My road to recovery
In my 30s, I experienced a series of breakdowns far beyond anything thitherto experienced. It felt as though the entire Universe had exploded, the echoes of which long reverberated in my psyche. Whilst trying to find appropriate help, I had to deal with an ever-more bewildering set of diagnoses, as I revealed more of my inner world. My labelling starting with Panic Disorder and went through to Borderline Personality Disorder and beyond. What little hope of recovery was there?
Despite this admirable list, there seemed to be little means of help available and whilst awaiting therapy, as well as researching and joining groups online such as BorderlineUK and PersonalityPlus, I joined the Service Users Network. However, what I really needed was one-on-one psychotherapy. After incessant badgering from my wife, 13 psychotherapeutic sessions became available. Despite confirming many of my worst fears, they were over before I could start to stuff the released demons back into their respective bottles.
Further pressures from my wife brought about a 40-week series of sessions with an esteemed psychotherapist – such was the complexity of the presenting disorders. Having reached a greater understanding and acceptance of myself, there also being no more therapy available on the NHS, I set upon a haphazard course through Alcoholics Anonymous, Croydon College, and Merton Adult Education’s art classes for people similarly troubled.
Full speed ahead!
There was no stopping me. I blossomed through art and Imagine Mental Health eventually invited me to run their art sessions. This was the outwardly visible start of rebuilding my life, as I found I could use my previously untapped empathy and experiences to help others. Classes and exhibitions of artwork followed, giving confidence in both mine and others’ recovery. Finally, I’d found a way through.
Later the MACS drug & alcohol project further extended belief in my artistic and mentoring skills, and lead to me volunteering for the online forum that Rethink Mental Illness provides. I put longstanding IT skills and online experience developed as coping mechanisms, to better and wider use. RethinkTalk is an online community for everyone affected by severe mental illness to exchange ideas, opinions, artwork, and support. My roles there as moderator, guide, advocate, activist, friend, mordant artist, and occasional wit, have hopefully also helped others explore their situations in a safer, more supportive environment.
Recently I’ve gone one step further. After therapy with Survivors UK for the worst effects of my childhood, my psychiatrist referred me to the nascent Recovery College. The College’s “Telling Your Story” and “Planning Your Own Recovery” courses and the combination of these other supportive, sharing environments saw me successfully applying for the post of Peer Trainer at the College. I now bring my lived experience to assist the students’ continued recovery – it helps my own progress too!
With the enduring love and support of my wife, I now have hope, control, and opportunity, having found the meaning of my life in helping others to find the meaning and purpose in theirs.
“Power in the darkness”
(c) Ian Springham, 2011
Written for Rethink’s Magazine “My Voice” as the Pringle Award winner, 2011