Words cannot adequately describe how I felt standing in front of 40
delegates at a conference in Birmingham last year. Phrases like
honoured, proud and delighted almost do it justice.
I was invited by my support time and recovery (STR) worker to speak
to people about how the scheme has helped me and about my
experiences of bipolar disorder. Being selected to let others know
that I have survived my mental illness made me realise how far I
have travelled along the road the recovery.
Today I may be a shining example of triumph over adversity but only
two years ago I was sectioned, at my ex-husband’s request, and
taken to Mascall’s Park in Romford, Essex.
This was nothing new to me. I had been hospitalised eight times in
eight years. My illness took the form of highs rather than lows and
the normal “cure” for my hyper behaviour was to inject me full of
drugs. Although I had experienced care in other parts of the
country, I wasn’t banking on the way things were done there.
Far from locking me up, staff at Mascall’s actually listened to me.
This was a revelation and it felt good. Being able to just speak
about my situation and how I was feeling was the best therapy there
was for me. Telling my side of things about my abusive marriage,
and being believed, made me realise I couldn’t go back. So, it was
with only a handful of clothes to my name that I started my life
again. A daunting task for anyone, let alone someone who had spent
so much time in hospital.
But I was not alone. The council, who I believe saved my life,
found me a flat, helped me buy furniture and more importantly, they
carried on listening.
I was assigned an STR worker. They visited me and helped me with
practical things like shopping and writing letters. Knowing I was
not alone made a big difference and within months I was feeling
much more confident. I even started to write a book about my
Many STR workers have some history of mental illness themselves, so
a few months ago I was approached about getting involved in the
scheme. I agreed straight away. I want everyone who is experiencing
any mental illness to know that there is a future and a way
I soon realised that I may struggle with the boundaries you have to
establish between yourself and the client. It was then that the STR
team came up with the idea of me helping them through speaking to
people and telling my story. It’s still hard for me to believe that
I am now the one talking about recovery. I haven’t been to my
psychiatric nurse for months and now when I visit Mascall’s it is
to talk to patients.
When Piers Allott, from the National Institute for Mental Health,
shook my hand at the conference and said “the mental health system
is growing with you” I realised it is real. I am in a place I never
thought I would reach.
Sarah Webb uses mental health services