As a child I loved to sunbathe and the long hot summers were a joy to behold. This summer’s heatwave has largely passed me by. Late in June I was walking back from Ramsgate beach with Ken. We were only a stone’s throw from home when I lost my footing and fell headlong.
Today I am back on my feet, but only just. It’s too early for me to recount what happened in the aftermath of my fall but it did involve a paramedic, a kindly taxi driver and an early morning trip to the A&E department of the QEQM Hospital in Margate.
There’s a site meeting lined up next month to discuss my fall and its implications and I will report back.
Please see below for details of a new book which may be of interest.
Falling Into the Fire is psychiatrist Christine Montross’s thoughtful investigation of the gripping patient encounters that have challenged and deepened her practice. The majority of the patients Montross treats in Falling Into the Fire are seen in the locked inpatient wards of a psychiatric hospital; all are in moments of profound crisis. We meet a young woman who habitually commits self-injury, having ingested light bulbs, a box of nails, and a steak knife, among other objects. Her repeated visits to the hospital incite the frustration of the staff, leading Montross to examine how emotion can interfere with proper care. A recent college graduate, dressed in a tunic and declaring that love emanates from everything around him, is brought to the ER by his concerned girlfriend. Is it ecstasy or psychosis? What legal ability do doctors have to hospitalize—and sometimes medicate—a patient against his will? A new mother is admitted with incessant visions of harming her child. Is she psychotic and a danger or does she suffer from obsessive thoughts? Her course of treatment—and her child’s future—depends upon whether she receives the correct diagnosis.
Each case study presents its own line of inquiry, leading Montross to seek relevant psychiatric knowledge from diverse sources. A doctor of uncommon curiosity and compassion, Montross discovers lessons in medieval dancing plagues, in leading forensic and neurological research, and in moments from her own life. Beautifully written, deeply felt, Falling Into the Fire brings us inside the doctor’s mind, illuminating the grave human costs of mental illness as well as the challenges of diagnosis and treatment.
Throughout, Montross confronts the larger question of psychiatry: What is to be done when a patient’s experiences cannot be accounted for, or helped, by what contemporary medicine knows about the brain? When all else fails, Montross finds, what remains is the capacity to abide, to sit with the desperate in their darkest moments. At once rigorous and meditative, Falling Into the Fire is an intimate portrait of psychiatry, allowing the reader to witness the humanity of the practice and the enduring mysteries of the mind.
An early review of the book from the Los Angeles Times can be read here:
I just wanted to draw your attention to a new series of books published by PCCS Books in the UK. Having read all (and co-authored one) – I can attest to how powerful these narratives are, and how useful I’ve found them in my own teaching and understanding. I have recommended them previously to students who have also found them extremely useful.
‘The ‘Our Encounters with…’ series collect together unmediated, unsanitised narratives by service-users, past service-users and carers and survivors. These stories of direct experience will be of great benefit to those interested in narrative enquiry, and to those studying and practising in the field of mental health.’
The three published so far are:
– Our Encounters with Suicide (ed. Alec Grant, Judith Haire, Fran Biley and Brendan Stone): http://www.pccs-books.co.uk/products/our-encounters-with-suicide/#.Ue-sV9I3uSq (£16)
The collection brings together a range of voices on the theme of suicide — those who have been suicidal, alongside the friends, family and staff who have lived and worked with them. Too often the rhetoric of ‘suicidology’ is occupied only by those who have never had personal experience of suicidality. The first-person voice is strangely absent. These frank accounts go some way to correcting the balance. We hope that these narratives will be helpful for people who may have had similar encounters, or are harbouring future suicidal intentions, and for those who care for them personally or professionally; that readers can use the stories in the book to make better sense of their own experiences and decisions. Ultimately we hope that the book will facilitate a more empathic understanding of the experiences of others generally, and of people who were close to and have been lost to suicide.
– Our Encounters with Self Harm (ed. Charley Baker, Clare Shaw and Fran Biley): http://www.pccs-books.co.uk/products/our-encounters-with-self-harm/#.Ue-sp9I3uSo (available for pre-order) (£16)
This collection brings together a range of voices on the theme of self-harm – from those who have experienced self-harm directly, alongside the friends, family and staff who live and work with self-harm. Too often, our understanding of the unique and complex experiences of people who self-harm is limited to concepts of mental illness, disorder and disease. Yet these stories demonstrate the strength, survival and recovery of people with rich and diverse lives.
Inspiring, hopeful and at times challenging to read, the contributors who have so generously shared their experiences in this book will promote understanding and compassion, improve attitudes and care, and offer hope to those who are personally encountering self-harm. In this respect, this book is of immense value to all those working with self-harm across a spectrum of services and roles, and to those living with self-harm.
– Our Encounters with Madness (ed. Alec Grant, Fran Biley and Hannah Walker): http://www.pccs-books.co.uk/products/our-encounters-with-madness#.Ue-tDNI3uSo (£17)
A collection of user, carer and survivor narratives, this book is grouped under five themes: On diagnosis; Stories of experience (of mental health problems); Experiencing the mental health system; On being a carer and Abuse and Survival.
The book should be of great benefit to students of mental health, narrative enquiry, user and carers, and those interested in the pedagogy of suffering more generally. Unlike most other books in this genre, the narratives are unmediated. Written by experts by experience, there are no professional, biomedical or psychotherapeutic commentaries, which so often serve to capture, tame or sanitise such stories of direct experience.
Available now to purchase via the website at a reduced price.
Lecturer in Mental Health
School of Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy
Associate Editor, Journal of Psychiatric and Mental Health Nursing
ADDRESS: Royal Derby Hospital, Uttoxeter Road, Derby, DE22 3DT, UK
PHONE: +44 (0)7940593753 / +44 (0)1332724922
This idea came from my friend Irene who swears by this unlikely-sounding regime which has one simple rule – you can eat as much as you like of absolutely anything as long as it is plain yoghurt or banana. You are supposed to do it for three days. Since banana is a diuretic and yoghurt an evacuant (let’s not go there) it does work, but I don’t suggest you do it for that long. By dawn of the second day you will be out of your head with the tedium of it and hallucinating about toast and marmite or anything that isn’t bloody yogurt or banana.
It does, however work, as a quick fix to get into a tight dress. (On the other hand, you could just wear a bigger one.) (Or a decorated tent.)