Each year we see more and more members joining the Open Door Centre and coming for support. Some we’ve waved goodbye to as they have gone on to lead more fulfilling lives with the confidence and self esteem they were looking for. Others have stayed involved with the Centre. They may have gone through our Community Mental Health Training and become mentors themselves or stayed to enjoy the workshops we have on offer such as the Songwriting Workshop we put on earlier this year. Either way we have seen members come to us and developed their self esteem to amazing levels. Below are stories from some of our members so you can see for yourself how just taking a step through our door could lead to amazing possibilities.
I found out about the Open Door Centre in quite dire personal circumstances.
Imagine the scene:
I was 24 years old, sat in the back garden of my now ex-girlfriend’s friend’s house. It was about 2am. I was crying, and spitting blood. It was about two years after I had lost my father to pneumonia and complications from surgery. I had been employed for about 4 months after being signed off sick with stress, moving 110 miles from my hometown of Nottingham to the Wirral. I was at a loss. Enter a friend of a friend; Becky. She was a mentor at The Open Door Centre, and she was washing the blood off my hand while listening to me vent and cry.
All sounds a bit embarrassing, no?
Except this scene wasn’t a new one. I had had constant issues with drinking since about 2012, coinciding with the year I started University. For three years or so, I had developed a pretty terrible coping mechanism for what I now can identify as Generalised Anxiety Disorder and depression.
It would go in a process normally: lots of drinking (and I mean excessive), a high peak of euphoria (throw in some insane dance moves), and then a state of aggression and being so emotionally overwhelmed I’d feel the after effects for weeks. There are some stories of embarrassing nights out, that come back to haunt me when I’m feeling low, I’ll tell you that.
I mainly hurt myself – I remember nearly losing the toenail on my big toe after randomly booting a kebab shop door that was shut: I was hungry. I remember drunkenly starting on a close friend’s pal at a house party. I remember… I could go on. But it was tough for the people around me. It put a strain on my relationships. It eventually escalated to the scene mentioned above; me in the garden, bleeding and crying. I hurt two people, by my aggressive behaviour, when they were trying to help. I didn’t cause anyone serious injuries, but it was enough to trigger an end to my relationship, an upheaval in myself and a depressive period. I’ve accepted that as the past and apologised where I can, made the positive steps regarding my drinking (no more than four), and luckily – I still have a few close friends left.
See, that’s what CBT is all about. Focusing on your current problems, rather than focusing on issues from your past.
I didn’t take the decision to go into The Open Door Centre for the first time lightly, I was very much a self-contained man. The idea of asking for and accepting help was scary. When seeing the Centre it all felt a bit too bohemian and I had visions of singing Kumbaya in a friendship circle. But I had a chat with Greg, the Centre Manager, and in what I imagine are conversations he had daily, I laid out the past two years of my life. I think that was a major turning point.
I had my first session only a few weeks later – the help was immediate, I had been quoted waiting times upwards of twelve months by the local NHS mental health body – and was introduced to my mentor, Lloyd, a musical Welshman. The CBT sessions back then were delivered by Beating the Blues. I learned a lot from it. it felt outdated compared to the new bespoke ‘Bazaar’ programme but with the mentoring it helped a lot.
It was a long eight weeks, I’ll tell you that. Some of the sessions were great, I felt I had a good rapport with Lloyd, which was quite key when so much of my personal life was in a state of transition. Other sessions were tough. I faced things I had never talked about to anyone. It was painful sometimes. In the meantime, I had started attending the mindfulness sessions on a Friday evening, which have become so incredibly useful (and I still attend now)! Towards the end of the program, I think about Week Six, I lost my job quite suddenly. This again, was a turning point. I adapted to my unemployment quickly, and applied the new skills I’d learned from the CBT to help structure my days – practical things like problem solving and activity scheduling. Luckily, I was back in a new job within a month but my mood dipped. I began to feel a sense of helplessness, as I battled against the darkness with everything I had learned. It wasn’t a great time, to put it mildly.
I spent a night in hospital. Everything that had happened in the year: the depressive period, the end of a five-year relationship, living in shared housing with strangers, no real social support or structure. It all just exploded. But I am, rightly or wrongly, incredibly stubborn. I was determined to beat this, to learn more about myself and mental health issues… to get better.
And I did. I am. I’ve learned and I am still learning.
I began to apply the things I’d learn over those 8 sessions. Thinking errors, root beliefs, the vicious cycle of thoughts > emotions > behaviour.
In March this year, I took the step from member to mentor at The Open Door Centre, and I have successfully mentored three members since. That first session with a young man, recently bereaved, was naturally quite anxiety provoking. But session after session, you fall into a rhythm and get to know the lives of the people whom you are mentoring. You get the unique privilege and responsibility of being someone, in some cases the only one, that they can talk to.
It’s important to manage your expectations but I’ve celebrated the small and big things with the members I have mentored. The member who climbed out of long term unemployment, the member who came in after a bad few months in a great mood. The member who surprises you with unexpected hobbies and interests. I’ve begun to relish each session, that one hour a week has become as beneficial for me as it is for them.
It’s also opened some doors for me (I could make open door puns all day). In May, I got the chance to take part in a short film about mental health issues with a local CIC, Periscope. I eventually went on to write a narrative poem which became the title and was recorded. I also lent my (somewhat posh) accent for the audio clips in the new and improved bespoke CBT programme I mentioned earlier – Bazaar: A Marketplace for the Mind, developed by The Open Door Centre.
According to the experts, the world is in a global mental health crisis, ‘the Lancet medical journal says there is a “collective failure to respond to this global health crisis” which “results in monumental loss of human capabilities and avoidable suffering.” I love this quote by Patrick Ness, “Feelings don’t try to kill you, even the painful ones. Anxiety is a feeling grown too large. A feeling grown aggressive and dangerous. You’re responsible for its consequences, you’re responsible for treatingit. But…you’re not responsible for causing it. You’re not morally at fault for it. No more than you would be for a tumor.” Places like The Open Door Centre are monumentally important to the local communities that they serve, and I have been lucky enough to benefit from their services and even luckier to be able to give back.
Give yourself a chance and find your own Open Door.
Read more about John’s experiences and poetry on his blog, Scribbled!: https://amidlandspoetscribbles.wordpress.com
I stumbled across The Open Door Centre by chance – I was in my second year of university studying for my psychology degree which required a placement module. After stressing and racking my brains for weeks, I was surprised (and relieved) to find that The Open Door Centre was literally down the road from me and was in my field of interest. My interest in depression and anxiety disorders stemmed from my own personal battles with mental health. I have always struggled with anxiety and this made university an incredibly difficult time for me. Things built up and I eventually got my diagnosis in my first year of study.
Fast forward to second year’s placement module – I met with some of the guys at the centre who were not only happy to let me do my placement module with the centre, but were keen for me to continue after and become a mentor. One day when I was completing my training of the CCBT (Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) programme ‘Beating the Blues’ I met Lee, who after a coffee and a chat, suggested that I myself may benefit from completing the programme – to which I agreed. The unique experience at The Open Door Centre is partly down to the mentors themselves – that is that the facilitators of the programme often start as members who completed the programme and go on to be mentors who have had similar experiences that help support a new member through the therapy. Mentoring allowed me to help other young people with anxiety and depression and being part of the Centre’s Out-Reach Team gave me the opportunity to go into local schools and colleges to raise mental health awareness as well as encourage young people to become involved with the charity.
Being a mentor also helped me support people outside of the centre. Shortly after joining the centre I became part of my universities Psychology Peer Mentoring Scheme. I found this scheme to be invaluable as it aimed to help first year students pass the year and support them with any problems throughout, which would have been another network of support for me during my first year. During my last academic year, I acted as a senior mentor – helping train and provide support for new peer mentors. By now I was a senior mentor at The Open Door Centre too, carrying out the same role. Not long after this I was then selected to be one of the centre’s Ambassadors. Being an ambassador came with responsibility but also the ability to help influence change and raise awareness of mental health and the centre on a larger scale. My work at the centre, from member to ambassador, enabled me to write a specialised paper for my final year dissertation titled ‘Computerised Cognitive Behavioural Therapy for Anxiety and Depression: Demographic Influences on the Effectiveness of the ‘Beating the Blues’ Programme’. The Open Door Centre had not only helped support me through my university experience and degree, but it had become the subject of my degree itself.
After graduating university I wanted to gain more experience in the field before continuing to go on to study as a postgraduate. All of my training and experience at the centre helped me get my current job as a Community and Vocational Support Worker in the Creative Arts, IT and Media area at Autism Together where I can continue to help support people and make a positive change to their every day lives.
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