We are all thankfully on the mend, in fact I was mended enough to manage a day trip to Oxford this week for a meeting with my new (since January) employers and part of that involved a basic introduction to the principles of The Compassionate Mind.
This is a book by psychologist Paul Gilbert which I had heard about in odd ways, overheard someone ordering a copy in the local bookshop, ear-wigged the discussion about it and thought it all sounded interesting and now thanks to publishers Constable I have my own copy.
'Compassion and particularly compassion towards oneself can have a significant impact on our wellbeing and mental health. Developing our sense of compassion can affect many areas of our lives...Professor Paul Gilbert explores how our minds have developed to survive in dangerous and threatening environments by becoming sensitive and quick to react to perceived threats. This can sometimes lead to problems in how we respond to life's challenges and scientific evidence has demonstrated that compassion towards oneself and others can lead to an increased sense of happiness and wellbeing - particularly valuable when we are feeling stressed. Based on evolutionary research and scientific studies of how the brain processes emotional information, this compassionate approach offers an appealing alternative to the traditional western view of compassion, which sometimes sees it as a sign of weakness and can encourage self-criticism and a hard-nosed drive to achieve."
I tend to avoid mumbo-jumbo psychobabble books but this is far removed from it, extensive scientific research to back up the methods and this looks like a fascinating therapeutic approach.Books like this have applications to both life and reading and I have a feeling, given the recession and recent public events here in the UK with several MPs now on suicide watch, that the Compassionate Mind should and perhaps might need to be in the ascendant.
I was secretly worried when I emerged from the NHS last October that I might also have had a touch of compassion fatigue. I really couldn't see how I would ever want to help anyone ever again if I'm completely honest, but thankfully I was wrong.
What I actually had was a massive bout of NHS fatigue, easily corrected by two months of reclusive sleeping, knitting and reading and thankfully my new job, which involves mostly grief and loss work, has restored that faith in my own compassionate mind because I think I'd have been horrified to find that the last few years in the NHS had wiped and destroyed it.
So my other treat this week was to take the Tinker (father of dgr for any newcomers) out yesterday on his first walk down to town to test out his new spark plugs. He has a double pacemaker so will be able to walk twice as fast as anyone else when he's up to speed, but just six days in we wanted a gentle walk to exorcise the ghosts of that spot where he was taken ill and had thought he might not get home, and so arm in arm we set off at a leisurely pace.
'There,' I said ' that was alright,'
as we passed the spot and we strolled down into town and along the little back lane that leads to the Church. It's a bit of a pot-holed and stony throughway in places and you have to watch your step.
To our collective horrors as we rounded the bend there was an old man lying on the ground, blood everywhere, shopping and stick gone flying as he'd tripped over and smashed his face.
Oh dear, Lord love us, now I'd got two of them to think about, please don't ask me what was going on with my threat perception, I haven't read the book yet.
The Tinker was there twice as fast as me given his double sparkos.
'DON'T LIFT HIM, just talk to him ' I said as I dashed to the cafe at the top of the lane to get help, a chair, an ambulance, a maxillo-facial surgeon, the complete cast of Casualty (pleeeeease let them all be sitting in Cafe Liaison).
They weren't but the cafe staff were lovely.
'Could you call an ambulance please' I asked quietly as I explained calmly what had happened...
No...no, I didn't really, that's what I'd like to have done but actually I garbled out,
'Quick call an ambulance an old man's fallen and he's lying on the ground and he's really confused and he's got a white stick and his shopping's all over the place and I've got my Dad out there and he's only just had a pacemaker fitted and it's a double one and this is his first walk out after the operation and I've just had an operation too and I can't lift anything and there's blood everywhere and we need a chair and....someone come and help please.'
I really should have sent back my registration under the 'Call Yourself a Nurse? I Don't Think So' clause...yes there's my inner critic.
Bless the lady behind the counter doing the washing up, off with the Marigolds and out there offering him a drink.
'NO DON'T GIVE HIM A DRINK he might need an anaesthetic'
That's it, I'm alright now I'm obviously in nurse-mode, I know what I'm doing.
Spoke calmly to the man in ambulance control as he told me the ambulance was on its way, asked me the questions
'Yes GCS satisfactory, patient is conscious, breathing, airway clear...no we won't give him anything to drink, no we won't be de-fibbing at this stage, might have sustained a sub-dural haematoma, no I don't suspect a pleural effusion, no signs of damage to spleen but yes you might need to ready an operating theatre in case and could you get X ray on stand by...'
Well that's almost like it was.
With that we heard the nee-naw, the green liveried salvation arrived and eventually the Tinker and I wished the gentleman well and strolled on.
What is it that is so heart-rending about the sight of an old person alone who has fallen?
I think we probably imagine that person to be ourselves or our own loved ones and it all triggers the compassionate response to helplessness which hopefully never dims no matter how much it's tested and I dearly hope that the gentleman is alright. He managed to tell us he was eighty-seven and there's nothing like a fall at that age (because I suppose this is 'fall' not 'trip' territory we're in) to clout your confidence.
I've also since phoned the council about the condition of the lane, quite lethal for a public right of way and incredibly it's been that way for years.
'Is it a trip hazard?' they asked me...'have you witnessed an incident?'
Well, my threat perception was well-honed by now so I gave them chapter and verse plus consequences and shall be watching that space for imminent re-surfacing.
In the end it all felt like a good test of both compassion and the pacemaker so we treated ourselves to coffee and cake in the lovely Brown's Hotel as we walked back up the hill and the Tinker was barely out of breath,amazing.