"Compassion underpins everything for me"

Recovery College Peer Trainer

I am immensely impressed with the recovery model. I think it’s the most inspiring development that has happened in mental health for decades.

I often say that our capacity to feel struggle, suffering and pain is only equal to our capacity to feel peace, love, and compassion.

Compassion underpins everything for me.

I’ve always found it easy to be altruistic with others, but learning to accept and be kind to myself by embracing mindfulness has made one of the biggest differences. I now accept myself a lot more, with all my struggles and broken bits. Not just the bits that are socially acceptable to present to others. I’m no longer hiding out, feeling shameful about my health.

Everyone we meet is struggling with something in life, but we’re all doing our best. It’s made easier when we can embrace and share that. I like to look for the inherent strength in our vulnerability and common human experience, it makes me feel more connected.  My philosophy is that what we resist, most persists. Self-acceptance enables me to be more calm, peaceful, and in the moment.

I’ve been managing my mental health for a few decades, at times desperately trying anything and everything. I’ve even done a fire-walk and had my brain re-wired - not at the same time - at an extortionate cost, but that’s another story!

Mainstream and statutory services do their best but are very sadly lacking, often inadequate, and at times inhumane. These experiences are echoed by the support groups I have facilitated. Psychiatry is after all, still in its infancy. As an approach, it has a lot of catching up to do with how far-reaching and devastating mental health can be, how individual people’s needs are, and that one size does not fit all.

Merely suppressing people’s symptoms doesn’t address root causes long term. We are not pieces of meat on a conveyor belt. Rather, we are complex and totally unique individuals, perhaps a bit like snowflakes in that no two are the same. We need to be handled with great care and sensitivity. And ultimately respect. And a belief that we can all live fulfilling lives no matter what we’ve been through.

Services are stretched dangerously thin, in conjunction with a population that is becoming increasingly ill against the back drop of a world that in my view is quite deranged in many ways. That trend is a very worrying combination.

This view propelled me to take increasing personal responsibility for my own wellbeing, which has ultimately been very powerful. I often think of the word ‘responsibility’ as meaning ‘powerful’. Taking responsibility is not easy in our culture. And it’s especially not easy when you’re ill. But desperation creates fertile ground for recovery. It’s an organic process I suppose.

Last year, I completed my teacher training qualification. It was rigorous, challenging, and thought-provoking. I loved it!  I’m training on the ‘Journaling for Recovery’ workshop and the ‘Managing Depression’ course this term.

When I was selected for interview and then chosen to be trained up as one of the new peer trainers based on my personal mental health expertise, I was on cloud nine! It’s not an exaggeration to say it was a life changing moment for me and I would always encourage others to consider it too!  

It’s a privilege to be a Peer Trainer. I’ve always loved learning and helping bring out the best in others too. I’ve ‘been there’ as they say, so I can empathise and hopefully bring humility to my teaching, whilst continuing to learn from others. And that also supports my own recovery and wellbeing.

I feel quietly proud of the learning my lived experience has given me. Ironically I have come to view it as an asset rather than a deficit. Rather than feeling devastated and shameful of the diagnostic labels I’ve gathered, I’ve come to think of them more like medals now.

I am immensely impressed with the recovery model. I think it’s the most inspiring development that has happened in mental health for decades.

The recovery model embraces the whole person, incorporating the medical model where appropriate, and respects the diversity and differing needs an individual may have as they navigate through different chapters of their life. It’s truly empowering as it’s based on people taking responsibility for their own wellbeing, using a holistic educational approach which can ultimately help meet all of their needs. And the long term studies show how well the recovery model works of course!

I’m grateful to be part of Southdown and The Recovery College. It makes me feel genuinely respected, valued, and most importantly, very hopeful about the future.

Delivered as a partnership with the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, the Brighton and Hove Recovery College uses education in a supportive learning environment to help people with mental health challenges become experts in their own self-care and recovery. The College provides a wide range of courses which are co-produced and co-delivered by people with lived experience of mental health challenges and are delivered in community and educational venues across Brighton and Hove.