About me — the bigger picture

A bit more about me

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Gemma Gray Photography

You can find a shorter version about me and if you wish to read more — The bigger picture — you can do so here. Further down, you’ll find links to My Journey through a psychotic depression.

Back 1992, once the boys were at school I returned to work as a part-time Personnel Officer for a large fashion chain where the salary and benefits were excellent. However, after three years, because I was unwilling to work full-time (I wanted to spend my time with my adorable little boys), I was made redundant. In those days, you could walk out of a job one day and start another the next, so I did. I started working for a large petrol company and stayed for two boring years.

It was during this time and some months after my relationship with the boys’ dad ended, I had my own ‘break down‘. And that’s exactly what it felt like; both physically and mentally, I was broken.

I was having panic attacks

I was having panic attacks throughout the day and particularly at night, keeping me awake. Alongside the huge purple sacks under my eyes, general pains, headaches and nausea, I felt really jittery.

I was permanently exhausted and, after three nights without sleep, I started to hear, see and feel odd things and I thought I was being followed by the police. Jeez! I was terrified. It was torturous, twenty-four-seven, week on week and with no end in sight, I wished I was dead. Although close friends and family were aware of the break-up, I couldn’t tell anyone what was going through my head, scared they’d think I was mad, that I should be locked away.

What’s the problem?

Image by Shemazing.net.com

After a while, not sure how long as I was in a constant haze back then, I took the boys to see our GP about their asthma. Once he’d seen them he sent the boys out, turned to me and, with his hand resting lightly on my arm, he said “Tell me, what’s the problem? You’ve lost so much weight and though you smile, think you’re very sad.”

It all came tumbling out; I wiped the tears and snot as I explained how the boys’ dad had been seeing someone else and we’d split up around eighteen months ago. He asked how I felt about it and all I could say was — devastated. The GP told me to let the boys go home, he would make some telephone calls and I was to come back in to see him.

Dr Nga said he had been talking to a colleague at our local hospital and that he’d agreed to see me so my GP was going to drop me off there now!

Once there, fortunately, although I had suicidal thoughts the psychology team were confident that I had no intention of killing myself. I’d said I knew I couldn’t do that to my sons. I couldn’t possibly leave them with that legacy. Three years of weekly counselling followed.

I returned to study

Seated Massage image from
handsonhealthuk.com

Still in my boring job, I was on the road to recovery when I realised I wanted to study but I wasn’t sure I was clever enough and I wasn’t sure what to study.

I thought I’d start small and took evening and weekend courses in Shiatsu,  followed by Swedish Massage, Seated Massage, Aromatherapy and finally, Indian Head Massage, where I was trained by the blind guy who actually invented it (Narendra Mehta). I loved it and so too did my family and friends who I practised on.

I had the massage table, the massage chair, lots of fluffy white towels and a full kit of aromatherapy oils. However, despite passing my exams with distinction in all the above types of massage, I just couldn’t charge anyone. I couldn’t ask for money so all I asked in return was a fluffy towel or an aromatherapy oil.

Redundancy was the best thing ever

Studying

In February 1997 I learned I was about to be made redundant again which was abso-bloody-lutely fantastic as I’d seen a large advert in the Evening Standard looking for General Nurses to study at my local University and Hospital. This didn’t so much interest me but, right at the bottom of this ad, there was a few lines about becoming a Mental Health Nurse. It just felt right and I knew my own experience of mental illness would help to make me a good nurse.

My recovery

So, during my recovery from, what I learnt was, a lengthy psychotic episode, depression, anxiety and anorexia, I applied to train as a Mental Health Nurse. After three long years of study, I worked successfully as a Mental Health Nurse in various settings before becoming a Ward Manager.

I felt like a fraud

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However, despite being qualified, I still felt that I just didn’t know enough, I was a fake and I’d soon be found out. This drove me to attend further specialist courses including the one-year Thorn Nursing programme which taught nursing interventions for schizophrenia and a CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) course for psychosis.

Outside of the NHS, I also trained to become a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA England) Instructor, a Mental Health Awareness Trainer, Mental Health First Aid Youth and Mental Health Armed Forces Instructor.

Due to my disability and ongoing mental health problems I am no longer able to work in the job I loved and even after eight years I still miss it. I often reflect on some of the most amazing and inspiring patients, remembering some of their journeys and the difficult changes they made on their road to recovery.

Blog

In my blog, I’ll be writing about my nursing practice, telling secrets about my days on the wards, together with parallel life experiences, my mental illness, wellness and recovery. I’m extremely passionate about raising mental health awareness and fighting the stigma that comes with it. I hope that mental health students, qualified nurses and anyone who’s experienced mental illness will be able to take something positive from my blog.

Best wishes

Caz

 

 

Testimonial

 “If you’re looking for a hard-hitting evaluation of the mental health profession with a sharp wit, please stop by Caz’ blog. She writes pieces revealing the challenges and problems in mental hospitals from first-hand experience as well as examining different mental health diagnoses and taking on the myths around them. Not the kind of myths I cover, the kind that hurt. Thank you, Caz. You are an amazing, courageous person.” Ceridwen, 2020 at Illuminating the fools mirror

 

Testimonial

“Oh my goodness, this is absolutely brilliant. Thank you, thank you. I have learnt that as a child I never learned any life skills, or how to manage my emotions, or how to gather any forms of resilience. Thank you for this, and now I’ve got to work out how to save it so I can read it again and again!” Katie, 2020 at How I Killed Betty