Mikey, who experiences schizophrenia, was housebound for five years until he attended SAMH’s The Changing Room at Heart of Midlothian FC. The 12-week programme has helped Mikey build his confidence, pass his driving test and train in peer support.
“With having schizophrenia, I was stuck in the house for so long and I was always wondering: am I going to get out of this rut,” said Mikey. “For me, The Changing Room has been life changing. It’s given me confidence. It’s given me motivation, goals and I can see the positives in things. I passed my driving test three weeks ago, and that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for The Changing Room.”
Mikey rarely left home until he attended his first session. “At that point I'd been stuck in the house, probably for five years straight. My partner used to drive me to Tynecastle from Bonnyrigg, now I'm at the stage where I get the bus up.” He has a season ticket for Hearts and gets out to matches when he can, but even that can be difficult. “Sometimes I get in such a rut that I don’t even get out to the matches, but I'll always attend The Changing Room group on a Monday because it leaves me feeling positive. I feel like I've got things off my chest.”
Mikey’s dad now goes to The Changing Room too. “He’s went through things in his life and it’s doing him the world of good. Before, I was barely seeing my mum and my dad, and I used to feel guilty. But now I feel really privileged. I'm getting to spend time with my dad and I’m seeing him every week because of the group. We’re starting to build that bond up again.”
This has all helped Mikey build his confidence. “I was in such a dark place, there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Dougie [group leader] used to say ‘you’re taking the first step by coming here, and that’s a big thing’. He kept telling me the right things, and through that I've started doing things for myself. I’ve taken driving lessons and I’ve passed my driving test. Things are looking up.
“I’ve got schizophrenia so I do still have off days. It’s not easy, things can go from one extreme to another. I can laugh and cry at the same moment. But I let it out at the group there. I used to keep everything to myself, now I'm a pure open book.”
The bond Mikey now has with others in the group is something he really values. “I was so happy to message them when I passed my driving test – I almost felt better about sending that message than passing my test!”
Mikey’s goal now is to encourage more people to speak up. He completed SAMH’s Training for Peers training course, and plays a key role in helping new participants feel welcome and settle in to The Changing Room course. “I want to help other people speak. That’s what we’re there for. We’re all there for each other. Whatever happens in that room, stays in that room. It’s sometimes easier speaking in that group, than speaking to friends and family.”
Along with The Changing Room, Mikey is also attending Extra Time, a six-week programme that helps people explore areas which are giving them particular challenges or concerns. For Mikey, this has meant embedding new coping mechanisms into his routine, like a daily writing ritual. “At the end of the day I sit down and write five positive things. It doesn’t mean there’s been no negatives that day, but it helps me to focus on the good stuff.”
Mikey’s message to anyone else who might be struggling is: just take that first step. “It doesn’t matter if it’s The Changing Room, if it’s driving lessons, if you take that first step, you can achieve whatever. And that’s confidence, isn’t it?”
Mikey was diagnosed with ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) at five years old and attempted suicide at a young age. “I've had to deal with my mental health my whole life. Later in life I was sexually abused and never spoke a word of it until the same thing happened to my daughter. I felt I needed to tell her she wasn't alone in this situation and she could tell me anything, so I opened up and told her my story. This gave me strength that I didn't know I had.
“The Changing Room has given me the tools and coping mechanisms necessary to move forward in life. Whilst I understand and appreciate that each and every person’s view is different I cannot talk highly enough of the work done at Big Hearts and The Changing Room.
“As well as urging you to take that first step in whatever situation you may be in I also want you to know you’re not alone. Don't sit in silence and let things keep running through your head as that can spiral out of control. Even the little things they can spiral and become major stumbling blocks. Everyone at The Changing Room has their own story to tell, and just hearing them tell their story can make it easier for you to share yours too.”