I was referred to Hestia’s Recovery Café just after it opened in April 2017. I am 67 and I have suffered from schizophrenia since I was 14. 

Every morning for over three quarters of my life I am consumed by voices for at least 2 hours. These manifest in terrible audible hallucinations and psychotic thoughts. Once the voices stop it can take another at two hours at least to recover. Some days the voices never subside but my philosophy of this condition is to be of good character when you’re down. So if I’m unwell I give a bit of charity and that shines light in my heart and helps me through it. 

I was referred to the Recovery Café by my local mental health service. It had newly opened and I remember my first visit. My condition leaves me feeling very isolated and some days I would go all day without speaking to anybody. I arrived in a terrible way and I was welcomed by a member of staff who gave me a cup of tea, took took my information and helped me put together a support plan. I was then shown through to the communal room and given space to be alone until I was ready to talk further.

I began to attend regularly and after a while I could feel my loneliness seeping away and my emotions begin to calm. The staff saw my progress and invited me to become a volunteer. By July 2017 I had joined the Recovery Café as a volunteer, helping staff to welcome new arrivals and supporting the workshops. The routine of volunteering helped my condition and my confidence began to grow. 

The staff all knew I was an avid reader, a poet and an author and soon they approached me about running my own creative writing workshop! Writing is my passion and I was honoured to share it with other service users. 

I have been running the Creative Writing workshops for almost a year now. For me it isn’t just about getting together but the material I provide encourage the members. I love being able to give them practices to use when they are in their own and feeling particularly sad or vulnerable. I see every session as adding layers to their personal armour, sharing skills to cope and build their own resilience.

Being a user of, and volunteering at the Recovery Café has changed my life - over this past year I have found purpose and regained stability to my life.

In the future I hope to start a group for young people who also suffer from schizophrenia, using my lifetime of experience to give them hope.