Thursday, 10 August 2017

on being an independent voice, leader, educator, survivor: Safe Houses for Psychosis

A wee reflective post about being an independent voice in mental health matters, speaking out and, in a sense, leading the way.

My psychosis in 2015, following a complete physical and mental breakdown after years of campaigning for justice, resisting bullying and exclusion by various head honchos in Scotland's mental health world, was transitional and strengthening.  It was a matter of survival, with no recourse to system support.  My whistleblowing had put paid to that.  I was persona non grata with community MH services, having exposed them as incompetent.  There was no trust, on either side.

The psychosis was a painful process, facing the fear, feeling isolated, not belonging, remembering the past, recounting stories, recalling memories, sharing experiences, adjusting, adapting, rearranging, accepting.  There were yearnings, deep longings for more children, lost opportunities, what might have been.  I grieved for babies unborn and considered how this might be overcome.  Time was relative, ageless.

It propelled me back into creative pursuits and getting fit, eventually cycling after not being able to afford a car.  We got poorer as NHS Fife got richer, to the tune of £4.4million, a new Intensive Care Unit at Stratheden psychiatric Hospital as a result of my campaigning and my son's abusive treatment.  It was very unfair, hard to withstand, seeing the new build unit from the 64 bus, Springfield to Cupar, most days.  Like rubbing salt in the wounds.  My son avoids this experience as much as possible.  I thole it and externalise my distress.

I'm glad to say that the pain of isolation experienced during the psychosis has lessened and I've come to terms, to some extent, with the role assigned to me.  Which is to speak out as I find it, without fear or favour.  I'm not perfect and that's OK.  I'm entitled to my opinion, based on a lifetime of psychiatric system engagement, surviving psychosis/coercive drug treatment and caring for my 3 sons coming through the same, supporting other family members too.  I've got the scars to show for it and fortunately the education, and experience, of being a well-seasoned reflective practitioner, trainer, mentor and facilitator of learning.  No mean feat.

I was always a natural leader, even as a child, although didn't realise this until a youth leaders training weekend at Wrangholm Hall, New Stevenson, Lanarkshire, in around 1981, when we undertook a serious of "trust" games and other leadership activities, aged 29, with 2 sons, having survived one puerperal psychosis and coercive drug treatment in Hartwoodhill [avoiding ECT when hospitalised in 1978 after first postpartum psychosis; then Krypton Factor 1980].  During the tasks I took the lead, getting folk organised, usually when others had tried and couldn't manage.  I didn't trust much when it came to the games.  Learnt this lesson more during my first mental patient experience.  I'm a quick learner.
student mentor awards Fife [Adam Smith] College 2007

I've often been a lone worker, in paid and voluntary posts, sometimes the only paid person with a team of volunteers, or taking the lead in setting up community projects, all of us volunteers.  Community development, local activism, groupwork, children's and youth work, in various settings, including schools, latterly colleges and universities.  The student mentoring project I set up at Adam Smith/Fife College in 2006/7 involved partnership working with many other agencies.  Therefore the move into promoting MH peer support and delivering recovery training in 2008 made sense, based on my past achievements.  However I soon met resistance, exclusion, bullying and cronyism, the extent to which I'd not anticipated or experienced before in life.  I've had to get tougher to survive.

In conclusion, I've survived another psychosis without psychiatry this time around, and there is no comparison between the two.  Avoiding coercive, invasive drug treatment and risky psychiatric ward settings is the way forward, in my opinion, for people, especially women, wanting to journey through psychosis with the minimum of damage and the maximum of enjoyment.  To become more yourself, stronger, fitter, drug-free, retaining an independent mindset, avoiding predatory behaviours and increasing self confidence.

Safe (haven crisis) Houses for Psychosis are the way forward, to my mind, and I'll be considering how to make this happen in the time that I have left, researching and evidencing good practice in the UK and abroad.  I'm still focused on teaching, facilitating learning, mentoring within the DClinPsy (Clinical Psychology doctorate) programmes at both Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities, because I believe that my survivor voice and considerable life experience are of value to, will benefit trainees and academic staff, practitioners.  I also want to do the same within Mental Health Nurse training programmes in Scotland, finishing what I started. These are statements of intent.

"That which does not kill me makes me stronger" - Friedrich Nietzsche





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