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Category Archives: Mental Health

Go with the flow. Echo Update.

IMG_1618ECHO had its first group session at the new place of The American, more turned up than most of us expected, this was a welcome sight as many were wondering if now was the time to stop coming.

Thats not to say we have given up on ECHO, far from it, but the serenity that Brunswick House offered contrasts greatly to the atmosphere of The American, this does not help to ‘settle in’. I am lucky in this respect as I am familiar with the American, many are not, and the process of going somewhere new can be overwhelming, but I too was hesitant as to whether the group would work here.

Chaos was expected as no routines have been set up yet, and chaos was the format for the beginning.  This will improve as time goes by with more input from us to make it work.

Emotions were being suppressed by everyone to differing levels – anger, confusion, dejection where common but most present is probably uncertainty. We have had a letter explaining what has gone on with the funding cut and how we have been given this reprieve by Brighter Futures and the generosity of Swan Bank Methodist Church in order to keep the group going , though not the same, until the end of March.

It also tells us how they are pursuing different avenues toward funding but basically it is looking like ECHO requires a night in shining armour to save the day. Understandably this alters how one approaches the group as a whole – it now has a guillotine at the end of march.

The worksheets, have become more clinical, as I call them, or educational as another does. What we got used to was a more caring way of them being worded. For example:-

You have to take four tablets a day… A Clinical response would be something like…Take two twice a day on a full stomach. A caring approach would be more…Take two tablets at dinner time and two at tea. Both say the same thing but the styling is completely different and I believe the latter helps the info to be absorbed better.

We definitely need to get the CBT papers less clinical.

(Disclaimer).  Now the term CBT has never been used in conjunction with these sessions, but I have found no difference in these and the CBT courses I have been on and the key principles in which they both work are the same.

And in this line of thought I am sending an email to the B.F boss with an idea how we may get some written for us by a University student or two. I don’t think the person who runs the group will have enough time to do the re-writes, unless she takes them home, and none of us want her to become burnt out.

As for me, I have been keeping myself busy, avoiding dealing with it, I am currently looking a a dragons tail that needs scales painting. I know it is the wrong way to do it, especially now I have nearly read a book on mindfulness that was clear on what it means to be ‘present’, and locking myself away from the outside world only makes it worse, but the habit is a lifelong one.  I’m working on replacing it with a more healthy approach.

On the plus side however, I have discovered that writing these blogs has been part of my mindfulness journey, without me even knowing about it, and it is also one way of allowing myself to process the information of the current situation and the Poetry/Prose(new chapter) has been called a cathartic release; this stage has yet to happen, I doubt it will be pretty when it gets here.

On we plod…

www.awanderthroughthemind.co.uk

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Reflections…Week Forty Five

canstockphoto8630797This was the week that Echo closed its doors, and although it was a service that had recognition for it’s good work, it was a service that the government failed to see.

But it is not yet dead!

Brighter Futures have taken it under their wing until next April/March, which is when their funding comes under review from the same government branch that has pulled funding from Echo and NSV (North Staffs Voice), so for a time there is hope

(The term ‘human’ from this point on could refer to any person who has the working knowledge of patients in a time spent capacity. I.e counsellor, Psychotherapist, Psychologist, Therapist etc.) 

The service will be the same but less than, in the sense the space will be shared. However the Swan Bank Church (I believe I have that right) has done the group a massive favour by waiving the fee for the room that gets used by the Art Group until March.

As for the group sessions, well their lies an interesting path that could be taken. No longer is it a CBT session created by a – lets say a ‘human’ – but it is at the moment being taken from those clinical self help books, that I personally find patronising at times. And in this transformation the sessions are getting a little more – generic.

BOOOOOO!

Or is it?

If it was possible to get someone to put the ‘human’ back into the sessions, and still have it slanted towards self harm, after all it could be said all negative behaviours that limit our growth and recovery could come under this banner, but at the same time have a platform that could be taken out under a wider range of banners, with slight tweaking, then the opportunities to fund the ‘human’ to write the sessions is greatly expanded.

This person could also, and it seems like they want more of an active participation from group members to run groups, do, what it seems like my fast becoming standard reply to this suggestion –  Training.

This is also where the evolution of ECHO could come.

What IF…

ECHO became less of a thing, and more of a package. As it stood it was the only one of its kind in the UK, so I have been told, and as it stands now, it is part of something else. As an idea, concept, movement, whatever you want to call it it could be shared. Shared between different charities, and therefore the cost for the ‘human’ could be shared as well. But it also holds that if active participation of the running of the groups is by members, and I am talking about trained/vetted/coached members here, then that could extend the reach to places outside of what is currently available.

This has the possibility of having a snowball effect and reaching many, many more people.

And unlike the clinical CBT training, ECHO membership is life long, for as long as you need it, NOT 12 weeks and your done.

It could even evolve far beyond this vision in time.

So yes, there is hope.

www.awanderthroughthemind.co.uk/reflections-2017

Cut, Cut, Cut…Part Two #nsv #northstaffsvoice

Ok, you are in a charitable service that is having the funding stopped and you have issues with your Mental Health Service from the NHS. Who do you go to for help?
Luckily we have NSV(North Staffs Voice), Think PALS for mental health.

Well, we have till Christmas, this NON CLINICAL group have had their funding stopped.
Who do we have to help with unsatisfactory mental health then???

NSV are a separate charitable group from ECHO and Brighter Futures but you can see the connection I hope. If the support from these non clinical groups is ended the Support is going to be require at the budget cut hospitals, and if that is insufficient or has a problem with it, then there is nobody to help with the complaints if you stop funding the complaint enablers. Crafty really.

NSV covers all mental health services in North Staffordshire, a small team that goes a long way, and in my experience has had a profound effect to my CLINICAL treatment.

Sometimes in the mental health system a person can get stuck in a Drug Treatment program, that is to say the therapy treatments are not deemed an option.

What do I mean by that?
I have collected a lot of coping mechanisms to help me with daily life since my breakdown. This has resulted in therapy being denied due to me ‘coping’ in day to day life, to which I have ‘the medication to thank for that (according to one person),’ although the coping mechanisms themselves have been highlighted as strategies.
Positive strategies by the psych team but negative strategies (the same ones) by the couple of workshops delivered by the same service, so who is correct? Depends on who you talk to on the day.

To throw in the mix, the changes to my mood and the stability came at the time I was in the mental hospital for six weeks. Here I first developed some of the patterns I still use today.
When I left the hospital I did not return to the previous life I had before entering, everything changed. But it was the meds that got the credit.
My mood plateau’d and I kept questioning the effectiveness of the medication as my reactions are still to people, that has never changed, my coping strategy is to not mix with strangers without support or an exit plan being present, and avoiding crowds whenever possible, especially indoors.

Most of my strategies will not work in a work environment. So no, I don’t think the drugs work and I don’t think I am coping.

I was told right at the beginning, something like seven years ago, that the drugs are not the answer…therapy is the answer.
However I was left with…therapy is not the answer, just take the drugs.

I needed to be heard, without the fear of being sent back to the hospital, a real fear after being sectioned, or of being put on new meds/having the ones that you are on altered to compensate for your mood. NSV supplied that ear then became my voice. In 2014 it was a voice for over 1000 members.

If you or a loved one was ill you would want the best treatment available, and the correct treatment.
If the treatment had seemed to stall or be stuck in the same cycle that has offered no change in that persons mental state, and complaints have no effect because they are coming from the mental health patient, then yes an outside voice is helpful. If only to get a fresh look at the way treatment is received.

North Staffs Voice (formally North Staffs Users Group) is that voice for the service users. An intermediary service between service users and service providers.
Personally I think this service should be made available allover the country, just like PALS.

Mental Health problems can effect anyone at any time.
These are worth while charities that require your donations to carry on their support.

I hope that you will never need them nor anybody in your family.
However there is a 1 in 4 chance you will know somebody who will be affected and will.

 

To contact either charity follow these links

info@brighter-futures.org.uk
http://nsvoice.org.uk/contact-us/

To donate to either of these charities please follow the links bellow.

Brighter Futures Donations
http://nsvoice.org.uk/donate/

 

 

Written by
https://www.awanderthroughthemind.co.uk

Reflections…Week Thirty Four

canstockphoto8630797Easy one this week…Voice is loosing its funding.

Never heard of it? Until a month ago never had I. Now I have a chance to let people know what it is and what they do.

First the official aims of the group:-

  • To improve mental health services
  • To bring together people who use mental health services, in order to increase their influence on services and to strengthen their voice
  • To inform people of their rights, about local services and any planned changes
  • To empower and protect the rights, needs and interests of people who use mental health services in North Staffordshire
  • To influence the way those services are planned and delivered
  • To reduce stigma towards people who have mental health problems

Now my personal, albeit short, experience.

I have an issue with my mental health, and I have an issue with my treatment. I am not saying the service is bad, however I have an issue with the treatment.

At the diagnosis some six+ years ago, I was told that drugs were only a band aid, the therapies were the solution to healing. That person passed me over to another and my relationship with the medication, unknown to me, began. I say unknown because at the start I was given the idea that a couple of years should do it with treatment.

The treatment has been withheld due to my ability at finding coping mechanisms, mostly with the price tag of avoidance, not a healthy habit to have. But this deemed me as coping and left to a drug only treatment. The drugs come with known side effects that have been ignored in the past, and for a long time the effectiveness of the medication has been questioned by me and a couple of therapists, Psychology consultants don’t seem to like having their diagnosis’s questioned by these people though. And so the cycle has continued.

What would I know?

Firstly the magic mood change, allegedly by the drug regime, came at my six week stay at the mental hospital. Here though was huge change to my life…I was effectively kicked out of my home by my ex, a blessing, though at the time it did not seem that way. So this meant my home-life completely changed, it was never taken into account that it could be positive – no longer being in that relationship.

Secondly, this is where my adaptations to my routine came into play, well even the routines became my coping mechanism. I had to come up with something, out of know-where came a twitch and a bloody speech problem (officially known as “from Unknown Source”), that could not be fixed. It got better with the help from Speech Therapy, also started whilst in the hospital, but never gone. So routines were developed and rituals were born.

Thirdly, this is the bit that bugs me the most…I am classed, by some, as being a higher functioning personality. Basically I can read geeky stuff and post graduate study notes and follow along for quite a bit on some subjects. Ask me to do the sports pages on a paper and I’m lost, basic instructions can have me flummoxed if the terminology is not in a format I understand. This has lead to problems of communication. I felt what I was saying at the beginning was being ignored, due to my limited knowledge of the terminology being used. So I did what I do, I learnt the correct terms, I did the research.

Hallucinations became Illusions, “they will go away in time”, High anxiety in crowds, to the point of passing out, “will go away in time”, side effects of the medication, “will go away in time”. On and on it went, my using the correct terminology actually made it worse, go figure!

This is where Voice comes in, they are a mediator, a ref of sorts. They can use the correct terminology and get heard, even if the client does not know the words. They can deal with the doctors if the patient questioned the treatment, and work for an alternative approach.

One phone call and my next appointment was a thorough review. Not only is my therapy treatment being looked at and I am being referred to an Eating Therapist for a possible eating disorder (sorry sis for finding out this way) and one of my medications was not increased due to it being an appetite stimulant and known for weight gain, also I was not put back onto a medication, but, and this is a credit to the Doc I saw, he is chasing my GP about getting physiotherapy for my back. Not put forward by the spinal team or the Neurologist, even when they found out I have three disc bulges and that these are/are not the cause of my nerve pain in my legs and feet, or the depression is to blame, dependant upon which consultant you speak to, but my Mental Health doctor. Something is not right there.

One phone call.

I had a Voice. And so do all who use the service and those like it around the country. But they are loosing funds, because they don’t meet targets or deal directly in the treatment of patients.

No they don’t. They should be seen as possibly saving the system money in the long run, even just reducing medications would be a big saving. Normal Hospital treatment has PALS, this is a mental health version. 

I want to be better, not “coping”, I want to be independent of drugs, not dependant on, I want the work that the therapies will require, to fix what can be fixed, replace what cannot. Most of all I don’t want to have to rely on the likes of wikipedia and youtube to do it or the thousands of self help books that all have the best way to do it.

Anyone, from depression to Alzheimer’s, anxiety to dementia should have a voice. Including the families of those affected who see the effects of treatment on loved ones.

If you wish to find out more, or make a donation , please follow this link: http://nsvoice.org.uk

I am not sponsored by or work for Voice, nor do I represent the company in any way. I am a service user and this is my opinion.

 

www.awanderthroughthemind.co.uk/reflections-2017

Reflections…Week Twenty two

canstockphoto8630797A week of uncertainty, a week of determination.

For nearly three weeks part of my medication has been unavailable, completely ending my dose just shy of a fortnight ago. No weening off, just a sudden stop, ended, and as it is the only one in its class, no alternative.

Luckily, I have had no side effects, BUT, and it is a big but – after multiple failures to obtain the medication it took a week , due to one thing and another, to find out if I was at risk of harm from the sudden stop and what my options were.

Not the risk of harm as in suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, the usual bag of side effects. No the question was more of physical, I have been on this medication for years and my body chemistry would have adapted, to a degree, at receiving it daily.

The staff at the groups I use have been kept aware of what has been happening and helping where they can, so I have good, knowledgeable, organisations as backup should things start going wrong. Family are also available, so two safety nets as it were. But it is the group staff that have had the most concern, they have seen people ‘go off’ their meds, and the results are not usually pretty.

If I was at the stage that my belief in the medication is the source of my healing, I would have been worried, but since being on the medications my health as a whole has decreased, co-incidental?

When you go onto medication and you show side effects that the doctors doctors don’t see as problematic, weight gain, brain fog, heck, even my illusions were classed as a side effect by one doc, the usual “it’ll go away in time” becomes the standard reply. This is, I believe, because you cannot test for side effects, so how do you prove/disprove they exist in a patient? My sudden development of a twitch and stammer could not be found in a book, not in patients over the age of 16ish, so that too got the “it’ll go away eventually” line.

Add in the factor of ones improvement due to therapies, that also has no test for it, you have two variables of ones health that do not fit into the equation. The drugs get all the praise and none of the blame, does this really help the patient?

There are reports by some doctors in America, including at least one Psychiatrist, that say the drugs are not the answer, and a homeopathic approach is better for the patient long term. Now I don’t know if that is true or not, since there is no profitability by the drug companies, there have been limited studies on it, but I don’t know why it isn’t available alongside as part of the treatment, possible side effects – better health, better diet, shorter amount of time on the medication, therefore less exposure to the common side effects of suicide, suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety…

One goes to a weekly group that, for want of a better term, does life learning. Which is to say ones life choices, usually influenced at an early age, are questioned and alternative thought patterns are offered. The idea is simple, identify negative traits, identify why they are there, explore alternatives, implement small changes, find oneself and become oneself. Sometimes we are shaped, including our reactions, from outside sources, to a point we become less us and more what is expected to ‘be’.

Yes I am aware I speak as one and as multiple, this can also be a side effect of the shaping, segments of ones personality can get segregated.

Side note  pomegranate/pear/raspberry juice with spirulina and green superblend powders…yuck…eugh…nasty!

I believe I have been lucky in experiencing no side effects (to present), and I would not recommend stopping medication to anyone, but I would recommend you going to as many free therapies/groups/courses as you possibly can that are available in your area. The amount of courses/groups I have gone to is the reason I don’t fear coming off the medication, even as a trail, how else can it be proven if it was the  drug or whether it was changes made during my stay at the mental hospital responsible for the improvement of my mental state and whether the drug has been ‘working’ these past years?

In the West Midlands there are groups like Brighter futures, Echo, Mind, Healthy Minds and Changes, these are the ones I know about but not all of them, they are free and recognised Mental Health groups.

If a series of events and responses in the past are responsible for present, then is it not a good thing to learn to change the responses in order for the future be different than the present?

www.awanderthroughthemind.co.uk/reflections-2017

 

Reflections…Week Thirteen

IMG_0167Positivity section bellow the intro.

This week has seen a bit of a flurry on the blogging side; even as I write this it somehow still feels surreal.

I have just seen my blog on another website, not on the WordPress site I had the invite from but a different website. I am not disappointed my work ended up there, more surprised it had over 30 likes in two days, so for me it is great exposure, it’s one of those sites Facebook sends me to on clickbait.

If you had asked me at the very tentative beginning of my blogging if I thought I would be asked to guest write on another site, I would have thought you strange at best. I honestly thought it would end up like all journalling to that point… Short lived. Especially as there was no enthusiastic charge unto the breach.

Now my ego has had a massage, a shoulder rub of sorts, the kind that says – “it’s worth it.”

I still don’t know in which direction writing is going to take me, but I do know I can connect, even a few at a time, through it. And if that message is one of positivity, a positivity that can have a change effect, even by accident, is it not then worth pursuing?

Here is such an attempt.

Try this out when you walk, it will surprise you how  effective it is, well it surprised me.

From now on, no matter how sh***y you feel, no matter what the weather,  no matter how tired you are or how alone you want to be, headphones on or off, big dog, little dog, Black dog. I know the feelings of wanting to be alone and the effort it will take to do this, I started at two, I also know that the excuses will come easily, if you let them.

Pick a time or place to do this that has the least negative emotional impact on you, doubly hard if just getting outside the door is a monumental task, such as a dog walk route you regularly take or the little diversion on your walk home from work, your weekly walk around the park even. You may have noticed I walk, Spot, my ever faithful Jack Russel, has kept me going outside, out of the door, for most days; but I need the open space to do this technique. Adapt it to suit your way.

For those of us that wear a mask, this will sound all too familiar and will almost be ‘second’ nature, but will have a different outcome than the usual dance.

Practice your smile because a good looking smile is key, even if it FAKE!

As I stated earlier I started with two for the first week, after this I challenged myself to Three. I am now on seven, yes I know it’s anal to keep count at this point but it’s what I do.

Smile to the chosen number of people each day, on a dog walk this should be relatively easy. Look them around the eyes and Smile, the best smile you can do, and say a greeting, whichever you feel comfortable with. You don’t have to stop and talk, heck you don’t even have to slow down. They don’t need to hear you, so headphones are not a barrier and they don’t have to make eye contact back, so no staring!

You will get some odd looks to start, this takes time to take effect, but eventually you will get a repeat pattern of people who see you smile. If you live in an over crowded area, pick out stall people, you don’t even have to shop, just make it easier on yourself to do this.

Here’s the science:-

When you smile within a certain group of people, other dog walkers for instance, you will get noticed because of it, especially when a pattern  starts to take place. The greeting is an added bonus. As people start to recognise you as the person who gives them a smile, they don’t know if it is real or not but its natural to believe it is, they will start to smile back. This way on your journey you have strangers that smile when they see you, take it on face value it is genuine, it will have a tendency for both of you to genuinely smile in time anyway, so why not start with that belief.

Now this is where it gets interesting. Your smile has a great probability of having the person smiled at, smiling to at least the next person they walk past. So if you have chosen three as the number to smile at, and each of them has the chance to smile at a minimum of one other, on your chosen route, that means six have been smiled at because of you!  If they smile at one it’s nine. You may even cheer someone up who needs a ‘friendly face’, even a strangers on a street.

Smiling is infectious apparently and we subconsciously like places that are ‘friendly’. The chain effect of people smiling at one another makes for that  friendly place, this in turn draws the same people back and they in turn catch the smiling bug. Without conscious thought those smiles turn to genuine ones.

Try something that seems to have been forgotten, something free, something that can improve your mental health as a by-product.

SMILE 🙂

Be radical!

www.awanderthroughthemind.co.uk/reflections-2017

Reflections…Week Ten

canstockphoto8630797Positive well-being was the course for this week.

Run by Brighter Futures and Echo, these free learning courses cover subjects, in my opinion, that should be taught in schools, and here I am half a lifetime later just learning how to social interact.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t for one minute blame my teachers for the playground bullying and the social awkwardness I felt, nor do I think that the teachers should be doing these subjects whilst teaching other subjects, I think this should be a class of its own. Self development. I believe the school “holiday’s” at Stanley Head was the closest I got to this.

But this was out of context to normal life, most of my bullies were of an older age, so not there, and as every “team event” from that point onwards seems to be sorted – outcasts were paired or grouped with outcasts.

Could my life have been different if I was taught how to recognise different personality types, therefore having mine recognised for its benefits, and how to best interact and work with each? If I was taught how to build my self esteem, would that have put an end to the bullying, at work if not at the school? Would I have not turned down promotions, because I had been told by my peers at school that I was worthless, so could not possibly hold the position? Could I take rejection better, or even praise? Could I have been a better human being?

The term human being may seem a little odd, de-personalised even, and in a sense it is. Having had the point in my life of being so low as to be sectioned, being sectioned is not the same for everybody -this is my own personal account – and questioning the very existence of the world around me whilst trying to comprehend the in-comprehensible implosion of my life. Implosion does not even begin to explain the complete claustrophobia, of ones own minds creation, and the fears it creates to try and protect itself, but I could not fathom a better word that describes the inward collapse without referencing some obscure theoretical physics reference.  You become the ultimate weapon to defeat yourself.

But through therapies, courses, art and persistence, I have started to realise that my actions of the past were heavily influenced by the negative actions of others.  Some where quite literally beat into me, and to my shame, I interacted with others the same way. This also had the effect of making me easily manipulatable, having a previously unknown sense  of wanting to please, easily falling for a “distress story” requiring help and being self destructive within my personal life.

It’s easy to look back and say “yes, it could have!”, but strangely this action would hold me back from going forward, would have..should have..could have.. belongs to the Three Stooges, not me.

I may be a late starter in self development, but a start I have made, its kind of like learning a new language, you either have to be taught it or shown how to implement it through interactions with a range of people in a controlled positive environment, these courses do both.

Through the blogs I have learnt that it is not just what you have to say, but also the way you say it that impose barriers. I have to learn to replace I’m with I am, I’m has become a negative for me. Never do I go to the trouble of saying “I am not” it is always “I’m not” when the following words are negative. I have even been shown that no can be said in a more positive way.

This word simple swap and pause can empower…

“I, AM”

This is my way forward. This is my way to a better me.

I,am change!

I, am my future!

I, am now!

www.awanderthroughthemind.co.uk/reflections-2017