About me

I’m a single mum to two amazing grown-up sons who followed my footsteps, well, sort of. The eldest is a Neuromuscular Research Scientist in the States and my youngest is now a Physiotherapist. I was a Mental Health Nurse, then a Ward Manager before I was diagnosed with a neurological disorder (Transverse Myelitis) which sadly culminated in my early medical retirement at the ripe old age of fifty.

Gemma Gray Photography

Back 1992, once the boys were at school I returned to work (against their dad’s wishes) 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.

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?

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.

Return to study

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.

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

Despite being qualified, I still felt that I just didn’t know enough, that 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 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.

 

19 thoughts on “About me”

  1. Wow, kudos to your GP for having the care and insight to recognize that you needed help without actually asking for it. This seems rare these days when so many GPs seem overworked and burnt out with little inclination to take on extra problems. So glad you are sharing your experiences!

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Dearest Caz, YOU inspire me beyond words!!!! I love how you use your powerful life lessons and journey to bless the whole world . Your heart is full of so much LOVE …. and I want to embrace you with my deepest love and gratitude! Love, Love, and even more Love!!!! ❤️💜💙🧡💚💛🧡💙💚💛💜❤️🧡💛💜🧡💛💚❤️

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What an amazing story of bravery – hats off to you!

    I’d never heard of Transverse Myelitis so looked it up, sounds painful. From someone that’s suffered from lower back pain for several decades I find that yoga and acupuncture are the only treatments as I don’t want to contemplate surgery.

    Many thanks for stopping by my Travel and Photography blog.

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  4. Truly inspiring and brave to write about yourself unguarded. Mental health is really hard and can be quite debilitating at times. But, you turned something negative into something positive…and that’s just so awesome!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Kat, I was a RN with post grad in mental health. I had a break down after a night shift, and have never returned tto any sort of work. I know one thing, from my own personal experience I would be an even better mental health worker now than I was then. This was four and half years ago. I now have a diagnosis of Complex PTSD and as many know once you know what is the problem there are things to help. I had a superb GP who was with me through the worst time, who left to become a Psychiatrist. I was also fortunate to find a Psychologist (finaly)who is really helping to move me forward some time in macro steps but forward. I commend you for all you have achieved. I also admire your tenacity and strength. I understand the grief when life forces you to not be able to work in a position you loved. Tazzie.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Tazzie for your comments. Sorry that you went through a break down too, it’s a dreadful experience isn’t it. I really hope that you are able to get to a place where you feel able to return to work. Your personal experiences will really help. And we need some good mental health nurses – if you’ve read some of my other posts and MH nurses – you’ll see how bad some of them are! I’m so happy to have been a MH Nurse only physical disability meant I had to give it up and it’s clear you understand how awful it is 😦 I think you’d make an excellent MH Nurse Tazzie. Please keep in touch as I would love to hear how you are doing. Caz x

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      1. I will not be able to work for anyone again. I have to many issues such as trust, triggers reactive, I dissociate sometimes for an hour or more. I have memory lapses for large chunks of time when under any stress, or pressure. I cant fill in documents, and I have major panic attacks. I have periods where my personal care is not good. things have improved greatly I am much better than I was. I will keep in touch. enjoy reading your blog

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Your story is inspiring. I too have suffered and am continuing to suffer from my mental illness. Because I look normal on the outside people dont seem to believe Im disabled. I was on disability before, but it was stripped away from me. Since then ive experienced numerous evictions, and utility shut offs, with my husband and two boys. My husband is a Veteran with several mental illnesses, still fighting the VA for his pension. And I’m currently awaiting another disability hearing. There’s got to be better education on Mental Illness, especially for the people making disability decisions on people. I too am trying to raise awareness and end the stigma.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my word, really sorry to hear this. Do you know why it was taken away? There are lots of ways to write out your application and attend their interviews. This is so terrible and I feel for you, your husband (a dear veteran) and the boys, honestly. Do you know when your hearing is? Can I contact you another way? I know what you mean about those that sit on the other side of the desk – they do need training, and you’d think they were giving the money out of their own pockets, the way they look at you! It’s a disgrace and I can only say from my own opinion – the benefit system has been so abused by others, we’re all treated the same. I also have a physical disability and there’s no way I’d let them get away with it.

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  7. I know it is a tad early, but I wanted to let you know that I will be publishing a post: Sunshine Bloggers Award post for: Feb 1, 2020 at 01:59 https://esmesalon.com/sunshine-blogger-award-4/ and I have nominated you. Thank you for being in my blogging arena and your support.
    I hope you will be able to accept and pay this forward, but no hard feelings and pressure should you not be able to do so, I fully understand.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Hi Hannah! You filled up a form to join Blogger Community at bloggingexposure.wordpress.com. I have been trying to send you an invite, but WP says that user has blocked invites. Could you please change the settings so that I can send you an invite to join the community?

    Liked by 1 person

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