Tag Archive: acceptance

CAMHs Staff Helped Me Find Hope When I Thought All Was Lost

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By Nina Martynchyk

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“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”

– Thich Nhat Han

 

 

When I think back to my time in hospital, the only thing I really remember are the relationships that I had with the staff that looked after me. There was a period of time when the staff were the only people I could rely on.

A couple of weeks after being admitted to the Royal Free for Anorexia, my placement with my old foster carer broke down.  My mum had died two years before, my attempt to start a relationship with my dad broke down catastrophically and with the exception of my brother, I had no family to visit and support me until my current foster mum came along six weeks later.

Sue Gerhardt is spot on when she said “The qualities of good parenting (and of close relationships in general) are essentially regulatory qualities: the capacity to listen, to notice, to shape behaviour and to be able to restore good feelings through some kind of physical, emotional or mental contact, through a touch, a smile, a way of putting feelings and thoughts into words.”  Despite being bruised by the collapse of many of my past relationships, the support, time and care the staff gave me meant I could feel that they genuinely wanted to help me which in turn eased the loneliness I was feeling. Even though they carried out my medical observations and blood tests, they also went the extra mile which showed me that I wasn’t as worthless as I thought I was and that I deserved care and attention.

When I had nobody to wash my clothes for me, I recall the lead nurse sitting on my bed and offering to take it home for me.  I remember the health care worker that shared my 16-year old hormone fuelled obsession with One Direction listening to my favourite songs with me. I was also obsessed with magazines which resulted in many afternoons of conversations about the current state of celebrity affairs.

I remember having to create an impromptu art portfolio to hand into my college which would determine if I would get onto the art course there or not. One of the nurses spent her afternoons teaching me drawing techniques and admittedly doing quite a bit of the drawing for me.  I was accepted!

When I was about to start sixth form, one of my nurses came in on her day off to take me to my open day. It was a great day- we had lunch at Nando’s, went to visit the college and then met up with my foster mum who took us out for a snack. Having two meals out of my unit was a very big achievement for me. That day, not only did I tackle my Anorexia but I also realised that I really did mean something to those looking after me. When the staff would do nice things with me, such as help me with art or go with me to buy One Direction posters, I would also feel like I wasn’t only a patient but a ‘real’ person with real interests too.

The professionals who worked with me also helped me build my relationship with my foster mum. By the time she came along, I had very little trust in people. I needed constant reassurance from the staff that she was as nice as she seemed, she wasn’t lying to me about taking me home with her and that she really meant the lovely things which she was saying. The hospital also made sure that my chosen health care assistant was there with me at my first meeting with her.  Starting any relationship with anybody isn’t very easy, let alone when you are in crisis in hospital and have been through four previous failed placements, bereavement and trauma. Without the amazing help from the staff, setting up a relationship with her would have been much more complicated than it already was. Now we get on really well, I still live with her and we have spent my previous four birthdays together. Not only did the staff help me within the hospital setting, but they also helped me on the journey of creating a life out in the ‘real’ world.

Thich Nhat Han says “Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.” For the majority of my stay in hospital, hope was very hard to find within myself. I am so grateful to the staff for giving me with hope when I needed it the most and eventually helping me find it within myself despite the fact that I thought it was permanently lost. The professionals who worked with me helped me see that I was worth more than what my anorexia, depression and my anxiety made me feel.

I have now recovered from an eating disorder that once nearly took my life.

Thank You.

Nina Martynchyk

 

 

This blog relates to the Caring Relationships theme – click here to take a look

Here are a few extracts…

The Caring Relationships theme focuses on ward staff members’ relationship with young inpatients. It touches on how staff are compassionate experts who build-up, empower and support young people’s relationships with everyone involved in their lives, including families, carers, friends, schools and even pets.

Young people love it when caring adults commit (with flexibility of course) to their request for individual quality time. The ‘therapeutic alliance’ is the ability to form and nurture therapeutic relationships in which staff create a ‘bond’ with young people and their family, so they can work together to reach shared decisions. In this sense, it’s primarily about supporting healthy attachment, so young people and those involved in their recovery can have trust, and are able to be honest about their needs. The healthiest relationships are those which are honest, flexible, committed, warm and safe. What matters most is that these purposeful conversations and interactions take priority, are young person-focused and caring. Every action communicates something of importance.

All of us are open to powerful emotions that we can’t always ignore or switch off. Instead of shaming ourselves when these emotions are triggered, we need to step back, work out what we’re thinking or feeling, and identify the underlying source of what we’re experiencing. You can teach a young person that their feelings are not enemies or threats to their existence; that each one of them deserves kind and uncensored attention, exploration and integration. Sometimes powerful energies just need to rage in them for a while. Sometimes the tender tears and emotions need to flow or stream out of them in order to accommodate more hope and love.

Applauding the ‘small’ achievements is one of the simplest, but most effective ways to boost young people’s happiness. Positive feedback is the most powerful tool you have to improve a young person’s behaviour and self-esteem. Warm and sensitive validation of their thoughts and emotions helps them work out what triggers their feelings and can neutralise difficult parts of their experience.

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About the author

Hi, I’m Nina. I’m 20 years old and will soon be starting university to study Psychology. I’m passionate about spreading awareness of mental health and the foster care system. My interest in inpatient mental health care stems from the period of hospitalisation I experienced for Anorexia Nervosa, half of which was spent as a detained patient. I now live with my foster mum and foster brother. My biological brother spends a lot of time round at ours’ as well.  I am now in recovery from Anxiety and Depression and have recovered from my eating disorder. 

https://ninamartynchykblog.wordpress.com/

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“It is increasingly accepted that young people should be involved in the care that affects their lives, and it is important to do this in an appropriate and meaningful way.” (See YoungMinds’ Where Next 2)

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Tensions between friends and friendship groups are a key feature of young people’s lives. These are expected and accepted. It’s a learning opportunity.

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Part of the young person’s development is to test rules, limits and boundaries. This will happen on the ward from time to time and staff respond in a firm but fair way; being calm and sensitive, and showing acceptance and understanding, while reminding them of the ground rules.

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Ward Community Rules Expectations

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Ward Community Rules Expectations (whereas rules are often one-sided and imposed, expectations are inclusive and promote a culture of mutual respect)

This is an example of an impressive list of social expectations everyone is encouraged to stick to. What’s truly fab about it is that young people themselves, working alongside staff, came up with it. Such an idea-generating activity can be a notably remedial and neutralising activity in its own right:

  • Be respectful to others.
  • No bullying behaviours.
  • Violence to others or property will not be accepted.
  • Attending your education sessions or purposeful activities.
  • Going to bed on time.
  • Looking after your personal hygiene and keeping your bedroom tidy.
  • We expect that everyone, both staff and young people, will treat everyone with respect and encourage positive interaction.
  • Use words to express the feeling or impulse, otherwise the ‘violence’ will be split off or acted out.

Source: tewv.nhs.uk – see more here

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The Emotional Thermometer by Alistair Cooper and Sheila Redfern

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A tool for parents. 

What it is..

The Emotional Thermometer is a way of keeping in mind how strong your feelings are at any given moment. Use this thermometer as a gauge of when it’s best to act, and when it might be better to wait.

 

It helps you by…

The Emotional Thermometer helps you become more aware of what you are feeling and how intensely you are experiencing the feeling. This awareness will allow you to find ways to reduce the impact of your feeling and bring you into a calmer state of mind.

 

It helps your child by…

The Emotional Thermometer helps your child because the more regulated you are feeling when you interact with him, the less likely you are of overreacting. Your child will see that you take responsibility for your feelings.

 

It helps your relationship by..

Keeping in mind your emotional thermometer makes it less likely situations will escalate beyond control and will help you to understand your child’s feelings and bring you closer together.

 

Keep in mind…

  1. Use the concept of the emotional thermometer as a gauge of when it’s best to act, and when it might be better to wait.
  2. Notice your thoughts and emotions to develop your ability to be a more reflective parent.
  3. When you start to notice your own feelings, you can then reflect on how you are coming across.
  4. Use friends and networks to help you.
  5. Be accepting of how you feel and how your child feels.
  6. Remember your child is just a child, with a separate and totally different set of thoughts and feelings from you, which represent both his age and the things going on in his life.

 

© 2016 Alistair Cooper and Sheila Redfern.

From Reflective Parenting: A Guide to Understanding What’s Going on in Your Child’s Mind by Alistair Cooper, Sheila Redfern

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mutual respect

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“I find gaining a good rapport, which has mutual respect at the heart of it, comes from accepting a young person’s right to say what he or she has to say, no matter how we might internally judge it. Then I say what I have to say, I stand firm and am not blown away by their response. This kind of caring earns respect.”

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