Being kind to ourselves

Hi, I’m Ian – a Therapist with Harmless. The perspective I’d like to share is the importance of being kind to ourselves during this time. This is a scary situation, and if you’re feeling anxious or down, remember that those are completely normal responses to fearful situations. But also keep in mind that our emotions are influenced by our thoughts – if we’re preparing ourselves for the worst outcomes or dwelling on the things we don’t have, then we’re naturally going to feel more fear or sadness. But if we focus on the fact that every second brings us closer to the end of the lockdown and the virus, and that by isolating we’re potentially saving lives, these thoughts can help us keep calm and focused. Have compassion for yourself, and remember that this won’t last forever.

Best wishes,

Ian

One of our Therapists, Rani, talks about helping to get some perspective on our thoughts

Rani talks about helping to get some perspective on our thoughts during the current lockdown situation.

In difficult times, Suicide Crisis Service *OPEN* and accepting new referrals

The Tomorrow Project offers support to those in suicide crisis. It is:

  • direct access
  • a primary care service
  • open to all ages
  • a short term service offering emotional and practical support
  • continuing to offer both face to face and remote sessions
  • operating in Nottinghamshire

Accepting self and agency referrals – all responded to within 1 working day

Email: crisis@tomorrowproject.org.uk

Referral line: 0115 880 0282 – please note, we ask that a voice message be left and a member of the team will respond within 1 working day.

Please share this information with your colleagues, friends and family so those who need our support know about this vital service. We are here.

Support Errol who is raising vital funds for Harmless by running the 40 mile Ultra-Marathon

Errol was in a dark place, but he recovered with the help of his running club. Now he plans to run his first ultra-marathon (that’s 40 miles!) on Saturday 9th May, and he’s raising money for Harmless. We’re impressed, humbled, and extremely grateful.

Here’s what Errol has to say:

“Hi, my name is Errol. I am currently training to run the Dukeries 40mile ultra-marathon, the run is around Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire. Although, as I’m finding out, ultras are all about finishing and not about times, I’m secretly hoping to get around in 7 hours. Just two years ago this would have been totally impossible, as up until January 9th 2018 I had not even began running.

The years preceding this point I had been lost in a battle with mental illness after quite a severe breakdown. This had taken everything from me, I had become a virtual recluse in my worst times. The side-effects of the medication had taken me over 20st. and due to self-medicating I had become addicted to alcohol.

Slowly and with much help I had started to turn the corner and was finding recovery, but it wasn’t until my teenage daughter called me fat and lazy in a teenage rant that I decided to try do something about how I had ended up physically.

In early 2018 I took up a running club’s c25k program. The first few weeks were horrid, both mentally and physically. I could barely run half a mile after two decades of very little cardio, but the support I got from the running club really helped get me going. I soon realized my recovery was going better the more I ran, so I took to doing it as much as I could. It’s been a fight all the way but one I have totally enjoyed. It’s a journey that’s helping me get good recovery and maybe helping me get back into the world.

I’m never going to be a great runner or a fast runner after the fights I have had, but after I learned what ultra-marathons were I just knew I wanted to test myself to find my limits and to get over them, and see some great countryside. If I can survive mental health battles and addictions why not try to push myself in something I’m beginning to love? And that’s helping save me

I was unsure about linking my first ultra to raising money for a charity, as I have become quite isolated over my illness and I was unsure it would go well, but I witnessed something on the way home the other day that was both extremely upsetting and sad to see, but also triggering to me and was a stark reminder of where the darkness can take people, especially concerning suicide.

Someone I know mentioned Harmless, and as soon as I looked into it I decided to try help if I could. It took ages for me to seek any kind of help, but without the help out there with mental health groups, therapy and my running club I wouldn’t be here today. I definitely wouldn’t be trying to run a 40mile ultra (gulp). The fact there are charities out there like Harmless will save lives. I just hope I can raise as much as I can for them.”

For more information about the race, go to www.hobopace.co.uk/dukeries-30-40/

If you’d like to support Errol and Harmless, go to www.localgiving.org/fundraising/my1stultra/ and help Errol smash his target!

The Day It All Went Wrong – A Story Of Strength

I stand on the brink of massive change again.  A feeling I know well enough, a feeling like I’m silently slipping without direction.  Although I am more used to it now the strength of my overwhelming emotions still completely flips me out and I am vulnerable once more.

Throughout my childhood and younger adult life I have experienced repeated trauma and abuse yet I somehow struggled through; an eternal optimist dreaming of a knight in shining armour who would rescue me and take me away from the life I had to live.  It was England in the 1980’s when children didn’t really have their own identity or rights.  I trusted in those I shouldn’t, some I should and an in an overwhelming connection to the earth through a universal purpose which seemed to somehow steer me away from adversity and into strength in the most unexpected ways.  I guess I was like a cat, but unlike a cat I seemed to have more than 9 lives!

It is this strength in adversity I wanted to talk about and I have wanted to share this story for many years but currently only have the courage to do so anonymously through the shame I feel but then I ask myself why do I feel ashamed?  I was poorly; do we feel ashamed to have physical illnesses?  Why is mental health any different?  I am hoping that by sharing about my experiences it will encourage others and encourage me to keep sharing.  I went through hell but have come out with a story I can use to hopefully help others.  The brink I currently stand on is not created within me but in the happy occasion of securing a Peer Support Role on a female inpatient ward at a mental health hospital.  It is important to note here that any massive change can be challenging; even a positive one and in my new role I will be the person I wished I had during my admissions, a person who understands and who has the time to talk.

My negative experiences led me to become very poorly over and over again and I can’t remember how many times I survived lethal overdoses, self-harmed significantly or ran away and I’m sure the eating disorder voice in my head will probably never be silent.  I had many psychiatric diagnoses up to 2011 including anorexia, bulimia, post-natal depression and chronic recurrent depressive disorder.  I have also had physical health issues all my life; scoliosis, hypermobility, congenital rib defect and poly-cystic ovaries then more recently osteopenia, osteoarthritis and radiologically isolated syndrome!  However, although that list sounds exhausting I am amazingly well with it all and can still walk, do exercise and enjoy life! I have fostered an attitude for gratitude and an annoyingly positive attitude.  However, this story is focusing on the day it all went wrong…

I took my first overdose aged 16 and struggled with overdoses thereafter as well as eating disorders and physical self-harm.  My early 30’s (a couple of years after the birth of my second child) I started with hospital admissions, after more acute life trauma, and by the time 2011 came around I had been in and out of inpatient mental health wards more times than I’ve had hot dinners.  One admission lasted around 6 months and I was offered ECT (which hubby thankfully talked me out of).  Every time the tablets didn’t help I was shoved on more medication and at one point I was on around 6-8 different medications.  It was amazing that I managed as well as I did because I was, quite frankly, off my face.

It was around this time the osteopenia was diagnosed after I stood up, twisted my ankle and broke straight across the two leg bones; I was put in a cast.  However, once the two weeks were up they didn’t put me in another full cast but one that could be taken off and my leg could be washed.  Sounds fair enough but it completely freaked me out and I started having psychotic breaks and hallucinations so badly that I gave up hope and I threw myself down the stairs.

In A&E I waited, waited and waited some more; eventually being sent for a mental health assessment.  I had arrived at the hospital early afternoon, had refused to eat or drink and by the time I had been transported and assessed it was around 2am (12 hours later!)  I have no memories and no idea what I said to the Psychiatrist but he let me go home (after assessing me with just us two in the room).  My Mother begged him to keep me in but I must have convinced him, somehow, that I would be OK.

We got home, I went upstairs and went straight out of the window.

I had broken my entire spine and skull needing metal rods inserting and I had three massive bleeds on my brain.  I now know that I was having a complete psychotic break on the day it all went wrong.  I received no support coping with life after spinal surgery or brain injury and because I was mentally unwell for some reason that was the medical world’s main focus.  I didn’t even know the extent of my injuries until I asked for my records a few years ago and I still relive the trauma of the fall in my nightmares and the window remains locked.

Recovery was hard and especially harder on a mental health ward not geared at all for the physical and mental health fusion; no person centred care.  It took days to get the right bed, my clothes all went missing, I struggled to get food and carry drinks, to get washed (asking for a bowl of warm water was like asking for gold) and some staff were truly horrible to me; you get the picture.  The treatment was so neglectful that when I was discharged around 4 months later my back wound was still open and infected because the nurses wouldn’t listen to me and change the dressing more frequently.  Nearly every morning I woke up with my own infected puss against my back meaning clothes and sheets needed constantly washing and changing which I couldn’t do.  It was appalling, they wouldn’t listen to me and to discuss it all I would need to publish a book.

The reason I am sharing this story though is because many amazing things came out of this experience;

  • I finally got a proper diagnosis – Borderline Personality Disorder which eventually let me access Mentalization Based Therapy which has revolutionised my life
  • Fracturing my skull led them to see a white spot on my brain which led to my diagnosis of Radiologically Isolated Syndrome for which I receive medical support
  • The complaint I made meant my local hospital started a mental health liaison team onsite which is now being rolled out nationally as RAID teams. The same hospital are now opening a separate area in A&E for people with mental health with its own entrance
  • The metal rods inserted into my back will help me stand straighter for longer with respect to my scoliosis
  • Although it was hard I got to spend a year at home with my husband
  • I joined my local service user network and helped design the new mental health hospital for our area, I co-deliver training to professionals on Personality Disorder and I wrote a course for the inpatient Recovery College
  • I am a published author on a UK website’s mental health pages
  • Plus much, much more and as an eternal optimist – there is more to come!

I am passionate about mental health and helping develop better strategies and outcomes for people who are NOT JUST their diagnosis.  It shouldn’t have to escalate to the level my illness did in order to get the correct help and diagnosis.  I am 44 years old and I have BPD, dissociative disorder and an acquired brain injury, but I am also a musician, cook, wife, Mother of two and own a very fancy cat named Oliver (my motivational kitty).  I work part-time in the NHS, am a trained Nursery Nurse, have level 2 Mental Health and Counselling, worked abroad in my younger years and love days out by the sea.  Let’s not forget who we are and who our patients are because they forgot who I was when they treated me like an animal.  I’m here to tell them otherwise and fight for those who cannot speak up!

To me, the journey of the soul is about connecting, disconnecting and re-connecting with ourselves and the world around us in a deep and meaningful way, as many times as we need.  It’s OK to have days we hide and days we shine and it’s OK to be silent as well as speak.  Without the pauses there would be no melody to our tunes.  Thank you for reading about the day it all went wrong for me and how it led things going right.

Have you been following our amazing project about a celebration of womanhood?

Here is our photographer Thomas, in a rare shot of himself at a shoot with the Sheriff of Nottingham.
The project is focused upon exploring what it means to be a woman, looking at the individuality of woman hood and paying attention to the needs, vulnerabilities and strengths of women as we try to raise the profile of female suicide.
The exhibition will be held on the 8/3/20 @backlitgallery – please get in touch for tickets or book via the eventbrite link in our bio.
On the day we learn that @carolineflack has taken her own life, never has femalesuicide been a more necessary conversation.
suicideprevention suicide women femalesuicide rip women feminism
via Instagram
https://www.instagram.com/p/B8mpxdZHIWq/

‘You’re stronger than you think you are’ – One of our clients shares their journey towards recovery

I will never forget the date and exact time that my life imploded, 23 June 2018 at 2:55pm. My partner of 16 years came upstairs and looked perturbed, I followed him downstairs and asked if he was OK. “I can’t do this anymore” were the words that came out of his mouth “It’s over.”

Those words haunted me for a very long time, and still do to some extent. I would cry myself to sleep and wake up in tears with the words ringing in my ears. Whilst I didn’t initially move out of the home we had recently bought together, we lived separate lives and seeing him every day inevitably brought about much grief and anxiety.

I started to up my drinking and without warning, I spiralled very quickly and the inevitable happened, I took an overdose.

I woke up in an emergency room, hooked up to machines and cried when I realised what I had done, but more so that I had survived. Full of remorse and regret I went home and was visited by my local mental health team, who advised me that I needed help, but a psychiatrist appointment was two years away, and that I should consider going private. I wondered at the time how many people survive that two years.

The months that followed were tough, and as anniversaries came and went, my anxiety levels became worse and I made three more attempts. Thankfully I survived and am here to tell my story.

I was introduced to Harmless through a friend of a friend, who was seriously concerned about me. I went to my first meeting and met Katie. I don’t remember much about it, as I cried throughout and poured my heart out into the room. She sat patiently, never once interrupting and listened intently. I left Harmless that day, got in the car to drive to London for work, and cried again, but it was an outpouring of relief more than sorrow. I remember calling a friend and telling them that I’d made the first step to recovery.

Whilst the journey hasn’t been easy, the glimmer of a flickering light at the end of a very long and dark tunnel kept me going. I would visit Katie weekly, sometimes I would laugh and others I would cry, but she was there, listening and helping.

Since the New Year, I believe I have turned a corner. I have a new job; my confidence is higher, and I am enjoying life once again. Don’t get me wrong, there are bad days too, but I know what I must do now to escape that temporary dark place. I refer to the safety plan that Katie and I put together, I use distraction techniques she taught me, and I make plans to stay safe.

If it wasn’t for Harmless and the wonderful Katie, I wouldn’t be typing this today, and in simple terms I wouldn’t be here. I owe my life to this amazing organisation, and I will never ever forget that they saved my life.

Stay safe out there, and remember, it’s always OK, to say I’m not OK.

You’re stronger than you think you are.

Upcoming Catch up Cafe dates to be held in East Leake

Harmless & The Tomorrow Project will be running multiple Catch up cafe’s in East Leake over the upcoming months.
 
The catch up cafes are for those who would like to access some informal, drop in support from our service and for those who would like information about our service.
 
So whether you’d like some information on how we can support you or someone you know – if you’d like to come in and chat with a member of the team or to catch up with others – we will see you at the Catch up Cafe!
 
Upcoming dates:
 
For those aged 21 and under:
 
  • Thursday 23rd January 2020 – 11:30am to 12:30pm
  • Thursday 6th February 2020 – 3pm to 4pm
  • Thursday 26th March 2020 – 11am to 12pm
For those aged 18 and over:
 
  • Wednesday 29th January 2020 – 1pm to 2pm
  • Friday 21st February 2020 – 10:30am to 11:30am
  • Wednesday 11th March 2020 – 2:30pm to 3:30pm
These catch up cafes will be held in our East Leake office at: The Tomorrow Project, Unit 1, Lighting House, 3-5 Station Road, East Leake, Nottinghamshire, LE12 6LQ.

Upcoming Catch up Cafe dates to be held in Nottingham

Harmless & The Tomorrow Project will be running multiple Catch up cafe’s in Nottingham over the upcoming months.

The catch up cafes are for those who would like to access some informal, drop in support from our service and for those who would like information about our service.

So whether you’d like some information on how we can support you or someone you know – if you’d like to come in and chat with a member of the team or to catch up with others – we will see you at the Catch up Cafe!

Upcoming dates:

For those aged 21 and under:

  • Monday 27th January 2020 – 3pm to 4pm
  • Wednesday 19th February 2020 – 12:30pm to 1:30pm
  • Tuesday 10th March 2020 – 12:30pm to 1:30pm

For those aged 18 and over:

  • Thursday 23rd January 2020 – 11:30am to 12:30pm
  • Friday 14th February 2020 – 1pm to 2pm
  • Friday 13th March 2020 – 12:30pm to 1:30pm

These catch up cafes will be held in our Nottingham City office at: Harmless, 1 Beech Avenue, Sherwood Rise, Nottingham, NG7 7LJ.

In case you missed it… our CEO speaks out about her experiences: My story, Caroline Harroe

It has taken me a really long time to assemble the words for this, in both my heart and my head, and to find the courage to communicate them.

For those who know me I’m Caroline.

Friend.

Mum.

Wife.

To the broader world I’m Caroline Harroe, CEO of Harmless. Psychotherapist. Leader. Optimist.

2019, for one reason and another, has been particularly difficult for me. A year ago I had twins. I already have twins (and an older child) and a second set of twins was not in the life plan, so to speak. We are very lucky, we know we are, but unfortunately due to trauma and the strike of ill mental health, their arrival has been painful. They were so wanted but their little lives didn’t start quite how we had hoped.

Like many families, the unspoken trauma of birth was their beginnings.

For the best part of the year, like many parents with young babies, I have been tired. Robotic. I haven’t really had room to the feel joy of my babies, I have just been functioning. Doing. Being. Making sure my kids are ok. And my babies are fed. And safe. And feel loved. And looking after my wife, who has been unwell. And working in between everything else to try and keep my beloved service, Harmless, ok.

And look after my team.

And face some really terrible work situations.

And fight for funding that should never be so hard to come by.

And never quite being good enough.

And… keep… going… the rhythm of life maintained me. It didn’t sustain me in any way, but the demands kept me moving.

Like any vehicle running out of fuel, it was inevitable that I’d start to break down.

But I still didn’t see it coming.

My ‘breakdown’, for want of a better word took me by surprise. I am a woman of insight and intellect, of heart and soul and passion. I was too busy on this treadmill of life to stop long enough to look after myself. Too busy caring for everyone else to invest in my own survival.

I broke.

It started slowly, I guess. I started to fixate on my weight. Thoughts coming from desperate tiredness began assuring me that I’d feel better if I lost weight; in control, somehow.

And sure, it did help in the way any eating disorder helps. It made me feel in control when my life felt so overwhelming.

I continued to accept my failings like a sponge, taking criticisms and my sense of inadequacy inside of myself and wrapping my thoughts around them until they eroded me.

Before long this became my normal. The rhythm of life ‘keep going… keep going… get up… feed kids… be a mum… work… keep going’ was somewhat replaced with ‘eat less… eat less…be thinner..:’

For those who don’t understand eating disorders it can be difficult to contemplate but the rumination about food took the place of the constant overwhelm of life. It gave me a focus other than the responsibilities placed upon me. It gave me a place for all of the criticism of me to be acted upon, as though every judgment (internal and external) of me became a self depreciating punishment upon my body. When you have a public profile as I do, everyone’s a critic. No matter how much good you do, there’ll always be those who doubt you, blame you, criticise you… without even knowing you, or even when they do. I have learned, as is true of all of us, that I cannot please everyone but because I was striving to I began to feel as though the world needed less of me. And so I gave the world what I thought it wanted.

Less-of-me.

Each thought about weight loss was driven by a sense of never quite being enough for all the demands placed upon me. In reality I have come to realise that no matter how much good I do, or we do, the reality is that there will always be so much more to do… more money to raise… more people to help… more lives to save.

The greater the demands, the more my sense of inadequacy; the greater my failings, the less space I should assume and the greater the drive to lose weight because this is something I have mastered, something I CAN do well.

Soon enough the noise of this new rhythm meant I truly was out of energy, physically and mentally. My mood was low. My ability to perform against the many tasks in my life untenable. My weight loss goals not attainable (certainly at the rate I hoped for) and my sense of failure, of not being good enough, of being useless became a constant.

I stopped believing in a future.

I stopped feeling the hope that I preach so broadly about…

For a mum who’s never spent time away from her babies, a short stay in hospital was (with hindsight) inevitable but heart wrenching and soul destroying.

It was the ultimate failing.

But it happened.

What happened to me, happened. I steadily lost sight of a future. Of my worth. I was surrounded by personal and professional pressures that outweighed my own resources because I lost sight of self care and if realistic goals.

Support was thin on the ground, though those that were there for me every day and every night sustained me, as I continued to try and keep the plates spinning for everyone I know and love. Professional pressures and scrutiny remained high. Those things hit you hardest when you have been up every night, on your own with small babies, for months and months.

When the world is sleeping, I felt my isolation more.

What happened next, you ask?

Well that’s almost irrelevant. I wrote this down and committed my story to paper to show how easily someone of health and professional stature, someone with a home and a family and friends can steadily become unwell. How we can all be a victim of life and its unpredictable circumstances. I wrote it down so that I am living by the standards I set, that there should be no shame in speaking out about the vulnerabilities of being human. It makes us no less of a person, or a mum, a friend, a colleague, or indeed, a leader.

None of this is said with pessimism, but rather intended as a lesson for us all. We must look after ourselves. We must.

We will run out of steam if not replenished.

We are all vulnerable and at times we all need help no matter what the exterior.

Seek help. From us, from anyone. I am battling my own sense of shame in breaking a silence in the hope that it reaches someone and helps them to share their truth.

No one is immune from the human experience. And no one is professional at being that human. We absolutely have to let each other know that life is something that can be survived if we help each other and let those of us who let pride dictate our silences know that there is also a room for our voices to join the many that say ‘we’ve felt that way too!’

January is often the start of New Years resolutions- to start doing this more, or being that more … to get thinner.

For every person out there, making a decision because they don’t think that they’re good enough already, I hope that my story reaches you. You are enough. Make your resolution to care for yourself more. To take time out. To be home more with those your love. To forgive yourself more, but not necessarily to change yourself.

I hope that your New Years resolution can instead be to be kind to yourself, or to take time for yourself or to accept yourself as you are, or if necessary, to seek help for yourself.

Be healthier, sure but please don’t destroy yourself because of the pressures to be better than you already are.

You’re good enough.

Caroline