Cotswold House: A Patient’s Perspective
My admission to Cotswold House came as a shock to me, as I couldn’t see how unwell I had become, and didn’t believe that I needed to be in hospital. This meant that when I first arrived I was filled with feelings of fear, anger and uncertainty, as I had no idea about what was going to happen.
At first, the rigid routine around meal times and seemingly endless list of rules felt alien to me, but the other patients were welcoming and happy to help. As we were all going through the same struggles, the other patients soon became a valuable source of support and advice. Although the first few days were very difficult, as time passed I found myself feeling more comfortable living on the unit and started to feel proud of the small achievements I was making.
As time passed I began to join in the group programme, attending sessions focused around nutrition, relationships, relaxation and mindfulness (among others). Although I didn’t think that all of them were for me, I find most of them have useful aspects and have learnt many new skills that help me to cope with my illness. My favourite groups are Creative Art Group and Gardening Group (which runs during the summer), as they are really enjoyable and give me something to look forward to. Group attendance is not compulsory, but I would advise trying everything a couple of times before you make up your mind! As you progress in your treatment there is also the chance to practise activities such as cooking, food shopping and eating out.
All the patients eat their meals and snacks together in the dining room, where we sit round tables with three or four other patients and a member of staff. ‘Normal’ eating patterns are enforced, and negative behaviours are discouraged to instil a more healthy approach to mealtimes. Those more advanced in their treatment can eat in the upstairs dining room, where patients have the chance to practice eating in a less strict setting and have more independence. Everyone’s meal plan is tailored to fit their needs, and can take into account any dietary requirements or dislikes.
I often struggle to fill the free hours, especially during the weekends when the ward is quiet and groups do not take place, but have found activities such as crosswords, card-making and reading magazines a good way to pass the time. I would recommend having as many visitors as possible as I find that they distract me from worrying and always cheer me up! At first, inpatients do not get time-off the unit, but soon a small amount of time-off per day is introduced (this may be with a member of staff) and this will gradually progress to whole days or weekends at home.
For me, the best thing about Cotswold house is the fantastic team of nurses and healthcare assistants, whose advice, sympathy and understanding have helped me greatly. They never judge us when we are struggling, and are always available to provide sympathy or offer encouragement when things get tough. We are also very lucky to have a beautiful garden, where we can get some fresh air, grow our own vegetables or simply admire the flowers.
My stay at Cotswold house has been far from easy, but there have been ups as well as downs, and I am starting to see a light at the end of the tunnel. During my time here l have gone through feelings of frustration, hopelessness and anger, and have pushed myself further than I believed was possible. I have learnt a lot about myself, and although I am far from being ‘cured’ and I know many challenges are still to come, I now feel much better able to lead a healthy and happy life.
‘You are an exceptional team of amazing individuals who made my treatment at Cotswold House so much easier than it could have been. Thank you so much for everything each and every one of you have done for me – from the chats and support, to the gentle prompting, encouragement and understanding to enduring my sense of humour and making me laugh and feel welcome. I hope you realise how valuable the care and treatment you provide each and every day to everyone of us really is – I don’t know where I would be without you now!’
‘…I have come to realise that if I hadn’t been taken in by you at at that time, I would probably be dead. I will be forever grateful for that. During my time there I was fearful, resentful and stubborn. I apologise for that and the way I interacted with you all, the arguments I had and the lack of acceptance I had of my reality and the seriousness of my condition. I really want to thank you all from the bottom of my heart – all of you who worked with me.’
‘It’s been a long hard journey with a few hiccups along the way but I just wanted to thank you all from the bottom of my heart. You guys saved my life all those months ago, scooped me up, took me in and persevered despite the huge fight I put up….Although it was difficult for me to see at first, you all want the best for your patients and will go out of the way to ensure that happens, this I truly believe. Thank you once again. I didn’t think I would ever say this, but I will miss you all very much…’
‘…I will never forget all that you have done for me, from just being there for me to talk to when it all got too much, to helping me laugh again. Without the support, care and understanding that you’ve shown, not just to me but to my family also, I’d not be here today and be in the place that I am now. You have given me the best possible start to this journey. You are all such amazing, caring and patient people and the work that you do for others is incredible…’
Describe life here in five words
“Supportive, caring, challenging, friendly and structured.”
“Safe, insightful, protective, therapeutic and emotional.”
What is the most valuable thing you have learnt at Cotswold House?
“The support here is fantastic, but ultimately your recovery is down to you. You have to be motivated and proactive if you want to get better.”
“I have learnt to work with the staff instead of fighting against them. Although it may not feel like it at the time, the staff really do know best!”
“I am not alone with my eating disorder; other people are experiencing the same thing and understand what I am going through. It’s ok to talk about it.”
“Your illness doesn’t control you, you can control your illness!”
“Being here is the easy bit, the real challenge starts when you leave!”
“I have learnt to take responsibility for my own recovery.”
What do you find most challenging about life here?
“Facing my fears and overcoming anxiety.”
“Feelings of loneliness and isolation.”
“Boredom and frustration.”
“Lack of independence and choices.”
“Changing my deep-rooted habits and behaviours that are hindering recovery.”
Last updated: 19 December, 2017