No place like home

I have lived in a wonderful residential care home, run by the
Psychiatric Rehabilitation Association, since May 1992. Unhappily,
my placement may be terminated because of a lack of funding by
Hackney Council.

The 1980s were a lonely time for me. My marriage ended in divorce
in 1980. I lost my job in October 1988, when I was made redundant
because of my ill health. During this time, I was drinking too
much. Until autumn 1990, I lived on my savings and a small win I
had on the pools. Earlier that year, I had put myself through a
five-month accounting technicians course, a six-week computer
literacy course and level 2 certified accountants course. I
averaged three job applications a week between my redundancy and
that autumn.

With the benefit of hindsight, I now realise that the most telling
item on my CV was my date of birth. These were difficult times for
job seekers. To the employer, the phrase “finished at 40″ was the
order of the day. Of the 300 applications I made between November
1988 and autumn 1990 I received only a handful of interviews and I
still did not obtain the job. In August 1990, I applied to London
University to study for a diploma in education. I wanted to teach
business studies but was turned down.

By November 1990 I was drinking too much. I worked on my
accountancy studies at night and slept during the day. I was
beginning to talk to myself. It was only when I saw the startled
looks around me in the street that I realised I was talking to
myself in public. I decided I needed professional help for my
mental health problems.

I was admitted to a ward in Hackney Hospital in November 1990. What
disconcerted me at first were the weekly question and answer
sessions. These sessions were composed of a consultant psychiatrist
questioning me before an audience of about a dozen junior doctors
and medical students. I felt like the line in the T S Eliot poem
the Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock: “like a patient
anaesthetised upon the table”. I was allowed to go home. Within
four weeks I had relapsed and was readmitted to the ward. I then
realised that I could not live alone any longer.

By April 1992, I had improved and the doctors appointed a social
worker for me. Rose arranged for me to spend a few nights and
weekends at a residential care home. When I told her I had been
accepted there full time, Rose clapped her hands with pleasure,
telling me it was the best home in the district.

I still suffer from manic depression and a schizophrenic ailment of
hearing voices. I suffer most from the voices at weekends. If I
have to leave this home I hope one of my fellow residents will join
me so that I might have company at weekends. Thanks to the staff
here I can face the future with confidence.

Stuart Minto has mental health problems.

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