This week I left Designs in Mind, this is my story and I would love to share it with you…

I had a breakdown on 3rd November 2010 which left me almost lifeless, not wanting to exist, feeling useless and worthless, wanting to hide away from everyone. It was awful for my husband to come home and find me shuddering in the corner of the bathroom with a knife in my hand. He took me to the doctors straight away who gave me some strong tranquilisers and started me on anti-depressants. As many of you will know, it takes some weeks for the anti-depressants to kick-in so I was left living like a zombie with no desire to do anything or see anyone. Thankfully, I have a loving close family and close friends who came to look after me so my husband could continue at work. It was important he had some time living a “normal” life and then he had to come home to look after me. I have two children, who were 13 and 15 when my breakdown happened.

Anyway, the anti-depressants started to kick in after about 4 weeks and it was then that I started to see a psychiatrist and was appointed a community psychiatric nurse (CPN). I was still very unwell and in the following January I had a major blip or “crisis” and I was placed in a residential crisis centre for a couple of weeks, to try and stop me from getting worse and needing hospitalisation. My time at the centre helped enormously and it was there that I met a member of Designs in Mind who, like me, was having a really bad time.

Moving on a couple of months, I realised (well, my husband did really) that my anti-depressants weren’t really helping to improve my mood and I started self-harming as I just wanted to feel pain somewhere else rather than in my head.

I didn’t really see any point in being around anymore.

I did consider ending it all and at that point I was referred to the same crisis centre again to try and help me. I saw my psychiatrist and CPN who were concerned that there wasn’t any real improvement in my mood – in addition my hair had started to fall out. My medication was changed and after a few weeks, I was starting to feel a bit better. I never ended up being hospitalised at all during these few years.

Later in 2011, my CPN noticed that I enjoyed being creative and knew about an organisation called Designs in Mind, in Oswestry. I went with her to visit – I was so nervous and was so scared about being looked at and judged. When I did visit I remember shaking, not saying much and I couldn’t hold my head up to look people in the face.

About a month after I visited, I was referred there and soon started to attend the new referrals group on a Wednesday.

I arrived as a very quiet, scared and trembling person with a stutter,

concerned about how I acted and looked.

I didn’t say very much, but as the weeks went on, I was keen on learning new creative skills and although my stutter was still there, I was soon able to hold a conversation with others.

I started to really enjoy my time spent at Designs in Mind. My self-confidence was building up and belief in my ability was getting better as time went on. The encouragement, care and support given to me meant so much to me. I’m not saying that I haven’t struggled at times and I did spend more time at the crisis centre in Shrewsbury and Ludlow.

As I got mentally stronger and more confident, I started to volunteer. I could hardly believe that the staff had faith in my abilities, but they could see the changes on the inside and outside of me and felt that I was ready to move on. I also was now on the Group Executive Board and took the minutes at the various meetings held.

About 3 years ago, a new project was started, called Jolt. I was asked to be part of the “Team Jolt” and was asked for my opinion on designs and how this new venture would work producing homeware such as cushions, lampshades, tea towels. I loved every minute of being involved and knowing that I was trusted to be part of the team helped me feel so much better about myself. Soon enough, the shop next to Designs in Minds’s studio became vacant and thoughts about turning the space into a retail space for Jolt became a reality. I was asked to be part of this and was given responsibility as a duty manager. At this point, I still couldn’t see a way in which I would ever be fit to go back to employment. I felt that Designs in Mind and Jolt were my comfort blankets and the box that I wouldn’t step outside of!

Could I transfer my previous and current skills in the big “outside” world of work?

I talked things though with a few members of staff and volunteers and before I knew it I applied for a job. This was a massive step forward and although I didn’t get the job, I knew this was the way I wanted to move forward and knew that my time at Designs in Mind and Jolt was going to come to an end – a positive move on.

Well, here I am preparing to move-on to employment in the big “world of work”. I haven’t been in paid employment since the day of my breakdown so this decision, although scary and exciting, seems a natural progression from my volunteering in the studio and the Jolt shop.

I arrived a scared, stuttering mess of a person who was scared to look anyone in the face all those years ago, to someone who feels ready for my move-on. My family and friends have been amazing and I consider Designs in Mind to be part of who I am today and will be tomorrow. I am more confident, self-aware and self-believing person.

I am going to continue being a member of the Executive Board and a Director of Designs in Mind, it is is too important to me to say a permanent goodbye to. Thank you to all at Designs in Mind who had belief in me and my ability to move on over the past years. The difference in me is so apparent to my family and friends and they are also very grateful to Designs in Mind for that difference.

I will be forever grateful to you all for returning myself into my body.

On February the 11th 2018 we launched a crowdfunding campaign. We want to start a conversation about mental health that is powerful. No more treading on eggshells. We are not invisible, We do not want to be hidden away. Our work in the studio and shop is #SmashingStigma every day, and now we are going to be a little noisier.

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As part of the campaign we are also looking for more blogs about mental health stigma, so please get in touch if you have a story to share.

#smashingstigma #MentalHealth #MentalHealthStigma #OurStory #campaign #SocialEnterprise