Today I have been feeling mostly anxious with a chance of excitement and occasional highs. Tomorrow I am taking part in an anti-stigma training workshop at the psychiatric hospital where I have been admitted several times, the last one being almost two years ago for seven months whilst I was on my Section 3. When I say that I’m ‘taking part’ in it, what I really mean is that I’m co-facilitating it as an expert by experience for the Trust and boy, am I scared!
Apparently, Time to Change has discovered that since 2007, the stigma attached to mental health difficulties has decreased within the general population (great news!) but that found within mental health settings and amongst mental health professionals themselves has plateaued (not such great news!). As such, this training hopes to help reduce levels amongst staff. It’s actually really interesting stuff and I’d like to go on it myself if only I weren’t delivering it!
In my former life, I was a teacher and so doing this workshop should come as second nature to me. The thing is though, there is a chance that some of the people in the room will have treated me, seen me at my worst, even helped save my life quite literally. I feel a little like I shouldn’t be there training them and am anxious that they’ll think the same. It’s kind of funny though because part of the stigma I will be talking about is the power balance between patients and clinicians. In order to challenge that, I need to face my fears and carry out the training. After all, why should I be scared of talking to people who just have different training in mental illness than me? They learnt it academically and treating people and I learnt it by experiencing it myself. Yes we have different knowledge but we’re all still human beings and my experiences are just as valid as theirs. Similarly, I shouldn’t be worried about them thinking I shouldn’t be there to deliver training to them, if they are thinking like that then they are in the right place - at the anti-stigma training!
I am aware that going back, physically, to the hospital might be quite triggering for me so I need to bear that in mind and be ready to employ a lot of self-care afterwards. I hope though, that returning will empower me somewhat. If someone had told me two years ago that I’d be there delivering training in the future I’d have no doubt got very angry at them, shot them down in flames and called them ridiculous! Yet, here we are. Even if it all ends in disaster, the fact that I am going, and well enough to do so, is a marker for me that my recovery continues and that I have made considerable progress.
In other news, I have been given a start date for my EMDR work, which is in a couple of weeks. I know I’m really lucky that there isn’t a huge waiting list to endure first and am eager to get started but I’m also full of trepidation about it. In the time I have before it begins I’m trying to practise coping strategies such as visiting my imaginary ‘safe place’ and again, more self-care. I’m also trying to be as productive as I can in the next fortnight in case things go downhill and affect my ability to function at this level for a while.
At the moment I feel the most in control over my life that I have done for a very very long time. I know tomorrow that sense will have vanished as I stand in front of the professionals but I have to remember, I am choosing to do it. And the fact that I am able to stand up there and talk about stigma, the one thing I really want to campaign on, is testament to my own determination and resilience. What’s more, if I can do it, there’s no reason why others who want to change the direction they’ve been heading in can’t do it too.
There is hope, you just have to believe in it.