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Guest Post – Dr Kristine Abercrombie tells us about her journey as a therapist and a patient

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It is my pleasure to welcome Kristine to guest blog this week. It was meant to be! Kristine posted on a Facebook group I am also a part of and I just wanted to work with her straight away! So I was greatly pleased to hear her positive response to write something for my blog.

Kristine explains, how self-care came before her career, how she dealt with loss, where her psychology career took her all those years ago, and where she is now.

 


Let’s read about her journey…


kristine


My Journey from Naivety, to Frustration, Confusion and Disempowerment – Reflections Five Years on


When writing, I often find as I imagine many writers do, the material which comes to mind surrounds something I am experiencing in my personal or professional life at that time. I have been thinking a lot this past few weeks about how it feels to be returning to my private practice providing online and telephone psychological therapy.

Nearly a year ago I made the decision to not take on any new clients, and take some time out from myself and my family. As you will read in my blog as well as being a clinical psychologist, I am also someone who has been suffering from chronic illness in the past 11 years. As you can imagine, this in itself brings its own continuous self care needs, and very sadly, I lost a very close friend, my grandmother, my uncle, and an aunt and her partner, in the past year and a half. So some slowing down was definitely needed!

On returning to practise, a blog I wrote this time five years ago keeps coming to my mind, so when Karin very kindly asked me to write a guest blog I thought sharing this, with a bit of – five years later – reflection could be insightful. I will share my prior blog first, with a little bit of an epilogue at the end.


Read my original post here: My journey from naivety, to frustration, confusion and disempowerment (written december 22nd, 2013)


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Sixteen years ago I started my journey through the academic and clinical world of psychology. Little did I know it but I was on a journey of a lot of fun, learning, adventure, love, personal and professional development and subsequently pain, suffering and a journey of development that I could never have even tried to comprehend.

It is this journey that transported me from being a curious, empathic, educated, competent, albeit naïve human being and health professional, to someone with deep insight into what it is really like to feel the disempowerment, frustration and suffering of a chronic illness.


When I think back to my first experiences as an assistant psychologist, particular memories come to mind. For a year and a half I worked in a neuropsychology department, and had the pleasure of working with a lot of really amazing people diagnosed with neurological disorders, or categorised as having ‘unexplained medical diagnoses’.

The doctors I worked with for the most part really did have the best of intentions at the bottom of their hearts. We were working within a system with limited resources, restrictions and also within the realms of western science. In as much as doctors and patients would obviously like to think western medicine has most of the answers, there is so much about the human body that we do not yet understand.

In my humble opinion, Western medicine looks at parts of the body separately rather than having a more holistic approach, which would perhaps enable a more comprehensive understanding of the complex functions and interactions within this unbelievable organism.


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As clinical psychologists/neuropsychologists our role was to provide a comprehensive assessment of a person’s cognitive functioning and emotional well-being, and work with the rest of the neurology team to help provide the best care possible to each individual patient.

Best care – it means so much when you’re a clinician, often working with limited resources, time, and in a world of medicine which still has much to learn. there are so many people you would love nothing more than to be able to significantly improve their lives, both psychologically and physically, but for various reasons it is not yet possible.

As a patient best care has taken on a whole new meaning for me; the limitations of the medical world leave me frustrated and angry, disappointed and sometimes quite frankly mad. Although I know that most of the health professionals I see are doing their best, I see how frustrating it is to:

 

  • wait on extremely long waiting lists;

  • see a doctor you feel doesn’t really listen;

  • get so many different opinions from so many different professionals;

  • feel at times you understand your condition more than they do;

and frequently leave appointments feeling more frustrated than you were before you arrived.


I feel I now have an opportunity to see things from both perspectives; the well-meaning yet at times frustrated doctor, to the often disappointed, saddened patient who tries to stay hopeful among much adversity. When doctors are:

  • under so many time pressures;

  • do not have all the answers;

  • things are not black and white;

  • do not know how to help or can’t help, their own feelings of being disempowered can get projected onto us.

We as patients understandably want answers, treatments that work, doctors who are empathic and truly listen, and a medical science which is more holistic and developed.


It is also important to acknowledge that Western medicine has over the year’s undergone immense transformation with Incredible life-saving and life improving treatments increasingly available for a wide range of medical problems, and with doctors demonstrating unbelievable skill, knowledge and technique. I imagine all of us both patients and doctors, have had either their own lives, or the lives of their loved ones, saved or significantly improved, on numerous occasions throughout their lifespan by the incredible advancements in the medical world.


It appears that as conditions become less clear, more uncertain, with less favourable prognoses, and chronic in nature, both patients and doctors can end up in a disempowered position, trapped within the medical system they wholly rely on, attempting a complex dialogue, entrenched in considerable emotion, whilst trying to work together to achieve the best outcome possible.


Perhaps it is only by truly acknowledging our shared humanity, fraught with limitations in addition to numerous strengths, that we can begin to move forward, working more collaboratively and openly; Enabling us to transcend together from a journey of naiveté to frustration, to one from naiveté to collective empowerment, even alongside the profound adversity and uncertainties inherent in life.


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When a client and I find ourselves ‘stuck’ during psychological therapy, I could do one of two things: I could go off and try and find a solution by myself; or I could bring it to my client, acknowledge that we are both struggling somewhat to find a way forward, reflect upon this and try to find a solution together (Whilst I also engage in clinical reflection, individually and within supervision). Fortunately, the heart and soul of any psychological therapy, regardless of what treatment(s) are being implemented, is the therapeutic relationship, which means collaboration, openness and honesty is central to everything I do. I have often wished a doctor would just say to me, ‘I really don’t know how to move forward here, why don’t we have a good think together about where we might go from here’. And of course also listen to and take on-board my response.


In my opinion an acknowledgement by doctors of their understandable human limitations, in addition to those of the organisation one works for, and the medical world as a whole, would go a long way to helping patients and doctors to become joined in their shared goals, rather than separated by their shared frustrations


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Reading this blog again actually made me quite sad…

A lot has happened in that time, for all of us! Whilst I practice gratitude daily, we cannot deny that the NHS is not being funded to enable it to do its job and austerity is taking its toll on our society. All of the amazing people who work in the NHS and social services are doing their best to help their patients; often risking their own health needs in order to do so.

However, in the same way we all have to manage many difficult things in our lives, the fact is this is the reality we currently live in. Whilst I keep optimistic that things can most definitely improve in the future, all we can really do at the moment is make the best of what we have.


As therapists and clinicians, we can make sure we do our best for our clients, whilst also looking after ourselves. As is often said, we cannot look after others if we do not look after ourselves first.


As members of communities, online and in person, we can continue to discuss important issues, raise awareness, be respectful of difference, show others that they are not alone, and that it is okay to reach out for help, whether to a friend, somewhere like Lifeline or Samaritans. Perhaps central to all of this is being compassionate and loving towards ourselves and others.

As patients, I believe we are at a time where it is becoming more important than ever to advocate for ourselves, and our loved ones. I know this is something I continue to struggle to do, and I know how the medical system works; so I can only imagine how difficult this must be for others who have not worked in the healthcare arena. I imagine we have all had that feeling when you go to see your general practitioner or consultant, for psychological or physiological reasons, to only leave feeling disappointed and as if you have wasted their time. Although it is not always easy – far from it – we can try to ask for what we need, whilst also being empathic to the limitations being imposed on our healthcare professionals, who ultimately for the most part do have our best interests at heart.


As a Psychological Therapist returning to practice, and someone who continues to be faced with frustrations surrounding the health care available, I feel I have to be careful not to enter into what many of us therapists refer to as RESCUER MODE.


Great empathy is, I believe, an amazing thing to have, but in order to help clients most effectively, looking after ourselves in the process; we have to remember we are not there to RESCUE them.


We are there to provide an environment, a safe space, where we can work together as a team, to ultimately help them help themselves. Furthermore, when we are patients and getting physical or psychological treatments, it is important that we acknowledge the part we play in this joint role.

Although this part can be extremely difficult, I believe in the long term it helps us feel more empowered, even when facing some of the most difficult of life experiences.

Whether a healthcare professional, a patient experiencing psychological/physical difficulties, or both a clinician/carer and at least at times a patient – as I imagine many people reading this blog will be – I would love to hear your thoughts!


This post was written by Dr Kristine Abercrombie,  

Chartered Clinical Psychologist at Let’s Talk Online Psychology Service

Visit her blog and social media:

The Wounded Healer – Being a Patient and a Doctor

http://www.letstalk-psychology.com/

Follow her on Facebook

 


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Guest post – Matt Lawrence: Self Care when living with a chronic illness

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matt lawrence guest postIt is my pleasure to introduce Matt Lawrence to this week’s Guest Post spot!

He will be writing about his experience of self-care (read my series here) in light of his long-term illness.

Matt has his own blog site (click here to visit), where he documents his experiences of having a long-term liver disease Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis in the hope that he can help, educate and bring some comfort to others who may be suffering from the illness or similar illnesses, through his own experiences.


Lets read Matt’s story…


As a survivor of a long-term autoimmune liver disease called Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis, self-care became a way of life that extended beyond self-care that we think of as part of everyday life such as extra moisturising cream, using sun cream in sunnier climates and using certain hair products to help with a dry scalp or to straighten hair.


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When you have a long-term illness, self-care goes much deeper than skin level. You start to continually search for products such as food, drinks and making lifestyle changes that you hope will help to heal you from the inside out.

Primary Sclerosing Cholangitis is an uncommon chronic liver disease in which the bile ducts inside and outside the liver progressively decrease in size due to inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) eventually leading to a liver transplant. The hope for patients of PSC is that as we progress along our journey we can educate ourselves enough so as self-care can contribute to extending the time we get to live with our own organs. After all, living with your own organ for as long as possible is better than having to go through a 10-12-hour transplant with a lot of uncertainty attached to it.


guest post - matt lawrence, selfcare and long term illness


What is self-care when you have a long-term liver disease?


It starts on a basic level with food and research that is based on finding foods that best support the liver and help to detoxify the liver. However, as PSC is an illness that affects the bile ducts, we need to examine things at a deeper level and that is the difficult part.

What can help to increase bile flow, what can help to protect the liver and how can we protect the bile ducts? This is a question asked most weeks as it is the narrowing of the bile ducts that over time causes the long-term damage to the liver. Some commonly known products include Milk Thistle and Dandelion tea, but do they help? This is the hardest question to answer.

As the illness progresses we find that other symptoms start to appear such as chronic fatigue and itching that is often uncontrollable and constant. With the introduction of new symptoms, it leads us to more research and the use of more products that we hope will help with our own self-care.

Beetroot for the liver, strong coffee and food high in iron for the fatigue and if you are a smoker or drink alcohol, these are things that we are all advised to stop at the beginning of the illness. In addition, staying fit is key to staying well and this is something we learn as we go on our journey. However, due to the unpredictable nature of the illness, the amount of exercise one can do varies from one person to the next. My exercise included weekly yoga lessons, walking and daily press-ups.

As we are all part of the internet age it is our good friend Mr Google that we turn to as our guide to self-care, but as PSC sufferers find out, the uncommon nature and unpredictable journey that we go on means that Mr Google ends up being Mr General. That is General in terms of not being able to be specific or lead us down a path to true successful self-care.


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In the end, self-care is very hard to quantify when you suffer from an uncommon illness like PSC. We cannot put our finger on one thing and say that it was a specific food or herbal supplements that helped us. We always end up coming back to the conclusion that it is a combination of medication, healthy eating and exercise that contribute to longevity, but what is it exactly that we have done that has given us that respite for a day or 2?  I think it is safe to say that we will never know and continue with the idea that carrying on with all that we have learnt is better than giving into our illness.


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matt lawrence guest postYou can read more about my journey living with a long-term liver disease, having a transplant and life after my transplant by visiting my blogsite.

Follow Matt on Twitter


Read my series on self care by clicking here.

If you would like to guest post on my blog, contact me here.


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Fin de año – tiempo de recapitular

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¿A dónde se fue este año? Siento como que pasó bastante rápido.

Es esa época del año donde comenzamos a pensar acerca de lo que este año trajo a nuestras vidas, lo que logramos – y lo que no logramos.4

Estamos bajo presión de planear nuestras resoluciones de Año Nuevo.

Quizá nos sintamos obligados a ir a varias celebraciones y a comprar regalos.

También es esa época del año en donde algunos nos podemos sentir algo solos o melancólicos. Si te identificas con esto, te recomiendo leer mis posts acerca de Ansiedad, 6y Pérdida y duelo. Estoy segura de que te ayudaran en estos tiempos.

 

 


En este post, quería dejarte con algunos tips para cuidar de ti mismo en esta época (puedes leer mis posts acerca de autocuidado para más tips):

  • Haz lo que se sienta bien para ti.

    • Di “no” cuando hay muchas demandas sobre tu tiempo, especialmente cuando lo que realmente quieres hacer es pasar una noche tranquila en casa. Puede que tus amigos se sientan defraudados porque no saliste con ellos, pero estarás siguiendo tus necesidades y estarás cuidando de ti mismo.
    • Di “sí” cuando estés feliz de hacer algo. Se notará si realmente quieres hacer algo, y lo podrás difrutar también.7
  • Haz lo que puedas permite economicamente.

    • No te sientas presionado a comprar regalos o comidas caras porque es lo que los demás esperan en esta época.
    • Haz un presupuesto para este fin de año, asi tendrás suficiente para pagar todos tus gastos sin preocupaciones.
    • Planea en anticipación del largo mes de enero – ahorra lo que necesitas y un poco mas si puedes – a muchos nos resulta difícil esperar la fecha de pago a finales de Enero!
  • Sé creativo con tus actividades de fin de año

    • Haz una caza o búsqueda de regalos!
      • Mi esposo y yo nos damos un presupuesto pequeño y elegimos una calle con tiendas o un centro comercial y nos damos una hora para hacer nuestra compra. Luego de una hora, nos reunimos a tomar o comer algo (según nuestro presupuesto!) e intercambiar nuestros regalos. Esto nos ayuda a mantenernos dentro de nuestro presupuesto, y los regalos suelen ser divertidos y curiosos, cosas que no nos compraríamos de otra forma; también ahorramos en papel de regalo y pasamos un buen rato juntos!
    • Pleanea fiestas en tu casa
      • Consigue un rompecabezas – o desempolva alguno que tengas guardado – y que todos contribuyan.
      • Consigue juegos de mesa o inventa algun juego tu mismo
      • Haz una fiesta “de traje” – en donde cada persona invitada trae algo de comer y/o beber, asi todos comparten los gastos y posiblemente también haya más comida y bebida para todos
  • pasa tiempo con tus familiares y amigos, pero no olvides pasar tiempo contigo mismo tambien!

    • renueva tus energías para iniciar bien el año nuevo
    • date metas realísticas para los primeros tres meses del año (dividiendo tus metas en cuartos puede ayudar a que no te agobies)
    • piensa de nuevo cuáles serán tus prioridades para este año que viene
    • lee un libro o haz algo que no has hecho el año que pasó
  • Da algo que ya no te sirva a caridad

  • Da a las personas de la calle

    • He tenido conversaciones y momentos agradables con las personas que desafortunadamente viven en la calle. Es triste el hecho de que estén en esta situación, pero dar un poco de tu tiempo y tal vez comprarles un sandwich puede hacer que amobs se sientan bien!

 


¿Ya bajaste mi calendario imprimible para 2018?calendar freebie

 

 

 


 

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End of year – time to recap!

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Where has this year gone! It feels like it has just flown by.

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It’s that time of the year where we begin to think about what this year brought to our lives, what we achieved – and what we didn’t.

We are urged to plan our New Year resolutions.

We feel obliged to attend a variety of parties and buy presents.

5It’s also that time of the year where we might feel a bit lonely or melancholic. If you are feeling this way, do have a look at my In Therapy posts on Anxiety and Loss and Grief, I am sure they will help you during these times.

 


In this post I just wanted to leave you with some Self-Care tips during this time:

  • Do what feels right for you.

    end of year bilingual post

    • Say “no” when a lot is demanded of you, when what you really want to do is just to spend a quiet evening in. You might disappoint some people, but will be true to yourself and your needs.
    • Say “yes” if you are happy to say yes. If you really want to do something, it will show and you will enjoy it even more.
  • Do what you can afford to do.

    • don’t feel pressured to buy expensive gifts or meals because it’s what’s expected at this time of year.
    • Budget this end of the year, so you have enough to pay for everything and not have any worried.
    • Plan ahead for January – save what you need and a bit more if you can – many of us struggle waiting for payday at the end of January!
  • Be creative with your end of the year activities

    • Go gift hunting!
      • My husband and I set a small budget and a set of shops (maybe one street or one shopping centre) and give ourselves an hour to go get something. After an hour, we meet at a restaurant we like for a drink or a meal (depends on our budget!) and exchange our presents. We stay within budget, we get quirky, fun things that we wouldn’t have bought otherwise, we save on wrapping paper and we get to spend time together!
    • Plan a party at home
      •  get a puzzle and get everyone to pitch in.
      • get some board games or make up your own.
      • get everyone to bring something to the party so the expenses are shared and there is more to share
  • Spend time with loved ones but don’t forget to spend time with yourself!

    • renew your energies for the start of the New Year
    • give yourself realistic goals for the first three months of the year (doing it in quarters might work better and you won’t get overwhelmed)
    • rethink your priorities for the next year
    • read a book you’ve left on the side the past year
  • Give to charity

  • Give to the homeless

    • I have had some great conversations with people on the street. It is unfortunate that they are in that situation, but giving a bit of your time to have a chat, or buy them a drink or a sandwich – it won’t break your budget – will feel good to both of you.


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Have you downloaded my free printable 2018 Calendar yet?

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Guest post on my blog!

Dear readers and fellow bloggers,

I have set up a page to acknowledge and promote your pages and posts!

How can you get your name on this page, you ask?

It’s easy! If you have a topic, a cause or something that goes well with the topics I am posting on or might post on in the future, drop me a line and we can plan something for a lovely collaboration!

Likewise, if you like what you read and would like me to guest on your blog, let me know and I’ll be happy to do so!

Have a look at my recent and past collaborations on this link and don’t hesitate to contact me with any questions or ideas!

Looking forward to hearing and collaborating with you soon.

Emotional Overwhelm – Guest Post at The Richness of a Simple Life

I am happy to present a guest post that Nikki Meadows from The Richness of a Simple Life  has invited me to write for her community!

Emotional overwhelm is something that gets us at some point – or many points in life. When we are in it, it’s hard to know what to do to solve it, avoid it, and prevent further overwhelm.

This post talks about just that – what you can do in the middle of the emotional storm! Have a read and do leave your comments for me and Nikki either on her site or below this post!

Click here to go to the post!

You can follow Nikki on Twitter and on Facebook!

 

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