Tag Archives: psychologist

We Need To Talk About… Psychosis

Psychosis! What do you think it means? Does it mean schizophrenia? Does it mean being locked up? Does it mean there is no hope? These things are things I thought before I experienced psychosis and I know many still think this way. This is why we need to talk about psychosis.

So what is psychosis?

Psychosis is made up of many different symptoms. Some people will have many, some only one. They include:

  • Hallucinations (these may be visual, auditory, tactile or related to smell and taste)
  • Delusions (having strong beliefs not shared by others, for example, people are going to hurt you)

Does everyone with psychosis have schizophrenia?

It’s a common assumption that the only people that experience psychosis are those with schizophrenia. This simply isn’t the case. Many mental illnesses may cause a person to experience psychosis. These include bipolar, depression and BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). Psychosis can also be a result of physical illness or trauma.

Will someone with psychosis recover?

There is hope for those with psychosis. Many people will only have one episode of psychosis. Psychosis can also be managed with medication. There is a variety of antipsychotics. Of course as with any medication there can be side effects but these often are often outweighed by the benefits. It can also be a process of finding what works for you. Sometimes, when the psychosis is caused by trauma, psychosis can be helped by therapy.

What does someone with psychosis look like?

There is no specific way that someone who experiences psychosis looks. The term “psychotic look” which is often used to describe a way someone is looking is a work of fiction. Those with psychosis look like everyone else. The signs are more likely to be in their behaviour.

A last thought

People with psychosis experience extreme stigma. We are made out to be “crazy” and someone to be feared. In fact we are more likely to be a danger to ourselves or be at risk from others. It can be scary to see someone dealing with psychosis but remember they are probably scared too.

For more information about psychosis click here.

To share your experience feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Dear GP

There is an amazing account on Twitter called Dear GP where people write letters to their GP about their encounters with mental health professionals in the same way mental health professionals write letters about their patients to their GP. You cam visit the website here. I thought I would have my own go at this below after an encounter with a member of staff who is no longer involved with my care.

Dear GP

Today I met with care coordinator P. She was casually dressed in jeans and trainers. She seemed disorientated and unsure about what was happening. She did not know where she had to be and was indecisive of her next steps. She appeared very disorganised and had not booked a room or remembered that she was meant to be attending my psychiatrist appointment.

Before the psychiatrist appointment, P appeared to disappear and it soon became apparent she was making secretive actions with the psychiatrist. She made no eye contact when I entered the room and was distracted and on her phone throughout the appointment.

P made some abstract comments that only just related to the conversation between me and the psychiatrist. She was keen to please the psychiatrist and back up his treatment plan despite knowing the issues with this way forward, which had been discussed previously. P then showed that she had been trying to rid herself of responsibility and discharge herself from my care with no input from myself. This was overruled by the psychiatrist. She seemed disappointed in this course of action and did not make anymore conversation and avoided eye contact for the rest of the appointment.

At the end of the appointment, P decided to arrange another appointment but was inflexible in this leading to no date being set and no forward treatment plan being set.

I thank you for sending P to see me but I think that going forward there may be no working relationship unless her behaviour becomes more open.

Regards

Jo

To share your own experiences feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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They’re Not All Bad

I realise I’m quite often pretty scathing about mental health professionals but some of them are OK. Some do an amazing job and are let down by their colleagues. Quite often our bad experiences overshadow the good and we get into a negative view of all professionals, which is understandable.

I’ve had a few good experiences with different professionals. The negatives with these professionals only come when they are let down by the system they work within, otherwise they are amazing and make all the difference. When someone is caring and takes time with you it makes you feel valued and has a positive effect.

The first professional I found that was great was my art therapist. This was the first major mental health professional I worked with. At the time she was part of the young person’s service which was part of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) and worked with those aged 16-25. I was 20 when I started working with her. She treated me on a level with her. I was training to be a teacher and she treated me like a professional as well as a patient. She didn’t patronise me and went at my pace. Her main work was to get me to communicate and she did well with this but at my pace. She made herself available between sessions if I needed to leave a message or write a letter to help with the next session. She’d talk me through situations. She tried to teach me it wasn’t all my fault and at times I almost believed her. The main thing that sticks with me though is that the young person’s service was disbanded so all over 18 were to be taken on by adult services meaning I’d lose my therapy. However she fought for me and told them it ws totally the wrong time to take it away from me and that she needed to continue her work with me. This led to me having a further 18 months with her. Leaving her was hard and I miss her a lot. I still have the card she gave me at the end of therapy.

Another mental health professional that gave a good impression was a psychiatrist I had in adult services. She is the one that diagnosed me with BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder). She always valued my opinion and explained things when asked. She wasn’t perfect in that she didn’t discuss my diagnosis with me before it appeared on my notes but she was happy to go through it after. She was also a consistent presence for nearly a year before she moved on. This makes a difference.

The next professional who I had a good relationship was a care coordinator of mine, L. L was very proactive in my care and worked hard to get things sorted for me, not only with my mental health but my physical health too, even spending ages on the phone to a hospital trying to sort an appointment for me. She didn’t make me feel like our time was limited, it was always as long as I needed to talk. She took an active role. It was sad when she moved on.

My current care coordinator is also great. She’s not been involved in my care for long but has already shown me how great she is in that she gave me direct contact details for her and allows me to text rather than talk on the phone. She doesn’t mind me messaging between sessions and is quick to reply even if it is to tell me she’ll get back to me properly later. She’s also always on time or early for appointments which makes all the difference. I’ve kind of thrown her in at the deep end with my crisis but she hasn’t made me feel bad about it. I hope we can work together for a while.

Unfortunately these professionals are the exception rather than the rule. It shows as these are four out of many professionals that I have encountered. Hopefully things will improve and we will get more professionals that want to help rather than make us feel like an inconvenience or stigmatise us more. If we can be part of the education of professionals I think it would help them to be more empathetic and understand us more.

Have you had any good experiences? Feel free to share in the comments or on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Self Harm Etiquette For The Medical Profession

This is a blog post for anyone working in the medical profession. This includes Doctors, GPs, Nurses, Healthcare Assistants, Paramedics, Support Workers, Psychiatrists, Care Coordinators, Psychologists, Pharmacists, Admin staff and Receptionists. Basically anyone who comes into contact with a person who may have self harmed (therefore could also be useful for police officers too).

It has come to my attention that some of the people we want to help us deal with self harm can be some of the least useful with their comments and actions regarding dealing with self harm. Therefore I thought I’d put some tips together specifically for them and any professional that needs to help with self harm.

1. Don’t comment on it in front of other patients

This may sound really obvious. Patient confidentiality is key. Bringing it up in front of other patients without permission is wrong and can cause harm to the person who is self harming, the relationship between patient and professional and possibly even the other patient/s who could hear about it. You never know where this information will go. Unfortunately I know it happens. I’ve seen it happen.

2. Don’t guilt trip us

I’ve had this happen with a former GP. I was told I obviously didn’t love my parents over my self harm. It was awful. I didn’t return for treatment until two years later after a suicide attempt. This isn’t the only impact it can have. Self harm is not a selfish act. It’s a way of trying to keep going. It’s a way of coping. Most people who self harm probably already think about the perceived damage they do to others. To be guilt tripped by a professional is more likely to make the situation worse and even cause the patient to withdraw from seeking help, maybe until it is too late.

3. Don’t mimick self harm behaviour

Again this is something I have encountered and not just with one professional but many. It seems some can’t bear to say the words “self harm” and so use actions like using their hand to mimick cutting across an arm. Not only is this not clear communication, it can be triggering. It is a difficult topic but it is one that needs to be dealt with sensitively and professionally. Yes you do need to ask, but please use words rather than miming actions.

4. Be careful with what you say

Most professionals are careful with what they say. They think before they speak and take into account the individuals situation. That’s great if they know the patient. However without continuity of care, which is heavily missing in places, you may not know details or you may just be someone that only encounters someone briefly so has no background information to draw on. This means being careful with what you say. I’ve heard things that concern me. They may be useful for some but I can also see them as potentially inflammatory to the wrong person. I’ve heard “you’re scars look cool”, “just use your faith” and “what would your family think?” as common phrases among others. Let’s work backwards, the last comment can easily be seen as a possible guilt trip but it can also cause some negative emotions to surface, particularly if there is friction within the family. The middle comment is also dangerous as some people don’t have a faith and this may be because of trauma or abuse. It can also suggest unless you have a relationship with a god, you can’t be helped. The first statement may be the most troubling though. You’re reinforcing the behaviour. Yes self harm shouldn’t be something people feel ashamed of, but it shouldn’t be highly celebrated either.

5. Don’t judge or use stereotypes

Some professionals have a preexisting picture of what a person who self harms is. They may see them as frustrating and a drain on resources. They may see it as attention seeking. These stereotypes tend to grow over time within a staff member. I can see how hard it must be to treat someone who seems to be causing their own suffering. But it is a symptom of an illness. It is like an addiction. It is hard once you have started to stop. It can feel like all you have in the world at that time. It is a sign of distress. Being compassionate, non judgemental and just kind to the patient goes a long way. It can help the person to keep accessing help. Doing the opposite could push people away and leave them in dangerous situations.

6. Don’t compare us to other patients who have self harmed

Every person is going through their own unique experience with mental illness and self harm. Self harm is self harm. So it may not be as deep or as “bad” as someone else you have treated, but to that person the pain they feel inside is probably just as intense and unbearable. Hearing that we aren’t as serious as someone else because it doesn’t reach a certain level is heartbreaking and can have a negative impact. It can cause us to try and do more damage. It makes us think we aren’t good enough or that we don’t deserve help. Everyone, whatever level of self harm they present with, deserves support and compassion.

7. Don’t use the terms “superficial” or “attention seeking”

I hate the term superficial when it’s used to describe my self harm. It makes me feel like a rubbish self harmer and that I need to harm worse or more. It can encourage the behaviour and make things worse. The same can be said about the term attention seeking as it can drive the behaviour underground and prevent people getting help.

Those are just a few helpful hints for medical professionals. It might not be a regular thing you encounter but it is always useful to know how to help someone who self harms.

If you have any tips you wish professionals knew then feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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6 Months From The End Of DBT

This is a personal piece. Please be aware some content may be triggering.

It’s been roughly six months since I finished my DBT (dialectical behaviour therapy) skills group, therefore I thought I’d reflect on how things are going.

In all honesty I found the DBT skills group difficult. It revealed a lot more areas that I need to work on than I thought I did. I learnt a lot about myself and how BPD (Borderline Personality Disorder) effects my life. It is a lot more than I thought. I think I thought some of the things I thought were normal, when actually it’s far from normal.

DBT gave me some ideas on how to cope with the self harm urges and things to do instead of self harming, as part of the distress tolerance module. While I’ve tried to practice these, I’ve not found them that effective. The urges don’t go away like I hoped. Instead I’ve found myself fixating on the idea of self harm and how much damage I could do. The only thing that seems to relieve this is to self harm. This isn’t a failure on DBT’s part, it’s mine. Although I do feel I would of benefitted from a revisit to the skills, I also feel I needed some individual help to go through the problems that lead me to self harm and someone who could help me find what’s effective for me.

I knew I always had problems identifying emotions. The most I could do was say whether it was a good or bad emotion. I used to use cues from others to put a name to the emotion. It was something I started working on in art therapy as a teenager as before that I could barely express how I was feeling. I think with DBT skills I learnt some more ways to identify my emotions and the 10 page handout on ways to decide which emotion it is you’re feeling was comprehensive. I just wish I had it in the form of an app on my phone as you can’t really carry a thick A4 handout around easily.

I also learnt through the emotional regulation module that emotions aren’t wrong to have. It’s something I’ve always said to others but never applied to myself. Anger has always been a tricky one for me to deal with. But I’m working on accepting it. I punish myself less for feeling angry though I do still struggle to express it outwardly. I think at the moment I’m not in a safe enough space to allow this expression so hopefully with time that will come.

The biggest learning curve for me came with the interpersonal relationships module. I thought this module would be a waste of my time. I thought I was doing OK. How wrong was I? I came to realise that I was allowing people to treat me like dirt and accepting it too easily. I learnt that there were ways to try and change this and that I didn’t have to accept it or just go into a rage over it. I must admit that most of my time doing this unit I was trying to figure out my relationships and which needed working on rather than the skills to tackle this. Over the last six months this has continued but I’ve lost my grasp on what skills to use. I feel I would maybe benefit from repeating this unit at a later date. I’m not ready at the moment still.

In the core mindfulness module of DBT skills I learnt a little about how to make myself be in the present moment. Before DBT skills group I had a tainted view of mindfulness as something I was no good at and would never master due to previous experiences in therapy. What I learnt was that for me I need to approach mindfulness in a different way and that there are many more ways to practice mindfulness than I had been taught before. For me, mindfulness wasn’t about sitting in silence breathing. I needed to do activities mindfully. This was a revelation but it was, and is, useful.

Overall I’m in two minds about whether DBT skills have been useful. I think there is potential for them to be useful in my life but I don’t feel the course was long enough for me personally. I also feel full DBT, which includes individual as well as group therapy, would have been more useful. I feel that one of my psychiatrists agreed with this also (he’s left now but it would of been good to have him on my side). I am also hoping to attend a DBT skills peer support group that is starting as part of my local Mind. Hopefully this may help a little with the gaps in my knowledge.

For more about my therapy you can click here or you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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Losing A Mental Health Professional

This piece contains my personal opinions and some of the content may be triggering.

Sometimes in life we can’t control what is happening around us. People come and go in our lives whether we want them to or not. This can be hard to deal with. One big change can be when we lose a mental health professional who has been involved in our care for a long time. We may have come to rely on their help and support. We may have built up a good relationship with them. And then it ends.

As someone with Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) endings can be particularly tough. Having a fear of abandonment means that when someone does actually leave our lives it is like a self fulfilling prophecy. Our worst fears are happening. This may lead to us getting involved in risky behaviours or rejecting the person before they are out of our lives in a way we believe will protect us.

Recently I was given the news that my care coordinator was moving on and I was going to have to say goodbye. It was difficult news to take as we had a good relationship and she was a great and supportive care coordinator. Getting the news made me feel like I was being abandoned as at the time there was no replacement on the horizon and no idea when one would be recruited. I was close to tears. Many thoughts went through my head including “was this my fault?”.

As I came to accept that this was going to happen I started to pull away from my care coordinator. This is what often happens with people who have a BPD diagnosis. It’s a way of protecting ourselves from a perceived abandonment even when it is not a true abandonment.

What helped though was the way my care coordinator rounded up our sessions together. She made sure my care plan was updated before everything ended so the next person would know what I needed help with and what I was working on already. Also in the end a new locum care coordinator was appointed so my old care coordinator could introduce me to the new one. This allowed her to inform the new person as to how often we met, what my major issues are and what needs to be brought up at my next psychiatrist appointment. It also helped to make a plan with the new care coordinator as to how our meetings would work.

What should a mental health professional remember to do when leaving a therapeutic relationship?

  1. Let the person know your leaving face to face
  2. Answer any questions about the change that the service user/patient has about the change
  3. If possible introduce your replacement to the service user/patient
  4. If unable to introduce your replacement, leave notes for your successor
  5. Tie up all loose ends

What can I do if I’m losing a mental health professional?

  1. Talk about any issues you feel need to be taken into account with a member of your mental health team
  2. Make sure you have numbers of people you can contact if you need help
  3. Create a support network (if possible) away from the mental health team
  4. Be open to a new mental health professional, remember just because they are new doesn’t mean they’ll be awful

Those are a few pieces of advice that I have but if you have more then feel free to use the comments or Twitter, Facebook or Instagram.

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End Of Therapy Reflection

I know I’m behind on sharing my therapy journey but today I finished the 6 months of DBT skills therapy and I need to reflect on it so why not share on here.

This six months has been hard. It has opened my eyes to issues I wasn’t even aware I had or maybe issues that I was hiding from. It has taken me to new lows. I’ve seen the crisis team once and made two attempts on my life. At one point it was discussed whether I should carry on with the therapy or whether the risk was too high. But I persevered and here we are at the end.

And how do I feel? I really don’t know. I feel kind of numb and a little lost. I know I’m luckier than most of the people I was in the group with. I have a safety net of a care coordinator and access to the crisis team and duty workers. Yet still I feel abandoned. Originally the therapy was meant to be for twelve months but was halved. I feel I could of done with the extra six months to reinforce the skills that we were learning.

I am kind of proud of myself too. This is an alien feeling but it was an achievement to get through the six months even when it took me to my lowest points. Feeling proud though, is that the right thing to be feeling? I really don’t know.

The people on the course with me have been amazing. They have been there for me at the low points and helped me see ways forward. I’m forever grateful to them. The psychologists running the therapy were amazing and we had laughs throughout the six months. There were also tears but we were well supported. I think this is why it feels such a loss. From having weekly support we are left with very little or nothing.

Overall I’m glad I did the course. I’ve learnt a lot of skills and I hope to integrate them into my every day life rather than them be isolated skills I just try to practice for therapy. I would recommend DBT skills to others. It made me see mindfulness in a different way which was an impressive feat as I was very anti mindfulness at the beginning. It may not always be easy but I can see it’s worth.

I will hopefully catch up with sharing the rest of my therapy journey soon. Feel free to use the comments, Twitter, Facebook or Instagram to keep in contact or ask any questions.

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