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Rachel

The following is a testimony received from a Brain in Hand user, and is in her own words. Note that the names of the user and her BiH Specialist have been changed at the user’s request.

I am in my third year at university, doing a BA Hons in creative writing and English literature. I haven’t studied since leaving school at 16; I’m now 43. I also have BPD, split personality disorder, and severe depression and anxiety, and I’m dyslexic. So studying for me was not just an academic challenge; it was a personal one as well.

With the help of my support worker I applied for and was awarded DSA, and part of that was the Brain in Hand software and app. When I first heard how Brain in Hand worked, my initial thought was ‘it’s one more app to take up space on my phone’; I’d tried various apps for self-help and support, and none had helped, so I didn’t expect this one to be any different.

The fact I needed specialist training made me even more apprehensive; I was assigned a Brain in Hand Specialist, Anna, and she contacted me to arrange my first appointment. From the outset Anna was aware of the difficulties I face in new situations and with new people. She made every effort to accommodate me, going as far as sending me a photo of her ID so I would have an idea of who I was meeting and meeting me away from home as I can’t have people in my flat without reacting badly. My specialist tutor and support worker were very much a part of my training with Anna and were included fully.

Anna was very friendly and easygoing, putting me at ease straight away. She discussed my needs and what I expected from Brain in Hand and then talked me through setting up the website. It was even easy enough for someone as technically challenged as me to understand and use.

Given the fact I find concentration an issue and tend to go well and truly off the track, Anna showed copious amounts of patience with me and let me find my own way back to the task in hand without rushing me or making me feel uncomfortable. The fact that it was something both my tutor and support worker can also use to engage with me is an added bonus, and Anna took the time to show them both the most beneficial ways to do this.

A phone showing the Brain in Hand diary

Having a second training session meant that I had a chance to use the app and website and discuss any problems I had encountered (all of which were to do with my lack of technical know-how and not the app or website), and I found it really useful to iron out those issues.

On a day-to-day basis, the app and website are a huge help. The diary has made managing my day so much easier; having prompts and reminders for everyday tasks like taking my medications or remembering to eat make a big difference to me. Inputting problems and solutions into each part of my day has helped me recognise that I can cope with my daily problems actively on my own or I can use the hyperlinks to contact my own support network, and when I can’t and it all gets too much I can use the traffic light system and receive the help I need to refocus and calm down.

I cannot travel on my own without having a panic attack, which in the past has resulted in having to get off a bus halfway through a journey because I can’t breathe and feel like I’m going to pass out. Crying on a packed bus is never a good look, is it? I have used the red button on Brain in Hand on more than one occasion while I have been on the bus and, although it doesn’t get rid of the panic and fear, having a voice (or in my case a text) that understands makes that panic manageable. I haven’t had to abandon a journey in a while now. It’s the little wins that matter.

I found using the timeline has really helped me to be able to see my triggers and, if not anticipate them all, at least recognise when there could be problems. Being able to write my own comments on my timeline means I can see not only the times I panicked but if and how I coped with them. I especially like the reminders to check in with how I’m feeling; it gives me the chance to stop and really take a moment. One of my biggest problems with having BPD is automatically saying I’m feeling alright without actually knowing how I’m feeling, so being asked to use the traffic light system on my phone gives me the chance to take stock of how I’m feeling and be honest about it.

Brain in Hand is easy to use and effective. It has changed my life in little ways with big results.