Things have been busy these last couple of weeks but that has helped me cope I think. I know I live a lot of my life through distraction, I guess everybody does to a certain extent, but sometimes that is ok - if it works, it works.
A lot of time and effort is going into preparing for two events I have coming up next week. Typically, they’ve arrived like buses, nothing for ages then two on consecutive days.
The first one is at a local mental health carers group that I have been invited to talk at. It came about as a result of a talk I gave at a conference last summer which is nice - they were interested in what I had to say and wanted to hear more about my journey and campaign to get a local personality disorder service. Things have moved on in the months passed regarding the service provision outlook so it will be nice to be able to report on that.
Related to that aspect is the second event. I am helping to host a day of interaction and feedback-gathering from those across the county who have first hand experience of personality disorder, either as someone with the condition, a friend, family member or carer of someone who does, or a professional who works with those who do. The event is set up to discuss what services exist in the county already and if and how they work but also where the gaps in provision are and what the locality could do better. The idea is that this will all then be able to be drawn upon as we start on the journey of developing a specific personality disorder pathway for the county. At the moment there is no cohesive approach towards directing people to appropriate support that is already out there (in the voluntary sector for example) and we have no specialist statutory service at all.
All this has come about as a result of discussions on the personality disorder steering group, chaired by the Clinical Commissioning Group, on which I now sit. The last meeting we had really signified something to me. I sat next to a nurse who works at the local acute psychiatric hospital. She has been there for several years and so has been present during all my admissions, including the last one where I was a patient for 7 months under Section. I was so intent on ending my life throughout that period that I would frequently get very angry and aggressive when people tried to stop me and would have to be restrained by several members of staff and forcibly medicated so that I would calm down enough for them to let me go. This nurse was often part of that team. Yet, here we are now, two years later, sitting side by side as equals- both being asked to contribute to the steering group on an equal footing and talking to each other as colleagues. That was, and still is, a real ‘wow’ moment for me. I don’t think it is something that either of us would ever have seen happening back then.
I am quite nervous about both these events but am trying to be as prepared as I can and remember that I am doing this because it is something I feel so passionate about. I am lucky to have the chance to be able to provide some input into service development and I do so, along with raising awareness through my talks, on behalf of not just myself but others who may not feel they have a voice.
Things elsewhere in life are a bit of a struggle. Therapy at the moment is incredibly difficult and is taking a lot out of me. I know that I need to put in strategies to help me cope with it, and keeping busy is one of them. However, I do need to get the balance right and not take on too much. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that I currently have a suspected stress fracture of my shin, which I acquired from running. The irony of injuring myself whilst engaging in a supposedly healthy coping strategy isn’t lost on me! However, it is a real blow as it means I can’t run at the moment and it was really helping my state of mind as well as my sleep pattern. What’s more, I signed up for ‘Miles for Mind’, which is taking place throughout May to raise awareness of mental health and money for the charity Mind, and now I don’t know if I’ll be able to take part or not. I’m gutted.
I think the best advice for me right now comes from Dory from finding Nemo; “just keep swimming!” - perhaps literally as well as figuratively!