I qualified as a Counselling Psychologist in 2008. During my training I gained experience in a variety of settings, including addictions, forensic, primary care and physical health services. After qualifying, I worked in a Community Mental Health Team before accepting my current NHS post in Physical Health Psychology.
In my current NHS post, I see people who have suffered with cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, hormonal and neurological illness and disability as well as chronic pain and cancer. I also support bereaved family members of patients who have passed away.
The patients I see struggle with a wide range of difficulties, including early childhood trauma, relationship problems, post traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance misuse and obsessive compulsive disorders. Their physical illness or disability presents an additional stressor that affects their ability to cope with these underlying problems or in turn has exacerbated or been the cause of these.
I have seen young adults with type I diabetes, who are struggling to separate and become independent from their (naturally overprotective) parents, or are feeling different to their peers, because of struggling to manage their weight or because they cannot go out and get drunk like everyone else.
I have worked with many couples, in which one spouse becomes disabled and the other becomes their carer, providing a great challenge to the couple's emotional and sexual connection.
I have witnessed the shame that people feel over losing control of their emotions after suffering a stroke or brain injury. Or the embarrassment of losing control over basic physical functions, when suffering with gastrointestinal diseases.
I have seen people having to learn to live with their bodies constantly telling them to panic because of heart arrhythmias, or breathlessness from COPD.
Or having to live with the challenge of their bodies telling them there is something wrong because of chronic pain or fatigue, even though the doctors can't find a medical cause.
I have seen people having to face their mortality and realising the fragility of life after suffering a heart attack or when being diagnosed with cancer. And their loved ones, who have to adjust to a life without the person they love the most.
I have witnessed incredible resilience and the ability to thrive in the most challenging circumstances. I feel privileged to be walking alongside such brave individuals and to be able to help them along the way.