Tag Archives: mental health

We Feel Things.

Something that seems to have become more prevalent in social media posts, and in my own reflections and experiences –

Feelings. And how we deal with them.

Suddenly, it has become normal to admit that you’re not as ok as people expect you to be.

There is less pressure on people to offer advice and try to fix things. Because honestly, unless you have a vaccine for Covid-19, there’s nothing much anyone can do right now to fix things in the way we hope to have it fixed.

And to be honest, I’m actually really glad.

I’m not glad for all the suffering, pain, uncertainty and anxiety that is happening around the world right now. 

But I’m glad that the language of uncomfortable feelings and emotions are becoming more normalised and acceptable, especially in societies and cultures where such topics were once extremely taboo and stigmatised.

I’m glad that so many are speaking about how it’s ok to be not ok.

I’m glad that when I felt guilty for feeling safe and protected at home, I found comfort in friends who openly expressed the same feeling, letting me know that I’m not a monster.

I’m glad that there is an acknowledgement of the collective grief we are all experiencing and the support we are giving to help each other through it.

 

Who would have thought we’d live to see such strange times?

3 Weeks

After that beautiful weekend in Byron, came Monday. And the onslaught experience known as Placement.

This 3-week placement was really intense because of the frequency (5-day week, as opposed to once-a-week), the population group (mental health), and the nature of short-term interventions.

In my first week, I found myself thinking that I could never work in hospital environments. Too hectic, too fast paced, too many changes. Too many people coming and going. No established relationships.

But, by my second week, I began to think that maybe I could after all.

Even though patient turnover is high, we still had the chance to establish several poignant relationships with individuals. It certainly helps to be there everyday. For a person who’s staying in a locked ward for even a few days, the presence of familiar faces, coming to provide stimulation and relief from the boredom they all complain about, can be very comforting.

The interventions we used were mainly singing of familiar repertoire. For a few individuals, an ensemble-like context was created with the addition of a drum. I observed how individuals came alive when they engaged. For that moment, or duration of time, they were no longer defined by their illness, but they were a person, making music with another – being human. Song lyric discussion enabled some of them to talk about issues close to their hearts. Some spoke about the instruments and music they learnt at school. The music became a medium through which they engaged. To a certain extent, it created diversion from over-focus on their clinical condition and provided an alternate means of engagement. Other interventions carried out during our group sessions (which we were constantly stressed about!), such as drum circles, provided an outlet for social interaction and normality, something lacking in many of the patients’ lives as well.

Joining in some of the recreational activity sessions also helped us in establishing relationships with the patients outside the musical setting. These crafts will always remind me of the experience. Of the individuals who are really just human, struggling to find their way as we all are.

 

We must have appeared as strangers to the nurses and staff at first – suddenly turning up with guitars and walking the hallways with instruments. But gradually, we began to receive referrals.

“Could you drop by XX? He’s not very happy about being here.”

“I would like to refer MM, some diversion or distraction might help her…”

“I was going to look for you to refer __, but it looks like you found him already!” (wide grin)

The feeling was very validating and encouraging, knowing that the staff value allied health professionals and were willing to engage with us to provide the best care for the patients.

It’s true that we may only see an individual for a few sessions, but I’ve realised that we should not underestimate what those few sessions can do for an individual. Seeds may be planted, and grow into different things in future. One client said that he was inspired to learn guitar when he got out. Another said he felt that music was something meaningful he could do with his time (as opposed to chain smoking).  And a few others asked for lyrics, chord sheets of songs which meant something to them.

For a few days after I finished placement, I kept thinking of some of the individuals I saw in ward. In short-term interventions, each session is usually treated as our last. Closure is of utmost importance. But… I can’t help but feel that a part of my heart has been left with them.

I can only wish them well.

Wherever life takes them, may they be well and happy.

Expressive Writing

According to Google:

Expressive writing is personal and emotional writing without regard to form or other writing conventions like spelling, punctuation and verb agreement.”

I guess I should explain. A coursemate and I are currently on placement at an acute mental health unit. We conduct MT sessions with the patients, as well as attend some of the sessions the other allied health staff conduct. This session, with expressive writing, was conducted by an occupational therapist. It’s supposed to be a really effective technique to improve thought awareness and alertness, and for emotional release.

“Just let your writing flow”, the OT said. “Don’t worry about punctuation, sentence structure or anything like that. If you run out of things to write, just repeat what you have written. The most important thing is to not stop writing. Take a few deep breadths, and begin.”

With the pen and paper in front of me, I had no idea what to expect from myself. But the moment we were told to begin, I felt the metaphorical switch in my mind strangely click, and my hand started to move.

In the woods walking down a little pathway the road is muddy the trees are tall and they cast shadows on me. I can see the sun coming through the leaves it looks so far away I wonder how we feel the warmth when its so far away. The forest is meant to be green but why does it feel black it must be because of all the shadows. I walk and walk and hear a stream I go closer and closer until I can see it the water flows over the rocks which are wet and slippery. I stand on them careful not to fall. I worry that I may slip but I want to be near the water the water makes me calm and at peace. The sound of the stream is like the hope from the shadows. the footpath is slippery but I continue to navigate I explore the stream see where it leads. Somewhere it becomes a waterfall somewhere it begins.

After some sentences into the writing, I realised my mind was going back to the experience I had just a few days before this session took place – I was expanding on a previous experience.

The woods we were in was nothing like what I had described in the writing, of course. But somehow m mind twisted that, setting the context for when we discovered the stream and I had my first experience walking among rocks like these. And indeed, further up ahead, there was a waterfall.

But those are stories for another time. For now, placement continues, and the stories continue..