My Wonderful Care
By Elizabeth Bevis
It was August Bank Holiday weekend, 2016. Since discharge from a private psychiatric hospital where medication was doubled on release, my life had taken a turn for the worse. Suddenly an opportunity of a lifetime came up. My mother had come to know Karen Taylor of “Working-to-Recovery” via social media (www.workingtorecovery.co.uk) and suddenly I was talking to her via Skype. She offered me an opportunity to go and stay in the family home on the Isle of Lewis. I remember asking questions such as whether there were any take-aways on Isle of Lewis - I was not living healthily at that time but in response, Karen stated she liked cooking fresh food and there were not takeaways in abundance on the Isle of Lewis like London but perhaps this was for the best in terms of recovery as it is so important to focus on healthy lifestyle and diet. Life had taken a downward turn for me. I was on 10mg Aripiprazole – a drug that seemed to make me worse, more anxious, and I was afraid to venture out anyhwhere. I was not happy with my life and was finding it a struggle to go out to places where I would suffer panic attacks.
Karen, a former MH nurse of many years’ experience) had invited me to stay for a two weeks holiday and I had agreed to go and my mother had agreed to provide this trip of a lifetime.
The night before we were due to travel I was not feeling well at all due to bad toothache but we were unable to arrange any dental appointment at such short notice, being bank holiday. We stayed in a hotel for the night at Kings Cross as our train departed very early for Edinburgh the next morning. I did not sleep hardly at all due to the bad toothache. Finally we boarded the train for a very pleasant and relaxing journey - the scenery was beautiful at one point on the journey where you could see the coast from the train window. The weather was sunny and bright and we eventually arrived at Edinburgh and had to get another train connection to Perth. Karen met us there and there was another girl of about my age in the car which was full of shopping and we set off on our journey. Karen mentioned we would be travelling through the most picturesque scenery of natural beauty.
The environment I would be staying in was an area of outstanding natural beauty and unspoilt countryside. This was the right environment for recovery, no pressures of every day life and peaceful. It was a challenge at first for me as I was afraid of open spaces, the land being hilly, ground uneven as I have balancing problems and feel like I am going to fall sometimes. I was particularly afraid of heights and shopping malls/airports/bridges and back home I was avoiding facing these fears. I had company of my own age - a girl from America. There were animals such as dog, chickens and pigs and sheep. I visited the local dentist who sorted out the problem with my teeth and I started to settle down. I went for walks in the countryside and managed to find my way around, conquering my fear of open spaces slowly and gradually. I remember a trip out on the island to the standing stones at Callenish, walking in the countryside with plenty of fresh air and the beautiful sunsets and Northern Lights. We fed the chickens, cooked fresh food and even went paddling in the sea in freezing cold water up to my waist. Weather was good in August but could be changeable and there were times when conditions were very windy. I would go shopping with the other resident of the house. I got up around 8.00 am, completed my work book, watching educational MH videos. I worked with an art therapist who taught me the technique of threading and made two very nice pictures using this technique. I did painting and pottery and visited the local gym with nice swimming pool. We took it in turns to cook healthy meals and one evening went out to a Bollywood Night at the local Arts Centre. A Psychotherapist was staying at the house which was very helpful. I went shopping in the town where you could buy an abundance of fresh food unlike supermarket produce. I was especially impressed by the quality of fish produce. Two weeks holiday went by very quickly but I was given further opportunity to travel with Karen, her daughter and the American girl to Spain, then all over France by car staying at several different locations.
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6th October 2016 - Leaving the Island
We travelled to Portsmouth to get the Ferry to Santander. It was a long journey on the ferry – not too bad a crossing. I coped well with the journey. From Santander we drove to Bilbao spending a night in a very nice hotel. Weather was hot and sunny.
Bilbao is a city in northern Spain, the largest city in the province of Biscay and in the Basque Country as a whole. It is also the largest city proper in northern Spain. Bilbao is the tenth largest city in Spain, with a population of 345,141 as of 2015. The Bilbao metropolitan area has roughly 1 million inhabitants, making it one of the most populous metropolitan areas i…
From Bilbao we travelled by car to Carcassone where we spent a week in a guest house. I can remember feeling bouts of anxiety due to the enormous changes in environment at first but instead of drugs my anxiety was conquered by therapy – talking therapy. I managed to settle down and venture out and started to learn a few words of French so that I could go shopping alone and order very nice food from the local boulangerie situated down the road from the guest house. I was able to go into the citadel walk across a bridge, went cycling for an hour along the canal path, we went out to nice restaurants and cafes.
We explored the Medieval City which I really liked full of small shops, cafes and restaurants but I experienced difficulty in walking up hills and we visited La Cathedrale Saint Nazaire et Saint-Celse.
My impression of Carcassone was brilliant.
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After a week we travelled to Marseille and I have fabulous memories of the boat trip to Frioul Island and Chateau D’if. Weather really hot and you could go swimming off the boat. I have great memories of the fresh sea food at the beach.
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From Marseille (after spending a couple of days there) we travelled to aix en provence, Lyon then onto Paris which took just over an hour.
In Paris, we stayed on a house boat close to all transport facilities where there were spectacular views and I had to get used to a gang plank to get onto the boat which at first was terrifying. The house board was very comfortable inside and convenient for visiting all the wonderful sights of Paris. I did refuse though to go up the Eiffel Tower but I managed to stand close by which is something I would never have done before.
In Paris we attended the World Hearing Voices Congress and I attended workshops and had lunch with several French MH professionals. The workshops were very good and there were activities such as kick boxing. People were so friendly and helpful, all made an effort to speak in English to me. We spent three days in Paris and travelled on the Metro – people were very helpful as regards directions.
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We then travelled to Caen. I had a fear of airports before but by this time managed to cast aside any fears to catch a plane to Glasgow. I had agreed to travel to Australia for 8 weeks. I stayed at the hotel in Glasgow resting before catching the plane to Perth (Western Australia) via Dubai.
I was so impressed with the airport at Dubai. We were guided to the luxury airport lounge where there was fabulous food. We were only there for a short time – not enough time to look around but the airport was very nice.
I felt both excited and a bit apprehensive on boarding the plane for a further 16 hr journey – the plane not overcrowded with people and very comfortable. Again very nice food.
When we arrived in Perth it was dark outside and we were met by staff. Staff consisted of former MH professionals who had worked under MH mainstream care, international staff who were fed up with the system. We were driven to Mandurah and I stayed in the first house which was I think three bedrooms. 2 German MH nurses stayed with me and there was one other resident from Belgium and we became friends and supported each other. Therapy involved discussing emotions and how to use them positively and I received some brilliant tips on this. I suddenly felt that at last I was being helped to deal with my emotions which had been suppressed for so many years by huge quantities of drug. During my time at Mandura if there was any time I felt anxious or distressed I was encouraged to go out on special walks. I was a large rural area – I visited the park where it was wonderful to see Kangaroos living freely not caged as in a zoo. I began to feel free myself as opposed to how I felt before I ventured on this trip. Here I was in Australia in an area of outstanding natural beauty. The house was air-conditioned but outside it was extremely hot when out walking. I went horse riding whilst there and stayed a week before being taken to the 2nd house which I really liked. It was like a Spanish Villa with swimming pool in an area called Ardross (near Fremantle). At this second house I did group work, song writing, playing guitar and electric piano. Budgeting and managing own money and a lot of cooking in Australia. One day I went to Rottness Island by boat with a mother and her son who were staying on the island. Rottnest Island. Rottnest Island (known as Wadjemup to the local Noongar people, and otherwise colloquially known as Rotto) is an island off the coast of Western Australia, located 18 kilometres (11 mi) west of Fremantle. Rottnest Island - Wikipedia en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rottnest_Island
On Rottnest Island we hired bikes, went snorkelling, bus ride to museum. By this time I was on very little of the drug Aripiprazole and for the first time I felt that professionals really tried to help me without drugs, using therapy and that this was very effective.
I ventured out alone in Australia and on my last day was given a “Graduation Party” and barbecue where lots of people attended. I returned to the UK on 23 October and stayed in Glasgow then returned to Isle of Lewis on 12 December and was met at Birmingham on 16 December and brought home. I was told that I was unrecognisable from the person who started out on this trip after four months of being away I had regained strength and confidence and was only on 2.5mg Aripiprazole.