The first thing that I need to say is that Willow View is a brilliant place. I still think the name's a bit crappy, but apart from that it's - well, I won't say that it's the perfect place for people with acute mental health needs, and I'll explain that later on - but it's certainly a great example of how to do things a lot better than it seems that they're done elsewhere.
The four 'core' courses that I did (Anxiety Management, Dealing With Depression, Assertiveness, and Anger Management) were real eye-openers. I thought I'd learned a heck of a lot during my therapy with Jill, but I found out that I still had a lot to learn that could only be done properly in group work. Then there were other, more activity based, things to do, of which I found Art Therapy to be the most fascinating for me. I'd always seen myself as very much a 'words, not images' person, but Art Therapy was a real awakener! I am, it seems, quite visually creative (though I still don't find it at all easy to think in images yet), but somehow I'd managed to convince myself that I wasn't. It's wonderful to learn things like that!
The other wonderful thing that I (re-)discovered about myself is that I am actually good with people. It wasn't long that I'd been at WV before people, both service users and staff, started saying to me, "When you're doing better, if you'd like to, it'd be really great if you could come back and do some volunteering work here." Initially I resisted the idea, but as more people said it, I had to think hard about whether they could all be so wrong or not. So... after my statutory three months away, I'll be volunteering at WV, all being well.
And then, somehow, I got encouraged to be a member of the Service Development Group there, which was just being brought into existence to work on ways of improving the service that WV gives, because, as I said earlier, even though it's great, it's not perfect; there are things to be improved. It's an interesting mix of people: one senior clinician, one acting manager, one staff nurse, one nursing assistant, one volunteer worker, two former service users, and Tony and I who were just about to be discharged from WV. Then, at our first meeting, somehow (I'm not quite sure how it happened) I was chosen as chairperson for the first few meetings...
If you'd told me at the start of my time at WV that I'd ever be able to do things like that again, I just wouldn't have believed it.
Also, if all goes well, some time towards the end of this month, I'll be starting voluntary work at Coventry AIMHS (Actively Improving Mental Health Services), in charge of producing their quarterly newsletter. I say "if all goes well" because they're currently moving from being funded by the local health care Trust to independent charitable status, so things are rather up in the air for them right now.
Anyway, I'm about written-out, so I hope you've now got a bit more of an idea about what I've been up to for the last couple of months. And thank you all for sticking by me though all the rough times.