I call it my superpower
Richard is 29 and in a good place. He’s working, looking to find his own flat and pursuing his dream to help others as a peer mentor.
But things haven’t always been so positive and he puts much of his change in fortune down to the support he’s had from Karen, his Step Together recovery coach.
“The change from the old service to Step Together has been easy for me. I’ve kept the same support worker which made the process easier. I don’t think people realise what a difference it makes to be able to speak to Karen. Her support has been vital in my recovery.”
Richard was at university studying ergonomic design when he started struggling with his mental health. He self-medicated using drink and drugs and it wasn’t long before he realised his deep lows and manic highs were getting out of control.
“I often ended up drinking on my own, I didn’t drink for fun. It was never like that for me.”
He’s had a number of psychotic episodes; the first at university and then the second when far away from home while travelling in Australia. He was so frightened by his experiences of being hypermanic that he made the trip back home. He remembers drinking excessively in front of his parents in a bid to shock them into understanding how deeply distressed he was.
“It was a cry for help, I wanted them to know how bad it was for me.”
While Richard sought help from his GP, he was also planning his own death, researching how best to do it. It was during this time he and his parents decided it would be best if he moved out to dry out initially and with a longer term plan of finding ways to manage his bipolar and his dependency on drugs and alcohol.
“When I met Karen I had been sober for five weeks. She’s been with me the whole way, helping me find my current flat and now supporting me with my next move to find a place of my own. I know this means having less support from her, but that’s ok, I’m pleased about that.”
Richard used to be really ashamed about his bipolar, his paranoia, his bouts of depression, his drug-taking and drinking. Now he realises that while it is a part of whohe is, it isn’t the whole story. He is currently working as a peer volunteer with Somerset Drug and Alcohol Service and is planning to gain experience to work as a support worker one day.
“I am using my experiences to help other people. I can see how sharing what’s happened to me, really helps people who are going through similar situations right now”.
“I call it my superpower. Before, it was about me, my motivator was me. Now it’s about recovery and helping other people.”
Visit our Step Together page to find out more about our new service for people with complex needs in Somerset.