This will be a little different from my usual blog – it will be the first of a few looking at the experiences of people receiving support from Chrysalis. Because of the nature of the discussions, these will be longer than usual, and the plan is to put them in in place of every second or third blog over the next few months.
I sat down for a (virtual) face to face chat with a few people and here are my reflections from the first of these discussions.
We talked about his experiences of support over the time he had been coming to Chrysalis (almost two and a half years). There were changes over this time in the services we provide and significant changes in his personal life. I was excited to sit down with him and talk about all of these from his perspective – he’s had most of what we have to offer over the last two years, and a little extra we don’t usually.
He told me that the first trans guy he ever met besides himself was a Chrysalis volunteer signing him up for support. During the time that he has been accessing our services he has also been accessing mental health support through the NHS. He has gone from confused, depressed and experiencing often severe distress with his mental health to the fairly confident and quick to smile man I saw before me today.
He disclosed that he didn’t remember chunks of time here and there as he was quite ill at times, and remembered fondly how much extra support he got when he was unable to access the face to face groups for a while due to his mental health and how the facilitator put in a lot of effort to continue support. I remember the discussions behind the scenes at the time about how we could manage this and how we would record it, and the permission granted for the facilitator to offer regular one to one support.
I listened to him telling me how all the volunteers who had supported him over time had helped him to see that, contrary to what he thought at the time, he could get to a place where he felt okay and how being believed in was so important at that time in his life. He talked about what he got from being connected with peers and everyone listening to and supporting each other. “I learned far more than I ever thought I would” he said of attending the support groups.
He had counselling with two of our volunteer counsellors, to start with he had a counsellor he never quite felt he gelled with, so he requested a change of counsellor, who he found it much easier to work with. The flexibility to do this lead to a lot of positive change for him.
When we talked about his recent keyworker he talked in depth about how little he trusted her for so long and how much effort she put in for him. “I can’t have been easy to work with” he told me “I don’t know how she put up with me”. I was on the other side of that and saw all the effort his keyworker put in and how much she cared.
When we moved to online groups he felt that there were both positives and negatives to working online, but he said he was glad it was there and he was glad he went to it.
We finished our chat on a really positive note as he told me that “it’s ridiculous how much I have changed” and talked about just how much of a better place he was in. He said that a decent part of that was due to the support he had from us.
I really enjoyed talking to him and was glad he agreed to be interviewed. He showed me so much about what he got out of our support and how it was the little things that mattered more to him, like believing the volunteer who said that they believed in him and knowing that his keyworker wasn’t giving up on him even though he thought he was being hard work.
He highlighted the things that I really love about our volunteers – dedication, commitment and genuine caring about the people they’re supporting – as well as the fact that decisions made in the office can have an almost direct effect on someone’s wellbeing – that a decision to bend the rules to allow better support for someone we knew was struggling was the right decision.
There were many examples that I cannot give in this piece because they would give out too much information about the person involved, but what I can say is that he had a lot of them, each one a small thing that made up the big thing that was the support he got that helped him to believe in himself.