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 communications@standrew.co.uk and they will pass it on. I will be back soon." 

Note: Blog entries appear most recent first.

12 July, 2019

What a busy, exciting & scary week I have had so far plus today I have been at St Andrew’s for 1 year which feels quite significant. It means a year without any incidents and shows to me (& everyone else) that I really have changed and can manage challenging situations however, difficult they are. It feels so good to have such distance from my self-harm, for a number of years, hurting myself became a huge part of my life and yeah, I just hold more value on myself now to not want to put myself (& my body) through that trauma. Something that was traumatic this week was a choking incident that scared the hell out of me. It was pretty serious and shook me up for a while.

Fortunately I had staff around me who I could almost go as say as pretty much saved my life, you know who you are and I thank you guys. Also those who stayed around and came to the hospital with me afterwards, I really needed you and am just sorry that I snotted & cried all over you!!

So, the exciting of this week was that I had my 1st home leave from St Andrew’s and it went amazingly. Spending time with my family was pretty awesome, I haven't seen my little brother for quite a while so getting to chill out with him was something really special for me. My Mum also spoiled us with a roast dinner that was on par with Christmas Lunch and a homemade white chocolate cheesecake which can only be described as heavenly- thanks Mum! Having to come back to the ward afterwards was pretty rubbish but not just because I was missing my family; it is just that I want to be part of the real world. Being home was so normal, my Aunty & childhood friend also popped in and I miss the normality.

I have not found the ward I am currently on therapeutic for some time and I think that is just because I am in a different place than others on my ward in where I am within my treatment (and services). I am desperate to move to a less secure environment just so I can be more independent and move closer to my goal of living in the community. I'm not far from it and there is a professionals meeting here next week to discuss me moving on so please everybody ... keep your fingers (and toes!) crossed for me. I will keep you updated."

07 July, 2019

"I know, I know, I have been a bit of a stranger but I am back on it and you'll hopefully get a steady flow of entries from me now. Things have been a bit all over the place if I'm honest. Throughout my experience of doing this blog, I always said that if I felt under pressure then I won't write and will take a break. I guess with a lot of things going on, I did feel a bit under pressure so decided not to force it & just let it 'be' and now anyways, I am back (and I'm feeling good!) but sometimes things change quickly.

So, I have begun my prolonged exposure trauma therapy which was extremely tough to start and probably why I didn't write the week before last. However, it is slowly getting easier and yeah, I acknowledge that I'm doing good (that is normally really hard to say!). Like with any therapy, it's hard but what I am doing is definitely going to give me a better quality of life and just lose some of the high intensity anxiety that I have for years carried around. I am definitely making progress!

Then last Tuesday I went to Drayton Manor Theme Park for the day which was a great day out however, I didn't know it was possible to get as wet as we did on the Log Flume!! The following 2 days I was in bed with a banging headache so maybe the mix of getting older and going on extreme rides doesn't quite mix - I was definitely feeling ropey! I have had visits with family today and I am going on home leave on Wednesday which I am really excited about. Everything is going in the right direction for me.

I have also now officially started my 'Expert by Experience' Work Placement with the Patient Engagement Team which is something I have been working towards for a while. I can just feel the positive things that are coming for patients here at St Andrew's. This is a new work placement that I feel I can really contribute to making successful change. We have inductions in the morning so I look forward to meeting all you new-starters and I hope that you settle into life here at St Andrew's really well. For my regular readers, I hope the last 2 weeks has been good for you but if it hasn't, don't give up, we are all in this together and together we can achieve anything. If you have currently lost hope, then please know that we are holding that hope for you..."

18 June, 2019

Hey guys! How has the last few days been for you??? I'm good; I had inductions yesterday morning at the Great Hall which went really well.

You were a quiet bunch but gave great feedback from our little activity! I value being involved in inductions so much, there are many reasons why I take it as an important part to my role in St Andrew’s and here is a little story as to why...

Last Friday, we were short staffed on my ward and 2 HCA's came to support us. They both recognised me from inductions a few months ago and we got chatting. I discovered that one of them wasn't sure whether this was the right role for her but attended the induction in hope to finding the answers. Her feedback was that it was my speech / chat/presentation (whatever you want to call it) was what inspired her to take the job here at St Andrew’s as she felt she could not only do the role but make a difference to patient's lives too.

Talking to her was so lovely; she was down to earth and just valued the normality in the role that I talked openly about in her induction that every patient wants. Hearing that I had inspired her to come to St Andrew’s with the hope of enriching patients lives really felt humbling. This is why I take part in inductions every fortnight, this is why I shake it up for you guys who are on induction and talk so openly about not only my experiences but my hopes for a good staff member too. It shows that patient's input in these inductions really do make a difference and as a charity this is the good work that we are quickly spreading throughout the rest of the hospital so that patient involvement is at every step of the way.

Following inductions yesterday, I went and met the team that I will be working with my 'Expert by Experience' work placement who all seemed so lovely and I just see myself fitting into the role quite easily. It is a great opportunity for me and a role that is being completely supported all the way up to our Chief Exec, Katie Fisher.

Patient involvement in St Andrew’s isn’t tokenistic, it is the vision and the way forward in all that we do.

14 June, 2019

"And more rain!!.I have had a busy couple of days, as you will probably know by now; Wednesday is our DBT Therapy day on the ward so there is always stuff to think about. Then yesterday I went to Nottingham for an 'Impact' Event about co-production. It was a really interesting day, very busy with a variety of disciplines all over East Midlands and a lot of networking got done. However, the reason we were there was to discuss the theme of 'transitions', what works? and what needs improving?

The morning started with the Directors/ Executives of the East Midlands letting us know their commitment in making sure that we work together to make better transitions for patients and then they partook in a Q&A with the room that went down really well. I will admit, some of the things they talk about are way over my head, there is a certain jargon that I find difficult to get my head around but even with that I felt completely involved. There is a blended pilot beginning here at St Andrews which means one of the women's wards are becoming a medium/low secure ward which if it works, will be amazing for the transitions for women in services.

The whole idea of a blended ward came from a piece of research that had been carried out by 3 service users alongside NHS England which looked at the length of stays in hospital for women, the distance they were from home, what helps their recovery & what makes it more difficult and a variety of other information of what a women's journey is like through secure services. All this information has been put together with such a powerful message that big changes are beginning in the way that secure services work together.

I feel really privileged to have been involved in this research in my previous hospital and pleased that alongside many other service users/patients we are having a voice and are being heard."

10 June, 2019

"What a wash out of weather eh! Who else is waiting for the June sunshine? However, considering it has been a miserable day outside, for me on the ward and in Ward Round was pretty bright. Yep, you heard me right; Ward Round went really well and easily without any tears. We talked a lot about my future, options of where I can move to once I have finished my current therapy on this ward and also what we can do in the meantime so that I am continually progressing. I sometimes find it difficult as I have mentioned before with my RC (Responsible Clinician) and although he couldn't stay for my part of Ward Round, I had a positive 1:1 with him prior to it and yeah, I'm happy.

I've got lots of reasons to be happy in my life right now and moving in the right direction here, towards my future really helps me to remain well and focus on what it is I want to achieve in my life both short term & long term. A goal for a while of mine has been to begin an 'Expert by Experience' work placement here at St Andrews (I may have mentioned this before?). I do a lot towards the charity anyway and a lot that would come under the placement although it only actually got finalised today and I am really pleased about it.

I am so passionate about trying to 'break that stigma that we do still get in here even though we are inside the hospital. I want to change that and therefore, see a massive part of my role in getting additional patient input to what matters to them whilst bridging that gap between patients & staff. I have been here at St Andrew’s for nearly a year now and I have already seen changes happen (and happening). It is a really important role for me and I am looking forward to see how far I can take it ... I never just settle, I always strive for more. I like to see it as a quality of mine although some may disagree but it keeps me driven to meet effective change!

Well, I think I have said enough for one day and finally I just want to emphasise just how powerful a positive Ward Round can be to your mental well-being."

8 June, 2019

"Whoop Whoop... today we are celebrating 'DAY 100' of my blog and I want you to know that I am enjoying every aspect of it. I also want to say a HUGE Thank-you for all you guys who are following me because it wouldn't be such a success without you, my readers, and it feels pretty special to be in this with you.

Well, today I was planning a 'fitness walk' but it has rained & rained & rained some more so I settled for some lunch in Tompkins meaning my healthy plans soon led to cheesy chips!! I am also going to an all you can eat Chinese buffet tomorrow evening with one of my friends on my ward so am looking forward to that and will definitely have to get back on with a fitness walk on Monday. I think I have got a pretty average week ahead; there is the possibility of me going to Nottingham for the day on Thursday of which I will tell you more about when I get some more details. It is the following week when I am really busy but I am still trying to live in the moment thing and right now I am feeling pretty content. There is some good stuff going on in my life at the moment so a shout-out to those who go the extra mile of making me happy - you know who you are.

One thing we need to tackle this week is Ward Round on Monday. I am hoping to start discussions surrounding moving on from my current ward and to lesser security (don't worry I will still be writing!!). It would be a really good move for me and a move I feel completely ready for so that is what I need to express in Ward Round even though we all know that I don't do that great with the whole Ward Round thing. I will write on Monday and let you know how it all goes, fingers crossed for me & no tears again eh!!

I hope you guys get to have a good weekend whatever you are doing and I will be back in a couple of days.

3 June, 2019

"Heeellooooooooo... I'm having a bit of a silly day; we all have to time to time eh! I am looking forward to going to a local Caribbean restaurant tonight for food & 'mocktails' then off to the cinema to see Aladdin which has had great reviews. I really enjoy the cinema and go whenever I am able. I have seen that 'Dark Phoenix' is out on Wednesday so I will need another trip soon!
We had our staff inductions again this morning which went really well, since starting to do them I have always thought that we could improve the way we deliver the information & stories, and today we tried it differently. It was a real success, we had a slightly smaller group of the new starters than usual which I think helped my co-peer as it can be very nerve racking but I am so pleased at how well it went (and how well it was received). Together with the Patient & Carer Engagement team, I would say that we 'smashed' it; genuinely it could not have gone better. Of course I gave a shout-out for my blog so I am hoping for some new readers, and remember, I love receiving your comments & feedback, it is a real incentive to keep going & keep writing when things get tough.

A bit more news that I can share as I have talked with my family and my plan is to stay around the Northampton area when I am discharged from St Andrews rather than move straight back to Wales. It was a pretty big decision for me to make and I have really thought about it but this is where I see the next stage of my life being. I am getting to know the area which is really helpful and there are opportunities here that I feel I could explore which I don't necessary have if moving straight back to Wales. I guess although I am in hospital, I am happy here and there are not many places in my life where I have been able to just 'be' & be happy. My family have taken it well; especially my Mum who I was worried about telling due to her having to travel around the country to visit me over the last 10 years but she gets it and all is good. I'm good, like really good and it is a nice feeling to have!!


29 May, 2019

"I'm really good at the moment, I have got a lot of positivity going on inside me and I have been thinking a lot about my life outside of hospital. I know I am a.bit away from that right now but hopes & goals are really important whilst you progress through the system. It is weird, but I just know that I am going to have a good life shared with good people when I get out of here. I am determined for it to work for me and those closest to me and I am actually quite excited about it.

Today was our DBT therapy day although our lead psychologist couldn't do our teaching session this afternoon so we just covered everything this morning. On one hand it was nice to have an afternoon free of group therapy but I got pretty bored too so am looking forward to another day being over! I did meet up with the PALS, Complaints & Patient Engagement lead who I work closely with on a variety of projects throughout the hospital and we got some good work done. I am officially starting a work placement with the team (I night have mentioned this before) and I am quite excited about it. We already have a long list of areas where my input could be useful and we are constantly adding to it. Today, we completed the Terms of Reference for our BENN's meetings as the one in place was well outdated and pretty vague. We now have our aim, the purpose & what we want to achieve from the meetings and hopefully we continue moving forward in making BENN's a success that it 'should' and easily 'can' be.

So, although a quieter day, it has also been productive in some areas which I am pleased about. I don't know what is wrong with me but I just can't spell when typing tonight, my brain is all over the place but it's all good and as I said when I started this entry, "I'm good too".

24 May, 2019

"Wow, it feels like I have been away for ages although it has only been 5 days. I have had such a busy yet productive week and have just found myself chilling out today. So, my adventure at the safari park was pretty amazing, we got to see all the animals as well as a scary encounter of a pack of lions fighting a metre from our car and a giraffe wrapping its tongue so tight around my hand, I had to use my other arm to pull it from its mouth!! There was also a baby giraffe that was soooo cute and we took lots of pictures. There was also a theme park there and considering I haven't been on rides for well over 10 years, I am quite proud of myself and managed to keep up with my much younger friend. It was altogether an awesome day and we are now considering another trip to a different theme park in July before the kids break from school (I don't want to be queuing for hours to get on a ride!).

Then on Wednesday I spent a good chunk of the day at Cliftonville sitting on the patient panel in interviewing potential peer-support candidates. St Andrew’s are currently recruiting for Women’s & Brain injury services and I was impressed by the applicants who had applied. It is always difficult when a candidate loses where they are at due to the intensity of nerves and my heart really went out to some of them. In essence though, I think it is a brave decision to apply for a role where you have had lived­ experience and I want to say 'well done'.

The following day I also found myself down at Cliftonville as we had our bi-monthly BENN’s meeting and the first one that I had the role of chair person. I was nervous as I have never chaired a meeting like this before and especially not so of one that was to be two and a half hours long. I think I did ok, I could have done better but I finished with in time and that was one of my worries. It was a disappointing meeting overall however, as alongside the manager of PALS & Complaints we have worked hard in trying to make the BENN's a success and part of that is having the right attendance.

Our Essex & Birmingham sites attended whilst Nottingham managed to dial in but we didn't get the attendance from the management based here at Northampton and therefore, it was very difficult to address action points and get the answers that patients needed. I feel that it is great to give patients a voice through the set-up of BENN's but if there is no-one there to direct the issues to and therefore, there is no effective change then you are actually taking that voice away. I think it could be quite invalidating and that needs to change. I have committed myself to the BENN's and am therefore, not going to give up on it but I hope that the right people can take note at how frustrating it is for us as patients here.

And today, chill day... Generally some really good stuff has happened to me over this last week inwardly and so I am just going to enjoy the feeling and... and that's it really. Have a good weekend.

19 May, 2019

"Hey l I have just come back from Tompkins (our hospital café) and celebrating a 'friend's birthday who is on a different ward. I think there was 6 of us eating together but with the accumulation of escorting staff we took up more much of the café! It was nice though, it is always good to socialise and see 'friends from previous paths of life. Now back on the ward and I'm bored, it has started to rain outside even though it is still warm but I am not going to get a sun tan in the rain! I actually have no idea what I am going to do to keep me occupied so I will just ramble for a bit.

I went into town yesterday for a few hours which was nice and on Friday I had a busy day with /PU meetings, timetabled sessions and my 1:1 therapy. That has given me a lot to think about, my therapist has got the knack of really getting into my head and making me think but it is important stuff and will actually help towards me having a better quality of life. This week ahead is also busy, on Tuesday I am going to a Safari & Theme park with a friend which I am looking forward to. It's going to be a long day but I won't have time to rest as I am back to back with stuff on Weds/Thurs but I am not going to think too far ahead right now. I am trying the whole 'living in the moment' thing but it is pretty tough, my head is like an untrained puppy (all over the place!).

Last week I decided that I needed to do a bit of soul-searching and found myself back reading a book very close to my heart. I kind of thought that I would sham the book with you but... this sounds very sappy... it is kind of sacred to me too and I am not sum whether I am ready to do that sharing yet. I hope that doesn't annoy anyone but instead please try and understand my reasons why. I just have weird ways with some things that either you will appreciate or cause you to stop following my blog. I definitely would rather if you stayed!

So, I am back to the same point and having no idea as what to do, we are short on staff so I have got to find something I can do independently and there is not a lot on a lazy Sunday afternoon. Usually sleeping would be the option but for some reason I have struggled to nod off in the daytime so I am looking for something to do whilst being awake!!

I wonder what you guys are up to on this damp but warm Sunday afternoon? If you have got any ideas to share then please do. I won't get your responses today but we have a lot of boring Sunday afternoons!?!?

I am just going to finish off with a shout-out to someone I know and to remind them that birds have feelings too so please avoid them when out driving!!!"

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 (communications@standrew.co.uk). 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 (communications@standrew.co.uk), 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."