“Art helps me to find a relaxing place. I lose myself in it. It’s definitely a healing process.”

Preston Park Recovery Centre Client

To forget the past is difficult. It comes back in triggers – words, sounds, smells. It brings flashbacks which is difficult. That’s why coming here is important – if I struggle I can talk to someone.

My life has not been calm at all – I suffered a lot of abuse over the years.

I first heard about Preston Park Recovery Centre through a support worker at Rise – a charity that helps people affected by domestic abuse. They gave me information about Southdown’s services.

It feels like a home - welcoming, calm. This place allows me to think. It’s given me a safe space to be.

I find it difficult to go somewhere new because of my anxiety and the way I feel about myself, but here it seems easy. I look forward to it. I feel frustrated if I have something else to do and I can’t be here.

I’ve been trying to come at least three times a week. There are lots of activities and groups here – and an art room. My support worker thought it would really benefit me.

I’m in recovery from anorexia and this service has really helped, really helped.

My eating disorder came out of an abusive relationship that lasted a period of time. I’d had it all my life but didn’t understand it.

In Christmas 2015, I nearly died from anorexia. I managed to avoid being hospitalised through strength and the support from my family. My mum and dad were 100% amazing and my children didn’t give up. I also had a special friend who supported me.

I didn’t know who I was. My whole identity had been destroyed. I didn’t know what I liked doing, I didn’t know anything about myself.

I’d carried all this hidden information, and then it all came out - the things that happened to me over the years. I was running away from the feelings.

The turning point came when a doctor at the clinic said, “Your body is eating itself.” It shocked me a lot. It frightened me.

My auntie was in hospital at the time and she was dying. It was a really difficult time and I thought I had to pull it together. I did it in very small steps.

Before I came to Preston Park Recovery Centre, I found the group support I had been receiving too clinical, not soft or comforting or warm. I think you need nurturing. It’s important to know people care and are there because you get very isolated and feel like you don’t belong.

I’ve found such comfort and understanding from people who come here, people who have their own experiences. They’ve helped me a lot and are such friendly, caring people - just like anyone else. The stigma around mental health still exists, it’s judgemental and I hate it.

I hate what people say about eating disorders. I don’t think TV programmes address them in a delicate way. They don’t look at the whole picture. It goes so deep. It is the most frightening, scary thing in the world.

When you get into the deepest part of anorexia, you can’t control your thoughts, your feelings shut down. People think it’s an easy thing to recover from but it is so hard. It’s a life-long thing.

I’m still struggling with body dysmorphia. People look at me on the outside and say, “Oh, you’re better.” But inside, I’m damaged – mentally and physically. And I’m still healing.

You lose who you are and you have to learn to love yourself, which is an altogether different and hard thing. And that’s where my art comes in.

Art helps me to find a relaxing place. I put my feelings into it. It gives me time away from my thoughts. I lose myself in it. It’s definitely a healing process.

I love the art room here. It feels like the art room at school. I did art for GCSE but I didn’t think about doing it after I left school until now. I got lost in a bubble.

There needs to be more art therapy. It’s nice to see something that you’ve achieved. Even if you draw a stick man, it’s still art. I want to encourage other people to do it.

I’m really focused on feet in art. When I was abused, my abuser was horrible about my stomach and my feet. I started to draw babies’ feet because they are natural and pure.  Focusing on feet is 100% part of reclaiming myself.

It’s all about self-love. To get through life, I have to learn to love myself. Feet can take you a long way – they can take you anywhere you want to go. I want to go far. I want to meet people. It’s about reclaiming my life back.

I knew the Artists Open Houses Festival was on and everyone said I should do it! I was very nervous cos I don’t have much confidence. It’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like this. To be involved in it makes me feel special. I’ve never felt special.

I’m proud that my family and friends and other people will come and see it. It’s given me a bit of a buzz. I’ve been involved in the planning meeting for the Recovery Centre. I was never a person to speak in a group, always sat at the back. But being involved makes me feel useful, important, and my ideas are listened to. I feel like I am achieving something. I’m trying. And I’m not giving up! It’s something to show my children – that you can achieve things if you keep trying.

My whole outlook has changed, my perspective. I still struggle. Every day is difficult. It’s a fight. It is a fight. But I think you have to feel fear, to understand it and to challenge it. You’ve got to feel anxiety to challenge it. It’s a hard thing to do, but I did it.

With my recovery, I’ve got a long way to go. Each day I’ve got a challenge, each day is different. Yesterday is gone and tomorrow you can’t control. You have to live for today. Be in the moment. It’s really hard – my head fights every day with thoughts, feelings, and struggles.

To forget the past is difficult. It comes back in triggers – words, sounds, smells. It brings flashbacks which is difficult. That’s why coming here is important – if I struggle I can talk to someone.

Support from Southdown has helped my confidence. I feel supported through learning and I am less isolated by being around other people. When you’re suffering from an illness and things have happened to you, you need to be looked at as a person, like you’ve got something inside of you because you lose all confidence. But just taking small steps makes a difference. It’s about acceptance. Accepting who you are.


Preston Park Recovery Centre provides a welcoming and supportive environment in which people with mental health support needs can receive individual support, learn new skills and get involved in a variety of groups and activities. The Centre also provides access to our specialist employment service, a welfare benefits service and can refer onto other services such as housing and health.