So, my week away has finished and I’m back home.
I have to admit that I approached it with some anxiety. I had not been away from home since I was ill. And the last time I was away during my illness (for a single night only) I had some really horrible symptoms etc.
The other area causing anxiety was the fact that the course was an incident management module where pressure making situations are created in dynamic simulated incidents. Bearing in mind that little over a year ago, when I was at one of my lowest points, I broke down in tears in Tesco because my brain was so frozen I could not decide what to buy for lunch! Not an ideal decision making process for an emergency service!
In the event I had a fantastic week. Despite feeling a little anxious before setting off and at the beginning of the journey I soon relaxed. I enjoyed the drive, which was in brilliant sunshine and through nice scenery. It helped that I knew people who had been on a previous classroom module would be there and there were some people I liked a lot amongst them.
The actual training/assessment was something I had done before but in the light of my fairly long illness it was entirely appropriate that I should visit it again. If nothing else from the point of view of my own confidence. It feels very much like the final confirmation of my rehabilitation.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable week. One of the features of the course is that we needed to crew for other people for their incidents/assessments. It was great doing hands on stuff I have not done for a long time. Wearing breathing apparatus, getting into ships fires, running out hose and equipment etc. Absolutely loved it. The temperatures last week have been unseasonably hot. Actually not just unseasonably hot; hot for England full stop. This made it physically quite hard. Just standing in the gear we have to wear is pretty warm. But the physically punishing conditions actually added to the challenge and the enjoyment. What was really satisfying was the fact that we had become a really tight knit group with wonderful camaraderie and the atmosphere of people working for each other was a real buzz. And we were having a great time joking and bantering between incidents. It really was a great bunch of people to be with.
I was a bit nervous about my own assessments. I tend to get pretty bad “exam” nerves at the best of times. But, actually, I think the techniques I have learnt to deal with extreme anxiety in my illness helped me a lot and I dealt with it. I got really good and positive feedback on my performances from my assessor and, as importantly, from the other people on the course.
Evenings and meal times were very enjoyable too. Again the camaraderie of the people on the course was very much to the fore. Lots of banter, lots of laughs, lots of support where needed. Nobody went mad in the evenings but we did have some time in the bar. There was a really pleasing element for me. I opened up about my illness to some people on a couple of occasions. This is simply something I would not have dreamed of in the past. it would have made me feel very vulnerable and exposed. But what was pleasing was the totally supportive and accepting response I got from people.
Suprisingly, yesterday morning at the end of the course, I was sad it was over and to be leaving. Not what I had expected at all. Of course it was nice to get home as well though but I would happily go again tomorrow if I had to. And I have made some great new friends.