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.

13 May, 2019

"It is good to notice that more of my posts have been uploaded and I hope that you are enjoying reading! I have had a really productive day today with speaking at the inductions this morning so a shout-out to all you lovely people that are about to start with us within St Andrew’s. I really enjoyed & valued the time spent with you today and I hope that you all settle into the charity well. Then this afternoon I had my monthly Ward Round and guess what? I didn't cry ... I actually asserted myself really well; I got across the points that I wanted to make and all feedback was positive so most definitely a success!!

I am planning a few trips now too, so will be heading to Cambridge next month to go punting & have a picnic. It is something that I have always wanted to do and it is a real feel good factor when building positive experiences. I really appreciate that I still get to do the things that I enjoy & interest me whilst I am in hospital as I had a totally different experience at my previous placement. And the biggest news is that I am booking my tickets for ComicCon in London for the end of July. I have never been to one of these events before so to say that I am excited is an understatement. I have got a bit of work to do in the meantime though as alongside the member of staff that is taking me, we are going to make our own capes!! Any tips would be most welcomed ..."

3 May, 2019

"I am still here for those who may have thought I had stopped writing, I've just had a quiet few days and my link the communications team who upload my entries has been on leave so sorry if you are getting bits in dribs & drabs. Big News... is I went to the National Service User Awards on Wednesday and had a great day. The event is run by Cygnet Hospitals annually which gives recognition to the exceptional work that is continually carried out by service users around the country. The venue was so beautiful, a huge marquee overlooking a river with gardens full of fountains and stunning plants I wildlife etc. I managed to do my presentation without too much of a stutter (I do this when I am nervous) and although I didn't have the sound working with my PowerPoint, I think I did my course justice which was the essence of me being there. It was a long day of about 12 hours, I went with a member of staff from my team who I get on great with and we had a really enjoyable day. It meant it was also the longest I have been escorted away from the hospital and the fact that it was a success means I will be-able to plan future trips. I am hoping to go to ComicCon in London at their July event so watch this space...

I know this is a relatively short entry but my highlight of the week was these awards and because of the long day, I spent yesterday in bed elevating my leg as I have a few problems with it due to past DVT's and therefore, it needed a little TLC! I am hoping for a sunny bank holiday weekend and will definitely be around to blog some more."

25 April, 2019

"Boring, boring, boring… I have had a really quiet week so far and the sun hasn't lasted as well as I was hoping for it too either! I know some families are still on the Easter holidays so I hope that you are enjoying yourselves although I'd expect by now that you are also looking forward to the kids going back to school! I have got another few days of not much happening but am then going to an Awards ceremony next week so will let you know how it goes. On a separate note, who is going to watch the new 'Avengers' movie today? I wanted to go to the midnight viewing but am not going till next weekend now so like 'Game of Thrones' I don't want any spoilers!!! Like I am a bit of a superhero geek and I did cry when Spiderman died in the last movie so I will probably be a blubbering mess next weekend - tissues on the ready please!

I can't believe that I am out of things to say, not like me eh but then I did say how boring my week has been and it is not so easy when you are in hospital to just find things to do. I used to enjoy driving so would quite often go for a nice drive on the coast when I was in the community and having a quiet day, they are the simple things in life that I, really miss BUT I know I'll get back to that and you know what, I am really going to take advantage of those simple things! If you are able to, then you should too, there is always space for you to have a bit of 'me' time and that space is really important. Never underestimate the power of good mental well-being and that's my bit of advice for the day - enjoy your day!"

18 April, 2019

"Hey. I hope you are all well. Sorry that I've been away for a few days although I'm not sure if it'll be noticed. So, for those who have been following, I had my CPA on Wednesday and there were no tears, which in terms for me and meetings, means a great success! I was pleased with how it went and had some really good feedback, I've got my goals now for the next 6 months and hopefully then there will have been discussions regarding moving onto a lesser secure environment. I'm going to try and firmly listen to my RC (Responsible Clinician) and to focus on the goals (the little steps), and then everything else will fall into place.

I also want to mention about the opportunity I had on Thursday to meet and speak to Band 4 staff in training. I only knew about the meeting 48 hours in advance and only actually knew who and what I would be speaking about approx 2 mins before I went in, but it went really well. I actually feel really grateful at how welcoming and open the staff were in listening to me, my experiences & what is important to me in see in a staff member. It went from me talking, to lots of questions being asked and then a more general group discussion. I hope those who were there found it beneficial and I just want to thank you all as I got a really good vibe that you are doing your job because you generally care about us, those you look after. #high-five

So, the rest of my week has been pretty pants as I've spent 2 days in bed with some sort of sickness thing, I've just felt really weak and all-round rubbish. However, I'm pretty much back on form today and had my 1st trip to Rushden Lakes. It is a really nice place, a little nippy by the water but I did some shopping, mainly window shopping, and something to eat so in all a great few hours out. Coming back to the ward, it is nice and settled, some peers are in front of the TV box-setting, some are cooking and the rest are doing their own thing in their rooms. I must add there is one huge negative for me today and that is we do not get Sky Atlantic at St Andrew's so unlike a lot of you, I will be missing the first episode of the final season of a well known series tonight so am feeling kind of jealous! My dilemma is... do I ask about it tomorrow? Or do try to avoid any spoilers until it comes out on DVD? What would you do?"

9 April, 2019

"I ended yesterday having an early night with puffy eyes & a headache as I had ward round in the afternoon and I just struggle with the whole thing. For those who don't know, we have ward round once a month where my clinical team meet with me to discuss my progress, any current concerns & plans for the upcoming month.

It sounds simple but for me it is a daunting experience where I feel anxiety for that entire day. I just find the whole thing intimidating when they are there as a team and there is just 'me' on the other side. They do really try to make it comfortable and some people are fine with it but nope, not me. It also reminds me of meetings that were put in place when I was a kid to discuss my care when my view was pretty much ignored, and as much as this is a very different situation, I can't seem to completely shake it off either. So, I won't bore you with the content of my ward round but it often feels like 'they don't believe in me' or 'I'm not doing that great' and I really try so hard to maintain doing well. It's tough, the whole thing for me is an emotional rollercoaster and yesterday (like the previous month) I came out in a blubbering mess. I sought haven in my bedroom and although nursing staff tried to support me, I just wasn't ready for talking and fortunately they knew I was safe and respected that.

Fresh eyes today and yes, I feel a little more optimistic to how my ward round actually went and feedback last night from my ward manager shows that they are willing to take chances with me providing I can prove, with the steps put in place, that I can manage. So, my next ward round is 27 days away but I have my CPA (Care Planning Approach) meeting tomorrow which we have every 6 months - and they are a bigger version of ward round and therefore, just as anxiety-provoking. Sometimes you've just got to accept that 'it is what it is', which I can usually do but after the emotions have lessened! So, wish me luck for tomorrow and I'll put another post out later on in the week."

7 April, 2019

"So, another weekend has almost passed and as usual it has been quiet. I had a bit of a tough day yesterday, didn't sleep too well on Friday night (my sleep is often disturbed) therefore I was already vulnerable and I struggled intermittently with flashbacks. This is a term we often use in hospital - we all know what we are talking about but to those that don't, for me, it is when I re-experience a traumatic memory in the here & now.

They can be really difficult, it is not always visual for me but sounds & smells also play a part and they can come with such intensity that I am completely re-living the traumatic experience again. My flashbacks are often on a scale of severity and yesterdays, although distressing, was also manageable with some distraction. I played cards, some doodling & chatting then finished watching a film in my room once my head felt less wobbly. With my flashbacks I have found that there are two options; fighting them or accepting them. I have fought them numerous times over the years but I always feel like a failure as I remain distressed and they come back. I have now tried accepting them, that doesn't mean that I like them... but it does mean that I understand that they are there because of my experiences and they can lessen if I use distress tolerance skills. That makes it sound easy but it really isn't, it takes a lot of practice and it is only in the last couple of years that I can experience these flashbacks without switching to feel a physical pain or numbness and self-harming. Fortunately I'm generally in a good place
at the moment so with a little support I got myself through yesterday and I'm having a good day today.

I just want to add that what I have described about my flashbacks is how I experience them and that they can be very different for other people."

5 April, 2019

"This is only going to be a short entry but I just wanted to say a huge thank you for all of the feedback that has been posted and sent to the provided e-mail address ([email protected]). This is the very reason I am doing the blog, to break that silence around living in hospital and showing that there are no 'set' ways of doing things. Life is full of possibilities and living in hospital is no different, granted the possibilities change but there is still so much that can be achieved. It is great that staff are reading this blog from a variety of professions within St Andrew's, but it is also great that the message is getting out there to those in the community. I recently had a message from someone who was preparing for an in­patient assessment the following day, and this blog showed her that her life doesn't have to stop her from doing the things she values just because you are in hospital. It gave her hope. Diolch yn fawr (thank you very much) for the awesome feedback you sent, providing hope for others is just going to keep me writing & writing. This is a journey for all of us and for as long as it is beneficial for us all then this blog will continue."

2 April, 2019

"Who knew that shopping and eating out could be so exhausting! Today I went to Milton Keynes by train - my first train journey in about 11 years. What I learnt is 'train stations and trains don't really change'! Nah, all jokes aside, I really enjoyed myself. Milton Keynes shopping centre is huge and far too much to get around in a few hours, but my intention was to get a new outfit, and that I achieved. So, what you probably don't know about me is that I'm a bit of a tom-boy. I live in trainers and comfy clothes, trackies/jeans and oversized hoodies. However, I am going to a black-tie awards ceremony on 1st May so can't really rock up in my Vans. This meant shopping for a outfit was the focus and I did manage to get trousers, top, shoes & bag. It wasn't really enjoyable shopping for these things but it was a case of job done and then I could relax. (Btw, I did then go on to buy a pair of Vans too, my defence... they were in the sale!). I bought a few bits for other people, a couple of Blu-rays for myself as I am a bit of a film buff (Marvel & DC especially) and then we ate at a well-known burger place that was sooooo good. Now I'm back on the ward feeling well tired and can't wait for an early night (is 4pm too early to get to bed though?!)."

1 April, 2019

"My anxiety levels were all over the place yesterday following my 1:1 psychology session. We discussed the options of maybe beginning some exposure work due to an aversion I have developed following an early trauma. Talking about this sort of stuff is never easy, and yesterday was no different. I know that doing this trauma work will definitely give me a better quality of life so it is something I want to do, but I also want to totally run away from it when my emotions kick in. I sometimes feel a bit stupid (well actually you will notice that stupidity comes up a lot for me) for allowing something from so many years ago to keep affecting me, and at times I describe it in my head as a bit of an 'irrational' fear. However, one part of DBT therapy is to always check the facts, and I guess the facts show that it is probably normal to have this sort of anxiety based on my early trauma, even though the threat is no longer present. I probably sound like I'm quite wise whilst describing all of this, although the credit definitely goes to my therapist. It was he who embedded this into my head just yesterday to stop me from being quite so hard on myself and I guess (for now) it sticks.

Fortunately my therapist has a great imagination when trying to explain various points. It always feels like we are going way off somewhere with his stories, but it always comes back to make the very point he was trying to help me understand. I guess we 'work', working together.

Another thing from yesterday was that I went to the BENN's (Birmingham, Essex, Nottingham, Northampton sites) meeting which was definitely better attended than the last meeting but we still have a long way to go. This is not just my own view but also of other patients and staff therefore, the main focus of the meeting was about planning our future meetings. We discussed a variety of questions such as the regularity of meetings, a change of dates/times so that they do not clash with other board meetings, who we want attending and most importantly what do we want to achieve. I felt that it was a very productive meeting with great ideas and a firm understanding that we (patients & staff) are in this together and we want it to be beneficial for all that we do. The PALS team (Patient Advisory and Liaison Service) are now running the meetings going forward and I am the new chairperson! I don't know if that is a good thing or not, I have not really had a lot of experience in chairing meetings."


26 March, 2019

"I feel like I have been away for far too long but at the same time nothing that exciting has happened. Today I have had a 'duvet' day or maybe what I should describe as an 'avoidance' day. I have spent many years of my life in avoidance mode which has quite often led to periods of depression, self-harm and substance misuse so it is really important that I keep in check with so-called 'duvet' days! I am open about this cycle of mine with my team, especially with my therapist and my nursing team know me well enough to check in with me when I have days like today. I am fine though, sometimes it is just nice to let go of my responsibilities (without affecting anyone else) and just spend a day on my own without expectations upon me. So, I guess it was a semi-avoidant day, but I will be back steaming forward tomorrow with our group DBT therapy day. 

I expect we get all get stuck procrastinating at times but it is important that we don't get stuck in unhelpful cycles that have a negative effect on our own mental health or affects others. I guess that's my tip of the day!

Don't forget that if you want to make a comment or drop me a message then please do so at the provided e-mail address ([email protected]), I will get all comments albeit with a slight time delay."

21 March, 2019

"Well, what a day, it's only nearly 6pm and morning felt like a lifetime ago! I actually had quite a good, pro-active morning with an Arts & Crafts session first thing and then a community leisure walk with some friends from another ward. My only problem is that I get rather car sick so the journey back from the country park wasn't great and I ended up needing a lie down when I got back to the ward!

I did feel better so went ahead with my 1:1 DBT therapy session which ended up being really tough. I guess therapy is always tough but I had a particularly difficult session last week so found that today I really had to look at the inner "me". That is never easy but I have a really experienced therapist where we have built a good relationship. Having him looking at myself with me means I have a great source of support but at the same time it can be even harder as nobody wants to share those things inside you that we get wrong. It is also difficult because I get worried about being judged and a big one for me is feeling not being good enough. I have such high expectations of myself but my therapist taught me a great lesson today... I can still be good enough whilst wanting to better myself. Even if I hang onto a bit of that then I will have improved from the point I was at in my difficult session last week.

I value the relationship I have with my therapist so much but I know it is definitely not going to be plain-sailing. However, I know that as long as we repair any ruptures along the way, remain transparent with each other & apologise if we get it wrong then we'll be ok. This is a tough road but a friend taught me to believe in myself and I know that I will be ok too."

16 March, 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!"

14 March, 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..."


9 March, 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."

7 March, 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."

4 March, 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,"

1 March, 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."