A week of two parts

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I’ve wanted to write all week but haven’t been able to as I’ve not known which narrative to share or how to combine them. If I told one it would invite a certain response that I didn’t really want, though I knew it would be heartfelt and sincere. To tell the other, and not mention her bedfellow would just be too disrespectful. So, a two part telling of the week.

I did an online yoga class last Tuesday night. Jane the teacher reminded us that life is always precarious but usually we are not aware of it. The practice focused on breath and grounding. I struggled to stay focused for the full session but it felt good to do yoga with others again and to hear Jane’s familiar soothing voice. Life is slower but the days pass. I’m getting used to working remotely. In some ways me and C have been practising for social isolation as we spend a lot of evenings in just the two of us normally. We are at ease with each other and comfortable and I feel lucky I’m with someone I love right now. The idea of not being able to see my friends though is hard. We are slowly getting to grips with the virtual meeting world. I’m very much a people person so I’m grateful I’m more at ease in my own company than I used to be. I miss my daughters terribly. It was J’s birthday on Saturday – the first one in her 22 years I’ve not been with her. We did a family present opening on line and a birthday cake later which was lovely. Imagine a lockdown without internet? The explosion of humour and cute stuff coming through on the WhatsApp groups is a distraction and a reminder of the resilience of humans. Gets in the way of working though and I’m getting less done than I thought I would. It’s too easy to leave it til tomorrow when there’s so much time. I miss the horse so having the dogs and the cat to cuddle helps. Walking the dogs is the highlight of the day. I find myself looking closely at the trees and flowers and wondering at Nature; creator of all this precious life as well as the virus we are all hiding from. There’s a tenderness in everyone’s interactions that’s not normally there. Almost everyone smiles and says hi, and I’ve had long conversations with strangers – at a 2m distance of course. We humans are social animals and you can see the need to connect in everyone’s face. Lots of houses have rainbow pictures in the windows – a message of togetherness and hope. I’m getting better at losing at Scrabble! Not had a tantrum in a long while! On line jigsaws are my new obsession. I’ve only baked one cake, which became J’s birthday cake. I left a third of it on a friend’s doorstep as it was going down a bit too easily! We got out in the back yard Saturday and I planted the random plants from the supermarket and a neighbour gave me a rosemary plant. So far the dogs haven’t trashed them so that’s a result! I’ve stopped avidly consuming the news or reading about Covid-19. In many ways it’s easier to be present and in the moment when every day is similar and there’s less to look forward to or plan for. It’s easier to savour the little moments – the taste of the cake; the joy of a favourite song on the radio dancing round the kitchen; a phone call with a friend; a soothing hot bath with bubbles. I hope that’s something we can all keep after this is over.

I had a call Wednesday morning telling me a young girl I’d seen twice privately had killed herself. Shock and disbelief enveloped me and for the next day I had to keep reminding myself it had actually happened. I emailed her mum then took myself out for a walk. Her mum rang me whilst I was out. Did I see it coming? Had she said anything? No I didn’t and no she hadn’t were the short answers but I shared as much as I could and offered as much empathy and love as It’s possible to through a phone. In normal times I’d have gone to see them but I can’t. For the family to be going through this in isolation and lockdown seems doubly cruel. The initial meeting when all professionals share what they know happened the next day. The thought that I am a lone practitioner in this and the person who others will think could have or should have spotted the signs was foremost in my mind. I looked over my notes and although I’d done a good job I could find holes and found myself mentally cross examining myself like a combative barrister on the one hand; the other trying to tell myself everything will be ok. I’ve voiced frequently that one of the things I like about my private work is it’s less risky; a major reason for leaving my day job. Is the universe trying to tell me to quit altogether? If I don’t will it something even worse happen? I felt guilty that I couldn’t help thinking about myself and the possible consequences when a girl has died. Missing my daughter on her birthday I thought of her mum never seeing her again; it broke my heart. My sleep was restless and images haunted me of her sitting in front of me smiling, as well as of her dead. Could I have done something different that would have made a difference? The next day the internal dialogue lessened and I cried. I realised I have a harsh inner critic and don’t readily accept mistakes or failings and have high expectations of myself. I want to be the person who makes a difference and I am often quick to criticise other professionals for their perceived failings. Humility has been lacking. I certainly feel humble now. I talked to my supervisor who sensitively gave me a reality check. “It’s an awful tragedy but not all suicides are predictable or related to depression, detected or otherwise. It’s often rejection in the moment that is the trigger and whatever you had done it wouldn’t have made a difference in that moment”. After a more restful nights sleep I’ve started to feel more at ease with myself. There is nothing to be gained from worrying; it has happened and what will be will be now. I can try to support the family as best I can and help them make some kind of sense from the incomprehensible. The yoga class this Tuesday had a message of standing tall and strong in the face of adversity. As I breathed deeply through warrior I began to feel like I might just be able to.

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12 Comments

  1. I’m so sorry to hear about that. And while there are no good words right now, I would say that regardless of how skillful the interviewer, if the patient has a strong motivation not to share their suicidal ideation, all the skill in the world isn’t going to do it.

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  2. Hi, what happened to that girl is a massive tragedy as is nearly every suicide but working with Samaritans has taught me that some people have such a strong desire to kill themselves that most interventions are merely stopgaps. For some the impulse returns quickly. I had a friend who’s daughter took her life last year. She was 35. Gifted, beautiful, training to be a doctor her life fell apart in her 20s when her mother died and she fell into a deep depression. 10 years of interventions, crisis teams, psychiatrists, family and friends. In the end nothing was going to stop her doing what deep down she saw as the only escape from the internal hell she was living through. Hers was not a temporary state of mind where you could get her through the crisis and things suddenly looked different, it was a more or less permanent state of mind. You know more than most, that when someone takes their own life, all those who knew or worked with the person experience some guilt, but it is ultimately that person’s decision and hard as it is sometimes we have to respect that right even if it goes against all our instincts. Maybe your interventions with the woman gave her comfort and insight, helped her in ways you’ll never know, but at the end it was her decision and her responsibility. What you do is important and valuable, your compassion is tangible so don’t even think of denying that to people out there who need it. That’s an order 🙂Oops I’ve gone on a bit, sorry, but it really resonated. Jim x

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  3. Wow, hi DGS, this is indeed a tragic event. And at the same time totally not your fault, as everyone here is saying. I have no doubt that you did everything right in your work with her, and you have nothing to blame yourself for. Please remember this and trust your supervisor’s wise words ! Also, when you write “The next day the internal dialogue lessened and I cried. I realised I have a harsh inner critic and don’t readily accept mistakes or failings and have high expectations of myself”, you’re spot on and doing the perfect self-care move! (feeling the grief instead of turning the aggression towards yourself = healing). Also the fact that you wrote the two part narrative shows that you have a whole picture of life and are not focusing only on this difficult situation, which is amazing ! Sending you lots of love and warm thoughts and big hugs xxxx ❤ Anne

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    1. Thanks Anne – I was pleased that I didn’t allow it to consume me, nor bury the feelings or transform them into a self or other attack which is why I had to write it in this way – progress for me emotionally for sure! You’d think after 30 years in this work I’d have figured this out sooner though! 😂😂

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      1. ❤ hahahaha oh man, if it was as easy to help/figure out ourselves as it is (/as we were taught) to do it for others, life would certainly be different !!! 🙂 I'm glad you're doing ok xxx ❤ Hang in there ! xxx Anne

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