Sunday, 30 December 2012

Psychology Exam Looms

I have a psychology exam in ten days' time - and thank goodness, I have finally started on my revision.  I don't know what was up with me until now, but luckily a conversation with a friend on the phone today helped snap me out of my apathetic and helpless attitude. 

My friend had asked how my studies were going, and I replied that I didn't know what was wrong with me, but that I couldn't seem to get interested in the exam.  I told her that I would only sit the exam if I felt prepared - I don't need another qualification at this stage in my life, and there would be no point taking it unless I started to revise soon.   She listened sympathetically. 

I then asked how her studies were going.  She is studying at a more advanced level than me - she already has a psychology degree, and now is going down the counselling route, with a view to getting a doctorate in counselling psychology (I think).  She has all sorts of projects going on, actually. 

My friend told me her studies were going well.  She is tackling them methodically, while making sure that her child has not been neglected over the holiday period.

I put down the phone feeling encouraged, although nothing had been said to make me feel that way.  I just thought, here I am, in the first year of an A level course (if I pass this year I will gain an AS qualification).  It's not actually that hard.  I enjoy the weekly lessons very much.  But, by not putting any effort into learning the material, I am ruling myself out of even taking an exam that I have enrolled for and paid for.  I have enjoyed studying the material over the last few months.  So why on earth not make the final push to learn it properly, and give the exam the best I can?  Who would that help?  Who would it hinder not to do the work?

Apart from anything else, if I don't get on with it, I will be setting a very bad example to my daughters.  So I am pleased and relieved to say that this afternoon I have spent an hour and a half poring over my revision book, making copious notes.  I have a way to go but I am confident that, now I have started, the only way is up.

I just hope I have left myself enough time!

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Happy Christmas!

I know, I know...what am I doing on the computer on Christmas morning?

I just quickly wanted to say Happy Christmas, or other Festive Greetings as appropriate!

Louise x

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Literature as Therapy

I have been reading 'The Help' by Kathryn Stockett, and am finding it very hard to put down.  I liked 'Beloved' by Toni Morrison, and have read another book this year on the same subject - slavery or the period just post-slavery in the deep South - which was also brilliant, although I can't think of the name of it just now.  I will amend this post to include it when I remember.

I usually only have the time (or allow myself to have the time) to read much fiction when I am feeling under the weather.  This time though, I am not poorly - but the kids have been, all of them in turn.  It has been exhausting - emotionally as much as anything else.  I find it so hard when they are ill, and this has been quite a bad virus.  They've had very high temperatures, coughs and colds, aches and pains, been off their food...  Flu symptoms really, but thank goodness it has not been as long lived as proper flu.  I feel like it has been going on for ever, but the first one to get ill was last Wednesday, and all four were finally back at school this morning.  Fingers crossed, we are more or less through it now. 

Anyway, yesterday I was starting to feel quite drained.  I did some Christmas shopping at the weekend, anticipating being stuck indoors again this week.  And I knew Paul could always buy the food and gifts we needed, or I could go out in the evenings when he got home from work, so I wasn't panicking too much about the festive stuff.  But I haven't been able to leave the house much, even to walk the dog, and I think that the lack of exercise, the disturbed nights and the stress of it all was starting to get to me.  I needed some sort of therapy.

So I picked up my book group book of this month - The Help - and got stuck in.  It was no effort of course, as it never is with the best books.  This one is a page turner - and it was such a relief to be immersed in another world, one that doesn't involve Nurofen or Calpol or cool flannels or hot water bottles..  Not that the alternative world of black people in 1960s Mississippi was any easier - but goodness, it made me feel grateful for what I have, and for what I don't have to put up with.

I am half way through the book already, which is a lot of reading for me.  I read for at least three hours most days, but almost all of that is on the net - I even read the newspapers on the net now, except at the weekend when I treat myself to paper copies.  Apart from the newspapers I mostly read about mental health - whatever is on Mad in America, and other blogs as and when I find the time.  It is reading for pleasure, in a way - I find it all very interesting so I don't feel that it is a chore - but it's not nearly as relaxing as reading fiction. 

I feel a New Year's resolution coming on - to read more fiction.  I make a lot of New Year's resolutions, I enjoy the process for some reason.   Most years the resolutions are all more or less the same - which is to say, I suppose, that I don't often see them through.  But this will be a new one, and I will try to prioritise it. 

Other books I am reading at the moment include 'Selfhood' by Terry Lynch and 'The Divided Self' by RD Laing.  Which is part of the reason why I turned to fiction this week.  It is all very well taking an interest in mental health, but sometimes I feel that it is in danger of becoming an obsession - and that paradoxically, too much learning about it all does my head in! 

Balance, as ever, remains key.  I'm going to start yoga in the New Year too.  Ommm....   

Saturday, 15 December 2012

'It's all very iffy, this diagnosis business'

Quote of the year - from the professor of psychiatry at the University of Toronto, Dr Gordon Warme, - 'It's all very iffy, this diagnosis business'.


Thirty years ago, he was taught by the psychiatrist (and icon) Karl Menninger that, 'Calling somebody a schizophrenic is no different from calling somebody a nigger'.  Again, a point that I have been trying to make - I am astounded how many seemingly rational people apparently think 'Schizophrenic' is an appropriate and/or helpful term. 

I'm going to put Dr Warme's book - 'Daggers of the Mind: Psychiatry and the Myth of Mental Disease' on my Christmas list.  (Which means I will buy it for myself).

Below is the link to the YouTube video - less than 2 minutes long.  It's definitely worth the time, to hear such an eminently sensible man speak!

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Myself, interviewed at Newcastle Uni by Tom Feltham

Below is a link to an interview carried out by Tom Feltham (a science kid) at Newcastle Uni, when I was up for the 'Reassembing the Self' exhibition in October.  I have never been interviewed before, and so I am quite pleased with the way this turned out.   Thanks are due to Tom:

Friday, 7 December 2012

Bournemouth University

It's only two months since I last attended an event at Bournemouth University.  And yet, chatting with some other attendees before the talk last night about Early Intervention in Psychosis, I had already forgotten what the last talk was about.  It does not bode well for my upcoming exam.  Anyway, I have remembered now - the last talk, of course, was called 'What's in a Name?' and it was about labelling - aka diagnosis. 

Well, we have not got very far with that particular mission.  (Boo, Schizophrenia Commission!)  But let's keep on keeping on...

This talk was by another mental health nurse, and featured a case study.  It was interesting the way that the case study was used to illustrate the various points that the speaker made.  I made a lot of notes about what he was saying, and I only wish that he had left the slides up longer so that my notes would have been more complete - my handwriting is not very speedy these days. 

I think the speaker assumed that most of the audience would already have a working knowledge of the subject.  There were attendees from across the country, although most of them were local, and they were a mixture of mental health professionals and students (and the odd 'service-user' - horrid expression).  The talk was put on by the local branch of the British Psychological Society.

The nurse spoke about Psycho-Social Intervention (PSI).  His slides often mentioned that PSI should be used as an alternative to medication, or in addition to it, but when he spoke about the practice of it, it always seemed to be as well as, not instead of, medication.  This confused me a little - but then I realised that as a mental health nurse he has probably never tried not to use medication - it is still the first port of call of psychiary - and so he probably didn't even notice that the proponents of PSI (I understand that it is the brainchild of Alison Brabban but I could be wrong here)  mentioned its potential as an alternative.  Hopefully, that will seep in eventually.  

Anyway, I won't go too much into the talk, only to say that it was delivered articulately and with humour.  The only hope for the mental health system is that the practitioners are compassionate - and I felt encouraged by the fact that there are people working locally who understand this fact, and who are trying to teach it to the students who will soon qualify to work in the system.

Actually, everyone I met last night was kind and interesting.  The food was good too - there was a giant and delicious fruit platter as well as various sandwiches, other snacks and lots to drink.  (Did you need to know that?) 

I had already been introduced to the faculty members by my Psychology tutor, so they were expecting me last night, and made me feel very welcome.  Which was good, because I had gone on my own, which made me feel like a bit of a Billy No-Mates (most of my mates are either Mums or working or both and my ultimate mate - Paul - was of course looking after our kids).  So it was nice to find people so easy to chat to. 

I suppose psychologists are usually friendly, it is the sort of trade that attracts caring people.  I felt a bit guilty, because while talking to one lovely lady - and it was a fascinating conversation on my favourite subject, children - I kept looking over her shoulder, to the point that eventually she turned to see what I was staring at.  I was too embarrassed to admit that I was trying to keep an eye on my handbag!

In any case, the upshot of it all was that I have now been invited to give a British Psychological Society talk at Bournemouth University early next year, so I am looking forward to that, and to further contact with the nice people who work there!

Saturday, 1 December 2012

Rethink Your Mind Competition

I really, really want to win this competition:

The prize is an iPad (I've coveted one of these for a while) and the prize-giving ceremony is at the House of Lords, in the 'Cholmondeley Room'.  (For those who are not familiar with the vagaries of the English language, you pronouce this word 'Chumley'.)  I want to go there!!!

And, by the way, another odd word - 'Featherstonehaugh' is pronounced 'Fanshawe'.  The unusual things I know (and don't know how I know)...  Those are the only two, actually.

Anyway, I cannot in good conscience keep this competition to myself - so feel free to enter, everyone, and spread the word yourselves. 

Good Luck.

May the best person win. 

(Best people - there will be six winners).

Ohio University Resilience Study

A month or so ago I was contacted through my Facebook page by Suzanne Beachy. Suzanne happens to be a role model of mine - I watched this TED talk a while ago and was truly inspired by her humanity.  So when she asked me to participate in a Ohio University study about recovery from mental illness, I jumped at the chance.

Suzanne put me in touch with Professor Mo Yee Lee, of the social work faculty at Ohio.  After I'd signed the relevant forms, and we'd communicated briefly via email,  Mo Yee called me yesterday, and interviewed me for an hour on the phone.  She is conducting a resilience study - interviewing people with diagnoses of schizophrenia, bi-polar and schizo-affective disorder, who have been free of medication for at least twelve months, and who consider themselves to have recovered from mental illness, to see what she can discover about factors for resilience and to try to help others in their recovery. 

Mo Yee seemed like a lovely person - it felt like I was chatting to a friend on the phone, and the hour whizzed by.  Of course, recovery is something I have given a lot of thought to in the last year or so, and I enjoyed the opportunity to share my opinions.  The professor asked me to rate certain things - such as what had and had not been helpful in my recovery - on a scale of one to ten.  She asked extensively about what had helped me, often asking if there was anything else I could think of, and I did my best to rack my brains. 

I had to be honest and admit that what has helped me most is my children - although I am conscious that children may not be an option for everyone.   I know that I have been incredibly lucky to be blessed in this way - and also I realise that I always longed to be a mother and this is why I have found it so fulfilling.  Motherhood is not everyone's cup of tea, and neither is it a walk in the park!  (Two cliches for the price of one, anybody?)

Most of the factors that are important for recovery are well known - I am not the only person to have benefitted from a healthy diet, exercise, writing, mindfulness and so on, and the study reflected this.  The only time I think I may have surprised Professor Lee was when I suggested pet therapy - and canine therapy in particular.  I think that those of us who are lucky to have a dog to look after, to walk and to love, and to be adored by in return - who experience the two-directional power of unconditional love - know well how therapeutic that is. 

Anyway, that's about it for now.  It's been a good day - a long walk, time playing with the kids, friends to talk to - and now a quiet evening (children asleep in bed) in which to relax and savour the good things in life.