A.C. “Naughty but Nice, that’s the new me”

For the inner circle of my Mandala I have chosen calm landscapes, and sparkling things like flowers, jewellery, and Christmas.  I like Christmas because it is a time for kindness, for happy times.  I have chosen words that capture how important my family is to me and how proud I am to be a new grandparent.

I have attended Arty-Folks regularly for 3 months and with my Mandala I wanted to express how good things are now.   I feel I am sparkling again, I feel stylish, I like to dress well and I enjoy the good things in life again.  I feel naughty but nice!  I am celebrating life, sympathy for family, friends and others.  I have finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel.  I am a new woman!
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Only 3 months ago I was feeling so very low but now I am feeling useful again, I am proud of my creative skills and I feel I have achieved a lot in a short space of time.  After so many years of feeling isolated in my flat I am now out and about again, and I am looking to move into a new home with my partner.  I am enjoying things like music again and there is laughter in my life.  I am so much happier with my week and I know my social confidence and feeling closeness to others has improved so much since I started Arty-Folks.  I think I just got to the stage where I needed a little bit of a toe up my bottom.

When you are supporting someone with mental ill health it can feel like no matter what you say or do they are never going to move on from their hurts. I understand how disheartening that can be for family or close friends. I was one of them.  I guess I was lucky someone gave me the push to join Arty-Folks.  It was not easy, not at all !  The first couple of sessions I was so defensive, I didn’t like not being able to do my own thing.  But now I can clearly see how important it is to be in a group of like-minded people.

So, to anyone supporting a loved one who is struggling with mental ill health I would like to say “stay, hold on, because eventually there will be a spark and from there something new can grow. But this spark will probably not come from you because you are too close.  It will come from peers who are travelling along a similar road.”  The bunch of people I have met at Arty-Folks has carried me well and I was able to support them too which in turn has helped my self-esteem.  The group has given me time and space to grow and I have found my feet again, or rather, I am faster in my wheelchair.

Oh I know it’s not easy to convince someone to leave the safety of their four walls, believe me I know!  It took me about 4 years to be truthful to get to Arty-Folks.  So be gentle, be kind, but persist and tell your loved one to try a group like Arty-Folks even if you don’t think you’re an arty person, because feeling alone is the worst feeling in the world !

Say to them “let’s just try it together and if you don’t like it we can come back, but at least we tried it.”  I did and it worked for me.  As hard as it was, I realised it was worth that effort and stress, it was worth getting up for to realise I wasn’t the only one feeling like this.  The spark I needed to help me see things differently didn’t come from one single individual, it came from the collective, the ‘humanness’ of people, without getting too poncy.  Encourage them, stand by them, help them at least one session into that new world and out of isolation.

Lots of things have helped me with my mental health but being at Arty-Folks just made me realise that I can be out there.   I am not a loner, I enjoy the company of others and that has been the biggest support.  Arty-Folks made me realise that if I came in one week and I wasn’t very happy that no-one criticised me for it.  I was near to tears one week and I think I did cry.  I felt that everyone did care but they didn’t make me feel it is wrong to cry, it’s okay, not a problem that needs sorting.  Everyone was relaxed with it and understanding because we are all in the same place, and we all give and take a little bit.  We all have our problems.

Without going into details I have been put down a lot, fat, ugly, stupid, you are this and that…  Not many people have said positive things about me to me.  I have always been battling for space, I have always expected people not to like me but at Arty-Folks I felt that it is alright for me to be here, just as I am, and I realised:  I am doing.  I am achieving.  And I am just taking the next step.

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