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Your Way: Rob at Lewes Your Way

It was my GP who told me about Together’s Lewes Your Way service. I had suffered from mental health issues for years. I was isolated and lonely; I could go for weeks without seeing anyone else. I wasn’t motivated at all and I was drinking too much.

3I felt really nervous about going along so I took my son with me the first time, but everyone was welcoming and I ended up readily sharing information about myself with others which was strange for me. I realised that my story wasn’t unusual and that was really reassuring.

Your Way really changed my life; I probably wouldn’t be alive today without it. I was full of anger; I hated being ill and hated the fact that my illness has destroyed my life.  I now had somewhere to go and talk with people who didn’t judge me– I was completely accepted and very quickly my sons noticed a change in my mood. I was also given the opportunity to have a say in the service. I sat on the interview panel for new staff and my opinions were listened to; I genuinely felt as though I was an equal part of the decision making.

It was setting up the Recovery Kitchen though that really gave me purpose. When I was setting it up, the staff were helpful but pretty much left me to run it how I wanted. We started the kitchen from scratch – we organised the health inspector’s visit, wrote up the procedures and organised what we wanted the kitchen to do. I carried out research into nutrition and consulted with the Lewes Community Chef, who I knew through the Your Way manager and had previously helped train me.

We do 1-2 meals a week with a focus on food that’s good for physical and mental wellbeing. Our menus are based around healthy vegetarian food at a good price with an emphasis on taste. It gives those involved a chance to learn new skills while making friends. People who were unable to speak out at first are now happily chatting with each other. We also run a Real Bread and Cookery Club which is funded by Together’s Involvement and Leadership Grant Scheme.  I love to share the making of bread which I believe is very therapeutic. We’ve catered events including the National Mental Wellbeing Tournament run by Together and Lewes Community Football Club. We have plans for the Recovery Kitchen. From talking to people who use food banks, I realised that many don’t know what they can do with the food they get, so at the moment we’re trying to liaise with local food banks to organise demonstrations and recipes. We’re also planning separate one-to-one sessions at the moment for those who don’t have the confidence to deal with the larger group when they first come.

Volunteering is good for me; it makes me feel useful and I feel like I’ve got a future. Everyone that knows me has seen a massive difference in me and my relationships with my kids are much better now.  I am calmer, more tolerant and generally more pleasant to be around. I felt ready to get back to work I’m now employed by Together as a Support Worker.

The service is really run Your Way. You’re helped to plan yourself out of illness and motivate yourself. If I’d been dictated to, it wouldn’t have worked for me. You do what benefits you and what you like. It gives you control back over yourself and it really worked for me.