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Archive for the ‘Self-care’ Category


 

Writing Therapy is a rather grand way of describing what I do with clients who want to use writing to make themselves feel better. But it can sometimes work out that way.

 

To illustrate: at a recent session with brain-injured clients, one of the group had a seizure minutes before I arrived. Other group members were distracted and concerned – to an impressive and touching level – and not overtly in a writing mood. Certainly the Christmas theme was forgotten. They tried hard to make me feel welcome – standing there with my mince pies – but their thoughts were clearly with D – who was lying on the floor, still unwell.

 

However, I ploughed on. I went through the usual journalling exercises – the Three Word Game, the Five-minute Sprint and the Unsent Letter (adding Father Christmas to the list of usual suspects). Then I spread out the Christmas goodies. The table was covered with (un-lit but scented) candles, silver baubles, crumbling cinnamon sticks, bright orange satsumas, glossy holly and so on. Prompted by the senses of sight, sound, touch, taste and smell, each member began to search their impaired memories.

 

Then we read the poem, Smells, by Christopher Morley and we discussed what smells mean to each of us. The group members wrote down single words to remind themselves of the memories the Christmas smells brought up for them. And, little by little, I noticed, the atmosphere had lifted.

 

And – although unconnected with the therapeutic writing session – D felt better too.

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Carers often need to protect their own well-being and to express pent-up emotion, frustration and stress. Practical permissions to ease your daily round can help. Journal-keeping can help. But journal-keeping can involve permissions directly-related to self-care – all of its own!

When – at 2am – the local hospital’s A&E department tell you to remove your next of kin from their charge, what do you do next?

This happened to Jane and Jane was still noted on someone’s form as next of kin to her schizophrenic ex-husband. As a result, A&E would not take ‘No!’ for an answer over the telephone. So off she had to go.

But – when Jane arrived – no-one would hand over the case notes or make suggestions as to where she could get help. And there was nothing Jane could do. She had to take her ex-husband home – even though he was threatening her with jealous violence at the time.

However, there is another way. If you find this kind of situation arising – as carer/parent/child/sibling/friend – remember to ask your ‘caree’ in a calm moment to sign a permissions letter to the GP and others. Produce this letter and they’ll discuss your caree’s case with you.

This is a simple solution but prevents you being kept out of the loop of discussions about case plan and management. Among other considerations, to have a say in this is crucial for your well-being

But the concept of ‘permissions’ is more wide-ranging than this.

Permission is not just a practical management tool for the daily situation of a carer. Permission can also be an effective safeguard for people like ‘Jane’ who keep a journal as part of a self-care strategy.

Jane keeps a journal to give herself a voice – when people such as health professionals just don’t listen. But also, she keeps a journal to explore feelings that – when she starts writing – she doesn’t know she has. This can be powerful and frightening, too.

Let me explain. As a journal-keeper, you are responsible for managing your own safety and you can do this in several ways – by, for example, building in the principles of ‘structure’; ‘pacing’; and ‘containment’.

If you are new to journalling, for example, you may find the blank page daunting and structured prompts can help get you started. These may include such beginnings as ‘Today, I . . . ‘ or ‘I am . . .’ or questions such as ‘Who am I?’ or ‘What weather am I today?’

But the structure of these sentence stems, as well as getting you over the blankness of the page, will also ground you. They will keep you in the present and not allow you to return to an unhappy past. This will keep you safe.

Writing without pause, editing or reflection is another form of journalling. Triggered by simple prompts – such as a single word pulled randomly from your dictionary – and expand in unthought of directions. Known as free-writing, this is worthwhile for the truly surprising insights you gain!

But in some vulnerable people, this freedom can be dangerous. Some suffer severe distress. Some – rare examples – have even been known to hallucinate. So, when tempted by free-writing, try these safety measures:

 

  1. Set a time-limit and – when the timer pings – stop even if you are half-way through a word. (This provides structure, pace and containment.)

 

  1. Make sure you have your support network in place – family, friends, counsellors & therapists, the dog! (More containment.)

 

  1. Give yourself permission to stop! Yes, permission to stop is the most effective ‘containment’ measure of them all. And it is in your power.

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