It’s been quite a while since I’ve written a blog post. When I am depressed I find writing completely overwhelming and impossible. I recently spent two weeks in an acute mental health ward due to low mood. At times I felt really isolated and afraid. I wasn’t able to talk to anyone about what had happened leading up to my admission. When ‘checks’ were undertaken by staff all they did was look through my window and check that I was still breathing. Only once did an agency member of staff take the time to come in and talk to me. It’s all a blur in mind, but what I do remember was the kindness of another patient who during their first leave from the ward bought me a plant as she could see how sad I was. It was such a lovely gesture it helped me to feel cared for. I managed to return the gesture before being discharged. Whilst in hospital I had made some pottery which I didn’t have time to paint before leaving, one of the OT staff offered to paint it for me and let me know when I could collect it. I had forgotten all about it until I received a call to say that it was ready to collect.
When I was in hospital I spent time during my leave from the ward walking in the nature reserve next to the hospital. I found hope in the outdoors and took photos to calm myself. When I was discharged from hospital I needed distractions to keep me safe so I decided to order a set of my photos to donate to the ward to use in one of their OT groups, to perhaps display or make something with. I felt it might encourage people to go on the nature walk and could help to brighten up the blank walls on the ward (of which there are many). When I picked up my pottery from the ward the OT took time to look through my photos and to make kind comments, which made me feel better about myself. Today I received a card in the post from the OT team thanking me for my photos. A small gesture, but so nice to receive.
Before going into hospital I was attending a walking group. At Christmas time I made flapjacks for the group. As I was unwell I was unable to attend the group before Christmas so gave them to a family member to pass on. When I rejoined the group after Christmas they all thanked me for them, some asking for a recipe and someone else saying that it had encouraged others to make things for the group. I was welcomed back into the group on my return and given a jar or homemade marmalade. Kindness isn’t just about gifts. I try to attend the walking group each week, as outside of my family it’s the only thing stopping me from being completely isolated when trying to recover from my illness. The group always look out for each other, whether it’s a supportive arm to help someone over difficult terrain, adjusting the walk so it meets everyone needs or just a simple ‘how are you doing?’ asked in gentle way. I can struggle with interaction in groups as I don’t always know how to approach people or how to start a conversation, but this is never a problem as someone will always seek me out so I’m not alone.
Kindness isn’t a costly measure, it shouldn’t require specific training and yet in environments such as mental health wards it can often be missing and the patient relied on to give kindness and peer support to others. I know from personal experience that when you are busy it can be difficult to think about the needs of everyone, but taking a few seconds to pause and think how you can do things differently should be ingrained into anyone supporting vulnerable persons.
I’ll leave you with a photo album of the images I donated to the hospital.