Michael's Story: “Hestia’s activity groups have brought a lot to my life.”

Michael is currently supported by Hestia's Harwood Road service for people living with challenging mental health.

Content warning: mention of suicide

I arrived at Harwood Road, Hestia’s Registered Care Home, in 2019. Before that, I was living in Derby as an asylum seeker. I’d spent time travelling around, and I’d spent time homeless and had a lot of nights sleeping at police stations.

After coming to London from Derby, I spent a couple of months in hospital. I’d tried to take my own life, and my mum hadn’t helped me. I needed somewhere to live and Hestia arranged for me to live at Harwood Road once I was out of hospital.

Since coming to Hestia, I’ve become a bit more mellow. When I was in Derby, and homeless, I always felt alert. That feeling is gone now. I started taking part in all the activities on offer at Harwood Road and I think they have helped me go a long way.

See, I find everything in the world interesting because of the science behind it. I like exchanging information with people. I once read on a website about happiness economics and discovered that what makes people happy is being in an environment that compliments their nature, rather than owning nice things. I discovered that I like being around smart and scientific people.

If I’m listening to music, or researching something scientific I care about, playing games or learning how to make my own games, I feel at home.

One of my favourite Hestia activities is the walking group. It’s the most important to me. It gives me a chance to talk to people about things that I care about. Before coming to Hestia, I didn’t have much experience with communicating with others. I used to be blunt. I’ve learnt over time to respond to people and talk to people in a more appropriate and reasonable way and activities like the walking group have really helped with that.

I like the walking group because I see the world as my environment to explore. I like the idea of going to interesting places, whether that’s new cities or hiking somewhere fun. Before coming to London this time around, I’d tried coming here before – I attempted to walk here from Derby to see the sights. I just kept on walking south, asking people for directions on the way. But by the time I got to Loughborough, I collapsed from dehydration. I did, however, get to see little villages and fields of flowers on the way, and I got to speak to people on route too. I saw a lot of things that day. It felt like I was walking through a video game. I’m happy I did it.

Video games have always been a big part of my life. Games put me at ease. One of my favourite recent Hestia day trips was to a bowling alley in Wandsworth. I liked the bowling, but they also had a lot of different video games. I was so excited to get to play them all.

The music group has also been great for me. I’ve learnt to play songs on the guitar, like Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds and my favourite Motörhead song, God Was Never On Your Side. I wasn’t interested in the guitar at all at first, but now I think it’s amazing. We go on cinema trips too, though I don’t love modern movies. At Christmas, we watched The Grinch, and I got a whole new love for that film.

I also love the writing group and the art group that Hestia runs. I write my thoughts down, or I’ll write experimental short stories. In these groups, I feel like I can express the real me. It’s something I’m glad to have in my life. I also read a lot. I’ve read Greek philosophy and physics. I’m mostly interested in Aristotle’s work – he’s my favourite human, as he’s also interested in everything. I’ve read a lot about America’s economy, and want to learn more about the UK’s economy, so the Harwood Road team have helped me sign up to start a business course.

I’ve learnt that in life, you need skills and abilities and exercise. Before starting all of these activities, I was miserable. I didn’t feel like I was doing anything interesting with anyone. I was constantly bored. When I’m on my bed, being idle, I feel depressed.

Things like video games and science make me happy. When I’m doing something I’m passionate about, something interactive, multi-layered, or important, that changes. That’s why the activities have brought a lot to my life.

Learn more about Hestia's mental health support services