From a patient perspective

I’m not sure who you are, but I really want to write this to you.  First of all, well done for getting this far and taking a courageous step to either consider coming to Ashburn, or if you are waiting for admission keep waiting and don’t give up!  The first step in your treatment has already started, you’ve made the first move.  You rock!

It’s weird to think that something like mental illness can have so much control over our lives right? But there is hope that you can learn to cope with your mental illness no matter how bad it is.  Even if there’s only a tiny 1% hope that you’re holding on to, there is still HOPE!

We’re far better than our illness or our unpleasant life experiences which have had a serious impact on our lives.  Remember that, because sometimes we don’t remember these things in our most distressing times.

If you’ve experienced being in any psychiatric hospital, then Ashburn is completely different.  You don’t know me, but believe me.  It was one of the fears I had about coming to Ashburn.  We are not acute and have a choice to be here.  We are all seeking treatment out of the goodness of our own heart (probably with some support).  We are not in a locked unit and the food here is way better than being in hospital.  I am not tricking you!

I guess being at Ashburn in what you make of it.  The more you put yourself out there, the more you will get out of it.  I am not going to lie.  It’s hard work! It was a total shock and different to what I was expecting which has motivated me to write this.  I survived the initial few weeks and you can too.  I found it challenging, leaving my clinical team because they were familiar to me, and they were familiar with me!

The thought of having to repeat my story, AGAIN and form new relationships with professionals was daunting at first.  It doesn’t happen overnight and it is not expected to happen overnight.

Coming into a therapeutic group environment was quite difficult.  At Ashburn we are referred to as a “community”.  I found it quite exposing.  For me personally, I was used to keeping things inside or else opening up to one or two professionals over a period of time.  Ashburn is a “community of enquiry” so patients will ask you questions.  It is daunting at first but not for too long.  You really just have to press thought the first few weeks.  I am not going to pretend that it’s a walk in the park when you get here because it is not.  There were many times I wanted to run away and go home because it was hard.  But I am very glad I stayed.  Everyone I talked to said they had the same thoughts.

The community share their experiences.  I found this hard at first to get used to.  IN my head I would think “what, did they really just say that out loud in front of everyone?”  I have found it reassuring and valuable to hear other people who have been affected by mental illness experiences.  I no longer feel so alone in what I am going through which is an amazing feeling!  We all come here for different reasons but the underlying factor that makes it easier to remember we have all been affected by mental illness in some way, shape or form, which has cause enough disruption to come to a place like Ashburn.  Using the group is a powerful resource.

In the first few weeks I pretended to be okay in front of clinical staff and the community.  I was really only fooling myself and making myself exhausted trying to put on a front.  I would go to my bedroom and crumble!  Be true to yourself.  This is a safe and accepting place.

There will most likely be several moments you will feel like crying or you will cry.  But crying is healthy.  It is not viewed as weakness.  It shows that we have feeling and emotion.  You will always have the community’s support.  The community although it sounds scary being surrounded by other unwell patients, is actually a really powerful resource and a huge part of your treatment.  They pick you up when you are down and have that insight because of their own lived experiences.  It’s a welcoming community and I genuinely mean that.  If you’re worried about relocating, just remember that everyone here has relocated and moved into a new environment.  So again, you’re not alone.

It truly is hard work but it is not impossible.  You just can’t give up!  There will be numerous times where you’ll probably want to and you’ll feel like being here is the hardest thing on earth, but you know what? You’ve made it this far and you can make this work.  You’re not alone.  You’re not alone!

Good luck in your treatment whether it is at Ashburn or any other service.  You’ve got this!

Stick to it when it gets hard.  Ride through the discomfort.  Don’t let anything hold you back.  You deserve every possible chance to become well again.  To come here was the best decision I ever made.  Recognise the discomfort, sit through it and then push through it.

If you’ve had long term involvement with a local clinical team then try and conclude that in a way that is meaningful to you.

I am only 2 months into my treatment and I feel like I am making so much progress already.

I truly value and respect Ashburn! It just takes a while to settle in.  You’ll have your bad days and your good days but in your bad days you are fully supported, if you let yourself be supported.

I am not writing this to sell Ashburn to you.  I am writing this because I genuinely feel that it would have been so easy for me to give up on my treatment in the early days because I didn’t have any insight into what being part of a therapeutic community looked and felt like.

Good luck!

Ashburn Patient – June 2017