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When I came along to the first Lifestyle class at Thistle I was very nervous and I didn’t really realise that everyone was feeling like that. But the support that you got was very friendly – they put you at ease right away. My worst nightmare was going around the class saying who you were and what your problems were etc but there was none of that at all. It was very much at your own pace – you could say as much as you want you could say as little as you want – you could say nothing if you wanted to and just take it in. I felt supported from day one.
I’d read lots of books about stress and anxiety and they didn’t help at all. Being on the course actually linked a lot of the information that I already had together and showed me ways that I could cope. Little snippets from other people in the class as well – they’d say how they dealt with things, you’d think,’ well I haven’t tried that before so I’ll give it a try’. By week 10 I wouldn’t say it was a magic wand – it certainly isn’t, but I felt I had some of the tools that I needed to move forward with my life.
I’m much fitter than I was because I go to the gym, I exercise, I can now go out with friends which I couldn’t do before because I just felt like I couldn’t deal with anybody. I’ve got my social life back – I’m a much happier person.
If you’re anxious to come along it’s natural. Every single person that comes along is anxious about it because they don’t know what they’re going to come up against. It’s certainly not scary, they don’t ask you to do anything on the course that you don’t want to do. Give it a try – even if you just come along for the first couple of weeks, if you don’t like it you can stop. If you do like it, it will give you more information as to how to deal with your situation. I’m certainly glad I took the chance because I wouldn’t be doing what I am today if I hadn’t.
I was anxious about my new, long term chronic condition and I was finding it difficult to manage my blood sugars. I was having fluctuations in mood because of my blood sugars and trying to manage my new condition. A friend of mine suggested that I come to Thistle and ask about the Lifestyle Management courses. So I did. I didn’t how it would to help; I had no real expectations when I came through the door to find out how it was going to happen. I found it incredibly helpful.
The Lifestyle Management course gave me the opportunity to look at prioritising things within my life, pacing my life better, doing gentle exercise to keep your spirits up and a whole host of other things that I hadn’t ever really thought about or had thought about and hadn’t put together into a package to live life better than I had been previously.
Thistle says that life is for living – the Lifestyle management course fives you the tools to do that better.
For many people who do find it more difficult and who are shy or worried or nervous or anxious then I can understand why it would be difficult to take the first step and phone up or call or email or sign up for something. I know how difficult it can be to get up that morning and wake up and meet new people. Even for me, who‘s quite happy to talk to people, I was quite nervous on the first day of the lifestyle course. But by the end of it you will find that your life has changed – for the better, and that has to a reason to take that next step, so just pick up the phone.
Life before Thistle – was...I just didn’t have a life. I used to sit indoors, until I got my wee hearing dog and he is the best thing that ever came into my life. Thistle is the second best thing.
Honest to goodness, life has changed now. I’m not afraid to go out. I’ve met a lot of friends and I intend to keep them.
I was a bit apprehensive at first [about the Lifestyle Management course], but as the weeks went on the way [Thistle] did the course was great. They started off by saying ‘what did you do this week?’ and it built up from there. And in my own mind I knew I was making progress and that was fine.
I just can’t thank them enough – I don’t have loads and loads of confidence – that will never come. But at least now I can look at the world – face the world – and face people. That support means everything to me. If I have a problem I don’t have to just bother my family, my sisters, my brother – I can go to any member of the team or even the friends I have made and I can talk to them and I’m sure they’d speak me through it because it’s happen before when I was upset. I just can’t imagine life not being there anymore.
I’ve made a really good friend of a neighbour across the road, which I wouldn’t have done – a really good friend. There’s a girl who comes in the morning, she’s not a carer to me but she used to be a carer to my partner. I know all my neighbours they all talk to me – and then there are the shops; I’m in and out of the shops.
Three years ago I just couldn’t see myself doing this. Because of what’s happened to me recently – and through having a talk with my sister this morning, I think the only way now is forward.
It’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me.
Life before Thistle for me was quite hectic. About two years before I came to Thistle I had managed to come off medication, alcohol and taking illegal drugs. So I was in a pretty bad place for about 10 years up until that point. I had been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder – chronic, and a horrible thing called co-morbid syndrome, which is all about seeing death everywhere you go. That was me at the peak of my suffering. Prior to coming to Thistle I had been going through a lot of suffering in regards to alcohol, drugs, depression, anxiety – you name it. So that was my life before Thistle.
Thistle gave me the support that I was looking for – in as much as the main thing that I lacked was confidence. I had great ideas but lacked the confidence to carry them through. Meeting Pat and Gary for the first time – straight away they settled me into this mode of confidence and it just grew from there on – I would say that’s what they brought for me – confidence.
Being on a Veterans course with all other veterans was good in a way because they had different support from other veterans and everyone was supporting each other. Pat and Gary ran the course so well that it allowed all the veterans to talk about their problems and we helped each other.
After the course I was off and running. There was no stopping me after that. It was what the course gave me – it gave me a starting point. Things have never stopped, they’ve just grown. My work with veterans has just grown to a point where I’m running courses myself with veterans. Thistle brought me back and employed me to run courses. I’m starting residential courses for veterans with regards to mental health and mindfulness.
I would say to someone in the same position as me – and it’s quite a guaranteed thing I can say - is that everyone is at the same point in their life. They’ve gone through their suffering and they’re at the end or near the end of it. It’s a unique position where you can be opened up to carry on from there. Thistle and the Lifestyle Management courses give people the opportunity to open up further and move on from where they are. That’s what they did for me.