I was referred to Arty-Folks by the crisis team because they saw one of the paintings I had done at home. I was in a very difficult headspace then. I was 17, ill since I was 12, and confused about a lot of things. I was feeling so hurt and rejected because people I wanted to love me couldn’t understand me. They didn’t understand my self-harming, they couldn’t understand my mental turmoil and I felt even more that they didn’t care about me. Cutting myself helped to release some of that pain, I didn’t know how to do it any other way. I tried to hold it all in and when it got too much I would overdose. I didn’t really want to die but I just had enough, the battle seemed so endless and pointless.
That’s less than a year ago now. Now I have a full-time job in a nursery and I absolutely love it! I work 40hours per week and it really doesn’t phase me at all. I am not worried when the scars on my arms show. It’s part of my past and I will not deny it. One of the toddlers at the nursery asked me what they were and I just said that I was once very poorly. And that was that. When adults see my scars they just look and then look away like they hadn’t noticed. And that’s that.
Less than a year ago there was no joy in my life, everything felt pointless, grey. Apparently, I actually looked colourless and my face showed no emotion my friends at Arty-Folks told me later. That often I would just sit and not join in, look bored even though I wasn’t. I went every week because it was the only thing that could get me out of the house and the art made me gain confidence in myself and being with people. At Arty-Folks nobody batted an eyelid if I my arms showed fresh cuts but they didn’t look away either. I am not saying that cutting is ok or acceptable, I just wanted people to accept that I am doing my best with the means I’ve got.
I had come to Coventry to be with my boyfriend. We met online and I know what you think now! But you are wrong. We trust each other, we can talk to each other about anything. He knows all about my mental ill health and he still stands by my side. We had a long distance relationship for 2years seeing each other every 2 weeks so it wasn’t a rash decision.
I didn’t get on well with my mother so it was easy to leave home where I felt so unwanted, unacceptable. I came to Cov to be with my partner but then I began missing my little brothers and sisters. I thought it would be much easier to meet new people. I felt homesick but didn’t want to go home, stuck between places, and I didn’t know how to resolve this dilemma. And I felt very isolated because I didn’t know anyone in Coventry. I felt so utterly lonely.
It was very odd how things changed for me. I went home for a couple of weeks and I had a great time with family and friends. So I can’t tell you why I felt good about coming back to Coventry. I think I just needed a refill of my family and once I had been there for a while I felt topped out and I could come back. I guess I felt that having some distance is actually quite good for us all. In fact, they miss me now and they make more of an effort when I am there. I don’t have to deal with them on a regular basis and I can leave things in the past now.
I feel settled here, I can be myself in Coventry, and I haven’t self-harmed in months. There’s no need. Arty-Folks has been good fun. I have really enjoyed talking to people of all ages who can relate to me and I learnt a lot listening to people older than me. I don’t think that people can really appreciate how good it is to be able to talk about mental health to people who know what you are going through. Everyone is in the same boat and that’s really liberating. If you would ask me what Arty-Folks can do for you I would say it really helps to express yourself through your artwork because otherwise it just stays inside and festers.
I know at the beginning I didn’t get it. Why talk about it, why show how you feel inside to others? What’s the point? How’s that going to change anything? Arty-Folks had to push me to open up, and they didn’t give up! And you know, after a while I realised I am not ‘a problem’ or ‘an illness’, I was just struggling to understand how to deal with life’s difficulties. So the problem isn’t ‘me’. The problem is ‘life’ and I needed to become more confident standing on my own ground. I needed time to learn about myself and I needed people around me who could understand.
I know I won’t always feel on top of the world but I can look back and stand by my experiences rather than hide. I know the signs now. And if the urge pops up again I will just ride it out.