Like, Wow! From “Nofriendo” to “Freshly Pressed”

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I started a blog a few years ago because I like to write. For me, writing is a release and often my way of dealing with issues. I also like talking about myself. So ya know, it was really the perfect combination. I gave the address to a few friends and family members, and given the pathetic size of traffic I received, I have my doubts as to whether anyone stopped by to read my ramblings (and let’s be honest here. Can you blame them?) I didn’t care. I wrote for me. Like, literally. I wrote FOR ME. I was in some sort of strange twilight zone mindset where I would write about my innermost thoughts and feelings ON THE INTERNET, hit publish, and then be all “THIS IS ON THE INTERNET! WHAT IF SOMEONE READS IT!” What can I say? I’m strange.

But I continued to write. I switched my platform to WordPress. My “writers anxiety” started to settle down.  I’ve always been a faithful reader to a number of blogs, but I started actually leaving comments and communicating. This was one of the best things my blog has brought me – a sense of community. Mental illness can be so isolating, and I now I am in contact with so many wonderful people, blogs, and communities who all share similar experiences.

Suddenly people were commenting on MY writing (always lovely and supportive. No trolls, although, to be honest, being trolled would have probably just amused me. Disclaimer: this is not an open invitation to trolls). People were even “following” me! I was like “What the dickens?!” Even the closest person to me in the world, my husband, only reads my posts under duress. The thought that people “liked” what I was saying, and that they were signing up VOLUNTARILY to read more pleased me to no end.

Anyway I kept chugging along. Writing about what ever took my fancy, on whatever day I felt like it. I opened a Twitter account  and spent about a week trying to work out how to use it. Oh, who am I kidding. I’m still working out how to use it. But even though I love all the comments and feedback I have received on Finding My Sunshine, I still write for me. I have never written a post with the intention of gaining a lot of traffic. I wouldn’t even know how to do that. I write about what is on my mind. Some of it is serious. Some of it is ridiculous. But it’s me.

On Tuesday, the Sydney Siege was on my mind, so in the 45 minutes I had before picking up my Dad from the airport (which, by the way was a complete disaster because I broke down in the middle of the road causing mass chaos and pandemonium. But that’s a whole other story), I wrote I’ll Ride With You. That night I was far too occupied with good-for-nothing cars to think about my blog. I certainly didn’t feel my post was anything particularly special.

So imagine the next morning when I woke up to my phone going berserk. Well, that and the fact that Master D was calling up the stairs that he had a pooey nappy that needed changing. After yesterdays poo explosion (his. Not mine) I was doing that “pretending to be asleep” thing that all parents do at some point or another. As soon as Hubster left to deal with the “shituation” I grabbed my phone and checked. About 30 seconds later, I became completely overwhelmed.

I had a very nice email from the WordPress editors congratulating me on being  featured on Freshly Pressed! The first thing I did was open up I’ll Ride With You and check I hadn’t written something incredibly stupid that was now going to be seen by hundreds of people. Phew. It looked good. People were liking it and commenting and following me. I could not believe it! I may have squealed.

Obviously I had always known about Freshly Pressed. But it was never something I even anticipated ever being featured on. I never wrote to try and be featured. It was all completely unexpected, and no one was more shocked than I. In 24 hours, hundreds of people have “liked” the post. My follower count has more than doubled. I am SO excited about this…but there is a small part of me that feels that I have been caught singing in the shower and pushed onto a stage. I have lots of new followers, no doubt, expecting me to write something spectacular. I’m not sure I know how to!

So, I am going to continue on as normal. Writing about my experiences with mental illness, desire for the reduction of stigma, and sometimes, completely random crap. That’s all I know and all I can do. Thank you all, awesome readers,  for your support, your comments, and your participation in my journey. And to my newest followers, welcome! I hope you enjoy the ride.

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To the Nurses

This is for all the psychiatric nurses.

You really have it tough. Unlike a general nurse, your patient sees you as the enemy. You can be in physical danger around angry men much larger than yourself, and must wear a “Durress” alarm around your neck, an accessory unrequired in most occupations. You need to enforce the consumption of medication in unwilling participants, asking them to open their mouths after swallowing and if unsuccessful resort to the large needle.

Unlike a doctor, who swans in and out, you are around all day. You need to be able to deal with all colours of a patients grumpy, manic, persistent, rebellious or manipulative moods. You know a patient like the back of your hand, but you don’t have the authority to prescribe the treatment your vast experience tells you is required. You know how to be kind as well as authoratitive… A skill many dismissive psychiatrists lack.

You know when you can talk a patient down, and when you need to call Security. You know how to bandage a self inflicted wound much better than a general nurse. You have the gift of forgiveness, able to smile at the patient who screamed at you the day before. You know when to drag a patient out of bed, and when to leave them be.

To the nurses who are rarely thanked, rarely acknowledged and, thanks to the medication, rarely remembered. To the ones who get all the dirty jobs. The ones who posess a skin thick enough to protect them, yet thin enough to care. To the nurses who definetely don’t do it for the money.

To all the nurses who cared for me during my madness, and who weathered my precarious moods, self destruction and rebellion…thank you.

Thank you and I’m sorry.

No Such Thing as a Free Lunch?

Today marks the end of my journey with the Mother and Baby Unit. My doctor saw me as an outpatient for a number of months following my discharge as she wanted to make sure I was doing ok at home. But David is now one, and I have been stable, and it was time to be referred back to my local mental health team.

Today was the day I was to have an appointment with the new Psychiatrist that was going to be taking over my care. I wasn’t looking forward to it. Due to the experiences I had before my hospitalisation I am wary of medical professionals – particularly those in mental health. Would they take me seriously? Would they screw around with my medication? Would they be nice?

Furthermore, my appointment was at my local hospital whose service has not impressed me over the past 18 months. This is the hospital where I was told (in the midst of a mixed psychotic episode) that I didn’t need hospitalisation, only a good night sleep. Indeed it is the very same hospital that I called during my labour with David, only to be told to take a Panadol and have a bath. It’s a good thing that we ignored that advice, because when I arrived we found out I was half way to having a baby, and the contractions were coming quick and strong. Naturally the birth suites were full, and I needed to be transferred to a different hospital, but the doctor was then concerned that I wouldn’t make the ambulance ride. I was told I may have to deliver in the waiting room, with no epidural (“this was not in my birth plan!!!” I couldn’t help thinking ;)). Fortunately for everyone my labour stalled, I was successfully transferred to a different hospital and I even got an epidural. No thanks to my local hospital though. Do I sound resentful? Perhaps a tad 😉

Anyway. Back to today. I went to the appointment feeling rather stand offish and cross about things. I was on the offense and I wasn’t afraid to let ‘them’ know about it. The doctor called me up by my middle name, which wasn’t a great start. But there was something profoundly kind about this woman, and for the life of me I couldn’t stop myself from telling her everything. To open up to someone so quickly is very unusual for me. I talked and talked so much that when Steven came to pick me up my voice was hoarse. Ok, so admittedly I am still recovering from laryngitis…but you get the idea ;))

At the end of it she asked me how it had been. I was honest with her and told her that I had had deep reservations about coming, I told her about my experience with the other doctor. I explained to her that when I am depressed I don’t tend to show the emotion that other people seem to. I don’t tend to cry or even talk much. I will just state that I feel depressed, and because actions speak louder than words, I didn’t seem to receive the help I needed.

To my surprise she told me that she had dealt with many individuals that show little emotion, and that ‘Depression’ is about far more than feeling sad. She told me it was about an inability to sleep, to concentrate, to make decisions, to engage in life. She assured me that she was taking me seriously, and from her notes from the mother and baby unit and from what I had talked about she felt that I had been to hell and back. She told me how sorry she was that I had been through this, and how sorry she was that their service had let me down.

I think that’s what I really wanted. To tell someone at the hospital what had happened and for them to acknowledge it. I hope that by telling someone, perhaps someone else out there won’t slip through the cracks. Not everyone who needs help wears their heart on their sleeve.

All in all I feel good about the appointment. My new doctor is lovely, and I’m confident that with time I will trust her in the way I trusted my old doctor. To my surprise I was also given a medication voucher for the pharmacy, so I can get all my medications for free! This was a huge relief since we were paying almost $100 a month on pills.

To be honest with you, although I have had some bad experiences with our mental health service, I’ve had some really good ones too. The hospital and all of my doctor and psychologist appointments have been free of charge. I received free childcare and now free medications. People say there is no such thing as a free lunch…but I guess sometimes there is. And I know I’m grateful for it! 🙂

Thank You

 

I would never want anyone to think that I hold any abhorrent feelings towards the mother and baby unit (MBU), or to the people who have helped me along this journey. While I was in the unit I did occasionally feel imprisoned or resentful. I would be lying if my time as an inpatient was full of rainbows and butterflies. It is a hospital after all, and I was very unwell. But now as an outpatient I understand why I was treated the way I was, and I am profoundly grateful for the help I received.

I was hanging on by a thread when I was admitted to the MBU, and with open arms the unit allowed me to collapse and then taught me how to build myself up once more.  They protected me when I wasn’t able to look after myself, and encouraged me when I was ready to stand on my own two feet.

The staff at the MBU are some of kindest, gentlest and most patient people I have ever met. Psychiatric nurses must put up with a lot of bullshit. I know I must have been difficult at times – particularly when I was manic. But somehow they know when you need to cry, and when you need to be told to wipe your tears away and carry on. With a gentle authority they kept control, and managed to ensure I participated in activities and tasks that I didn’t want to do. I would look up, halfway through finishing my meal, then think indignantly “Hey! How did they get me to eat this? Oh well…tastes pretty good”.

We were patients, but we were human beings as well. The staff asked about our interests and shared their own. With the encouragement of the nurses I began baking. When I wasn’t able to go to the shops for ingredients, the nurses did it for me and they collected recipes for me to try out. A few of us patients started to knit, and suddenly more needles and patterns started to appear. In the evenings, like a strange eclectic family we watched TV, patients and nurses laughing and joking together.

I hold a very high regard for my doctor. She is a breath of fresh air from the traditional psychiatrist stereotype. She has always kept me involved in the decision making process for my treatment, and I trust her judgment implicitly. She is the type of person you feel comfortable with immediately, and I am very thankful that I am under her care.

 

The unit itself only has 8 beds. Eight. For the whole state. For the whole eight weeks I was there, there were very few vacancies. It is an extremely busy unit and highly sought after, and I am grateful that I was offered a spot. The alternative option would be a hospitalization in a general psychiatric ward, where they would have no facilities for baby, and a more limited understanding of the needs of new mothers. The mother and baby unit is the perfect therapeutic environment for vulnerable mothers.

The unit focuses on being family oriented, husbands were invited – even encouraged – to stay overnight as often as they would like. On the weekends the staff often organised family barbeques or dinners, where the staff and the patients who were well enough would cook. Steven came every single evening to see David and I, and occasionally stayed on weekends too. The staff made sure to include him in my treatment, and also check in with him and see how he was doing.

All in all I am very satisfied with my stay at the mother and baby unit. They showed me how to turn a corner, and helped me find myself again.

So from the bottom of my heart…Thank you.