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Posts Tagged ‘safety’


 

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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Safety in journalling relies on many things. If you are careless with where you keep your journal, someone else may read it, confidentiality is out of the window and – in worst cases – you can feel violated, sometimes sufficiently so as to require full-blown counselling! 

 

But safety derives from other considerations as well. The free-write can take you places that surprise you but you may not feel quite ready for that freedom. The trick is to protect yourself with regard to structure, pace and containment. 

 

And one of the safest ways of journalling – if you find the free-write too unstructured at the moment – is a response to a sentence stem. If you want further to restrict your response, set yourself time limits and remember response to a statement stem such as ‘I am …..’ engages the brain. But if you feel a little braver, try a question which engages the heart. Such as ‘Who am I . . .? 

Try these springboard sentence stems and review your reactions:

  1. How do I feel right now? (Three words?)
  2. Today I feel ———– (5? 15? 55?)
  3. I want to achieve these three things . . . . (today, this year, during my lifetime)
  4. What resources do I have to achieve what I want?
  5. What resources do I need to achieve what I want?
  6. I have received . . . from the world today?
  7. What has the world given me today?
  8. I am proud of myself because . . .
  9. I am . . .
  10. Who am I?

Have a go!

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Is a relationship beyond repair – and is the legal process of separation and divorce now required?  Or are there grounds for hope of reconciliation?  How are you to know? Where-ever they are in their relationship, your collaborative family law clients will express it through words and silent signs.  And, for you – as coach, counsellor or concerned solicitor – to allow this communication to flower, you need first to create a space safe for all of you.

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