Karl's Story

I’ve always had a massive interest in history. I’ve been out of college for a while now, and I’ve been classified as unable to work due to my lack of concentration. But I know that if I do get to go to work, I’d want to work in history, or with bugs.

My greatest strength is my historical knowledge though. I’m particularly interested in the Tudors, Ancient Greece, and the Suffragette movement. Emily Wilding Davison inspires me. Did you know, on the night of the 1911 census, she hid in a broom cupboard in the Palace of Westminster so she could record her address as the House of Commons and get the same political rights as men? How incredible.

I’ve learnt a lot about history through spending my weekends at London’s many museums. I’ve also been volunteering at the Museum of London over the last few years, doing walks with tourists, and that’s helped me learn too.

It’s taken a lot of bottle for me to volunteer and join groups, both at the Museum of London and with Hestia. I was a service user through one of Hestia’s mental health projects near my home in Canning Town until a few years ago, and I now volunteer with the Better Lives Forum (BLF).

The group is a place for people supported by Hestia to share their views on Hestia’s services, but also to meet other people in similar services: to share their stories, to make a difference, to become a support system. The members of the BLF are some of the most wonderful people I’ve ever met. They know what’s needed for better mental health, they know how to support others to be independent, and they know how to help people with employment. It brings together service users who would otherwise not be able to meet because of their personal circumstances, and it’s done such a good job for me.

Being part of the group has enabled me to maintain my well-being and grow my confidence. I’ve had the chance to chair the group’s meetings over the last few years, which has helped. I look confident to everyone on the outside, but inside, I’m still shy. When I’m chairing meetings, I tend to play a role and adopt the persona of The Rock; his charisma, his attitude. I haven’t won any Oscars for my performance just yet.

My confidence is improving though. It’s an ongoing change. I go backwards, then I go forwards, then backwards, then forwards. I think everyone does. At the moment, I’m happy, but I still get negative thoughts in my head sometimes.

The thing is, sometimes life throws your curve balls. Sometimes I get a strikeout, sometimes I get a home run; life is full of surprises.

Because of that, I don’t like to plan ahead in case what I want to happen doesn’t. I’m living in the now: going to museums, hanging out in Chelsea (my favourite place in London!), and playing video games. One thing is certain, I want to still be with the BLF. With that support network around me, I’m on the way up.