My name is Kathleen, I am 63 years old and live with my husband, Harry. We have been married for 30 years. We have a wonderful marriage, and we understand what it is like to have schizophrenia. When we got married everyone said that it wouldn’t last as schizophrenics can’t make relationships. We certainly proved that wrong.
I was 18 years old and whilst away at college I had my first admission to a psychiatric hospital. I was diagnosed with schizophrenia and have had many admissions since then, a true revolving door case. I had spent 3 years studying and never failed an exam, but I didn’t qualify for any HND courses due to my illness, which is something I still have regrets over. Even with both myself and my husband having a diagnosis of schizophrenia, we have owned several businesses over the years. I have never let my schizophrenia hold me back.
I have had 62 doses of ECT, which was horrendous as I react very strongly to the anaesthetic, but I had no choice due to being physically restrained. Due to the nature of the treatment, I stayed at home, isolated from the community and had no friends. This was a very upsetting time. Eventually I ended up with a long admission of 4½ years. I was seriously ill both mentally and physically.
Fast forward to two years ago when I got a care package through Social Work, which is how I was introduced to withYOU. When it was explained, I was very impressed with the support they could offer. I was just beginning to be introduced to the different staff members when the first lockdown occurred. I was most encouraged when staff phoned every week offering phone support as I was shielding.
Once the restrictions were eased, face to face support resumed. All the staff members are so kind and caring. I like to think of them as friends as well as support workers. Luckily all the staff share my love of animals and we had visits to the zoo and owl centre which have been brilliant and made me feel part of the community again. I now look forward to seeing my support team whether it is for a trip out or just down the road for milk.
I used to say to my parents that all I wanted was to have a coffee with a friend in the community. Things have certainly changed. I still have bad days but I know that staff are there to support me.
I really look forward to support where we can go out and about and do normal things. It is so beneficial to be able to do that and knowing that your support is unequivocal.
Support has helped me to enjoy my life outside of these four walls.
We have some amusing times and I am well known by the team for my antics with my power chair. I am sure I have given them some grey hairs.
How can I sum this up? I am supported by staff who do not judge me and who encourage me in all that I do. For instance, with staff support to build up my confidence, I have bought a camera to take some photos of wildlife once the better weather comes.
It is all about the small things that I value and being treated with dignity.
I would like to thank everyone at withYOU. I am not understating to say that you have all been a lifeline.