Mental Health Awareness Week: My Mental Health Journey
From hitting a point of crisis at the age of 55 to now working towards launching his own social enterprise café, Jude shares his journey to recovery.
Now, when I look back, I chuckle, as I realise I had all the classic signs of mental health problems throughout my childhood and adult life. Life’s circumstances get thrown at you and in my case mind games were also thrown at me. It was all about survival and trying to break-through. Although I was successful on the outside I felt alone and afraid on the inside. I was a functional depressant on pills and binges, not wanting to wake up.
The bubble had finally exploded.
The start to my recovery was a total breakdown at 55. If not for a family member, who still believed in me and who insisted on home treatment, I don’t know where I would be. I spent almost 3 months in bed and at home recovering, and was advised to sign up to Turning Point. They managed to make an appointment for me to receive advice from citizen’s advice, appointed me a keyworker and helped support my recovery.
I started to receive cognitive therapy; something that didn’t work two times before; but maybe this time I was ready. I also signed up to Mind and Friends in Need. I started to use their timetable of walks, visiting museums, all for free – or even having dinner with other clients in a restaurant, where you only pay a portion of the bill. In addition, I participated in creative classes. I took up writing; something I thought I would never do. All of this helped me with my confidence.
So much so, my Turning Point keyworker encouraged me to sign up for courses that I was interested in, like the Fruit & Vegetable Level 2 in Capel College and a beekeeping course run by the British Beekeepers Association. Through this, I received a contact to work with the Physic Gardens, which led to working in a local community garden. This I really enjoy – being outdoors with the beauty of the gardens really helps my peace of mind.
In between, I was involved in group work at Turning Point once a week for 8 weeks. There are many types of group work – each having their steps of support. And after a year or so I did a Level 2 Peer Mentor training course and graduated last year. I am on placement now. I work with the ‘Upstairs Club’ on Saturday and cook for 30 or so homeless people, and support any further needs they may have, which helps me in return.
I have given talks to student doctors at University College London about the support I received and my situation, which gives them a better understanding and how to see the ‘signs of mental health’ earlier. Again, being involved is a real confidence booster for me. I was further advised by my keyworker to ‘work at things I liked’. So now I am a Members Steward at Lords Cricket Ground and a VIP Steward at the new stadium at Tottenham. Although tiring, I do love it.
So I now stand on my own two feet financially, but still use Turning Point for personal support.
My portfolio is building and while I was applying for an ‘innovation fund’ to teach a food and wellbeing course, I suddenly realised what I wanted to do. I wanted a local community café to be run by service users. So, with the classes I teach, and doing some catering jobs, I decided to start a social enterprise project.
Of course, there have been ups and downs, and for this I have formulated my network of support.
Having a supportive plan is essential. For me, that means being involved in volunteer work and still talking things through with my keyworker. For the first time I’m enjoying my work, and I have realized that food, liquid and exercises (ie. chi kung, walking, cycling, mindfulness) are important. Also, my group supervision (once a month) where I can air out my feelings and receive support from fellow peers and staff, is so very important, for my continued recovery.
I will always have my mental health problems but using support like Turning Point has led me to where I am today. It has given me an understanding and an acceptance, because although I have had all these difficulties with my mental health, it also brought me to this point in life – where I can cope with a smile on my face.
I will be collecting my bus pass next year and I’ve never before been happier in my life. There is a long way for my social enterprise project but I am on my way. Look out for my community café one day!
Throughout all the support I received, I realised that I was given:
Time to find my path
Time to find honesty
Time to have acceptance
Time for being patient
So support yourself, and take time out for yourself with professional support from staff and peers.
I have a website that shows more details of my journey and what I am doing now: www.food-thoughts.co.uk
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