Face masks that saved my skin

I don’t usually blog about beauty. Mainly because there are so many more people out there who can give you better advice than me. That said, over the past few months I’ve invested more time in my self-care and having a little ‘me time’ to pamper myself and that wouldn’t be complete without a face mask or two so I thought I’d share my thoughts with you.

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What is an occupational therapy placement like?

It’s the question I am asked time and again by family, friends and prospective students. To be honest, there isn’t one answer to this question. It depends on you as a person and what your interests and experiences are and of course the placement you are provided by your university. Of course, because occupational therapy students are still learning there is a limit to what duties they can carry out, but the more interest, understanding, and professionalism showed the more opportunities arise. There are many different clinical realities for occupational therapy because it is such a versatile and widespread vocation. As I have just completed my second-year placement I’ve decided to write a little bit about what that was like and what I learned from it.

Where was your placement based?

For this placement, I was working in an outpatient setting seeing people with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome or Myalgic Encephalomyelitis [CFS/ME]. It was quite a controversial placement in the fact it was labeled as mental health by my university but in fact was very focused on science and physiological symptoms – an ongoing issue in the diagnosis and treatment of CFS/ME.

CFS/ME is a diagnosis given by elimination of other possible and contributing conditions that present with the same symptoms. Health professionals are still unsure what causes CFS/ME and further research needs to be conducted, however, it can be diagnosed using the Fukuda criteria based on the presence of four or more characteristic symptoms including post-exertional malaise, chronic fatigue, generalised widespread pain and autonomic symptoms. All of which you can read more about here.

The service I worked alongside covered all aspects of CFS/ME from assessing symptoms and diagnosis through education and rehabilitation to planning for setbacks and discharge. The multidisciplinary team included nurses, dieticians, physiotherapists and occupational therapists to offer all aspects of care detailed in the BACME and NICE guidelines.

alexander-technique-and-cfs-me
Image credit: Alexander Technique London

What sort of thing did you do?

In the team occupational therapists triaged people referred to the service through a thorough clinical evaluation that takes full physical, mental and social history alongside the history of symptoms. If the criteria were met the therapists would then give a diagnosis of CFS/ME, however more complicated cases were taken back to the weekly meeting to be discussed with the wider MDT.

The service provided individual or group educational and rehabilitation focussed sessions for people to make sense of their condition and work towards the management of symptoms and recovery. This included information on pacing and grading, stress and quality rest, employment and diet amongst other areas with a view to meeting the individual’s goals and improving their quality of life.

What did you learn?

This is the first placement I have been on where occupational therapists were diagnosing people and I am aware this is a rarity which made it an extremely valuable learning opportunity for me. Alongside continuing to improve my core occupational therapy skills and meet my learning outcomes I was given the opportunity to discuss the impact and controversy of high profile research papers on the patient community and services provided and why evidence-based practice is essential.

Throughout the placement I increased my knowledge of the regulatory and immune systems, and how these impact on brain function as well as one another. I also did a lot of reading on common co-morbidities such as functional neurological disorder, hypothyroidism, fibromyalgia, inflammatory diseases and autoimmune conditions which helped to improve my clinical reasoning and reflect on my current practice.

I was introduced to more standardised assessments and outcome measures that are used across a variety of settings as well as condition-specific models and assessments.

Where can I find out more?

If you want to find out more about CFS/ME then the ME Association is a good place to start. It offers information, support, and advice as well as details of regular support groups across the country.

For more information on managing the condition and first-hand accounts of how CFS/ME can affect people I would recommend the following books, blogs, and documentaries:

Jennifer Brea – Unrest

Fighting Fatigue

Action for ME

A snoozie life

Occupy ME

Is that really our song?

My three year wedding anniversary has passed recently and between placement and work G and I didn’t really get chance to celebrate. Still, being the gem that he is G bought The Wombats Glitterbug album on vinyl for us both to enjoy. I’ve been listening to it recently and it got me thinking about ‘our song’.

If you ask G he will always tell you that a) we don’t have one particular song as ‘our song’ because we’re both indecisive music lovers and b) if he had to choose one it would be something from the AM album like Arabella or Knee Socks. But I’m not sure…

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DBT Diaries – Week 16

*PLEASE REMEMBER NOT ALL GROUPS ARE RUN THE SAME WAY AND YOUR EXPERIENCES MAY BE DIFFERENT TO MINE. THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG AS EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT, THIS IS JUST MEANT AS A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO THE TOPIC FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED.

TOPIC

This week’s topic was the final in the emotion regulation module. It covered taking care of your mind by taking care of your body and being mindful of current emotions. Once again it all sounds super simple, but by making sure you have taken care of any physical vulnerability factors you’re better able to take care of your emotional health and the more you sit with and experience your emotions the less power they have over your actions. Continue reading

DBT Diaries – Week 15

*PLEASE REMEMBER NOT ALL GROUPS ARE RUN THE SAME WAY AND YOUR EXPERIENCES MAY BE DIFFERENT TO MINE. THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG AS EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT, THIS IS JUST MEANT AS A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO THE TOPIC FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED.

TOPIC

This week’s topic was still continuing the emotion regulation module. It covered building mastery by doing things that make you feel competent and effective to combat hopelessness and coping ahead when you know you will be in a situation that will challenge you emotionally.

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Low FODMAP diet reboot

Barbara Cousins ETH Contents

What feels like a million years ago now I tried to start a low FODMAP diet to help ease my IBS and identify food triggers but I wasn’t in the right place and couldn’t stick to it. However, I am now a week into the 6-week elimination phase and this is how I’m getting on…

Why now?

I’m sat in the MDT office on placement, everything is relatively quiet with people dictating letters or typing away. Suddenly my stomach tightens – uh oh. Out of nowhere comes this high pitched squeaking sound – it’s coming from me – and my stomach starts to relax. I was mortified. I could feel my face blooming a lovely shade of tomato red, my mouth went dry, palms started sweating and my muscles were shaking. I spun around in my chair, apologised profusely and mumbled something about IBS as I dashed out of the room. The only consolation – it wasn’t in front of a client.

I had eaten gluten and dairy free tinned soup for lunch. There was no reason to be bloated and gassy but I was. My clothes felt uncomfortably tight, my insides were obviously unhappy and I was on high alert trying to make sure what had just happened didn’t happen. It was time to figure out what was going on. I went to my DR and got a referral to a dietician (who I’m still waiting to see) and started to plan out how the low FODMAP diet would work for me.

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DBT Diaries – Week 14

*PLEASE REMEMBER NOT ALL GROUPS ARE RUN THE SAME WAY AND YOUR EXPERIENCES MAY BE DIFFERENT TO MINE. THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG AS EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT, THIS IS JUST MEANT AS A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO THE TOPIC FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED.

TOPIC

This week’s topic was continuing the emotion regulation module. It covered identifying values and priorities and accumulating positive emotions in the long-term to build a life worth living. Something that might be relevant to everyone – not just those with BPD.

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DBT Diaries – Week 13

*PLEASE REMEMBER NOT ALL GROUPS ARE RUN THE SAME WAY AND YOUR EXPERIENCES MAY BE DIFFERENT TO MINE. THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG AS EVERYONE IS DIFFERENT, THIS IS JUST MEANT AS A LITTLE INSIGHT INTO THE TOPIC FOR THOSE WHO ARE INTERESTED.

TOPIC

This week’s topic was continuing the emotion regulation module. It covered accumulating positive emotions short-term, being mindful of positive experiences and being unmindful of worries. Again a deceptively simple message that can have a profound impact – especially for those prone to a negative outlook, anxiety, and worrying. Essentially this week was all about how to be happy.

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TW: Let’s talk about suicidal thoughts

Suicide.

It’s still a bit of a taboo subject. I understand it’s scary to think about right? Suicidal thoughts can be scary to experience too. The crushing despair that swamps your brain whenever you’re not concentrating on keeping it at bay; the constant racing thoughts that scream about every little thing you could possibly have done wrong and all the ways in which you hurt and hold back your loved ones; the dread of having to keep pushing on putting one foot in front of the other; the physical pain for each and every action and the constant desire for nothingness. It’s exhausting agony that can seem timeless.

If you’re currently working through this I want you to know that you’re not alone. I experience suicidal thoughts; for me, it’s EVERY. DAMN. DAY. Sometimes fleeting, flippant thoughts that I can brush away, sometimes an insidious vine that I have to battle to get free of. I rarely act on them but they’re always there. It can feel dark and agonizingly lonely, as though there is no light at the end of the tunnel but I promise they do recede, they might just need a little extra nudge with the right skills and support.

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