I’ve had a long summer break from my therapeutic writing groups over the summer and this week I’ve re-started them – in fact I have 3 this week!
My first group of the week was this afternoon in our 10-bed psychiatric intensive care unit (PICU). I frequently use postcards as a writing stimulus in PICU, partly because some patients who are not interested in writing are nevertheless interested in the postcards and they sit with me for a while to look at the postcards and/or chat. Today I took along some new postcards – lovely pictures of buildings – that I bought on a family day trip to Edinburgh earlier this month. One patient wrote, while two other patients sat at the writing table for a while to look at the postcards and managed a short conversation with me. All three patients visited the table on their own at different times during the hour, which is fairly typical of a writing ‘group’ in PICU.
Only one patient wrote with me this afternoon. She is someone I have met before in my PICU writing group some months ago. She remembered me and talked about the writing she did last time. I reminded her about the story I wrote for her children the last time we met and she said that her children liked it and that she still has it at home. Today she found it difficult to sit for very long so she went away a couple of times and came back. Some of the time she stood because sitting was making her feel dizzy. In the end she had written a very short story for her children and I had written a longer one, also for her children. She asked me to read our stories aloud so I did. She then folded the stories and addressed them to her children, thanked me and went away. She was with me for around 25 minutes in total. She seemed to me to be more unwell than the last time we met and certainly wrote less. She is aware that she is unwell and acknowledges that she needs to be in PICU at the moment. I hope that writing with me today, listening to me read our stories, and having a conversation with someone other than other patients and the ward staff will have helped her feel a bit better for a while.