I`d always suffered with depression and anxiety since childhood although I was only diagnosed in 1985!
My childhood left a lot to be desired, however that’s for another time perhaps. It was 2012 and I was preparing to move from Hampshire to Shropshire with a view to retirement in 2015, when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. As you can imagine it was a terrible shock to him and to all the family. On 29th October 2012. Only four weeks after diagnosis, my husband of 41 years, passed away.
In the December I finally moved to Shropshire, on my own of course. I felt the whole world as I knew it had gone. I had never felt so lost and alone. After 41 years of marriage I was on my own, new house, new town no friends.
I found Designs in Mind.
I wasn’t sure if it was a good idea. Although I like to be creative, I hadn’t picked up a paint brush or done anything remotely creative for ages and I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to do so again.
I started going to Designs in Mind on a Wednesday morning and met Sylvia who was a brilliant teacher of all thing creative. She was to become a very good and supportive friend although at first, I wasn’t sure about how she felt about me! It was a very negative time. I found myself thinking the same about everyone. I was sure they were all thinking I wasn’t very good at anything, I felt I just wasn’t good enough to be here, not good enough or capable to do what was required. So every week I would tell myself, I'll go this week but then no more. This lasted a few weeks until finally I couldn’t take the anxious worrying anymore and I stopped going.
Of course I had let the depression get the better of me and I believed its lies, that I was not good enough. As I went further downhill into another deep dark depression, it was suggested that I go back to Designs in Mind. I was reluctant at first but then agreed. My first day I met a lovely lady who has become my very good friend. We are known as `the ladies what lunch`!
We made felt, helping each other, this lasted a couple of weeks but then went on to something else. All the time we were learning new skills which of course would last a lifetime. I eventually joined the members twice a week. I was given a project to do for the centenary of the beginning of the first world war. It included paper cutting and glass to make a plaque which is now on display in the centenary gardens of the local park. How proud I was to see something I helped to create being on display to the public.
A feeling of achievement, a sense of pride, of being useful and made some wonderful friends with the wonderful people at Designs in Mind. In turn I could tell my depression was lifting and felt enthusiastic about going into the studio.
This amazing place is full of people who really care for one another because each one of us knows what its like to be in the dark world of depression and how hard it is to climb back out.
I often liken this place to walking into a hug because hugs are always freely available at all times for those that want them, often cake too, especially is its someone`s birthday. Seriously though, there are many here who wouldn’t be here, including me, if it weren’t for Designs in Mind.
Many visitors who come to the studio have said they are amazed at the love and warmth that’s felt as they talk us. There is always a lot of laughter which most visitors don’t expect.
Depression, mental illness in general doesn’t necessarily mean sad, melancholia or downright miserable. It can mean all the above but we are proof that it doesn’t have to be like that all the time. If someone is having a bad day or days, they are supported and encouraged and allowed to be as they feel in an atmosphere of caring and a non-judgmental environment.
On February the 11th 2018 we launched a crowd funding 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.