"Being care co-ordinated back to life"

About: Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

(as the patient),

2015 was arguably the worst year of my life. Or to borrow the Simpsons joke, the worst year of my life...so far.

Towards the end of my admission to Aire Court ICS in 2015 I was assigned Sarah as my care co-cordinator. At that time I had pretty much said goodbye to everything which I thought defined me as a person. I’d got to a point where I’d even given up on crying as a form of release or expression, and so I would just sit desolately at Aire Court or at home. 2015 saw an *awful* lot of desolate sitting. And not much else. I just didn't want to be here any more.

Given the state I was in, it took Sarah a bit of time to reach me. I was just…gone. Politely turning up to appointments and responding to questions, saying quite worrying stuff, but not really present. Sarah’s persistence, compassion, hope and humour were the things which slowly started to turn things around.

There came a point where I felt that I had to be seen to be doing something, just *something*, but my outlook at the time was resistant to just about everything. So after years of working with people I decided I wanted to be a security guard, because I could work at night and not have to talk to anyone any more. Of course in my head, this made perfect sense.

Some workers would have encouraged me to go for that, simply to encourage any kind of positive goal-setting ambition. Sarah’s gentle response was “Um, you’re *already* not talking to anyone - I don’t think that’s a very good idea for you. Let’s wait and have a think about this. ”

I could be sitting here writing a post about how as part of my recovery journey I *really* wanted to be a security guard and my evil care co-ordinator crushed my dream. But the truth was that Sarah had taken the time to get to know me as a person, and so her feedback came from an informed, insightful and wise place. And of course she was right.

Writing this now, even I find the notion of me as a security guard laughable. But Sarah never once laughed *at* me when I was talking about it; she just bounced back ways which that particular unbelievably incredibly unconscionably monumentally bad plan might possibly reinforce my less helpful behaviours.

Reflecting back on our talks I realise she was always checking out all the important stuff (e. g. she would always ask after my parents, who I’m very close to) but never, ever in a ‘just going through a checklist’ kind of way. We just...chatted. Sometimes I would cry, sometimes (eventually) I would laugh, but of course Sarah would never have any idea which me she’d be meeting before I turned up. And still never once did I feel that I was *supposed* to be in a particular mood. She just accepted me as I was.

On a practical level, Sarah made a referral to Psychological Therapies for me, which is a whole other journey in a whole other direction - and one which might hopefully break the cycle I’ve found myself in over the years.

She also referred me to Workplace Leeds, who are a brilliant organisation in their own right. My worker there got me a volunteering gig in November, which meant I had to do preposterous, impossible things like get dressed and leave the flat and engage with people. And yet with the support and encouragement of Sarah and Mark from Workplace Leeds, I did it. And so I now volunteer at a couple of places every couple of days, which has made an immeasurable difference. For me, it’s almost like being a person again.

On an emotional level, with Sarah I was able to be openly sad without falling into hopelessness, to feel personally ashamed of my situation but without feeling judged, and even to actually laugh without feeling guilty. And eventually, to feel hope without being embarrassed.

It’s a bold and brave and frightening thing, to dare to think that things might actually get better. Sarah completely understood this and so I felt able to have good days and less good days, without betting everything on either side as I'm prone to do.

Given the state in which I spent most of 2015, it’s slightly scary to think of what the outcome could have been had I not encountered someone like Sarah. And even as I type that I can hear her saying that ‘but we were a team’. That’s how much of an influence she was, she’s still subconsciously prodding me. But it’s a good and welcome thing and I am all the better for it.

I’m writing this a couple of months after being discharged because I wanted to have a bit of space and context. Had I written this at the time, it would have just been an emotional and gushing tribute. Which is not to say that this isn't an emotional and gushing tribute, but I wanted to explain *why* Sarah made the difference she did. And how, as a result, 2016 looks very different to 2015.

I don’t know who gets to see these postings, and I have no wish to embarrass Sarah - I just wanted to say a formal thank you.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Clare Blackburn, PALS, Complaints & Claims Manager, Leeds and York NHS Partnership NHS Foundation Trust

Dear LP59

Thank you so much for taking the time to write about your experience with Aire Court ICS and in particular, Sarah your Care Co-ordinator. Your words are very poignant and it is so encouraging to read about your experiences. I am so pleased to read that after your experiences in 2015 in which you describe as being “the worst year of my life” you have made such great progress. Yours really is an inspiring story which I have forwarded onto the manager at Aire Court.

I wish you well for the future and with Workplace Leeds.

Kind regards

Clare Blackburn

PALS, Complaints & Claims Manager

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