K.TJ. – overcoming the fear of death

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I have attended Arty-Folks for just over 12 months and I’m feeling in a good place to hit the big wide world.  Looking back on my journey today feels a bit strange, but I’m proud how far I’ve come.

My troubles started during Covid when I was living on my own and had several blackouts caused by wrong medication.  I was taken to hospital with breathing issues which turned out to be a severe heart condition.  Being in hospital was a big turning point because when I was feeling really scared there was nobody there to help me!  Remember that family or friends were not allowed to visit!   It was terrifying, and so lonely!

When I came out I moved into my mums but I felt a changed person.  I was terrified I was going to die, that my heart was just going to stop. I didn’t know which way to turn.  I cannot describe to you how intense and overpowering the fear of dying was.  They sent me to see the psychiatrist who tried to assess me for bipolar as there is some family history.  But in the end diagnosed me with a form of PTSD, the fear that blackouts could potentially happen again, that I won’t have anybody around me – and it all spiralled from there!  I then did talking therapies online but it was a bit strange.  I realised I needed to connect to real people.

Arty-Folks gave me the stability I needed, and connected me to a lovely group of people that over time became my friends.  Even though we are much more open about mental health these days, reality is that you still get labelled and you can see it in people’s eyes.  At Arty-Folks I could immerse myself in amazing art projects with people around me who wouldn’t judge me because they understand.  Therapies are usually one-on-one and some are great.  But they don’t give you that sense of confidence in life, don’t build your sense of community, and don’t restore that sense of normality.  Ultimately, that’s what you need to start feeling better. 

Nowadays I feel a lot brighter and clearer in my mind.  The feeling of death is not as intense anymore because I am not alone!  I have people in my life that do help me.  Now I’ve got to work on setting good boundaries so I can feel confident enough to say what I do/don’t want to do.  That’s pretty hard because I’ve always been afraid of hurting other people. 

Arty-Folks helped me realise that sometimes hurting people is inevitable, but it doesn’t always have to be me who pulls the short straw.  Moving forward I will make sure that it’s more balanced, that I am more assertive to win some and be more ok with losing some.  I know it’s in me, the ability to live my life better.  I know the journey ahead, and it’s achievable.

I do worry sometimes about having a dip, because I know how quickly it can get bad.  When you hit a problem in your life you can be triggered to slip back.  It starts when you’re feeling in your own little bubble that doesn’t match up with reality – that’s when it gets tricky!   Life is going on over there, and you’re over here somewhere, trapped in fear and worrying. 

But for the first time in my life I feel well enough to carry on on my own.  I have learnt a lot of skills and I will carry on with my art.  I have got lots of projects in mind and the confidence to pursue them.  So watch out for the book I am designing for Youtube!  I want to enjoy what I do on a daily basis, and get the most out of each day. 

Of course I would have stayed at Arty-Folks forever, but I understand it’s important for my own personal growth to step out of the mental health environment and into the mainstream.  And this is not the end of my Arty-Folks journey anyway!  I am looking forward to popping in for a cuppa and a chat with staff and offer my peers a sense of hope, that it’s possible to find yourself again.

From Arty-Folks: It’s been a joy to witness your creative blossoming! We wish you all the best on your next steps forward. Know that your Arty-Folks family will always be here cheering you on, eager to see where your talents and dreams take you next. Here’s to your bright future ahead, K.TJ.!

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