Mental Health Awareness Week
To celebrate Mental Health Awareness Week (9-15 May), we are walking to raise funds for our chosen charity Mid-Kent MIND. Join us at Sandridge Village Hall, 39 High Street, Sandridge, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL4 9DD – just a few miles north of St Albans, and only 20 miles from central London, on Friday 13th May, at 11:00am – or if you can’t be there, please visit our Just Giving page.
We are pleased to publish this guest blog from James Owen Thomas…
This year I will be 21 and I’ve been in and out of therapy for years.
I was diagnosed with autism at the age of 3½ and I received speech and occupational therapies at special school for my physical, sensory and cognitive problems. When I made progress I transferred to mainstream high school but those school days sadly did not become the happiest days of my life. I felt teased and tormented for being different to other pupils and I did not find it easy to fit in.
Colleges I later attended were supposed to help encourage my independence and self-esteem, but seemed to fail to understand me. During lockdown I developed OCD symptoms and anxiety levels increased. I’ve been told by a psychotherapist that I “dwell on the incidents that have happened in the past”, but I respond by saying they are hard to forget. Probably like many others who have similar mental health difficulties, I try to find coping mechanisms for the anxious thoughts that trouble me every day. OCD interferes with my daily life – I can arrive late to places as I find it difficult leaving home. Autism interferes with my daily life – I don’t relate to people that well and my problems are worsened with changes to structure and routine.
Reports are written about me in the hope that there will be more understanding from others that this is all part of who I am. If people around me find it hard to understand my condition, imagine how debilitating and exhausting it is for me to fight through! The therapist at least makes it clearer when she reports, “it is not just ‘nerves’, it is an ongoing internal dialogue constantly questioning myself and others, situations and behaviours, and taking on extreme automated agitated thoughts”.
I’m an environmental artist. I’ve always been a collector – whether bus or train tickets, used scratch cards etc. and when I was 14 I found a way of creating something positive out of single use products that would otherwise end up in the rubbish. I want to make a success of my art and hope that my mental health problems will not prevent me in the future from being able to achieve my potential. I’ve been told that I have really achieved a lot with my art but often the feeling that I need to achieve even more overwhelms me.
I find being out in nature beneficial to my health. I’m a Force for Nature ambassador for the Tree Council and COP26 One Step Greener ambassador. I’m also being asked to talk at different events to art groups, workshops and at conferences about my environmental art.
Follow James via: www.jamesowenthomas.com, or on Facebook: James Owen Thomas Collage Artist – JOT, or Instagram: james_owen_thomas