I have been with Arty-Folks for exactly 2 years and my mental health hasn’t increased much. Yep, that’s me all over. I don’t fit neatly into any medical diagnosis and so I can’t get the right medication or the right treatment for me. Every three months we complete a well-being questionnaire at Arty-Folks and every time mine showed pretty much the same. No surprises there.
I have always felt an odd ball. I have always felt something was wrong with me because of the way my parents treated me. I have been for years in intense therapy for personality disorders but I didn’t fit in because I was also diagnosed with Aspergers amongst others. I picked up a leaflet about Arty-Folks there and from then on I attended every week unless I was in hospital.
I had so many conversations at Arty-Folks about my different diagnosis. I still feel that they are helpful as it gives you an opportunity to understand your behaviour and how it fits in with the rest of the world. I think it a positive thing not a negative thing at all. But, we did a number of art projects that challenged my self-beliefs and the group questioned whether believing in Aspergers is just a way of shutting people out. In the group we discussed role of a medical diagnosis, that it is a snapshot in time based on changing symptoms, and is necessary to determine the right medication and treatment. Everyone said that it is important not to lose sight of yourself, not to let the diagnosis define you. Maybe I just feel broken and I don’t believe I can get fixed.
I believe that Aspergers explains why I misunderstand people’s emotions and why I miss these queues. My friends at Arty-Folks disagree with that, they say that they found me very perceptive, rational and logical, that I respond with empathy to other people’s emotions, that I understand and relate to other people’s emotions very well but that by trying to avoid making mistakes and worrying about my learnt behaviours keeps my barriers up and doesn’t allow me to connect.
I loved Arty-Folks even though some of the projects and conversations were very challenging for me. I felt relaxed with everyone and I shall miss them. The art work was most challenging because there is so much thought behind it. I loved the ‘soup of potential’ project because it pushed me to be free and spontaneous, something I have never allowed myself to be before. I hated the ‘curve of change’ because of course I don’t think that I am able to. I really valued these thinking projects even though they can be stressful because you have to process rather than just produce.
Maybe thinking about the curve of change did help me to understand that people are always changing, that there is always a potential for development in any direction, despite limiting conditions such as Aspergers. I am moving away from Coventry now into a small village closer to my children and my aim is never to go back to hospital for my mental health. I’m under no illusion, it won’t be all singing and all dancing, and I will miss Arty-Folks a lot.