A story by Michael, Across the UK
Overcoming disability, ill-health and depression.
As a late developer who was bullied in childhood, I lacked confidence. I then trained as an Occupational Therapist. After thirty years I lost registration due to ill-health but then launched a mental health project to help people’s recovery.
What challenge does this story focus on?
Overcoming severe ill-health which renders one incapacitated and interrupts life. My own illness and loss of career helped give me insight into what it must be like for people who I had worked with for many years. People with skills, passions and interests whose lives are suddenly blighted by mental ill-health. We always said we were ‘client-focused’, but I knew we ‘did to’ people rather than empowering them. I set out to make a difference by pioneering a project led by lived experience.
How has this challenge affected you?
It has made me realise that it is never too late and despite how difficult life can be sometimes, there is always an opportunity to do something fresh and new. Nothing in your life experience is wasted. I am a very sensitive person and can get very low sometimes and have contemplated ending my life but that gives me knowledge and true empathy with the people I work with now.
What has or is helping you to move forward with this challenge?
I have personal Christian faith and that has helped enormously. However, life has still been a great challenge at times. I have had times of serious crisis, even in the last year which made me doubt my faith. However, despite all the challenges, somehow I managed to rise above the difficulties to carry on. I have often felt the pressure because of the responsibility for what I have set up and that so many people now look to me to continue the good work we have started. Of course, I want it to continue, but sometimes I would like to be able to hand it over to someone else and be able to retire. I hope this will happen some day soon. I try to remember to focus on achievements rather than the difficulties.
What have you learnt as a result of this challenge?
None of us are indispensable. We don’t have to be a one-man band and try to think we can or need to do everything ourselves. It’s about learning to trust other people to do things and accepting that the way they do it might be different. It’s also about accepting that one cannot do everything and realising one’s limitations. It’s also about focusing on what you are achieving instead of being frustrated with what is not happening. It is about being realistic too and accepting the limitations and working round things sometimes. I also think it’s important to hold onto one’s dreams and not let them go, despite the barriers that there might be. It is important not to be swallowed up by a project and realise that you need to preserve something for yourself and focus on your own needs from time to time. It is so easy for anyone who pioneers any project to be totally immersed in that project and one’s life becomes all about that and your own personal life gets neglected.
How do you use this learning in your life now?
I am now trying to delegate much more to other people. I am also taking more time out and trying to prioritise things better. I am getting better at allocating time for project matters so that I can then spend time doing activities which are just for me. I have often failed in my attempts to prioritise and have allowed things to get on top of me. However, I am now working on spending more time on my own well-being as I have realised that if I don’t spend time in looking after myself I won’t be any good to anyone else. I have to also realise there is a time to step back and let others do things the way that they want to. I have to realise that I cannot and need not to be constantly doing things for others, but to step back and let go of some things so I can concentrate on other things which I need to do for myself, my own well-being and my family life.
What positive message would you like the reader to go away with?
It’s never too late to start again. One person can make a difference. We can achieve our dreams if we believe in what we are doing. We don’t have to be superman or superwoman. It’s ok to get it wrong sometimes. It’s ok to trust others to do things and not feel that we have to save the world in one day. It’s important to remember to celebrate the fact you have lit a candle in a dark room rather than moaning about the continued presence of the dark!
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