My name is Nancy and I have been working for AFG for about a year. Before this I was an AFG Service User. My story of how I became this well and able to take on the responsibility of a job has taken a long time.
My first real problems started just after the birth of my son and I was taken to the mental health wards of Leighton Hospital, Crewe for six months. I was taken back to hospital on and off for a few years. The longest stay in Leighton lasted 5 years, during this time my doctor asked me for permission to go on to a drug called Clozaril.
My parents and I were very unsure as the drug can be dangerous if not taken properly and part of my illness was that I lost track of time and might not remember to take this drug, but we agreed to try.
So after ten years of illness, suddenly I had a drug that worked so well for me that my parents described it as I “had come back into myself”, when they looked at me the “lights were back on”.
After being settled on the drug I was given a place at Weaver Lodge, an Independent Hospital run by AFG in Winsford, Cheshire. I was monitored for 2 years and once it was agreed I could live independently, I was offered a flat in The Limes in Middlewich. This is an AFG supervised group of flats with staff available at all times.
I spent seven years at The Limes, eventually becoming totally independent and being happy and confident to move to my own home.
Dane Plus Housing is a local housing group and it was them that offered me a joint ownership for the house that I am now in. The joint ownership is a scheme that allows people to get a mortgage for 72% of the property and Dane Plus then rents 28% back to you via your housing benefits.
I must admit when this was offered to me it sounded too good to be true but I have now been living happily in my property for 2 ½ years.
The journey to get where I am now has been long and hard, but I have now got my own property and a job. I can only work and earn £20 per week but I enjoy doing all that I do.
My role has changed greatly since I started working for AFG. For years I worked as the Service User Representative Forum (SURF) Chair and most people will know me as this; although now the SURF Group has gone local, which means that each SURF rep now works for their local area.
I still keep in contact with the reps to see what is happening within their areas, but I now have other duties. At the moment I am visiting each Treatment and Recovery Centre to see how they are working in the area of recovery. I am currently facilitating a series of forums with people receiving treatment at one of our centres to find out what activities they would like to access as part of their recovery journey and how AFG can help support this.
I have also had the opportunity to have a go at radio presenting – you may have heard me on BBC Radio Merseyside with Mike Smith, AFG Clinical Director or on LDOK Radio with Samina Taj, Marketing and Communications Business Partner and Nicky Lane, Learning and Development Assistant. I really enjoyed the experience and I’m looking forward to taking to the mic again in the future.
There are many irons in the fire as far as my work is concerned, but if anyone has something they would like to bring to my attention I would love to hear from you and I will always reply.
I do hope that anyone with extreme mental health issues can read this and see that when things are so bad and you’re in such a bad place that there is so much hope. You will find the right medication and be helped to find a better life.