A letter to the PIE lady
"My flaw was ignorance. I hadn’t properly considered how the minute things are actually massive to others." Powerful words from a member of staff shortly after attending my training earlier this year. "What a massive change this had for Pete and also for me.”
Below is a copy of an email I received from “David” who had originally been….let’s just say…a little skeptical about what he might learn in my training. With permission I’m sharing his story about working with Pete as it touchingly illustrates the power of PIE.
"Pete suffers from mental health problems, in particular anxiety. He can often be quite aggressive in his communication and struggles to hold a subject before switching to something else that he is annoyed about. This has led in the past, to uncomfortable support meetings for both him and me, with no clear progress made or outcome achieved.
However, on Friday, I played it a little different.
Previously I have had to keep counter acting Pete’s complaints with a reason for them, explaining them away as there were actual valid reasons for the things that he wasn’t happy about or the things that he found frustrating. This time, I agreed with him. I asked why he thought that and what we could do so that it made it better for him. Then Pete started….
He wasn’t happy with the property, so I asked to tell me all of the things he wants putting right and listed them on paper in front of him as he spoke. Eventually when the list was complete it turned that actually he is happy with the house but said he needed more plates and cutlery and a clothes horse so he could dry his clothes. Pete also clearly did not like being in my office with me sat at my desk clicking buttons and not giving him my full attention. I turned the computer off and turned around. Robert went from agitated to calm in seconds and even asked me if he could make himself a cup of coffee. He has never stayed long enough for a coffee, let alone make one. He offered to make me one also which I accepted (I’m not stupid enough to turn down a free coffee!
After Pete had softened and he had vented all of his frustrations and niggles he went on to say that he feels like leaving the house. He said that he feels trapped. He said that actually he does like the house and he likes the people that he lives with but has nothing to do. I asked him what he would like to do and he said anything that isn’t around here. He explained that due to his anxiety he is unable to take public transport and therefore never leaves Camborne.
Imagine never leaving Camborne?
Something that I have never even considered as I couldn’t imagine it. I jump in my car and drive home every day through country lanes and take it for granted. Pete has been with us for months and has not seen a country lane, a beach, the woods, all places that put him at ease. Pete says that part of his mental health issue is that he takes in every noise. He said as we were speaking, “That lorry that just went past, even though we were chatting I was aware of that and was listening to it”
So I said to Pete, “How about we meet again on Tuesday and we go to the beach?” Immediately smiling! I said I know this little place on the harbor where we can grab a coke and sit and chat to the sound of the sea instead of lorries. Then Pete said, oh no I can’t go to a pub to which I asked if I could ask why. He said that when he was 18 he was supposed to meet his Dad for a pint and couldn’t make it. Shortly after this his Dad died and he hasn’t been able to visit a pub since due to the guilt and anxiety that this would make him feel. So (not one to give up on a pub visit during working hours, I persisted) “Well this particular pub is tiny, lots of people can’t go in it and the best bit is, you can go sit right next to the harbor without even having to go through the pub. I could nip in and grab us a coke and come back out and sit down”
“I can do that” he said.
Pete and I will be going to the beach tomorrow followed by the woods on Friday with his dog (another aspect that I have failed to consider, he can’t walk his dog anywhere nice) and the other 2 guys that he lives with. This is a guy who has not engaged with me hardly at all since coming into supported and now it will be 3 times within the space of a week.
Pete also explained that he does everything by email and not really by phone so I offered him my email address so that I can also send him the weekly doctors list which has also been an issue for Robert over the past couple of weeks. He kept getting the doctors times mixed up. Now it is on his phone. I also asked Pete if he would do me a favour and email everything that he has just explained to me about the things that will make it better for him which he has said that he will. I will forward his email when I receive it. The entirety of the stuff he said was like he was in the PIE training, it was bizarre.
Once the meeting had finished instead of just doing my usual, ok mate Il see you soon routine, I asked him if he was walking back home. I took my badge off and said, Il walk up with you to see the others in the house and we walked up the road together as if mates.
Honestly guys, what a massive, massive change this has had for Pete and also for me. My flaw is ignorance. I haven’t properly considered how the minute things like the drive home or a coke down the beach are actually massive to others that can’t go anywhere"
So, there you have it, a touching tale which shows what can happen if we look past the behaviour, validate how people are feeling and take the time to truly understand their perspective and experience of the world. Fabulous.