Life is a journey’, as we all know. A process with many ups and downs, joys and sorrows. However when you have a mental health problem your journey of recovery and overcoming obstacles can often be overlooked. Society often puts people suffering from mental health difficulties in to one of two groups, ill or better with nothing in between. It has taken me many years to acknowledge and accept that nothing is black and white, there are many shades of grey.
My journey of recovery started in April 2010, in a galaxy far, far away, also known as Chilli Studios. The studio has been a massive part of my life for the last 5 years. This unique organisation has helped me to turn my life around. Life being the operative word, before I was referred to the studio I was existing, but now 5 years on I have a happy and fulfilled life. This amazing place and their approach and ethos about engaging and developing individuals has aided my journey of recovery and instilled a sense of hope in what can often be a very dark world. This is my story.
In June 2002 I graduated from Dundee University with a 2:1 in Ceramic Design. I had the world at my feet, in a land filled with hope and opportunities. Unfortunately in August 2002 the dark veil of depression descended and my hopes and dreams vanished. I was working in Vermont, USA, surrounded by amazing natural beauty and many inspiring people, but depression knows no bounds. It doesn’t discriminate. It can affect anyone of any age or social class, crushing dreams and shattering lives. After being an inpatient in a Vermont hospital for two weeks my Mum flew to America to bring me home and so began my contact with mental health services.
For the next two years I was in and out of hospital and was diagnosed with ‘Borderline personality disorder’. After suffering a number of losses I sank into an even deeper depression. I spent many months teetering on the edge of a great big abyss. But I wasn’t alone, my family were right beside me looking into the dark unknown world of mental health. The unending love and support of my family helped me back to a level of stability. In 2004 I went back to university and qualified as an art teacher in 2005. In September 2005 I stated my first teaching job, working with teenagers with learning difficulties.
The next 5 years were difficult but I managed to hold down a full time job. I had a routine, work, home, work, home. Unfortunately or inevitably I could no longer sustain this level of existence and in February 2010 I was admitted into hospital. Whilst I was in hospital I was referred to Chilli Studios. I started attending the studio 1 day a week until I was discharged. The studio was like no other place I had ever visited or accessed. Here I could be myself, I didn’t need to hide many facets of my personality or pretend that everything was ok. When people asked “how are you?” they genuinely meant it. It wasn’t just a social cue that people feel they need to ask but don’t really want to know that things aren’t ok. Often people feel afraid if you tell them how you really feel and can respond in a negative way. The studio has a great sense of camaraderie. People often rally round when others are suffering from a time of crisis. It is such a nice feeling to know that you are not alone and people will support you in whatever way they can, from making a cup of tea to being a shoulder to cry on, but also someone to laugh with. Mental ill health is a dark place filled with much sadness that one can forget to laugh and smile and not feel guilty. Chilli Studios has shared in my sorrows but also in my success. After volunteering at the studio for two years I am much more confident, stable and happy. I am now embarking on a new journey, a new job, confident that I am not alone. I am not saying goodbye to the studio just yet. The support and friendships I have forged over the last few years have contributed to my journey of recovery and for that I am truly grateful.