Saturday, March 28, 2015

Looking back, thinking forward

Some people reading this will know I changed jobs last year. After teaching leadership and service improvement for over 10 years I decided I was sick of teaching it and I would return to practice and do it!!

That decision has made it more difficult to share my learning with the world as I don’t want to disclose anything that might impact on my work place.

I have realised this week that teaching leadership and service improvement is much much easier than actually doing it. I don’t miss anything from my previous role, not the marking, not the politics but going back to practice is really tricky and knowing how to manage oneself in the milieu of care delivery is really complex and complicated. I am not sure I have got anything right yet but the key things I want to share are about what I have learnt about myself.

If I share that then I won’t be breaching confidentiality etc

I am not sure I had any idea about what it would be like not being an academic anymore. The main thing was the release of the enduring imposter phenomenon. I never felt like a “proper” academic without the PhD. The termination of that Doctorate was the single most damaging experience and one I now have felt recovered from after leaving my former role.  There is much more to explore around these issues and intend to do it through writing poetry and exploring the themes that emerge (

 I will begin to share the poems and thinking on this blog so I develop a routine that, I hope, helps me work my way through my murky thoughts.

If I don’t start exploring these issues in a disciplined and organised way then they will fester in my subconscious and will emerge as frustration and irritation. I am now in a position where i have to be mindful of myself in many ways and pay attention to the notion of “Resonant Leadership” ( ).

Important stuff, enough for’s a start



Thursday, March 26, 2015

Time to change - time to share

Talking about depression

My depression creeps up on me and then overwhelms me. Good friends may notice sooner than I do but my response to their concern is, like my depression, cruel, harsh and very judgemental.  Anxiety can wake me at 3 and stay until tea time....

Since 1999 I have had a number of episodes of troubling depression – I don’t want to put a number to it – more than 3 sounds like a real failure..

I can clearly identify the first time I finally succumbed to the anguish of low mood, low energy and hopelessness. My GP at the time was marvellous and I found a truly sensible therapist. She and I worked together for 5 years (on and off) to establish patterns and behaviours that resulted in my depression and could lead to prevention...

It wasn’t an uphill path it was a journey of ups and downs, I still worked and no one really knew at work about my issues.

The most recent episode of distress was much more troubling. My GP did not recognise my problems and I am still waiting for the appointment for “Talking therapies". That was in March 2013, I completed a questionnaire that asked about thoughts and feelings – I was worried about myself, I was waiting for someone else to mirror that but it didn’t come from the GP.

I found myself a counsellor and that helped a great deal but by November I was irritable, angry, troubled, conflicted and had no energy. I went to the GP first thing on a Monday morning, he was direct and matter of fact. Take the tablets, he said, what else can I do and why else are you here?

His directness made all the difference – I took the tablets and clawed my way to recovery, able to see the wood for the tress, identify the issues and apply and obtain a new job.

I am learning about self compassion and how that settles my turmoil – I am getting there but need to recognise how to look after myself and not push myself to places that will trip me up and tip me into the dark, despairing place, no light, no colour.

Poetry and daily writing practices help, a connection with family and friends help connect me to those who remind me of my worth. It isn’t easy but it’s not as hard as it used to be...





Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I have been away a long time from this blog and a great deal has happened since last March. Too much to share in public at the time and much reflection has taken place to identify what I can and can not share to preserve confidentiality etc.
I have promised Sheree Mack I will write a piece for the "Time to change" campaign so this is my launch pad.
I will share tomorrow

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Group poems

These poems were written in response to images on Evoke Cards

Wonderful stuff - if you want to know about the process that leads to this see previous blog on writing workshop...

Our little world

It's a hard life.


Some of us more

fortunate than others.




to your own paradise

full of colour  rainbow

Tranquillity, lilacs,


He always brought me fuchsias,

a riot of colour.


Time for change


left on the shelf, again.

it was my turn for a cuddle.


Which path to take?


Up,up and away.

Flutter in the breeze,

flying high -                         

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Mapping a journey

Today saw my second writing workshop at the Lit and Phil. Today we explored experiences of health care and illness. We read some poetry and then drew maps
Below is mine - it represents some of the experience we had as a family nearly 14 years ago when Mum was taken seriously ill and ended up near death in ITU for many, many days.

 It is a subject I have wanted to explore in my writing but have not found a way in and I had a hunch that map drawing might be helpful - getting beyond words to start with...
At the end of the workshop we all wrote some short poems - cinquains mostly
Here is mine


we are waiting
 signs, symptoms, ignoring

husband, four children, grandchildren

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Making poetry : sharing learning 2

For the last 6 and half years I have been very fortunate to be the poet-in-residence at a local Hospice.  The wonderfully generous staff and volunteers have allowed me to hone my poetry facilitation skills over the years and together we have written over 20 poems.

This has been a very rewarding activity and everyone in the room contributes to a group poem. This has been a unique experience and many people have commented on how much they enjoy the process and surprise themselves with their language skills and creativity.

As this project has developed I have shared this process with a number of people and have become more confident with the contexts in which this approach to making poetry can be utilised.

With that in mind the team invited me to do “your stuff with words” as a finale to their new 6 week community based rehabilitation project. I agreed to this but went to the first session with some trepidation, mindful of the fact that the group had been together for 6 weeks and that I would be an interloper coming along to ask them to use words to explore their experiences of the group. I needn’t have been so worried; the staff are so good at including folk in their sessions that they made sure  I joined in with the exercises and immediately felt calmer about what I would do.

Listening to participants over a cup of tea it became clear that they had bonded as a group and that this was an important component of the sessions. Picking up on this I decided to use Evoke Cards to explore words that capture what they have appreciated about the programme. As this developed we realised that a poem needed to be the outcome. Below is an image of the  Evoke cards arranged by participants into a poem.

Today I have been back to meet the second group and this time I used both the Evoke cards and the Fink Cards that I have recently purchased. All participants enjoyed choosing words and then each took a turn to share why they chose the words. This was a moving session where both the programme participants and the staff would share what they valued about the group, each other and the processes they had been experiencing. After the sharing it was agreed that a poem ought to be made!! Below are a couple of images of the cards arranged into a poem.

I wanted to share this as it was such an affirming and affecting experience – I always say to myself at the beginning of each session to “trust the process” and this was very true today. So much learning but for the moment I just wanted to share the experience rather than intellectualise and analyse it.




Sharing Learning 1

Reflections on a writing workshop

On Saturday 1st February I facilitated a writing workshop focussing on writing in the Hospice setting. I drew on my experience of running poetry groups in Hospices over the last six years to inform my exercises and discussions
Here is an overview of what I did and a bit of my reflections on the day.

Exercise 1

Choosing words :- participants were offered the opportunity to chose words from either cards, magnetic words or small wooden blocks. The instruction was to chose some words and then write something from them, either using them all or using them to develop ideas etc.

Cards used were Evoke Cards 

This exercise has developed following success with using words from poems or just collected as words that are worth playing with. The blocks were prepared as patients found the small magnetic letters and thin card a bit fiddly and the chunky blocks are nice to hold and have a word on 2 sides. The idea of using the blocks came from Carol Ross

This exercise was enjoyed by all and feedback included the observation that the exercise provided the opportunity to think too much about the words and also the chance to play with words and explore where that might end up


Exercise 2

This was a group poem – here participants were encouraged to contribute words and phrases and these were collected onto some sheets of flip chart. This exercise helps identify the focus of the poem and begins a process of listening and negotiating. Everyone will have a word or phrase included and then decisions need to be made about writing poetry lines, length of stanza etc.

It was interesting to note how people used to writing (writers) found this much more difficult than patients at the Hospice. This exercise works really well with people who are not feeling very well – they don’t have to write anything but they can still contribute to the finished piece. For this exercise I used paint charts from a well known DiY retailer to harvest words (paint names etc). It was quite a lively activity and consensus was eventually reached!

Exercise 3

Scribing – each participant was invited to choose a picture of a person. They were then asked to start describing the person in the picture and start telling a story. The person listening was to take notes and ask questions about how the person telling the story wanted it presented.

This exercise requires the listener to really pay attention to what the person is saying and not try to put words into their mouth, analyse what is being said or interpret. I often use the phrase “say what you see” as a way of helping the person being listened to to not feel inhibited by literary convention etc.

This exercise is really good for people who are not feeling very well and may not have the energy to write for themselves. The picture chosen can enable the person to let their imagination fly and develop a poem or short story that demonstrates their creative ability. It can also be part of life writing and reminiscence but that does not have to be the intention but if does evoke this then it is important that this is followed up outside the session to ensure adequate attention is given to the story that needs to be told.