C.C. – I found my Inner Cheerleader!

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I started attending Arty-Folks online during the lockdown periods and I loved it!  I didn’t feel so desperately alone anymore and I learnt so much that kept me busy when I was feeling at my wits end.  In the Spring I was offered to join New Perspectives and attend in person in Coventry and I remember thinking ‘I am enjoying this so much, it would be amazing.  But it will never happen! Too big a mounting to climb.’  And yet, it kindled a little flame in my heart that kept shining a light into my darker days, but I thought it would just stay a thought.   

I didn’t think it would ever be possible for me to travel, let alone travel to Coventry by train.  I hadn’t left my flat for 4years, apart from walking my little hairy companion at 4am in the morning when there’s no chance of bumping into anyone.  Since the strokes I’ve had lots of trouble because I can’t speak well and because I’ve developed Tourettes.  I’ve had people attacking me or abusing me for the things I say and also because I just can’t explain myself quickly enough.  I am also not able to read anymore and too often people get angry or impatient with me.  Going out was just too frightening and demoralising and travelling by train through Birmingham New Street to Coventry and back was unthinkable. 

Arty-Folks staff would ring me every couple of days to check in with me and to see if they could help deal with the never-ending saga with landlords.  I knew I was stuck alone in what felt like a safe space but doing all these workshops online inspired me, it brought something inside me to life, a warm glow, a spark of hope that perhaps there’s a little community out there where I fit in where I am accepted, and can belong.  And everyone encouraged me and gave me that little bit of motivation to just try. 

Staff came all the way to my house and together we took the train for the first time, there and back, and were always patient and reassuring, something I have not experienced often at all!

The first journey felt like the worst nightmare come true!  The smell and noise particularly in Birmingham New Street was overwhelming and disorientating and on top of that my anxiety hit the roof! It might seem weird to you, but I was absolutely terrified.  Anything could have happened!  I could have been arrested, we could have been attacked, I could have been sectioned to a mental health hospital again…

After what seemed a lifetime we arrived at Arty-Folks studios in Coventry.  It took a little while to calm down but then I felt the creativity and the peacefulness and the laughter in the room.  Arty-Folks is now my little sanctuary, a place where I can express myself, and where I feel welcome, accepted, safe.  I wouldn’t miss my group for the world!

At Arty-Folks I didn’t just learn about art, I learnt to open my eyes and to see things for what they are, and that’s when I realised how bad my living conditions really are.  I can talk through everything with my Wellbeing Coach and it helps me learn to fight my own corner.  I understand that everyone is stressed these days and nobody has time to listen but because I’ve constant battles with health professionals, I don’t seek help, and I don’t admit to how bad things are.  At times I have felt my health slipping away, couldn’t breathe, eat or drink, but Arty-Folks didn’t give up on me, called me, visited me, went with me to numerous appointments, and I then I found my Inner Cheerleader through my art.  And I’m hanging on to it now!

Being able to talk things through in a safe space has giving me a better understanding of myself and got me out of my self-blame.  My freedom, dignity, and self-respect has been taken away from me so many times that I’m now determined to do things my way, which I know isn’t always easy for people around me, but I want to learn to fight for myself.   I’m finding my own voice perhaps for the first time and I won’t allow people to push me around and get away with it anymore.  I know I am not well and I know I need help.  But I want to be in charge of my recovery journey and of my life.  It’s draining, exhausting, but I am determined to find the strength to stand up for myself and the people I love.

But it’s good to know that I have people around me now who have my back and will guide me to a safe space, friends who know my situation and are validating how I feel.  It’s amazing and I feel a sense of justice.  

I would never have got this far without the support of Arty-Folks and ESF who refunded my train fares, enabled me to get the support and guidance I need, and enjoy being creative together with like-minded people.  For the first time in my life I don’t feel alone. I feel at home.

C.C. is 43yrs old and lives in a small town in Warwickshire.  She is a survivor of child abuse, homelessness, domestic violence, and several cardiac arrests.  Through her life experiences she developed psychosis and suffered a couple of strokes that have severely affected her language abilities.  She struggles to read or write, and her speech is severely affected particularly when stressed.

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