Out of my comfort zone for Open Minds

I started my long weekend by another huge leap out of my comfort zone (which is where the magic happens of course)

I took part in the Open Minds Project which is being run by the Mental Health Foundation. It was a filmed interview and I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. So, I step into the house that the filming company has hired and while the scones and muffins did look very tempting, the thought of sitting in front of a camera was way to worrying. 

Stepping into the room I was completely blown way. I did think it was a little 'Oprah' and her  Super Soul Sunday sessions  (here is a link to her interview with the Jeff Weiner CEO of Linkedin if you haven't seen these before (just as a bonus)). 

So not the outside setting, but two armchairs, loads of plants and then of course - cameras and lights. Two cameras, lights everywhere. Camera man and sound man were very welcoming and the director was great at making me feel relaxed. 

She grabbed one of the stands that a light was attached to and said - see, just metal, and a light, nothing else. A simple, and what might sound foolish statement, but her actions and attention to me really did help calm and relax me. They all admitted this is what they do, day in day out, so it really doesn't bother them. 

Made me think ,how much we take being in a hospital for granted. I certainly feel at home and can forget how intimidating and scary they can be for people not used to them. 

So the filming started (and yes, they have to do a clapper board clap to sink the two cameras and the sound recording - who knew). Firstly I told my story of why I had volunteered. This was an experience I had supporting a staff nurse through a very tough time and the use of a traffic light system to understand how her mood was and an agreed set of actions if she called me and said "I'm amber today" or "it's red". This system saved her verbalising the pain she was in and because we had agreed actions I knew what I had to do to support her. This system worked so well I wanted to share it so others could use it. Now it doesn't work in all situations and for all people (as I found out when I tried it in another situation) but it was so successful for this one nurse I know others will benefit from it. 

The interview was structured with me reading questions from cards and then answering them, and if I didn't understand or want to answer a particular question I could move onto the next one. 

While the main reason I was there was to share the experience above, as I read the questions it began to get a lot deeper. I talked about tough times I had had and how a simple conversation with my then boss and her reaction supported me to keep going knowing she had my back. Being open, honest and vulnerable and then hearing the words - what can I do for you? So simple and it turns out she didn't need to do anything - just saying those words was enough. 

Then a question really hit me. It was a question about past experiences and then I realised - why this was so important and why I believed in this so much and why I was there on that morning. When I was 17 I was on a ship that sank and having escaped the ship, survived the time in the water, the rescue and getting back to the UK, I was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder. I was a mess for a while but I got through and in time got it together and carried on. I know that time was a struggle for me and those around me. While I don't think about it that often (but it's a great story that I am happy to tell) it has shaped me probably more than I realised until I was sitting there in front of those lights and cameras. 

It took me time and I got there and I believe we are all worth the time it takes and that was why I was there.


Katie Quinney