Working with People over time
can make a difference...
Please note: the following are composite stories created from situations which are similar to or have occurred to our members. We have changed places, names and contexts in order to protect privacy and confidentiality
Abby was living in the female rest-room in Heathrow Airport and while the airport staff normally turned a blind eye to her living arrangements, they were eventually forced to call the police when Abby became disorientated and displayed aggressive behaviour towards a cleaner. She was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and spent some months in a secure unit in a psychiatric hospital.
On her release she was brought to the project by her community nurse and at the beginning Abby behaved in a hostile manner. She felt she was being constantly followed by unpleasant people and her personal space being invaded.
This created some friction with other project members, but she was able to begin to relax when she joined the Yoga and CBH groups, and recognize and put some distance between herself and her negative thoughts about others.
Because she realized that we were there to help her, she gradually began to trust project staff, volunteers and other members, and became a part of the 240Project community. This gave her a social life, and the beginnings of new friendships.
For a period her mental health improved significantly but then she was moved out of supported housing into a bed-sit and was unable to cope with the strain of bills, responsibilities and isolation. She returned to the streets, stopped attending the project and we learned that she had been arrested and sentenced to six months for attacking someone she thought was following her.
On her release she told a probation officer about the project, and was encouraged to begin attending again. On her return Abby appeared detached and found it harder to re-establish meaningful relationships. It seemed as if her ability to trust people had been seriously damaged once again.
We had been running an animation video group and Abby told a story based on events that had happened to her which was accepted and filmed. She also joined the Feltwork group and it was soon clear that she had a talent for it and her confidence slowly began to return. Then she returned to CBH, and after a difficult start where she felt over-exposed and vulnerable, she was encouraged to persevere and eventually began to make good progress in learning to be more sociable and trusting. This second period at the project was successful, and after eighteen months she had become fully fledged and productive member once again. Then she began to see herself in a more positive light, and recognize that she had qualities she could share with others. She started volunteering at a local over 60s club, and now has a part time job working behind the food counter. She currently is stable and has a supportive network around her. She still comes to the project to attend CBH groups and finds this important to her stability.
Bick is fifty but looks and acts a lot younger. He has been a traveller and a protestor and has been taking class A drugs for over thirty years. He’s lived in communal squats and was involved in the Occupy London campaign outside St. Paul’s Cathedral. One day he blacked out, and in the hospital it wasn’t clear if he had an episode of Encephalitis or a drug-induced blood clot.
Bick was discharged soon after, but found that he had periods of amnesia. They could happen at any time, causing him to suffer from panic attacks. He lost confidence in himself and in his role as an alternative community activist. He’d been involved in making Indian bead necklaces with his girlfriend to sell in Campden Market. Unfortunately the blackouts and amnesia affected his moods.
He is behaviour became erratic and eventually they split up, which turned out to be emotionally devastating for Bick. At this point he started sleeping on a friend’s sofa in an estate near the Project. The friend was already a member and began bringing Bick in.
He seemed to be very interested in the music group, though reluctant to take part. He would listen from behind a glass partition, and sometimes play the guitar, but always a different tune, presumably to establish his independence from the group. Through a shared interest in the guitar he eventually built up a connection with one of the members of staff. He began confiding in the staff member while composing a song, and in the process had an emotional collapse.
It became clear that Bick was beginning to get into a desperate position and over the next few weeks he was encouraged to attend The Blenheim Project, a local drug service with access to Detox and Rehabilitation facilities. Some people are dubious about the success of rehab after Detox, and this is partly due to the lack of outside or after-care support once they have left. Surprisingly, Rehab worked well for Bick the first time, and he was able to sustain a drug free life for over six months. Then he relapsed, but the blackouts returned and he entered Detox for a second time and third time.
Throughout this period the project had been involved, supporting him emotionally, and trying to build his self acceptance and ownership of his issues. He continued to attend the project, write songs and take one-on-one sessions with the project’s Cognitive Behavioral Hypnotherapist, which he had initially been reluctant to get involved in. But in fact, over time he got a lot from these sessions, and his confidence in the project grew considerably. He found the emotional support he was getting to be valuable.
Bick has been clean for twenty-four months now after this last rehab. This last time, he took the talking therapy part of it seriously, accepted that he had issues, and allowed the drug therapist the space to help him work on them. He began participating in the Leatherwork group, and this has been a big success. He exhibited some of his leatherwork, belts and bracelets at the Projects last art show, and he is now planning to set up a stall in Portobello Market.