I have a very positive and loving view of Dorothy House. I’ve been coming here about a year now, and as a young person who’s poorly – I’m 22 – I have a unique experience. There’s not a lot in place for people like me.
I came here about a year ago to do the Creative Keepsakes course which was only meant to be six sessions, and I’m still here – because it gave me structure to my week, it gave me something to look forward to and it gave me something for ME.
People at my age are normally starting off on some sort of new adventure – or a life journey. I’ve just graduated from uni, but I’m too poorly to do anything with that now. People ask me what I’m up to and I’ve had nothing to say because I’m too busy being poorly, but coming here gives me some ownership and gives me something to say to people – it gives me something for myself so my mum can come back from work and ask me what I’ve done today and I can tell her about the pottery and the painting I’ve done. Not only that, but I’ve made best friends with the people that work here, and I would genuinely consider them friends, not just art teachers.
I love coming here once a week. Mental stimulation is so necessary and I’ve taken a lot of what I do here and applied it at home. I’ve started to paint birthday cards and I used to play guitar and piano at school – I’d like to do that again. Getting out and doing stuff reminds you how it used to be before you were poorly. I went to uni, started to live independently and then that all got taken away, including my driving licence! Now I’m living with Mum again. For me, coming here is my independence. Leaving the house is a big deal. I’m home alone all day – at Dorothy House I get to socialise and to think – it re-energises you.
I feel I have more of an identity coming here. I don’t just sit at home and watch telly. I come in on a Monday and that marks the beginning of the week for me. It makes me get up and get dressed – and sometimes when you’re poorly that can be the biggest task. I’ve come here before pretty much in pyjamas and I’ve felt really tired, but I feel so good when I get here.
I’ve tried quite a few things and some things have worked, and some haven’t. It’s different for everybody. I’ve tried Qi Gong which for some people is super-relaxing and very peaceful. But I got a lot of pain and I found it quite disheartening that an 80 year-old was more mobile and energetic than I was. I also tried the Day Patient Unit, which I loved the idea of – and meeting people. However, the patients in DPU were so much older than I am, and I think you can’t treat someone who’s 80 the same as someone who’s 20. They are at completely different stages of their lives. I ended up feeling a bit left out.
I’ve met a few lovely young people here – and one in particular – we had similar issues and it meant we could truly understand what each other was going through in a way even my mum – who has been with me every step of the way – can’t do.
You can’t treat everyone the same. As a 22 year-old, you’re trying to find your way in the world, discover who you are, and that’s without being poorly. You have this split identity – poorly and yet trying to be ready to take on the world. All my good friends from school are getting jobs or doing masters and I can’t do that. This was the only place I felt normal. It’s been important to me coming here and meeting people who understand that, so you’re not undertaking this unknown journey by yourself.
I do understand that in the big picture of poorly people we are a minority but I don’t think that discounts us. It’s not fair to blend us in with general adults. Even people not much older than me, say in their 30s, have kids, marriage, mortgage – at my age, you don’t have that.
Ideally, we could find other young people in the community who had a need for a place like Dorothy House – and put them in contact with each other. I love the idea of samba workshops for people under 30. We’d feel uplifted, included and we’d have a purpose. It’s very easy to feel purposeless. I think more needs to be done for this age group – we’re almost programmed to seek out new things. And there are definitely more of us out there.
I’d encourage any young person thinking about Dorothy House to step forward and get involved, because in spite of the list I have of improvements that could be made, I have a much, much longer list of all the things I love about Dorothy House. Coming here would change their outlook and what they’re doing, in a good way.