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My Story and Journey at Cygnet Alders Clinic by Charley

In our latest blog, Charley, a former service user at Cygnet Alders Clinic, shares how the team helped her to find her creativity again and manage her own symptoms to enable her to move back into the community.

I got admitted to Cygnet Alders Clinic in June 2016 on a section 3. I first started on Severn Ward which was the first ward out of the 3 wards. I knew I was in for a tough long journey to get better and start my rehabilitation after spending years on and off in psychiatric hospitals since I was a teenager.

The staff, nurses, MDT and support workers made me feel very welcome. I was shown around and was explained what was going to happen and what they were going to offer me at the clinic and the routine, procedures and restrictions. I progressed very quickly moving on to the second ward Avon and then to the last ward Coln.

I unfortunately then started to relapse after a period of time and was moved back to Avon as my mental health declined. My mental health then was very unstable for a long while and my medication was changed numerous times to try and help my symptoms of my diagnosis of EUPD and complex PTSD along with trying to attend group psychology groups. There was lots of different psychology groups run at the clinic whilst I was there including things like mindfulness, substance misuse, emotional coping skills, DBT skills and much more. I found it hard to attend these group sessions as I lacked concentration and found it hard sitting down for long periods of time and focusing and retaining what was being explained and taught and trying to be implemented into my day to day life.

My mental health then took a turn for the worst and I ended up being moved back to Severn the first ward I was originally admitted to. I was put on 1 to 1 observations as my self-harm and behaviours and symptoms became dangerous and more severe and I was unable to manage alone. I was given lots of support and it was decided that I was going to be put on a new medication.

My physical health severely deteriorated and I lost a lot of my independence and mobility and needed extra assistance with personal care and required aids to help me be able to be as independent as possible. I had individual psychology sessions and tackled some of my past trauma and learnt to deal and manage some of my past and be able to manage some of my symptoms better caused by my trauma.

I also asked to be assessed for ADHD as it was a concern I had for many of years and believed I had the diagnosis but was never assessed for or had the chance to be assessed for it. I had a lot of the symptoms and was assessed by the psychiatrist and was tried on a medication for it after assessments where carried out over a period of time. This is where things started on my journey with being put on the last resort medication and medication for ADHD things started getting a little bit easier for me to manage things. I was diagnosed with ADHD after years of professionals blaming the symptoms on my EUPD.

I started attending psychology groups as my concentration improved, my creativity started coming back because I could sit down for more than 5 minutes and could complete pieces of art, I could complete tasks. My creativity really started to flourish and I did many things at Alders including pieces of art around the clinic. I entered the Cygnet 2021 calendar competition and won a month in the 2021 cygnet calendar. I entered the Cygnet Christmas card competition. I did a monthly magazine which I learnt how to do on publisher which I brought out every month for staff and patients to enjoy. I created an easy read, friendly EUPD leaflet for the clinic. I started attending a community based wood work based group with a charity called Fair shares and I learnt how to chisel quotes, shapes and pictures by hand into wood. I really enjoyed this a support worker/ OT came with me on a weekly basis to this. I did an art sale for the charity MIND and raised over £100 with my art work. I also created posters for the OT department which were put up for events and lots more.

As my symptoms became less severe and more manageable as my time continued at Alders I moved to Coln Ward and I become more involved in trips out and group activities. OT worked with me so I had an individual timetable as well as still being involved in group activities. I took up a therapy job which was to do Avon and Coln’s whiteboards every morning which involved writing the date, a quote, a brainteaser, the plan of the day and any extra bits OT wanted to add. This had to be completed by 10am every morning to be able to earn my therapy earnings at the end of each week. This gave me an incentive to get up every morning having my little therapy job. Every Sunday I used to go swimming to try and keep fit and lose a bit of weight and also it was something I really enjoyed. Staff at Alders also encouraged me to use the gym to help me with my weight as I had gained a lot due to physical health problems and self-neglect. I had the opportunity to see a dietician/ personal trainer that came in weekly as well.

It took a lot of time to get back to Coln and lots of hard work and support from everyone and I started to manage my own medication, my physical health started to slowly improve and my life started looking up and a future ahead of me. Then covid hit which no one was expecting and because I ended up shielding it became a very hard time for me being stuck in but everyone stuck together and on Coln ward and the whole unit. Alders kept me safe and got me out for drives on my own when they could, tried to make it as fun as they could and arranged as much activities on the ward as possible to keep our days occupied. A couple of us girls did a big quote/mural on Coln wall and also created a butterfly wall whilst in lock down. Alders never gave up on me I spent 4 years as an inpatient going from Severn to Avon to Coln to Avon to Severn to Coln.

The hardest part was losing my best friend when I was at Alders Clinic but with support I got through it and still to this day struggle with the loss but I achieved every goal she said I would achieve and have some amazing memories of us together and living for both of us in her memory.

I am now living in the community after being discharged July 2020 and am thriving. I have my own self-contained flat in the community in a residential home. I fully self-cater and do my weekly food shop every Thursday. I cook for myself every day, do my own washing and clean my flat and keep it nice and tidy. My self-harm is kept to an absolute minimum and I am still responsible for my medication. I have nearly lost 12 stone over the last 3 years and working towards a healthy weight and lifestyle. I am adjusting to the community well after being an inpatient for so many years I am still flowing with creativity and loving my art and becoming more independent by the day. I have and am learning to manage my symptoms of my ADHD, EUPD, and complex PTSD a lot better and without the help and support from Alders, MDT, nurses, support workers, patients and everyone who was involved in my care whilst I was there I wouldn’t be where I am now. Yes it took a lot of time but they didn’t give up on me.

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