Good morning everyone! Today we pick up where we left off in yesterday’s Guest Post with Paul.
The M.S.U (medium secure unit)
I underwent intensive psychological therapy as well as cognitive therapy. It was whilst on the unit that they diagnosed me as having what is known as a borderline personality disorder. Again I have cut short the story of my stay at the unit somewhat, because as you may have noticed in some of my earlier paragraphs I tend to get carried away and I guess there’s just not enough room in this paper for all of my life story. When I eventually got discharged I was ready to strike out on my own. This time I had a better set of mental and emotional tools at my disposal much better than the ones my father had left me with. I feel that I still have a long way to go. I still mess up from time to time, but at least now when I do I deal with it a lot more constructively and a lot less destructively. I now have a place of my own. My very first home and I love it. I have gone on to achieve a great many things. One of those was to get involved in the KUF Awareness Training course, helping to raise awareness about personality disorder. I now deliver that very same training to the staff that looked after me when I was a patient on the unit.
The KUF (Knowledge and Understanding Framework)
Later after I had been discharged from the unit my care team at the hospital had asked me on a number of occasions, to come and talk to the staff of both the unit and the hostel. (The hostel is a part of the units’ after care.) As a result of this when the hospital was approached by the organisers of the KUF about getting ex-service users involved in delivering the KUF training my team thought of me. So that is how I became involved. It was while I was on the training course of the KUF that I first met John.
I first met John on the stairwell of the hospital admin, the same hospital where I had once been a patient. He was looking for the room where the training was taking place. I, unlike John don’t recall him asking me that exact question and so was surprised to see him walk in the room not long after. As the day progressed I became more and more confident and found myself doing more and more of the talking. As is often the case with me I was talking about my most favourite subject ME! When John heard my story he was intrigued I think. At the diner break (oh and just so there’s no confusion that’s lunch break to anyone reading this of a southern persuasion I am after all a northerner and ret’ proud of it.) Anyway John, another guy (can’t remember the guy’s name now), and I went to the staff canteen to get some dinner (northern) John got lunch (southern) I am sorry I am just having a bit of fun!
Anyway John and I got talking and it turns out that John worked for the Central London Community Healthcare NHS Trust in Westminster as a counsellor for the homeless. Well as I said before I was homeless myself and since I have been in A.A I don’t believe in coincidences. This was the work of a higher power. This was a god incidence. At least that’s what I choose to believe. I mean just what are the odds that not only do I get to meet a man who works with the homeless but also who is based in the very same area that I based myself in when I first came to London? I was unsure of John at first but that was because I had never been in a position like this before, where for the first time in my life I felt equal to the people around me. No longer Paul the patient but Paul the equal. I guess what I am really saying here is that I was unsure of myself. I didn’t know what was expected of me. I didn’t really know how I should act I was not a professional like John nor did I have qualifications. I hadn’t been to university and I didn’t have a degree in anything. What could I possibly have in common with these guys? But as we sat there talking, things just seemed to flow naturally and I soon found myself being accepted as an equal. What’s more I soon found that I didn’t need a university degree I already had the best one of all. I had a degree in a life that had a wealth of knowledge and experience a life in which all of my experiences both good and bad were worth a great deal.
When the KUF finished, John and I stayed in touch. We exchanged phone numbers on the last day of training and agreed that we would stay in contact. Not long after that I got a call from John asking me if I would be interested in helping him at a ‘wet’ hostel (where alcohol is tolerated) called Hopkinson House. John works there as a counsellor to the residents. He asked me about my art and between the two of us we came up with the idea of providing an art group for the residents of the hostel. I was very excited at the prospect of this but at the same time I was also apprehensive, would the guys take to me? Would I be able to cope with being in a wet environment? How would it make me feel to be around people with whom I myself had not that long since been a part of? But my overwhelming desire was to give something back, to help even if that meant that I would be in a stressful environment.
As it turned out it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and I got on very well with the residents. Hopkinson House was a massive revelation for me. I myself had been a resident in just such a place back in Manchester, not for very long mind. But it had been a far cry from what Hopkinson House is today. Although my time there was short, from the moment I was shown around I was amazed by the place. It just couldn’t have been any more different from the experience of the wet house I had stayed in back in Manchester. This place was clean for one thing and it had big bold, bright, warm and welcoming colours, everything looked brand new. To be fair all of this was fairly recent. So if say in 10 years’ time I was to go back would it have the same impact? I don’t really know the answer to that but going by what I had seen in Manchester I would have to say a resounding yes. To my way of thinking Hopkinson House is the way forward, no longer should these places just be somewhere people go to die as they were in my day, they should be more like Hopkinson House.
Starting the art
After all the introductions and tours around Hopkinson House it was time to get on with some art. About 2-3 weeks had passed since I had taken my first look around the place and I was starting to feel a bit more apprehensive. Was I doing the right thing here? So one Friday afternoon John and I met up at a local café for a 30 minute pre-brief. We talked about how I was feeling and how I wanted to run the group. Pre-brief over, we made our way to the hostel. When we got there we were shown upstairs to quite a large, bright clean room. The room lent itself very well as a space where one could run an art group, I was very happy with it. It was perfect!
As residents started to come into the room, I was very nervous at first, so as a way of trying to distract myself from my nervousness I started to introduce myself. It wasn’t long before I started to feel relaxed. So for the next few weeks I really enjoyed running the art group. At times the group would get a bit lively and one or two of the residents would be a little disruptive but on the whole the things ran smoothly. One of the most surprising things for me was just how many of the guys had real genuine talent. There was one young man in particular as I recall. He hardly ever spoke to anyone. He would come in and sit down at one of the places where I had left a pencil and paper and just got on with it. When he came in for the first time he sat down and drew a picture of ‘Mickey Mouse’, which to me was as good as any that Walt Disney himself could have drawn and this was straight out of his head. This guy had some serious talent I just hope that he gets the chance to use it one day....
.... tomorrow we'll conclude the story of Paul's journey so far.