May 11-19th is Mental Health Awareness week. In this week’s blog, Deputy Manager of the Living Well Centre, Lesley Ann Morgan, talks about the creative writing course she created to help people with a life-limiting illness to process their emotions.
The emotional impact of receiving a life-limiting illness diagnosis cannot be underestimated. The impact is felt by the person diagnosed, their family and circle of friends. That is why hospice care is so much more than just treating the symptoms of an illness, it is caring for the whole person – physically, emotionally and mentally.
Through her work in mental health, Lesley Ann would often encourage people to write. “Quite often when someone is really struggling with their emotions, their feelings are all over the place and they can’t quite untangle them. Writing it down can be quite cathartic. Just to sit there and write without thinking, without trying to construct a sentence, just writing your thoughts down provides a way for people to express themselves, to try and figure things out.”
Recognising writing as a tool to help the mental and emotional wellbeing of patients and their carers, Lesley Ann researched and designed a four week Creative Writing Course, which is held free of charge at Rowans Living Well Centre.
Whilst running the course, Lesley Ann has noticed how general topics, such as the journey into work, a holiday or even a stack of props have sparked thoughts or words in individual people, relating to issues or concerns they have been struggling with. Through the exercise of writing, reviewing their work at different stages in the session, it has helped people process their thoughts on an issue and gain some clarity.
Lesley Ann states: “Once written down it is up to the person what they do with that. They can burn it, they can tear it up, they can share it, they can unpick it and think actually it is this bit that I need to be looking at. It is a way of getting those feelings out in a safe place, one in which they don’t have to share.”
She then concluded by saying, “People who have joined the course have really enjoyed it and felt the positive impact writing can have. As well as giving someone another way to try and help express themselves, it really is about having a bit of fun.”
“The whole course has been really enjoyable and has highlighted to me that if you really want to do something you have got to make the time to do it.”
Talking about the course, Graham Street from Portsmouth said: “It’s been really stimulating, I have found the classes take your mind away from your cloud. Looking at random objects you allow yourself to drift off somewhere separate from your everyday life.”
Ann Cooper, of Fareham, who also took part in the Creative Writing course stated: “Before coming on the course the only writing I did were letters, emails or other necessary writing. I have found the classes really interesting. Having to write something down is rather different to just letting thoughts drift through your mind. I found it made me concentrate more and brought out things that I hadn’t really acknowledged, which was quite challenging.
The hardest session was the first one: I did not know what was expected of me, I didn’t know the people round the table. There was also the worry that it was going to be academic. There was
the initial panic of thinking that I had to write “something” about the objects on the table. Basically it was because it was unknown.
Each week has been stimulating and so interesting to see how everyone else interpreted the props. As each week went by, the more we shared. One week we were presented with a pile of buttons. Seeing them, it hit me immediately and I started to write about embroidery and needlework because that is what I love to do. Since doing that piece of writing it has motivated me to pick up my needle and thread again! The whole course has been really enjoyable and has highlighted to me that if you really want to do something you have got to make the time to do it.”
The impact of receiving a diagnoses of a life-limiting illnesses has no boundaries. It goes beyond the physical, it impacts a person emotionally and mentally. It impacts on loved ones as well. That is why supporting mental health is an integral part of Rowans care.
Please help us to continue to provide these services and to develop new methods to help people with a life-limiting illness by donating or pledging to do one thing.