W.A. ‘Don’t be silly!’

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I was introduced to Arty-Folks by my Coventry Mind support worker 5 years ago. I would say that is when I started my recovery journey.  At the time I was unable to communicate and I was hearing voices, loudly, all the time. I couldn’t watch TV because they were all talking about me, about useless me. What was the point of washing myself, of looking after myself? I felt no hope, my mental reality was destroying me.

I think it all started when I was 25. I lived in Jamaica and I smoked a lot of dope. I know it’s a stereotype but it was kind of true, that was the lifestyle. I spent 10 days in hospital and everybody in there had the same problem with hearing voices. Once medication kicked in I got out and carried on smoking. The medication were taking away my physical wellbeing, I felt like a Zombie, life had drained out of me. But when I stopped taking them the voices of course came back. I was in and out of hospital for ages and I even had two Electro-convulsive shock Treatments (ECT) which probably saved my life. I lived 10years in Ireland, had a family, child, work, and I had small relapses here and there but my family kept me safe. I came to Coventry after we separated and it wasn’t long before I was really ill, frightened out of my mind, unable to communicate. Looking back I know that dope ruled and ruined most of my life.

These last 5 years I have been looking after the Mind allotment and I enjoy growing food, and eating it! I think I have missed only 1 session at Arty-Folks in 5 years when I was too ill to go. Gradually, I built my confidence being around people again, and I began listening to their stories. People talk very openly about their experiences in the art group and they support each other to make sense, to look at things from a different angle. I learnt so much about other illnesses and life-styles, and it slowly brought me round to understanding what is real and what isn’t, and coming to terms with my experiences. I have never received counselling or any other form of therapy and I believe that being around people who have a shared experience and are moving towards recovery has restored my quality of life. And fresh fruit and vegetables.

I have recently started to play the saxophone in a band again, and I have joined a new art group where I can make more friendships with people of my age group. The voices are still there but not as intense, I can handle them. And no, I haven’t smoked for years now, don’t be silly!

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