For the first time in forever

I finally understand

For the first time in forever

We can fix this hand in hand

-          Frozen

I’m very proud to say that this blog post is in partnership with TWO amazing organizations who are doing some incredible work in supporting vulnerable people through the Coronavirus Lockdown; the mental health NHS Trust; Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne & Wear NHS Foundation Trust (CNTW) and Briardale House.

After having received a letter to say that I’m listed as ‘extremely vulnerable’ and at a greater risk of being hospitalized should I contract the Coronavirus because I have Asthma, I was advised to isolate completely for twelve weeks from the day of receiving the letter. Up until that point, I’d been following the Government’s Lockdown instructions in only venturing from my house to do my weekly food shop and collect my medication. The thing I’d really struggled to do myself was with the food shopping side of things because I usually do my shop with my support worker from Richmond Fellowship, but unfortunately those appointments had all been turned to phone call sessions after the Lockdown was announced. I find it useful having someone with me when I have to do my food shop because otherwise, I always feel really pressured to get everything I need and pack my bags and pay as quickly as possible. When there’s someone else there, though, I am reassured that there’s less expectation and having someone to talk to when I start to stress is really comforting.

Fortunately, after doing two food shops myself and discovering that the waiting list for a supermarket delivery is over three weeks, my Social Worker and Mum discovered the existence of Briardale House, and they were more than happy to begin doing my food shopping for me! Briardale House is a non-profit community centre who ‘put local people first’ and run a variety of activities, classes and events which welcome all members of the community. Their way of doing the food shop is actually a really simple and easy process; I email my list; a member of their staff/one of their volunteers purchases the items and then they issue me with an invoice to transfer the cost over via a BACS payment. It’s so straightforward – which I love(!) because I was really stressed at the idea of someone else doing my shopping because it was like relinquishing control; and I’m the first to admit that I’m a big fan of being in control!

It isn’t just the practical side of things that I’ve needed help and support with though, there’s also been my mental health (I blogged about why this is here); and this is where CNTW come in! For those who don’t know, CNTW are the NHS Foundation Trust who look after all of the psychiatric services in this particular area. Like Richmond Fellowship, my appointments with my Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) have also been cancelled and changed to phone call sessions. The thing is, I find it hard talking properly on the phone because having experienced auditory hallucinations before, it’s difficult to pour my heart out to someone who I can only hear the voice of. Someone who isn’t in front of me so that I can say ‘that’s the person I’m talking to.’ Hallucinating can leave you questioning a lot of your sensory experiences and this is just one aspect that it has affected for me.

My CPN is understanding though and I think her ability to be so thoughtful and empathetic is aided by the fact that CNTW have so much support available for their staff as well as service users. Absolutely any member of staff has access to additional support the Trust are providing during this time which varies from counselling with Occupational Health Services, to ‘virtual wobble rooms’ (a conference video call service facilitated by the Trust’s Psychological staff). In regards to CNTW’s collaboration with the NHS 111 Service, Gail Kay, a Project Director with the Trust said “it has never been more important for us to come together as healthcare providers to support each other and ensure the people requiring support and advice to manage their mental health and wellbeing receive the best possible response.”

Other than the phone calls with my CPN, CNTW are also offering additional support to service users in the form of their self-help guides, Initial Response services, and a page on their website with various sources of support and information for looking after your mental health specifically during the lockdown and Coronavirus Pandemic.

‘Support’ isn’t all about professionals though; I also take a lot of help and advice from my Mum, my Aunt, my best-friends (Georgie, Becky, Lauren, Ellie, and Martin), and one of my neighbour’s. There’s been a few occasions recently when people have asked if I can have someone else collect my medication and I’ve had to explain that I actually have a very small circle of support. My lack of ‘people’ really doesn’t affect me because for me, having special people in your life is about quality and not quantity! And yes, I realise that it’s sort of ironic that this is the case when my blog reaches so many people! An aspect of speaking to friends and family that I’m struggling with, though, is that the lack of physical contact is a reminder of when I was sectioned to a psychiatric hospital over 100 miles away from home. It means that I’m having to regularly tell myself that this is a completely different – although similarly difficult and unbelievable – situation.

For more information on the organizations I’ve partnered with:

You can visit Briardale House’s website here and you can follow Briardale House on Facebook here

You can visit CNTW’s website here, their Twitter here, Facebook here, and Instagram here.
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