GUEST BLOG POST - Q+A
This is a guest blog post from Chloe Davers, a community psychiatric nurse working within early intervention. Chloe supports people who experience their fist episode of psychosis and had offered to lend her expertise within the mental health field to Yer Awrite for a Q+A through Instagram stories. She was able to provide some insight and useful information for people who reached out and in particular those with questions around isolation. I felt Chloe's response to peoples questions was too valuable for a temporary post on stories so I've made it a blog post and together we both hope you find it very useful. I'm so grateful to Chloe for all her help and advice, it's people like her that are literally saving lives on the daily so I can't thank her enough for taking the time to do this as well as work her arse off during the covid 19 pandemic. She's an absolute wee gem!
The post is called 'nothing wrang wae feeling like an ootsider' because often when your mental health is poor you feel alone, like no one understands what you're going through and you feel very much excluded from real life, looking in at everyone else who 'has it all together' you become an 'ootsider'. Now ootsider to me is also the best part of a loaf a bread, it's often cast aside as a lot of people prefer the equal slices of bread to the ends. But if you're not of that mindset and you're like me then you'll know how much joy and comfort is in a big giant doorstep sized toasted ootsider (wee bit of lurpak on there aw aye!) and appreciate how great that is. My point here is that if it wasn't for all us 'ootsiders', questions around mental health wouldn't happen, normalising emotional literacy wouldn't take place and those of us struggling wouldn't feel the joy and comfort that comes from having difficult questions answered and valuable information given and shared. If you feel like an ootsider you're in good company here. Thank you for all the questions and comments, you along with Chloe created this blog post to get some clarity and advice for yourself and also unknowingly to help other people!
Here is the Q+A from Chloes contribution to Yer Awrite. If you require any further information or support please don't hesitate to reach out. There are a number of resources and help that Chloe can recommend. If you find this post helpful then slide in my DM's and let me know, share it with people that might need to read it, all that stuff! This is a LONG read but it's worth it so get a cuppa tea and work your way through it. Stay safe folks!
Click the links for useful/further information relating to services/organisations mentioned below:
Question 1 - How we gonna get though this isolation pish? Thank you for asking for advice on this! Some days I have the same question. I think what’s important to focus on is that we’ve got through isolation for 4 weeks so far. Keep doing what you’re doing and if you need more support with how to get through each day there are loads of helpful ideas online. It’s important to follow public health guidelines but also not to become too obsessed about reading up on covid-19. There’s an American man on YouTube called John Krasinski. He films episodes and talks about good news! Worth tuning in if you want something with a more positive spin. Remember this is only temporary and there will be an end to it at some point. I know it can be hard to see an end right now but nothing is forever. Take care of yourself, try and stick to a routine each day and keep talking to your loved ones. Question 2 - I’ve got two young kids and I’m finding it so hard to cope on my own, any advice? Thank you for getting in touch. So it sounds like you’re an absolute superhero through all this. First thing I’d like to say is WELL DONE for keeping your children and yourself alive! Survival is the most important thing right now and you are smashing it. Even if some days you feel you don’t achieve very much, you actually have. You’ve been able to keep yourself and your 2 little humans going. It must be extremely difficult for you. I imagine that you’re not getting very much time to yourself right now. I’m not sure what age your little ones are but I do know that at times of stress and crisis, it’s very common for children to seek more attachment and demand a bit more from their parents. If they are doing this, then please know it is not a fault of yours. It’s a normal behaviour. Engaging in creative activity like drawing and playing can help children express emotions that they are building up. It can then make them feel more relieved if they are able to do this with your support. It’s important to try and maintain routine just now too so similar bed times, meal times, nap times etc if you are able to, to try and keep some sort of normality. If you have family and friends to reach out to then I’d encourage you to use any free time you have to contact them and chat about something other than covid-19. Ask what programmes they’re watching. What would you say to a friend who had 2 little ones and was on their own? What advice would you give? Try to apply your own advice to yourself. I know it’s hard but it might be helpful to try. If you’re struggling on your own without friends and family to speak to, there is a network of people out there on the internet. I haven’t looked right into it but I know there are blogs and forums for parents during this time. I hope this has been helpful. Take care and stay safe. Question 3 - How do you tell when you’ve officially lost it? Hard to tell if it’s me or the drink Thanks for getting in touch. That’s a difficult question and often very hard for people to realise that they’re on the brink or past it. I suppose your comment about the drink worries me. Think about how much you are drinking. Is this more than usual? Are you drinking more days per week than you normally would? If you answer yes to any of the questions I’d say it’s best to stop right now and try your best to avoid any alcohol consumption. Alcohol is a natural depressant and will be doing nothing for your mood. Lots of people have said to me that drinking alcohol is good at the time and is a stress reliever. That may feel true but it is a short term solution for what could be a longer term problem. If you are wondering about your mental health and want to protect it, I’d say definitely stay clear if you can. If you need support over and above what you can manage on your own, try reaching out to a friend or family member. If this is not an option, there will be help out there for you to access, if you need professional help. Please please please don’t be put off. There are wonderful people out there that can help you if you want it. You can google your local supports or speak to your GP. But if you don’t feel ready or want that, first thing I’d advise is stay clear of alcohol if you think it’s a problem for you and replace it with something positive. Think of things you enjoy doing and spend time doing this. Take care and stay safe Question 4 - Had my first panic attack, dreading another, what would help? Thank you for getting in touch. Sorry to hear that you had your first panic attack. That must have been scary for you. What I do have to say firstly, is well done on recognising this was a panic attack. It makes it all the more easier to deal with when you know what it is and can label it. It’s quite common for people to have panic attacks and not know that’s what they are. I think a good idea would be to identify what was happening when you had the panic attack. Please think about this when you feel calm, it will be easier that way. Can you remember what you were doing/thinking about/feeling before it happened. What about during it? And how about after it? It’s important to identify these steps so that you can identify triggers to a possible second panic attack. What I can say is that nothing bad will happen to you from a panic attack. You will survive. There are lots of myths out there on panic attacks. Your body reacts cleverly to protect you. If you sweat or have fast heart beat, that is the body going into fight or flight mode because it recognises threat. This would be helpful in a real threat but unhelpful when the threat is not there. For example; if you are ruminating or worrying about something, your thoughts are just thoughts and aren’t going to harm you. But the body thinks otherwise and that’s why you panic. It’s normal to feel stressed and confused during a crisis. I’d say education on panic attacks could be your first go to. The NHS Inform website is very good. Type NHS inform - how to deal with panic attacks. It explains how to handle them and how to prevent them. I hope this is helpful. Stay safe and take care Question 5 - My friend needs proper help with their mental health but they won’t reach out. What else can I do to help them? Thank you for getting in touch. It sounds like you’re a great friend to have if your friend has told you some of their struggles already. Unfortunately I’ve seen this first hand a lot in my job. People put off seeking help for a long time until a crisis point and they then NEED to ask for help as there’s no other option. You can’t drag them along for help and it’s going to have to come from them to seek help. What you can do for now is just keep in contact and reach out to them. I’m sure you are doing this already but you being a consistent figure in their life or in their text messages will be keeping them going. They will probably feel like a burden to others too so even if some of your chat isn’t around their mental health, it may give them something else to focus on. Keep plugging away asking them if they want to do things with you. Difficult I know in the current crisis and isolation but even a FaceTime every few days. Make use of the free time just now if you can. Make them a collage of pictures from your favourite memories together or make a list of things you’ve enjoyed together/what you’d like to do in the future. If you think things are escalating and hitting crisis point you can help further if you think it’s needed. I worked with someone and the only reason they came into services was because their family member anonymously contacted their GP to raise concerns. A bit awkward for the GP to act on but they should do. They could get your friend in for a check up or something and have a chat about their mental health. I hope this has been helpful and take care of yourself, you’re doing a grand job.
Question 6 - My kids are driving me crazy, I’ve no time to myself and I’m snapping at them - HELP Thank you for getting in touch! It sounds like the home environment is difficult for you at the moment. I would like to reassure you that it won’t be like this forever and normality will come back at some point! I’m not sure what age your kids are but what I do know from evidence and research is that a pandemic can change emotional responses in children and change their behaviours too. They may be more demanding of your attention, go back to their younger behaviours or their play activity levels may change in that they may lose interest in playing or only want to play for short periods. They can become more irritable or easily confused. Their sleep and attention patterns may change and they may become more defiant and push your boundaries. These are normal reactions to this extraordinary situation. What I want to reassure you on is that your reaction is NOT an indication that you are not capable, but that you need to pay attention to taking care of yourself. I wonder if there is anyone at home who can take over the care of the children to allow you to have some time to yourself, your partner or an older child that can entertain the others? The case may be not and I can appreciate that must be very difficult. If you feel you have been snapping at your children, don’t punish yourself too much for this. Instead try and take some deep breaths/counting before responding to their needs. We’ve all heard of the count to ten trick. It will be more beneficial for you and your children. I also came across a new campaign for mental health in Scotland this week. It has some helpful tips for coping right now. It’s all online and you can access it at www.clearyourhead.scot I hope this has been helpful. Stay safe and take care. Question 7 - I can’t get out of bed most days, just lost all motivation for routine Thank you for getting in touch. I can understand why you may be feeling like this. We’re in the middle of a pandemic and have no idea when the end point will be. This also makes us feel that we don’t have much to work towards as our plans for the future are on hold for however long. But what I want to reassure you on, is that you are NOT alone in this. Even the most positive people have days where they lack motivation and routine. What I have read within helpful resources and from evidence is that during a pandemic and in isolation, sticking to some sort of routine for each day is a very important aspect of protecting your mental health. Even if this is just feeding and watering yourself! I’m talking about stripping it right back to the basics. You aren’t expected by anyone to be doing the same routine as your normally would. I wonder if it would be helpful to set yourself a small goal each day of tackling the basics. How about getting out of bed and sitting on the couch instead. This at least gives you somewhere else to be and maybe more distraction with the tv than your bedroom would. I think other important aspects to consider would be diet, fluids, personal hygiene and contacting a friend or relative. If you manage to do those things in day then I’m proud of you. Anything more is a bonus right now. Remember there will be an end to this and life will return to normal again. Maybe consider watching a programme, reading a book or engaging in another activity that you wouldn’t normally have the time for in normal life. I hope this has been helpful. There are lots of other good information sources out there. NHS inform is worth mentioning as well as mental health charities such as MIND. Those websites might have helpful hints and tips to help boost your mood. Take care and stay safe
Question 8 - My anxiety is through the roof, I’m too nervous to go for food or be near people Thank you for getting in touch. It’s normal for you not to feel your normal self right now and understandable that your anxiety is sky high. I haven’t been to the shops much myself but the times I have been recently, I’ve felt it’s been a bit calmer with the current restrictions. Most shops have security guards ensuring people are keeping safe distances and most have markers on the floor to indicate distance too. You will always get one or two people dismissing the rules but as long as you follow them you know you are doing all you can. The key is to focus on what YOU can control right now. I’m not sure if you have tried to go for food yet or if you are getting help with this. I’d say putting this of is probably worse for your anxiety. Trying it and seeing how it goes would be a good test and would break that avoidance pattern. You can protect yourself with a mask/gloves if that makes you feel safer and follow up by following good hand hygiene using alcohol gel when you leave and soap when you arrive home. Practicing good anxiety management which you may already be doing will be helpful. By this I mean relaxation before and after a shop visit, breathing techniques and using mindfulness and positive self talk. There are lots of helpful tools you can find online to manage anxiety and panic. NHS inform website is a good place to start. They have an anxiety self help guide. There are also good resources found on YouTube too that explain what mindfulness is and detail good breathing techniques. You can then put them into practice when you are in the shop too if you begin to feel that this is overwhelming. Grounding techniques are worth looking into. An example would be - if you are holding onto a trolley in the shop and are feeling more anxious, you could squeeze the trolly handle really tightly to try and bring yourself back to the task in hand. Speak to yourself positively by reminding yourself of what you are doing. For example, saying in your head “I am in the shops to get food to meet my basic needs. I need good diet and fluid and this is important for me. I am in control. I will be able to go home once this task is over into the comfort of my home and do something enjoyable”. I hope this is helpful. Stay safe and take care! Question 9 - Any mood booster tips? I’m up and down daily Thank you for getting in touch! Please be reassured that it is totally normal for our mood to be up and down like a rollercoaster right now. We are not living normally but there will come a time when things start to settle and they will return to some sort of normality. I think I have three important points to share that may help boost your mood.
1) ensure your basic needs are met
2) stay connected with others
3) do something enjoyable/pleasurable every day.
You can achieve number 1 by making sure you try doing some or all of the following: eat well, stay hydrated, attend to personal care, stick to a good sleep routine, exercise, stay away from alcohol/drugs and remember to take medication if this is something you have to take daily. You can achieve number 2 if you are able to contact friends or family daily. Evidence has shown that during a pandemic, those who are connected and close with others tend to cope better. Finally number 3. Engage in something you enjoy. This can be something simple as watching a film, TV series, reading a book or making/enjoying a new music playlist. It may be a good idea to do something you normally wouldn’t have time to do. Attempt to make a new recipe or do something creative. If you’re not feeling up to that then don’t worry too much. Remember no one is expecting you to be doing lots right now. Getting through the day is an achievement in itself. I hope this has been helpful. Take care and stay safe.
Question 10 - I can’t stand not being able to visit my dad. I feel guilty and helpless. Thank you for getting in touch. What you are going through just now is extremely difficult but I want you to know that the way you feel is a normal psychological response in relation to the loss of close relationships and contact with your loved ones. It is normal to feel sadness, guilt, shame and grief during this time. It is also normal to feel slowed up and confused at times. I want to reassure you that this is only temporary and I would encourage you to take each day as it comes. Try and stick to some kind of routine, even if that just means getting up, getting dressed, communicating with family and engaging in TV/ reading a book. When this is all over, and it will be some day, you can go back to your normal again which will be so much better than this temporary normal we are experiencing right now. I’m sure you are doing this already, but during this time, please make sure you are contacting and talking to your dad every day. You could be creative and write your dad a letter once a week too. You could write some good memories you have had together and even look out some old pictures to include and then send it to him. You could then encourage your dad to reply and if he isn’t able to post a letter back then even have a chat about the letter one day over the phone, see what he thinks of the memories you have brought up and see what memories he has. It may be an idea to write a list of things you’d like to do with your dad once normality resumes. This may give you both something to look forward to. It’s okay to tell your dad how much you miss him and how grateful you are to have him in your life. Just look forward to that big cuddle you’ll be able to give him when you next see each other. I hope this has been helpful. Take care and stay safe. Question 11 - Sometimes I don’t want to talk about how I’m feeling for fear of being judged
Thank you for getting in touch. I’m sorry to hear you feel like this. It sounds like you have possibly been judged before when speaking out about how you feel and I’m sorry that you’ve had that experience. What that tells me is that the person judging you is simply uneducated around mental health on the whole. Our mental health is JUST as important as our physical health. Therefore it is vital for us to prioritise this on a day to day basis. Mental health difficulties can feel just as bad or worse than other illnesses, the only difference is, you can’t see it or easily use a scan and identify the problem. Mental health problems are very common and in Scotland, they affect one in four people. Sadly there is still stigma and discrimination about however there are many charities and campaigns out there fighting this every day. I would like to direct you to SAMH. SAMH are a Scottish charity and their website is amazing. There is an abundance of information there on mental health problems and how to help yourself and promote your wellbeing. There are also a number of inspirational stories from people, who like you, may have felt judged in the past. I’d say having a look at this website could be helpful for you. Aside from the website, I think it’s so important that you do continue to reach out to people that are supportive of you. Anxiety and low mood can play havoc with our thought processes and emotions and sometimes even make us believe that others won’t understand. Even a listening ear would be helpful for you right now. If you don’t feel able to do this, there are further options available to you such as calling breathing space. You can call them for free in Scotland. Professionals who work there will support you by listening, provide advice and give you some hope when you may feel as if none exists. Please don’t let things build up. What would you say to a friend who felt the same way as you? How could you apply your own advice to yourself? What activity could help you right now? I hope this has been helpful. Stay safe and take care. Question 12 - I don’t feel like I’m good enough when I see everybody else on social media. I feel like I’m not doing enough. It makes me cry like a crazy person Thank you for getting in touch. I’m sorry you feel like this. What I want to encourage you to think about is the reality of social media. Do you think what you are seeing is 100% real? I can guarantee that this is not the case. The more productive people are probably the ones not posting so much as they are not on their phones constantly. Please be reassured that you are in no way expected to be doing loads right now. We are going through something extraordinary. It’s a confusing, frustrating and anxious time. Getting through the day IS enough right now. What I would encourage you to do is have a social media holiday. You will need your phone to stay connected to family/friends so ensure you don’t totally take this away. What you could do is disable your social media apps. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, snapchat - BIN THEM ALL. At least for a few days. Replace scrolling social media with more positive activity. What could you do instead? Could you watch a movie or programme you find interesting? Could you go a different walk and explore new surroundings? Could you read that book you haven’t yet got around to reading? What about trying a new recipe? How about just being? Be with your family, have a long chat with a friend on the phone. Seriously, have a social media break. Then after a few days evaluate how you are feeling. Do you feel better for this? What have you been able to achieve? Be selfish for you and use time you normally wouldn’t have. Remember... it’s about getting through the day and surviving right now. The charity Mind have a website which is very good. It is a mental health charity and has tips for everyday living as well as stories about how people are coping in isolation. I hope this has been helpful. Take care and stay safe!
Community Psychoatric Nurse
Early Intervention Service