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.

19 November, 2019

Happy birthday to me! So, another year older, another year in services but another day closer to getting my life back, my freedom and living in the community. I have my family coming over today to celebrate so we are going out for lunch, which will be really nice. I have also received lots of lovely messages already today from those who love and care about me. I feel so much more connected having a phone! Then, later on I might play some games with the other girls followed by a film, a piece of birthday cake, some telephone calls and my day will be complete. Happy birthday to me!

18 November, 2019

Different place, different people but same “me” in ward round… I got emotional and cried! Today has been tough. I went into ward round about lunchtime and really struggled. I had prepared what I wanted to discuss, had sought advice and feedback prior to today, I felt confident and believed I had asserted myself well. I explained that I am ready to take control of my own recovery and want my teams’ support in doing so… but it didn’t really go to plan.

I think the hardest part was that I didn’t feel listened to at all, the way I was spoken to felt quite invalidating and we all know how I find controlling people really difficult, so as soon as this was triggered inside me, out came the emotion. And then I get so annoyed with myself. I wanted to kick myself under the table for crying but there was no going back at that point. I tried to put my views across but was relieved to leave the room and hide in my bedroom for a while.

Fortunately, I was able to make a phone call in my room to someone who really understands me, and I allowed myself to be comforted which helped to ease the intensity. This then led into frustration however, as I felt like I had been pigeon-holed into a box rather than my care and my needs being treated as individual… it’s really hard. I don’t know if I interpreted everything as it actually was; it is difficult when emotions get triggered and then I accept that sometimes you can lose perspective.

What I do know is that I am ready to get my life back, like so ready, and I guess I find it hard when I feel like I am being held back. It’s also hard because I am new here and they don’t know me that well; if they did then they would know that ward round is a difficult environment for me anyways and that their approach in there was bound to trigger stuff inside me. It would be a good idea if they read my blog and could see what I have shared with you guys, as I am far better at writing how I experience things rather than explaining it verbally. I’m now really tired and I have puffy eyes from crying so I am going to get some sleep.

12 November, 2019

Hellloooo, how are you guys? It’s been 2 weeks since I last wrote and so much has changed for me, and I imagine lots has changed in your lives, too. Time is a really strange thing, as is life. I am in such a good place mentally (and environmentally) right now but I know it is not going to be like that for everyone reading this. Therefore, I hope I can be a beacon of hope for anyone who is having a tough time at present – hold on in there!

So, I have moved and am kind of living the dream in comparison to how I’ve lived my life for the last 10 years. As you know, I am from Wales by the sea and I have missed that, but I am back listening to the seagulls every morning and have views of the sea/beach from my bedroom window. I’m not so much living in a hospital but in a big house with some other patients, with the whole focus being on rehabilitation and getting us back into the community. Due to it not being a big hospital like St Andrew’s there is less to offer in-house, but many more opportunities to do things in what I sometimes call the ‘real world’.

One of the things I have already explored is going to college, and I have enrolled at an open day. I am hoping to find a course that I will benefit from, but will also benefit me when going into employment. It looks like I will be having a relatively short stay here as have covered all my therapy in my previous placements, but I have been told that a big hurdle is getting accommodation in the community and therefore, that is where a delay occurs. I have taken some advice from a mental health solicitor who thinks I have got a good case to become informal (meaning I will no longer be detained under the Mental Health Act but agree to be in hospital), and so I have been having discussions with my doctor regarding this. Everything is looking positive but there is still a process, as with anything in life, and I have mellowed to that over the years so I can accept it for what it is without getting frustrated by it. One thing services has definitely helped me with is being more patient - yes I would say that I am now a ‘patient patient’ and life has become a lot easier.

There has been so many perks since moving; I now have a mobile phone on me at all times and considering I have never had a smart phone until recently, I’ve sussed it out and am reaping the benefits from being connected with the world. I have also discovered Netflix and I have to say, I am hooked, TV will never be the same again! I have begun Recovery College here and I am also now sorting out my own medication daily (under supervision), which is huge step as I have relied on staff for the last 10 years for these sorts of things. The next step is to have a week’s supply in my bedroom and be independent in taking them at the right times daily. It is something I am keen to get implemented as it will put me in good practice for when I leave here and is my responsibility. The grounds are also really nice here, it’s just a shame the weather has been so rubbish but I am out doing something daily. I went to the village hall Christmas fayre last weekend which was cosy and nice, plus I have been shopping for my own food at supermarkets. I’ve done some Christmas shopping in Somerset, have been to the cinema and got acquainted with the buses which I realised I had not travelled by in about 7 years (although found nothing has changed!).

My loved ones are all pleased with my move and the extra contact they can have with me; they can see how happy I am and how being in a more relaxed environment suits me. I have a visit next week for my birthday which I am looking forward to, and I am hoping to go home for a few days between Christmas and New Year, so that will be pretty amazing. The someone special in my life has been a huge support with my move and I just want to do a shout out to you, so you know just how important you are to me and my recovery.

Before I go, for anyone who is following my blog but has not listened to the ‘On the Ward’ podcast then do give it a go. I feature on episode 4: Moving On, plus all the episodes give great insight to what it is like living in mental health services in 2019. You can find the link here.

29 October, 2019

It’s my final morning here at St Andrew’s but will definitely not be my final blog entry. I am enjoying this journey that we are on far too much, and hope that you guys are also doing the same. Give me a week to settle in and I will get something from my new place over to the communications team to upload for you to read. There are lots of people who have touched my life in so many ways since I have been here and I will miss you all.

Goodbye from St Andrew's but hello to the rest of my life…

27 October, 2019

Ok, I’m Welsh but I have to say congratulations to England for their win over New Zealand yesterday and getting to the final. It’s a shame it won’t be an all British final, but well done to Wales for getting as far as you did; it was a close match today boys and you have done all of Wales proud.

My news is that I am leaving St Andrew’s on Tuesday, so I am in my last 48 hours and I am really looking forward to my move. It has been quite a journey for me here. From living in a difficult and challenging environment at times, to gaining confidence and building self-esteem in the various opportunities I have had across the charity. It is certainly not a chapter of my life that I will ever forget, but actually a chapter that I can build upon and further myself in on this very exciting journey that is life. I have managed to say a lot my ‘thank you’s and goodbyes; already, and had my final session with my therapists on Thursday which was moving in its own little way. I have reflected this weekend and realised how different my ‘endings’ are from my last placement, and that is testament to how much I have grown in a relatively short space of time. I am independent now, which feels pretty special to acknowledge, and am empowered – as a patient, but more importantly as a woman who is finding her place is this crazy world that we live in! It sounds huge because it IS huge. When suffering with poor mental health every step feels huge, but I am so well right now (and happy ) and that is the biggest step of all.

Before I go, I want to mention my great home visit that I had on Friday back in Wales. Seeing family and friends is always special, and it was good to catch up with you all even though, I have to admit, I was little anti-social due to the fact I got my first ever smart phone! I hope you know I love you guys though.”

20 October, 2019

Come on Wales! I’ve just watched the close Rugby World Cup match between Wales and France, and I am so pleased that we are through to the semi-final, but will we face Japan or South Africa? I have a feeling the next match this morning is going to be just as epic! I am heading into town shortly to pick up a few things that I need for moving on, but I thought I’d check in and post an entry.

So, I had my last meetings on Thursday with the Restrictive Practice Monitoring Group and our Quality, Safety & Assurance Committee. I have really valued being a part of these groups and I feel that I have given feedback that has been able to inform and influence some of the work going on within the charity. It was nice that I got to have a chat with our CEO who I developed a relationship with right at the beginning of my time here. We have worked together closely on many projects and she has always backed me with support. It’s going to be sad leaving for many reasons, with my work within St Andrew’s being something I am so passionate about, but that passion is inside me and I will take it with me wherever I go, whatever work I undertake. Fortunately I have a couple of chill days Friday and yesterday, so I will be refreshed for our staff inductions tomorrow morning and will hopefully get some news of a date for my move.

16 October, 2019

Its official, I will be moving very soon. I still feel slightly mixed but I am very excited too. I am so ready to leave my current ward. It will be somewhere outside of St Andrew’s but I definitely feel that this is a good move for me too. As I mentioned, I will continue posting my blog through St Andrew’s so there won’t be any change for you guys, and I am really pleased that you will be continuing this journey with me.

My week has been busy, busy, busy! It was great being at our Essex site on Monday where I recorded Episode 4 of the ‘On the Ward’ podcast, which was all about discharge and moving on. It should be live on the St Andrew’s website over the next week so have a listen to it and please post feedback! Then yesterday we hosted the East Midlands ‘Recovery & Outcomes’ group run by Rethink, and we had a great session. I spoke a little bit about my story, however the focus topic was ‘maintaining a healthy weight.’ It was also nice for me as a member of staff attended who used to be my ward manager at my previous place, so we had a good catch up and I was able to tell her about me moving on. Today, I have been interviewing for the Patient Engagement Advisor post. This would be the person who I would be working directly with if I was staying at St Andrew’s, so the position feels pretty close to me. I have come away feeling a lot of things from the interviews so I need to sleep on my thoughts and have further discussions with the team tomorrow. I also need to get an early night, as I am involved in back to back meetings tomorrow so I don’t want to be yawning throughout – good night!

 15 October, 2019

I have some good news and bad news. The good news is that following my CPA and discussions with my home team, I am being fast-tracked to a rehabilitation unit. The bad news is that it means I will be leaving St Andrew’s!

I feel a mix of emotions, hence the reason I have needed some time to process everything since my CPA. Of course I am really excited as it will mean a relatively short period of time in hospital before moving into the community, but I had seriously considered setting up a life for myself here in Northampton and I am going to miss the work I do here. There are two rehab units that are in discussion which are both a lot closer to home. I already have a preference, and I will let you know which one I will be moving to as soon as I know for certain. More news is that I will definitely be continuing this blog through St Andrew’s, so you will be able to access it exactly the same way as you do now. Hopefully I will be able to share another view of things through transitioning and being in a less secure environment where I will have a lot more access to the community, and hopefully a whole new set of opportunities. These are exciting times for me, with the move expected to be pretty quick so I will keep you updated on everything.

I hope you enjoyed my special blog for World Mental Health Day. I am going to our Essex site on Monday to give an interview for the ‘On the Ward’ podcast, so I will post more details on that next week.

30 September, 2019

I had my 12 week work placement review today and all has gone well, so I now switch over to voluntary hours where I will be doing a little extra too. I really enjoy my role with the Patient Engagement team and time certainly flies by when I am working. After my review I spent some time scoring job applications for the advertised Patient Engagement Advisor role that I will also be interviewing for soon. It was the first time that I have done competency scores before actually interviewing so I really wanted to get it right but I felt confident and am happy in how I have scored.

What I really like is that my input is 100% valid; it is not tokenistic in anyway and it was recognised that I would be directly working alongside the new Patient Engagement Advisor and, therefore, it made perfect sense that I would be fully involved in the application process, and would even take the lead.

Don't get me wrong, I am guided and can have as much support as I need in my role but I am treated as an 'equal' and completely part of the team. A thanks really needs to go to my supervisors in this because they really wouldn't have it any other way and this is an example of true patient involvement and co­ production at St Andrew’s.

So, tomorrow I should find out about my future move and step down from this ward, I really do hope that I get to stay at St Andrew’s as I am full of ideas and am involved in various projects that I would like to continue with. It is my CPA (Care Planning Approach) meeting on Wednesday so hopefully a plan will be put into place. We have these meetings every six months and it’s an opportunity for my whole team to meet within and outside St Andrew’s to reflect on the previous months and make plans for the next. They are always anxiety-provoking meetings for me as they are a larger scale ward round and we all know that I am not a fan of them, but they are really important and I just hope that I can feel confident enough to say all I want to say. I will let you know how it all goes.

BTW, look out for my Blog Special for World Mental Health Day on 10th October.

25 September, 2019 

It is only Wednesday and I already have had a really mixed week.

I got off to a great start on Monday morning, with a big group at inductions that seemed to receive our presentation really well. I work alongside another patient when doing inductions and I am in a great position in helping to boost his confidence and help him achieve to his full potential. We have got a really good partnership and I just want to say well done to him because he is doing so well.  I think the kind of 'mentoring' role might suit me!

It was also great to see at inductions that we had some new starters for a new role around the hospital of Peer Support, which means St Andrew’s employing people who experience of mental health services. To those new starters- I hope you have a good week of inductions and settle well on to your new wards.

Afterwards I continued with my Patient Engagement work placement, which was mostly about catching up and planning our next few sessions, it was all going in good stead.

In the afternoon I was due to speak to the new Preceptorship Nurses (or newly qualified) about the importance of a Care Co-coordinator role but due to low staffing, I couldn't attend. This did frustrate me as if my unescorted leave was established then it wouldn't be a problem for sessions like these that really boost my confidence, help my recovery and give a good insight to staff across the charity.

Anyway, Tuesday came and again I was expected to be involved in the Preceptorship training, but this time I found it difficult to attend due to some dizziness that my observations showed was due to low blood pressure. I was fine sitting/ lying down but walking to the main building for the training just felt like an impossible task and so I didn't attend.

Now today, I feel ok but I have not got anything on and I haven't been able to get out on leave either.

Wednesday is normally our DBT therapy day but we are having a break this week so I think I will just do some relaxation and meditation on my own in my room this afternoon before having a busier day tomorrow.

22 September, 2019

Hmmm... I'm bored! Anyone got any exciting stories of what they are up to or have been up to? I was struck down with a sickness bug on Wednesday and Thursday which was really rubbish, normally I can handle being sick pretty well but at one point, I just sat in my bathroom on my own and cried, I felt pretty poorly. Then Friday came and I wanted to eat anything and everything, I basically had two breakfasts and two lunches.

I was supposed to have gone into town in the afternoon with my care coordinator so was banking on a McD's, but she had to go home sick, which was a bit disappointing but we'll get to go out this coming week instead.

However I did get to go into town on the Friday morning for my volunteer charity shop placement, which I am really finding my feet at.

It is amazing at how much goes on behind the scenes of a charity shop and is definitely more demanding than your average high street store. I am already feeling like I have a purpose there and it is helping me to regain a good work ethic that is hard work yet rewarding too. I am quite lucky that St Andrew’s are supporting me in this placement and I would recommend to others who are in a similar position to me.

Unfortunately, I haven't been able to get out on any leave this weekend due to the ward dynamics and low staffing, I try not to get too frustrated by it as 'it is what it is' but with it being nice weather, it would have been nice to have got out.

OMG, I'm talking about food again... but I also like to go to our on-site cafe, Tompkins, for lunch on a Sunday, as I am not really a fan of the Sunday dinners they deliver to the wards, but I have had to make do today. In fact I am not really a fan of much of the food here and especially so at weekends, I never really thought of myself as fussy but I guess I must be! Well, I told you that I was bored and I suppose this has been a boring entry so I will write again in a few days.

16 September, 2019

Whoop Whoop! We are 'DAY 200' of this blog and what a journey it has been so far. I continue to enjoy sharing my life with you and hope that you are also benefitting from following this blog. I am sorry that I have not written for a while, there was a mix up in sending my entries through to the right person to upload but you should see that a few entries in one go have recently been uploaded and here I am again now.

So, my biggest news is that a doctor from Wales came to assess me today and he is arranging for my local Rehab team to come and see me. Hopefully this will be during the next two weeks and prior to a panel sitting on the 1st October to discuss where, and when, I move to next. I am still hoping to remain in St Andrew’s and expressed that yesterday although nothing is certain and I guess I just have to keep my fingers crossed!

I have been really enjoying my work placement and have thrashed about some good ideas on moving projects forward within the patient engagement team. I am also planning a patient engagement newsletter, so those internally can look out for that hopefully next month.

It was great to see the new starters at inductions this morning, it was a very small group and I hope you all benefitted from hearing from us. It will be good to see you on the wards and I have had some great feedback from recent new starters who really valued the patient input at their induction and if anything, helped them to decide to take on the role here as they believe they can help make a positive difference to patient lives — great news!

My ward is still unsettled at times but I am plodding through, I am pretty much off the ward or in my bedroom so try to distance myself away from it all. I am really sad as the member of staff who used to come on my day trips with me, has left so I am really missing her positivity and the support she continually gave me. She will be missed by a lot of us and I'd like to wish her all the best for her future.

I have got a quiet day tomorrow but I am attending the research committee on Wednesday afternoon, which is a first for me and am looking forward to it. Research has always spiked an interest in me and hopefully I'll be able to bring a different perspective as a patient voice.

I then have a busy Thursday and Friday so will catch up with you this weekend and let you know what I have been up to.

25 August, 2019

Who is enjoying the sunshine on this August Bank Holiday weekend??? Not me... I have been in bed the last couple of days with a sore throat and headache thing, that just won't shift. I love the sun, but not this weekend which is really, really annoying!!

My trip to Cambridge however, was really nice and we did have good weather too so we had a picnic down by the river and just enjoyed being away from the hospital for the day.

I really am ready to move on from my current ward and time away from the ward just emphasises that. I really think it will help me with my recovery. All of the my healthcare team at St Andrew’s and in Wales agree I’m ready to move wards. But the process is just very slow, I just feel like I am 'existing' which is a pretty rubbish feeling to have.

A move could probably be pretty simple if it wasn't for the fact that I am from Wales who ultimately make all the decisions. I just need them to come and assess me to see that a move within St Andrew's would be the best option and then all systems could be go. I really want it so much.

Before I go, a birthday shout - out to my Mum for yesterday, and who has taken my Nephew to London for a couple of days, I hope that you are having an amazing time.

20 August, 2019

Well, my last few days have been busy beginning with a visit from my Mum on the weekend which was really nice. She travelled by train up from Wales on Saturday morning and I took her into town for the afternoon. We just mooched about the shops where she picked her upcoming birthday present and then we went to a certain pizza place for food which we enjoyed.

She stayed at the hospital accommodation on the Saturday night, which she said was really nice and then we had a visit at Tompkins (our restaurant) on the Sunday where we had some lunch before she travelled back. In all, she said that the travelling was pretty straight forward, which I'm glad. but . It is also good to know when it gets to the stage for planning my visits home using public transport..

So, yeah I had a good weekend although was annoyed yesterday as I couldn’t go on my inductions and my work placement in the morning.

My unescorted leave within the hospital and progressing into the community will be so beneficial as it will just allow me to have my independence back, although the whole process is proving to be very slow and very frustrating. Anyway, today, I was at Morrison's first thing to get my picnic stuff ready for my trip to Cambridge tomorrow and this afternoon I assisted in an interview at William Wake House within the psychology team. I'll be getting an early night tonight as I've got an early start, I'll let you know how my day out goes.

15 August, 2019

Today I attended my first team meeting with the PALS, Complaints, Carer & Patient Engagement Team which went really well. It is a monthly meeting and one I will now be attending regularly. I really feel embedded within the team and enjoy giving input as well as learning from those I work with.

Together, we have got a lot of experience from a variety of angles and we work really well. I feel valued & respected by all members of the team and so yes, this is a little shout -  out to you guys, I really enjoy working with you!

After the meeting I met up with another patient who I do a lot of work with and a member of the research team to discuss where we could assist in the consultation of research policies. It was a useful meeting with a plan ahead of spending some time reading a set number of policies in view of giving any feedback from a patient's perspective.

I'm now just going to relax tonight and am going to a well-known dessert restaurant tomorrow afternoon with my care co-ordinator before she goes on leave so am looking forward to that.

11 August, 2019

Just a little entry for you guys to check in. I hope that you are all enjoying your weekend although it is a little blustery! 

I have had a quiet few days, but have a busy week ahead with lots of stuff to look forward to too.

I am off to the cinema again on Tuesday evening and am going to a quaint little Italian beforehand from what I have heard it is really good food. It is just across the road from the cinema and we have been eyeing it up for ages so it's time to give it a go.

I have then got my Mum coming up on Saturday, so I am heading into town with her for the afternoon, she is then staying overnight at the visitors accommodation here and we will have another visit on Sunday before she gets the train back to Wales. I'm looking forward to seeing her plus showing her around a bit.

I have been trying to arrange to trip to the beach for the following week but it either takes a forever amount of hours to get there or it is really expensive so I think I'm just going to have another day out to Cambridge which I really enjoyed last time.

A nice picnic in the park and a look around the town, I think a day away from the hospital is just what I need right now.

I say that because the ward continues to be unsettled so I spend a lot of time either off ward or in my room so yeah, I fancy a day out without alarms & the stress of the ward.

Oh, I just realised the time and I'm heading to Tompkins for lunch so I have to go but I will write more soon.

8 August, 2019

Today was our BENN's (Birmingham, Essex, Nottingham , Northampton sites) meeting and it went really well. It was much better attended so a big thank you to our CEO who gave a much needed push for the right people to attend (whilst also attending herself) and well done to all the patients who came to raise really interesting & valuable points.

I felt much better about the meeting as a whole, I feel that we now have a really good working agenda and we are achieving the overall aim for this type of meeting.

It was my second time at chairing the meeting and I felt quite composed, until I realised that my 1:1 Psychologist was there who is also Clinical Lead for our /PU.

However, I received some positive feedback prior to the meeting from our Advocacy representative based on the previous meeting and in the end I just took it all in my stride and felt that I did a good job! 

I really hope that we get the same level of attendance at the next meeting in October even though it clashes with the Executive Board meeting; we changed the dates for the BENN's for it not to do so but the dates of their meeting has changed and therefore, we might have a problem.

Unfortunately  BENN's is still not known charity wide so if there is anyone working at St Andrew’s or living here who is reading this and would like to attend or even just more information of the BENN's then please contact Hayley Lucas at the Patient Engagement Team who will be more than happy to help.

Thanks again to all those that attended today and especially the group that travelled to us from Essex, it was great meeting you all.

02 August, 2019

It's been 10 days since I last wrote and my time has been really mixed. After my last entry, I decided to be kind to myself and gave myself a 'duvet' day, which was much needed and understood by my team, even though I missed our group Dialectical Behaviour Therapy session.

The following day I felt much more motivated. I attended the Executive Board meeting for a 20 minute slot to discuss our Birmingham, Essex, Nottingham, and Northampton sites (BENNS), my work placement with the Patient Engagement Team, and my blog. I was nervous attending the Executive Board as it was kind of a big thing and I’m not sure when a patient last attended, but everyone helped me to feel at ease and yeah, I think you could say, 'I smashed it. I think it went really well.

I then held a focus group in the afternoon to discuss our Patient Charter, which lists patients’ Rights and Responsibilities. I hope next time more people will be able to attend to give their feedback, but we came up with some good points that will be fed back at the next BENNs.

Then on Saturday I had a very exciting day as I went to ComicCon in London which was pretty awesome.  I want to say a huge thank-you to the member of staff who took me, I'm so glad that we got to be superheroes together for the day! 

Life has been a little tough on the ward this week, living with people who suffer from lots of different mental health issues can mean that life can feel a little unsettled at times. I want to be back in the 'real' world more than anything right now, but writing this blog helps me to express how I’m feeling so I can continue with my recovery.

I didn't then have the best start to this week mainly due to the ward and lack of sleep so I missed Monday’s Inductions and have just taken it really easy on myself.

I went to see my therapist yesterday, it was good to catch up.  And I am off to the cinema today to see The Lion King with a few other patients from the ward.

I am not planning on much over the weekend, I will probably hibernate in my room quite a bit, catch up on some sleep and take some time talking to those I love & care for over the phone.

If anything exciting does happen then I will be sure to write. Have a good weekend.

 23 July, 2019

This is like the saddest entry that I have written as I feel really sad right now and I don't know what to do with myself.

I'm currently sat in my room typing on my laptop. I normally use the ward computer room, but I can't bear to be out on the ward right now. I have cried so much today. The ward environment is so stressful as many patients are quite unwell, but it’s actually the first time that I have felt that I can't cope with it; I'm literally hanging on with a thread.

Being on my own isn't a great thing right now either however, as all my head wants to do is cut off and shut down, but I have tried being in the communal areas, but many patients are really unsettled at the moment so it’s hard for me to be around them. Some of it has even been aimed at me today from a patient I have become friends with, so it is hard to not take it personally, even though she is lashing out at a lot of people. I just feel so stressed and feel completely done with this ward and I’m ready to move on.

As the people around me are so unwell it’s starting to affect me. I am normally pretty resilient and can take a lot, but I still suffer from some trauma symptoms and I had a really bad nightmare last night so am really not on form. I feel exhausted but am scared to shut off as it has not always been a good thing in my life.

It is early evening right now and the alarms have literally only just stopped going off, the staff are ridiculously stressed too.

I’ve brought up some of the issues and hope going forward it improves. I remember being unwell myself and can empathise to some extent. Being in a mental health care hospital can be hard at times. This is the reality. There are good times and bad times, as today’s blog shows.

My piece of advice to patients or anyone who just can’t see a way out, is to open up and speak to staff and take little steps just so you’ve got something to focus on. 

21 July, 2019

Hey, so I thought that I would add a post as I am just relaxing before going out for a few hours this evening, which I am really looking forward to. Not a lot has happened but it has been over a week since I last wrote and so here I am!

I did go to see the new 'Spiderman' on Friday night at the new cinema complex at Rushden Lakes, which was very nice by the way, and the film was pretty cool albeit different from the previous style of movies. The graphics were incredible and I would recommend to go and see it, even if you are not a superhero geek as me, but just to see the effects. Afterwards I went to a well-known burger joint which never disappoints!!

Oh, I do have news... so, that meeting took place on Thursday and it’s been agreed that it is time for me to move into a less secure environment so my care team are arranging a Gatekeepers Assessment for the next few weeks. Basically that means that I will be assessed by doctors from Wales, even though I wish to stay in Northampton, but they pay for wherever I am placed so have the overall say, and will decided what level of security and where I will go next. I have about 7-8 weeks work left with my therapist so I am hoping to move about then as I am definitely ready.

The ward continues to be quite unsettled with patients being quite unwell in their various behaviours, but I keep myself to myself and focus on evenings like today where I'm going out and connecting with the 'real' world as that is where my future lies.

I have my work placement in the morning with the Patient Engagement Team, which I always look forward to. I find the role so rewarding and it is only early days, I really feel like there is so much that I can achieve and strive to achieve.

I don't know where my work will lie when I am in the community and I was talking about this to someone close to me last night, but I know where my passion lies and that is what I am going to follow.

The day that I am no longer passionate about what I am doing then it is time for me to do something else and re-look at myself. Well, that probably sounded a bit deep, which it wasn't meant to for a Sunday afternoon, lol. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

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 and 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 the 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 might 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 and 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."