I was suffering from Major Depressive Disorder with acute anxiety and was facing a number of serious housing issues.
A support worker at BHT London Road suggested I attend a free tour of the Brighton Pavilion just to get me “out and about” and to help me feel less alienated. They put me in touch with the Heritage Officer at First Base. I was unsure about meeting a group of complete strangers as I often feel anxiety in new situations and, of course, one of the difficulties with managing depression is a lack of motivation. I was encouraged to attend and was assured I could leave at any time if I felt uncomfortable – so I thought I may as well go along and see how it goes.
It had been a long time since I had been out of my flat for any reason other than absolute necessity and the tour of the Pavilion helped me to integrate with other people and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The Brighton Pavilion was somewhere I had never visited before despite being born in Brighton! The unique and gaudy decoration definitely inspired me to develop my own creative interests. With my self-confidence growing I attended some of the other tours and visits around Brighton organised by First Base and enjoyed those as well.
After a few group tours I was offered the chance to attend traditional heritage skills workshops, held within First Base. Again, I was unsure about going due to my anxiety and depression, but I was assured I could leave at any time if I felt anxious or uncomfortable. I agreed to try it out as the organised tours and visits had been enjoyable and I felt it may help my recovery from depression. I was warmly welcomed at First Base and thoroughly enjoyed the workshops. I learnt many new skills including how to use various paint and plaster techniques. My anxiety about being with strangers soon passed as I was made to feel very welcome without any pressure. I was particularly interested in the social history of how these crafts and skills were used and how the techniques had not changed for hundreds of years.
With the heritage skills workshops under my belt, my self-confidence and self-esteem was definitely improved and I was offered a place on a free woodwork course, organised through the Heritage project, in order to gain an NVQ Level 1 in woodwork. The course has been challenging but worthwhile and I have enjoyed learning new skills and meeting new people. I would definitely like to attend further educational courses in the future.
All of these activities definitely improved my self confidence and self-esteem and spurred my interest in creative activities. And I’ve now taken more of an interest in my personal health and wellbeing. I’ve started to learn to cook nutritious meals for myself and to take long restorative walks along the seafront and the South Downs. I’ve even stopped smoking! I feel my recovery from depression, or at least learning to live with and manage my depression, has been greatly helped by my involvement in the various activities organised by the Heritage project.
Since attending these free tours, visits and courses, I am now self-employed as a sole trader and use the various creative techniques I have learnt restoring and up-cycling furniture and curios. I feel I can stand on my own two feet now and it is a relief to be independent and not have to rely on benefits any more.
I would like to thank the Heritage project for all their fantastic support and encouragement.