Sunday, 28 September 2014

Time to Change

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If there is anything I would love to happen within society, it's for people to change their minds a little about how they perceive the "mentally ill". On 14 August, I participated in an event organised by Time to Change. It was a gloomy rainy day to some but to me, it was an excuse to play and have fun in the rain! Prior to the event, I had some training at the Mind centre in Stratford. I was rather looking forward to this however, life intervened as so often happens.

I'd set off nice and early to get to Stratford with plenty of time to walk to the training centre. I used to live near Stratford so I figured it would be easy enough to find. However, I have not been to Stratford since the new Westfield Stratford City had opened and I have to say, I was NOT prepared. I ought to have planned my route more carefully and ensured I had all the information I needed.


My journey into Stratford was pretty uneventful. There were slight delays as can be expected on London transport but I wasn't worried as I'd given myself plenty of time. When I got off at the station, I became a little confused. It all looked so different from what I remembered. I decided to head out of the Westfield Stratford City exit and use google maps on my phone to figure my way from there. Unfortunately, when I get even slightly lost, or when I find myself in an unfamiliar place, I start to panic. I was fumbling with my phone trying to get the app to work and trying to find a road sign so I knew exactly which direction I needed to head in. I'm not the best at reading maps so I need as much information as possible!



By this point, I was starting to get a little flustered. I'd seemingly found my location but it told me that it was a 35 minute walk to the destination. I was confused as I was certain the centre was really close to the station. I decided to ask for help but all 6 of the people I asked had no idea what I was talking about! This made me panic some more. Had I taken down the wrong information? Had I dreamed this whole thing up? I was starting to get very anxious. I decided then to ask a bus driver. Bus drivers MUST know the area right? That's what I thought. I went to the nearest bus and asked the driver for directions to Broadway. I explained that I was looking for Mind and he told me he was going past Broadway. Relieved I boarded the bus. I sat near the front so I could look out for the place I was heading to and if I happened to miss it, I'd be close enough to the driver for him to let me know.


I was on the bus for about 15 minutes when I went up to the driver to ask if we'd passed Broadway yet or if it was nearby. I realised I had only 10 minutes left to get to my destination. The driver informed me that I should get off at the next stop and it was a short 5 minute walk. I walked in the direction he told me for a further 10 minutes and I couldn't find Broadway at all. To make matters worse, there were no road signs so I couldn't even check my map. At this point, I decided to give Mind a call to explain that I was running late and to check for directions. Whilst on the phone, I had to walk for a further 5 minutes or so before finding something that could be seen as a possible landmark.  I was starting to really panic by this point but the lady on the phone (Pauline I think her name was) managed to keep me calm enough to try and figure out where I was.


Eventually, I found out that I was in Hackney! I tried to find my way back to a bus stop but I couldn't figure it out in my confused state. I called Pauline back and explained my situation and she told me to get back on the same bus but in the opposite direction, get off at Stratford and she would help me find the centre. Unfortunately, I didn't know the area and my battery was running out on my phone. I tried to follow the same route looking for the bus stops but it turns out that the bus followed a one-way route and I had to walk all the way to Victoria Park. I hopped on the bus to Mile End then got the tube to Stratford. By this time I was almost an hour late for my training. I called Pauline back and she directed me to the right place, not 5 minutes from the station! When I finally got there I was a wreck and it had begun raining! Thankfully they were on a break and Sebastian was outside and able to direct me to the appropriate room. 



Once I finally got into the training I was able to relax and got chatting to some very interesting people. By this point I was finally excited about doing my volunteering! The training was very informative and I was surprised to learn a few things. 

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On the day of the event, things looked pretty gloomy. I arrived with more than an hour to spare this time round. I had a browse around the village taking in as much as I could and preparing myself for the rest of the afternoon. I played some 1 on 1 basketball with one of the other volunteers in the pouring rain and upon seeing us play, a few younger people who may or may not have been there for the Time to Change event joined us. It was a lot of fun! 


Before my shift started we had a brief and we watched some very interesting short films that you can watch on the Time to Change website. I have to say, I was feeling nervous again at the prospect of speaking to people. 

Once we got out there, it seemed natural to just chat with people, starting out with a general "Hi, how's it going" and then leading on to talk about the Time to Change ethos. It seemed that a lot of people had just stumbled upon the village whilst exploring the olympic park which I guess is cool. I had lots of interesting chats with people who either knew nothing (apart from what they'd read in the media) about mental health or knew someone who had an illness. I was actually quite surprised how ill informed some people are. 


As the end of my shift loomed I was feeling exhausted. Having hyper mobility syndrome means standing up a lot can wreak havoc on my knees and my back so I decided to check out early.

The following day I spent in bed as I felt completely overwhelmed and exhausted. However,  I felt happy that I got involved in something I feel so strongly about and I have since signed up to become a Champion

I am hoping to be able to do more stuff soon but lately it's been so difficult what with being unemployed etc! 

Here's looking towards a brighter tomorrow though! 

Keep Smiling :(: 

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