Encouraging improvement in your life by adding a voice and providing a space to change.
“I am going through the process of becoming homeless following my mental health breaking down last year, resulting in my being sectioned and spending two months in a mental hospital. I have lost my home, my long-term partner and most of my friends. I am socially isolated and my anxiety is the worst it has ever been.
I first heard of Space Mates through meeting Adam Palk while volunteering for another project last year, and must say, that through his committed support, always going those extra miles and miles when I could find no will or reason to go on, it is no exaggeration to say that Space Mates is saving my life in many more ways than one.
My childhood, at home, school and church, was loveless, filled with violence, emotional abuse, and neglect. I grew up with self-hatred and no sense of belonging. I did not speak with anybody until I was 12.
I joined the forces at 17, and after attempting suicide by hanging myself, I was detained in a military mental hospital, diagnosed with bi-polar and discharged to fend for myself with no support of any kind. I could not get a job because of the stigma around mental health, and did not get a job until I became a self-employed gardener aged 23. Although I worked for 11 years, my life was chaotic and unstable, the business failed and I became more and more socially isolated.
Aged 31 I became a dad. 3 months before the birth, being aware that my partner and myself were clearly mentally unwell, I sought help for the first time and saw an NHS clinical psychologist. This was invaluable and I became a single parent 18 months after the birth. Over the next 7 years I again became socially isolated and unwell, culminating in, after the resurfacing of a buried childhood trauma, my breaking down and my child being taken into care.
Since then I have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress syndrome, depression, narcissism and border line personality disorder. Last year, following the breakdown of a 9- year relationship, I became the most unwell I had ever been, leading to me being sectioned and losing everything.
Space Mates was there for me in hospital. Space Mates was there when I was discharged from hospital. And Space Mates is here for me now. Without Space Mates, I don’t know how I would survive. It is giving me a sense of belonging and purpose. The informal atmosphere and drop in nature of the office means that I know help and support is at hand. This has now led to me volunteering for Space Mates, so I can help myself and others who are suffering.
The social aspect of Space Mates cannot be overstated. Being in a space where some are in a worse position than yourself, and others who are moving along and getting their lives together gives me a sense of perspective concerning my own situation. There is a feeling of unity when sharing problems and acknowledging just how tough life can be.
Because of the safety Space Mates affords me, for the first time I can clearly see all of my negative behaviours and where they have come from. Even though my life is in ruins, and I am in more alarm and distress than I have ever been, simply frightened out of my wits, these insights, fostered by Space Mates support, gives me the hope that I can, in the long term, change these behaviours and hopefully inspire others to do the same.
Having no sense of belonging, because of my childhood, has always led to me punishing myself through social isolation. Social isolation (abandonment) is the worst experience any child can face. You deserve to be alone. You are worthless. You are not wanted. All through my life I have committed what I call ‘social suicide’, acting out behaviours that lead to my abandonment.
Space Mates is giving me a long-term opportunity to rebuild my life. As Adam reminds me, it’s a marathon, not a sprint. It is my experience, and all the research shows, that all the different forms of child abuse directly leads to the suffering of adults. In a longitudinal study, following 50,000 people over 40 years, if a person ticked 6 of a list of 10 categories of child abuse, they were 6,000 times more likely to be a drug injector. This pattern was similar across all health indicators, mental and physical. Childhood trauma is the number one cause of adult suffering. There can be nothing more important in the long term than changing destructive behaviours that stem from childhood traumas, and in the process, begin to break down the social taboos that disadvantaged people face.
My addiction to social isolation, one of the most insidious and common forms of self-harm has ruined my life. The media impression of mental illness is the Jeckyl and Hyde character, or the One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest mental hospital. Social isolation is the currency of poor mental health, coupled with anti-social behaviour, which reinforces a feeling of not belonging, having no place in our culture. Space Mates is helping me to challenge this attitude by giving me a voice, and a chance of a new start in life. ” April 2017