Wednesday, 8 May 2013

More Than A Job Part Four - You Don't Have To Be Crazy To Work Here....

I left the Accident Hospital to go to work in Mental Health. Now at the time, physiotherapy in mental health was a backwater; a nothing speciality - the domain of the unambitious, and a place where old and/or tired physiotherapists went to die.

Except at Highcroft Hospital.

Nick Rosen is the most innovative, inspirational, motivational physiotherapist I have ever worked with. His nickname was Mr Brittas, after the character from the Brittas empire, because in the same way that Brittas had a single-minded drive to bring exercise to the masses, Nick was evangelical about exercise for mental health. We had technical instructors instead of physio assistants, years before any other department. We had a computer that did our stats in the days when you had a blinking green cursor to greet you when you switched it on, and when NHS computers were generally glorified word processors that you fed information into and never EVER got anything useful back out of. They are still that now, come to think of it - but back to the story....

Highcroft was where I learned what mental health physiotherapy should be about, and what a physiotherapy manager should be about.

It was where I had my last mental breakdown.

It was also where I began learning Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, and really got cracking on the process of changing my life and my self.

Those two things are not unrelated.

Highcroft was another massive shock, because I went from being a Senior I who knew all there was to know in her field, to being a Senior I who knew bugger all about what she was doing. Oh, the physiotherapy part was fine. And the relaxation classes were fine - well, the relaxation classes weren't fine, they NEVER went to plan, they could be the highlight of the day or the nightmare scenario and you never knew which it would be, but it was the same for everyone, it wasn't just me being crap.

No, the bit that was so difficult was knowing how to deal with people so ill. Again, with the frankly psychotic people, everyone was in the same boat, and there were behaviour management programmes that everyone used, so I could deal with that. It was the anxious and depressed, the suicidal people. I felt at sea, didn't know how to deal with them, hadn't the skills the other seniors had to know what to say and when. But hey, I was more experienced now, I could deal with this, I'd been here before and I was that bit older.

Then just as I was finding my feet, just as all the reading and learning was starting to make a difference, the two other seniors both left within a short while of eachother. I found myself the most senior clinician left, and deputy to the Superintendent, and this was where things REALLY started to go tits up.

I took on anything and everything. I was determined to prove that I could do this and I tried to prove it by never saying no. I would go to work in a state of anxiety and dread. Whilst I was there, things weren't too bad - during the day I would cheer up - I was too busy to dwell on things and I was so good at putting on a smile that I could even convince myself. Then I would go home and be too exhausted to enjoy anything any more. My thoughts were focussed on my work even when I wasn't there. Nothing else in my life was of any importance compared to living up to my predecessors,  being the best I could be and helping the most people I could. I couldn't sleep, and spent the time dwelling on my own uselessness. Then it was up early again and another panic-ridden commute where I would fantasise about running away.

I remember Nick reading a book that compared problems to monkeys - about how you should only ever have your own monkeys, not other people's, and how some people will always get rid of their monkeys whilst others are monkey-collectors. He said he could see me wandering around picking up stray monkeys, even grabbing monkeys off other people who were quite happy with them, and all the time I was already staggering under the weight of a sanctuary full of the creatures.

Then one day I threw all the monkeys in the air and ran before they hit the ground.

I came into work and saw someone had booked an extra patient in my diary. I picked up my bag, left my department keys on the table, and walked out.

I bumped into Nick on the way out (I was always the first in - even though Nick was always early). 'Where are you going?'

'I resign, I'm never coming back.'

I could hear him asking me to come and talk about it, to come and have a cup of tea, but I ignored him and kept on walking. I caught the bus into Birmingham. I played the usual game of should I continue to my destination or should I hop on any old bus and run away wherever it took me. I went home.

I lay on my bed and cried. But I knew things were very wrong and I knew I needed help. I booked a GP appointment and felt so relieved to hear that 'it's not your fault, you have depression, you are ill, it's your brain chemistry.'

But that was nothing more than a comforting fiction. The pills she gave me didn't do the job. Facing the half-truths and lies in that GP's statement was how I got well.

To Be Continued...

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