Archive for the ‘Illness’ Category

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Anthony Nolan Trust

October 7, 2008

The Anthony Nolan Trust is a UK charity that focuses on leukaemia and bone marrow transplantation. It manages and recruits donors and is always looking for more people to add to the register (aged 18-40) especially young men and people from black and minority ethnic communities.

Campaigning journalist, Adrian Subdury sadly lost his battle with leukaemia but his legacy has gone on to inspire thousands of people to join the bone marrow register.

Adrian spent the last weeks of his life campaigning to make education on bone marrow, blood and organs complusory for 17 and 18-year-olds in all UK sixth form colleges.

I registered with the Trust some years ago and can honestly say that apart from the blood test there’s nothing to it.  Find out more at ‘Why join the register?’.

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memories

October 3, 2008

And when it comes to our feelings, those who have been left behind discover a vast ocean. Sometimes the ocean seems calm and still, and yet the next minute, for no apparent reason, a wave comes crashing over us. At other times the loss is so intense it is like being at sea, out of the sight of land and simply tossed around; and then, sometimes there are moments of quiet and serene beauty as a new truth dawns, and sometimes the grief is so overwhelming that it’s like drowning, and there’s no one to hear our cries (Christopher Herbert).

I’ve been thinking about a baby called Iona this week.

Even though many of us had never seen Iona we got to know her through her uncle Chris and couldn’t help but be amazed at her fight for survival. She was just weeks old. We prayed and waited for news of her progress and thanked God for the occasional glimmers of hope. But it wasn’t to be.

It’s been deeply moving and inspiring to read her uncle’s story and I’m hoping he continues for a short time at least. We won’t forget.  Her funeral will be tomorrow and although she may be gone, in the short time she’s been here, little Iona has made quite an impact. And for that we give thanks.

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Be Still …

September 19, 2008

I’m reminded of God’s presence and stillness today … and peace.  It’s not of our natural world and although I don’t understand it I do know it.

I have been overwhelmed but greatly comforted by that presence in the midst of worry, exhaustion, distress and confusion while watching the broken body of a parent die as her soul is set free. I’ve welcomed it in the aftermath of broken relationships and in the building of new ones. It’s been there in the numbness when realising some people weren’t what I thought. I’ve responded to its prompting in accepting I was loved. That same presence is there as I’ve talked to patients whose physical and emotional scars were a bit too much for me and I’ve sensed the presence in the joy of people believing and hoping tomorrow will be better. In the selfless and tireless efforts of people who want to make a difference it’s there … because they are there.

I’m remembering a few people today and hope that in their seeking to find some answers they will be able to find some peace and hope too.

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The lives they left behind …

September 14, 2008

When the Willard Psychiatric Center, New York, closed in 1995 workers discovered hundreds of suitcases in an attic and uncovered lives long forgotten. Unfortunately living outside the US I won’t be able to see The Willard Suitcase Exhibition but have found the online exhibit The Lives They Left Behind which provides a deeply moving account of people whose lives, once filled with hope and promise and aspirations, were never to be the same again.

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connected

August 24, 2008

In two weeks time I’ll be in the midst of discussion as the Church of Scotland’s National Youth Assembly delegates consider the enormity of what relationships are all about.

When I was asked to co-ordinate this particular topic it seemed like a good idea but, as is so often the case, now I’m not so sure I can do it justice (it’s a self-belief thing and I’m working on it!). Alternatively, when I consider some the preparation to date and the discussions I’ve had with my team, I believe we can.

For me relationships are about connection. Not only with those we love and who love us but with the wider community, the people on the fringes of our society, the ones we sometimes choose to ignore. Sadly the truth is that because we’re flawed individuals we do make choices based on our values and beliefs whether we’re conscious of that or not. Is loving one another really so difficult? It would appear so. It’s not easy to say that as Christians we’re not always so tolerant.

What are the characteristics of an assembly of people who care?

Jesus led by example when he mixed with the ignored, stigmatised, diseased, misunderstood, judged and condemned? Was it ok for Jesus but too hard for us? The truth, again, is yes it is sometimes.

Seeing others with a compassionate heart will mean stepping outside our comfort zones and stepping into a world of uncertainty and doubt. Demonstrating God’s Grace by showing commitment, empathy and a willingness to see beyond the divisions that separate may leave us feeling vulnerable, uncomfortable and not in control. But maybe that is what’s needed to create a community based on honesty and caring without any conditions attached?

So who’s entitled to a meaningful and worthwhile life – a life of hope and opportunity where relationships play an integral part? A selected few or everyone without exception? How can we dare to play a part in that?

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Darkness Visible

July 3, 2008

A few weeks ago I was in the library searching for something or other and in my travels came across this wee gem of a book which I’d recommend to anyone interested in mental illness, especially depression.

In the eighty four pages of Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness, William Styron describes his descent into depression through reflection on melancholia, despair, physical ailments, social phobia, alcohol, therapy, hospitalisation and eventual recovery. He gives an extremely moving account of his preparation for suicide, feeling like an observer to an oncoming disaster in an almost theatrical fashion. His attempts to write a farewell note seemed too ridiculous for they sounded either pompous or comical so he tore up all his efforts and resolved to “go out in silence”.

“Late one bitterly cold night, when I knew that I could not possibly get myself through the following day, I sat in the living room of the house bundled up against the chill; something happened to the furnace. My wife had gone to bed and I have forced myself to watch the tape of a movie in which a young actress, who had been in a play of mine, was cast in a small part. At one point in the film … the characters moved down the hallway of a music conservatory, beyond the walls of which, from unseen musicians, came a contralto voice, a sudden soaring passage from the Brahms Alto Rapsody.

This sound which, like all music – indeed, like all pleasure – I had been numbly unresponsive to for months, pierced my heart like a dagger, and in a flood of swift recollection I thought of all the joys the house had known: the children who had rushed through its rooms, the festivals, the love and work, the honestly earned slumber, the voices and the nimble commotion, the perennial tribe of cats and dogs and birds … all this I realised was more than I could ever abandon, even as what had set out so deliberately to do was more than I could inflict on those memories and upon those, so close to me, with whom the memories were bound. And just as powerfully I realised I could not commit this desecration on myself. I drew upon some last gleam of sanity … “

Eloquent and straightforward. Enjoy.

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Monday’s Bingo

July 1, 2008

Yippee! I’ve passed and second year is still almost over!

I find it a little strange sometimes that I can get such good results. I’m sure someone is going to contact me to say there’s been a blunder, a huge mistake, a bit of a mix-up but so far it appears not so I smile. Now those who know me know that I hate boasting and am more inclined to understate my achievements than to shout about them from the rooftops. This is my way even though I wish I was different sometimes. Maybe it’s the result of a Presbyterian upbringing and the fact that praise was always hard to come by in our household or maybe it’s just a personality thing. Who knows and it’s not important. What’s important is I felt really good about myself and am pleased that the hard work is continuing to pay off. I’m sure family and friends believe that I’m taking the phrase ‘if a job’s worth doing, it’s worth doing well’ to the extreme. No? Thanks for your help and support anyway x

Then I had an odd afternoon when I dropped in on a drop-in group specifically for people recovering from mental ill-health. Nothing odd in that you might say, especially for a student nurse specialising in mental health and you’d be right. In essence it’s not odd at all. But when the bingo started I was transported to a certain scene in a certain film. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry quite frankly and left feeling a bit deflated by the whole experience even though the participants were very nice, staff extremely welcoming and everyone seemed to enjoy it.

Nothing wrong with bingo you might think and, again, you’d be right. What am I getting at? I’m not really sure. I spoke to my mentor about it today and questioned the appropriateness of my reaction in a conscientious reflective student kind-of-a-way. Contrary to my thinking she understood what I meant, asking if I saw it as a step backwards instead of forwards. I’m sure that’s what I saw – something from the past – a stereotypical collection of people doing a stereotypical type thing in a stark hall absent of any warmth and I guess that shocked me slightly in 2008. I wondered if this is the best we can do?  I’m not sure what I think.

What I know is they enjoy it, it’s not about me is it, it’s about those that turn up week after week because it’s bingo. Good for them.

Enough said. Move on.

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chilled – no really

March 25, 2008

I finished the stats assigment more than a week ago and have only just submitted it due to the checking, rechecking and, yeah that’s right, checking calculations AGAIN!!!!  Ever so slightly OCD.  I’m certain it was because it was an online submission and I just knew that once I’d clicked ‘ok’ it was gone, forever!        

Anyway, it’s gone now so no point in worrying further … relax, chill, blog, go for a walk or get on with next thing … law and healthcare.  I like that! 

Also need to do some research into hearing impaired patient hearing voices.  Now that’s interesting!

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journey

March 21, 2008

The journey continues to amaze and confuse me. I have no idea where I’m going or indeed why I’m really on the journey except that it feels right. The destination? Not sure but I’m getting closer.

As my journey continues I’m not only struck by the differences in us but also that illness is a great leveller.  This is especially true in mental ill health. Patients come in all shapes and sizes and from all walks of life: educated; articulate; well off and not so well off; those with learning difficulties and with physical disabilities; people living amidst a backdrop of poverty, abuse, powerlessness and sheer desperation. For a lot of them getting through the day is an achievement … for us it’s a place to start.

Psalm 139 tells us we are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’. Yes we are. Nothing can convince me otherwise and I see evidence of God in the debris of someone’s life as I try desperately to understand the complex issues that contribute to their brokenness.

Some will recover and many will get better … until the next time.

Others will struggle on secretly hoping that their turn will come soon. That somehow, the healthy, meaningful and worthwhile life so many of us take for granted, can be theirs to treasure.

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to be human

February 28, 2008

‘Perspectives on the Human Experience through the Arts’ is my chosen options module this semester and it’s a challenging one. This module is based on the belief that for health professionals to learn what it is to be human they need compassion and appreciation of the uniqueness of individuals. Studying the arts and humanities helps us do just that and though it may sound like the easy option in an otherwise heavy academic year or ‘time out’ to some, it isn’t. Seriously.

By exploring a range of materials, including individual pieces of work created by survivors, we are encouraged to enter into their world and by doing so recognise the things that make us human: vulnerability, individuality, personality, imagination, passion, spirit, breath …

We explore the many different experiences found in childhood through adolescence to old age and end of life issues and discuss the difficulties people face and the reasons why they do what they do in a world that has become too harsh for them to bear.

Reality shocks and not for the first time my awareness is heightened. Most of the material isn’t an easy read and with or without the compassionate heart, one cannot help but be affected.

This poem is from The Memory Bird (1996) Edited by Caroline Malone, Linda Farthing and Lorraine Marce. Published by Virago.

Bleeding
As I watch blood ooze from my vein
Slowly the droplets anaesthetise my brain
The screaming in my head gently subsides
Calmed and sedated, almost mesmerised.

I am losing the struggle to survive
I have to bleed to know I’m alive
The tramlines of war scar my skin
The only sign of battle within.

My life drips on to the barren floor
Tears flow in rivulets under the door
Numbness spreads right through my core
Where is my energy to fight for more?

But these are not for death but life
Do not be alarmed at the way I strive
Marks on my body are a small price to pay
For freedom from Hell and a new dawning each day.