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Paul

Paul

'I discovered Health in Mind through a friend. I just wandered in, and they offered me a wee part time place - volunteering. It was with the befriending service at first.

I have lived experience. I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder at the age of 18, and I’m 54 this year. I’ve been living with it most of my life. It’s a combination between schizophrenia and bi-polar, so you’ve got the manic episodes along with the hallucinations and delusions that go with schizophrenia.

I’ve been well for about 15 years now, and I’m quite stable on medication, so I’m quite lucky. I was a part of that system for many years, going in and out of hospital - It happened regularly, 2 or 3 times a year I’d be in hospital.

It was the acceptance, the fact I didn’t have to apologise for my state of mind, when I got here, to Health in Mind. I was quite vulnerable at the time, so they were very compassionate, kind, and supportive.

Volunteering is something I am passionate about. I ended up becoming a trainer, I was one of the trainers for Health in Mind volunteers, delivering courses on things like mental awareness, psychosis, voices, different things like that. Training gave me an opportunity to tell my story, but also to try and give back, to what I had received from others. It was a process, an exchange.

If I go back to being 18, I don’t know what I wouldn’t do again. A lot of it was fuelled by the illness. I think, getting older, you get wiser, you look at things differently. At 18, it probably robbed me of a good career, because I was practically an A grade student. I think I would have progressed and had a family and a house and all the trappings that go with it. But, looking back, I am quite happy to be who I am. I have some regrets of things I have said and done, but we all have regrets with things we’ve said and done. I think, the fact that it’s been a fundamental recovery from top - bottom, that’s one of the trade-offs.

I wouldn’t be here today, if it wasn’t for Health in Mind. I’d probably still be languishing in the hospital system somewhere.

People talk about it as being a journey, but a journey suggests you’re moving permanently. I think there’s stations along the way you can stop off, and just reflect.

I’ve met very committed, very knowledgeable people in Health in Mind. Everybody just seems to be a part of this community. We’re all working towards the set process, which is to help others with their mental health.

For me, joining Health in Mind was part of the recovery process, along with appropriate medication and support. Those three things were crucial in my own recovery. I don’t think I’d be sitting here today if I hadn’t joined Health in Mind, you know.

I try to help people realise it’s not a life sentence, you can break free, you can graduate from the hospital system, you can cope.

I think Health in Mind, do tremendous work out there in the community. They’re reaching out to people all across Edinburgh city and Lothians and down to the Borders. We’ve had doctors, dentists, police officers, come to the training, and I think that’s about getting the message out there.

It is a treatable condition, things can be done to prevent relapse, not to treat it as an emergency.

Support in any way you can.’

If you would like to support in any way you can, you can volunteer or make a donation. Please visit our Health in Mind Heroes page for more information.

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