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Childhood Trauma, Substance Misuse, Schizophrenia and 4 years in a Psychiatric Hospital


By Al Milledge

People have become so important to me and I find myself feeling compassion with strangers

Rob is a 60-year-old single artist. We spoke twice for this interview; we found a lot of common ground in the way we see the world. He told me that life hasn’t always made as much sense as it does today.

Rob came from a volatile family where alcoholism was normalised and his dad was abusive. There were constant angry outbursts and Rob spent his time trying to please his dad, without any success. He says that his dad learned to parent like that from his own dad.

Rob spent his teenage years depressed, feeling lost and paranoid with bouts of suicidal ideation. He found drugs in his late 20’s and mistook the initial high and distraction from his difficult inner world as a solution to his pain. He used a lot and it ended when he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Rob thinks it was a paranoid break due to excessive drug use. He then spent 4 years in psychiatric hospital.

In hospital he got interested in art and found it therapeutic. When he was being creative, he found himself tapping in to something beyond his intellect. He had an opportunity to go to fine art college. He trained to be an artist and sculptor which he loved.

He came across ASOH last year (2022) a couple of years after the end of a turbulent relationship, with someone who self-medicated with excessive drinking and drugs. He eventually moved into his Mums place for a while to take himself away from it all. He wasn’t in a job or looking after himself well and was very low by the time he found our Programmes

Some questions we put to Rob

Have the ASOH activities that you have taken part in improved your physical mental emotional wellbeing? The biggest thing is that I can’t believe that I’ve lost the craziness and paranoia that used to go on in my head. My outlook on life changed so much. I’m now going to the gym regularly, I feel healthy, I’m calmer and gentle. I still have days when I feel a bit chaotic and I can feel down, but now I notice those feelings move on when I don’t get so involved with them.

What would you say to encourage others to access the service? I’d say they have everything to gain and nothing to lose. Look what it did for me! I was really sceptical when I first came along, but I stuck it out. It feels like a natural progression over the last 6 months. I’m getting back to work now that I don’t have all of that self-doubt clogging up the system.

What do you think would have been the outcome if you hadnt taken part in ASOH?  I’d still be in turmoil, I was thinking and analysing in such a distinct way for such a long time there seemed no possibility of doing anything different. I thought I was the only one who thought like that.

What have been the other impacts of ASOH? I feel good about getting out of bed in the morning. I feel thankful. I’ve found something that makes so much common sense. People have become more important to me and I find myself feeling compassion with strangers, people who at one time I wouldn’t have cared about or would have avoided.

Would you recommend ASOH to others? 100%

We finished with Rob telling me that he is teaching art classes and boxercise classes locally now and will be running retreats with the money going back into local mental wellness projects. He said, ‘everything we need to know, we already know, that’s why the conversation at ASOH feels familiar’. It all just points to the healthy part of us.

I loved chatting to Rob, I speak to a lot of people about their difficult circumstances and their view of what’s causing them. I was grateful to hear the message from Rob that once you see the mechanism of thought for what it is, it’s possible to disentangle yourself from ingrained habitual thinking. Rob is easy going, funny and grounded, it’s hard to believe he’s been through so much