity of learning. I have found that being in services can take a level of control away from you that has left me feeling powerless. Over the years I have been stripped of my possessions, my family and friends and the freedom of making my own choices. However, I discovered that my knowledge, what is inside my mind, can never be taken away. Understanding this gave me the freedom of my mind and a comfort with hope.

Already I have touched on parts of my life that I could really explore, but there is no rush and being in services definitely teaches you to be a "patient patient". Today I have had a good day and this weekend I will write some more. By the way, Happy St David's Day to all."