This new initiative began in Oxleas in 2009 when my work with clients, carers and staff began to develop and increase within a number of writing groups and individual sessions across Oxleas. As writing work grew, stories began to crisscross into Story Weaving opportunities... A writing workshop was offered at the Carer’s Conference in 2009. At that time, knowing little about the day to day affairs of carers, I decided to use the occasion to explore the question: ‘What is it like being a carer? How would you explain it to someone who did not know?
This was an interesting concept and I decided to ask the inpatients and staff at the Woodlands Unit a similar question to gain their perspectives. The outcomes were intriguing...
Here are a few examples of experiences shared:
The Clients said:
“ hardest thing is opening up to others … and accepting help…”
“there’s a loss of identity … always relying on others … and… waiting …”
The Staff said:
“No-one is immune from mental illness – including me…”
“You have 10 people asking 10 different things of you…”
The Carers said:
“One takes insults, beatings, and joy, in the same stroke…”
“worst thing is … when the patient goes around as if nothing is wrong…”
These stories began a Story Weaving movement where clients, staff and carers have opportunities to share their views and talk about their experiences. These stories were showcased at the Oxleas’ Health Festival in 2009. Clients, staff and carers attending were asked:
- Which group of people said: “It’s 24/7 …” ?
- Which group of people said: “It’s frustrating …” ?
- Which group of people said: “It’s hard …” ?
- Which group of people gave no statements of hope?
It was interesting to note that all people were correct in assuming that all three groups wrote statements containing 1-3. Few people guessed that only the carer’s group wrote no statements of hope.
Story Weaving continued this year and focused on perspectives of life through art work provided by Paintings in Hospitals and the creation of new pictures decided by each of the three groups. The outcome was showcased at this year’s Health Festival at Charlton Football Club in May 2010 and, on that day, the Carer’s art work was voted the favourite.
The comments book about the showcase had some interesting entries from visiting attendees to the Health Festival…
‘I was part of the client’s pics. It was a fun thing to do and I think the Client’s one is the best!’
‘They are all inspiring but I would select the Carer’s choices.’
‘The stall was well presented. Client’s work incredible, awesome!’
‘Taking part in this was really enjoyable and the finished results are inspiring.’
‘Absolutely, wonderfully, inspiring, imaginative, encouraging to the eye and heart and, above all, beneficial for all in mental well being services – service users and carers alike.’
‘Wonderful concept and very imaginative project. Expands imagination and descriptive language.’
‘The Carer choice of photos I found appealing and calm. Lovely pictures.’
‘Very interesting project – I am really fascinated by the outcome.’
‘Very impressed with project; calming.’
‘Lovely idea – keep the project going!’
Great idea, lovely choice of pictures.’
Thank-you everyone who visited the stand, chatted to me and took time to write the above comments in our book.