I chatted to the landlord at The Kings Arms whilst I had some breakfast - well I picked at it as my tummy was doing cartwheels!
I know these pre-talk nerves are actually positive adrenalin boosts - without them there is a danger of being blase and I truly believe they help to put passion into performance.
I drove a very long way round to get to the new Colchester Football Stadium. It is new and my Sat nav didn't recognise it so I followed brown signs. It was only a few minutes later than I intended so wasn't stressed. As I parked Radio 5 Live were trying to get hold of me again to be on their programme that morning. I had already spoken to them on Wednesday about this and they had left a message later to say I wasn't needed. Now they had changed their mind! My loyalty was to NHS Colchester so I passed the 5 live message onto Greatvine where I am sure they would found another expert to help out.
Once in the stadium I was given a warm welcome by the staff from North Essex NHS Foundation Trust at their 'North East Area Patient Safety Conference'. It felt good to be back 'at work'.
The first presentation was by Vanessa Gordon, Head of Patient Safety - Mental Health, National Patient Safety Agency. She shared the 'Preventing Suicide - A toolkit for mental health services' document with us. This is predominantly for use for in-patient settings. There is another one for use in the community.
Next was Gwen Collins, Deputy Chief Nurse, East of England SHA, who spoke on 'The Leadership Challenge - How will we maintain Patient Safety and Quality Services.'
Both ladies demonstrated the passion and purpose of many in the NHS fighting hard against the backdrop of political changes and financial problems to keep patients at the top of the agenda. It cannot be easy for them but I commend them and wish them continued success.
During coffee break, speakers were invited outside for a photograph. I could not believe it as we were directed to the football pitch! NO! I did not want to stand on a pitch - last time was more than enough at Clive's Celebration!
Colchester FC were actually on the pitch so we just stood at the side. I looked up to see an advertisement banner from the Cruise booking company who are based in Colchester, with whom I had cancelled our cruise the day before. Oh no! I fought the tears and smiled in the glorious sunshine.
I joined a workshop talking about suicide. My involvement with Joe (Joanne) Bingley Memorial Foundation makes this very close to my heart. It will be a year tomorrow that Joe took her life. My thoughts will be with Chris and the rest of her family and friends tomorrow.
I did touch on my story as part of this and on both counts - PND and bereavement. The ice was broken! The reaction from the small group was that they were stunned I was there so soon after Clive's death. I explained that I wanted to be.
It was soon lunchtime. I couldn't eat but I nibbled at a few bits. My tummy was doing cartwheels! A couple of people from the workshop came to speak to me about their losses in life. I found that comforting and gave me more confidence for my upcoming talk. Once I had checked that my presentation was sorted I nipped to the toilet. I smiled as I remembered how Clive would 'take off' for about 20 minutes before he spoke. He would have three wees!! He also knew that 'tummy churning' was getting your body ready for optimum performance.
I found an empty room and rang my Mum as I often do in those pre-minutes! She is used to the 'wobble' of 'why do I do this? Will I be any good?' and I get the same answer 'because you love it and you'll be great'! They were on a boat on Derwentwater, enjoying their Lake District holiday. I also knew from Facebook that many others were thinking of me.
I then closed my eyes, sat back and let Clive fill me with strength too. I put my hand on my tummy and felt his hand on mine, as we would when we needed strength. This was our 'anchor'. I also used my technique of visualising a candle and breathing so the flame flickers, to slow my breathing.
I could feel him nuzzling in my ear and telling me 'I ADORE you'. In reality he would have been here right now anyway. With one last hug and reassurance that it would go well, I walked into the main room, was introduced and began ...
My introduction was about the landlord at the inn last night and how welcome and safe he had made me feel. I asked if they did that with their patients. I also asked them to take off their name badges and lanyards and just for my presentation I wanted them to imagine that they were the patients, not as their professional role, but to remember that they too may have and will be 'on the other side' of their services.
I shared briefly my examples of being a patient - as a child, pregnant, my puerperal psychosis, more recent surgery and also my roles as a grandchild, Mum and Auntie in the carer role. That gave me a firm basis and confident start. The interested faces, smiles, nods of heads made me realise all was going well.
Then the BIG test! Next up was a photograph (that is all is use on Powerpoint
The next half an hour I absolutely buzzed! I LOVED being back on stage.
I used my 'Hanzak' principles of 'Hope, Attitude, Needs, Zest, Altogether and Kindness' as the framework to speak about what makes me feel safe, using anecdotes about myself, my grandparents, Dom, Clive, etc. I had them all standing up to 'think candle' as a way to de-stress. One of my key messages was that in order for them to make patients feel safe, they must feel safe themselves too.
I summed up by saying Clive made me feel all the above and as I did so I could feel him giving me a hug from behind saying 'Well done you'.
Amid the applause there were many tearful faces! I wanted to punch the air! I DID IT!
I had delivered my first presentation since my soulmate died but I did it with dignity, composure, passion and purpose. I felt rightly proud of myself. I was swept along the rest of the afternoon with comments such as 'fantastic', 'brilliant' 'you've really made me think about my practice'. The Chief Executive said in the last couple of weeks he has been at many NHS conferences and says I would not have been out of place at any of those conferences either because I had touched on many different aspects of health. He asked for my business cards to pass on and says they will want me back! That is is the best testimonial a speaker can receive. I feel yesterday I officially 'graduated' beyond mental health and postnatal issues. They remain my main focus but I now have had it confirmed that my role lies further than that too.
During the question panel of which I was included at the end of the day I did have to REALLY fight back the tears. A charming consultant psychiatrist was sitting next to me and to the whole audience proclaimed that I had made him realise a massive thing today which will impact on the rest of his career - I had made him appreciate and think of what it is like 'on the other side' of services and treatment. He felt that would make a great difference in a positive way. I wanted to burst into tears! I felt so humbled and privileged to have put that over. I felt proud too and overwhelmed. I always feel that every time I speak from a platform if just one person does something differently and with better results sue to hearing me, then that hasn't been wasted. To have such high praise from a health professional of his calibre was stunning.
Other comments I got which meant a great deal was that I had given them all permission to take care of themselves too, not in a selfish way but in that they now realise that in order to keep others safe, they must start with themselves. Also the importance of small things which can make a big difference. Brilliant! Job done! Thank you everyone who made yesterday possible for me and for such a warm welcome.
I was absolutely delighted with the whole day. The journey home with the radio on was pleasant. I even stopped at Peterborough services for a drink, with no tears. Clive was everywhere there! I could see him holding the poinsettia he bought for my Mum there.
Clive and I absolutely loved driving home together from gigs. We both knew the incredible high it leaves you on. I smiled as I thought of how we would have driven home tonight, still in the sunshine. The roof would have been down, shades on and we would have sung our hearts out, with Clive banging his hands on the steering wheel and dashboard along to the music. Words would not have been needed. We just knew. We both appreciate why rock stars have the 'wild' side post show. Yes, it makes you very horny too!!!!! You have so much adrenalin pumping that you want to explode.
Now here I was going home to an empty house. I had planned to meet Paula for a drink but I knew she wasn't due to finish work until almost 10 o'clock. I could just call in one of the Tad pubs myself but I didn't fancy that. Boy did it make me realise how Clive had felt all these years. That was why he had spent so many nights at The Coach and Horses after speaking. I seems such a 'waste' to just come home to no-one. You leave the speaking venue on an incredible high which you just want to maintain and share. We knew we could share the adulation and understand what it meant. Some just think you are showing off and being vain. In essence it's the drug which you are addicted as a speaker. It gives you renewed purpose for why you work hard to get bookings, to deliver your messages and feeds your hunger to want more.
I often reduce audiences to tears. I am glad - why? Because it shows I have touched their emotions. It shows me that they will remember my presentation long after the conference programme has been shredded. It tells me that my words will make a positive difference to them in some way.
But who could I share with tonight? I rang Dom and excitedly told him about my day. He is busy this weekend filming his passion 'Gone'. I will see him on Sunday. I was great to hear him say he was proud of me.
So when I stopped for petrol I text Lynn and Rod to see if they fancied a quick drink in 'The Queen'. This was where we had all watched Leeds Rhinos play on tv the night before Clive died. We had said we wanted to go back at some point. Maybe tonight was the night? They agreed at just after 8 I walked into their loving arms. Also 'Jimbo' who works behind the bar and who hadn't seen me since Clive had died. I had been told how upset he'd been. His hug and compliments the next hour were lovely! The warmth I get from people around Tad is simply lovely.
Lynn, Rod and I chatted (well they listened! - big hug). Little by little I could feel the adrenalin expiring. As it did so sadness began to creep in. I could see Clive at the bar, I could see him at 'our table'. Eventually I had had enough and we left. But we have at least been back in there now.
I came home. Looked briefly at the post, made myself a fruit tea and needed paracetamol for a thumping headache. I realised going back out now to meet Paula was just too much so apologised that I was going to bed. I was even too tired to blog!!
I put the television on for company, put my 'Clive' cushions in place and shed a few tears that he wasn't here. It wasn't a massive cry and soon I was asleep.
This morning I have woken with a very, very stiff neck. I have no plans today other than watching 'Mamma Mia!' with Lynn tonight.
Time to enjoy sunshine maybe?
Clive's books can be ordered via here