In my last post I mentioned that I was doing two weeks work experience at Designs In mind as part of my course. Now that I’ve finished my time there and I’m back at college, I thought that now would be a great time to do a reflection of the last two weeks.
If I had to describe what the place is my reply would be something along the lines of a really big smile appearing on my face. I can’t tell you enough just how much I love this place, as I’m sure you’re going to realise by the end of this post. However, a big smile as an explanation doesn’t really benefit you guys.
In short, designs in mind is a designer and maker studio where the people there have been referred through mental health services.
If you’d like to find out a bit more about them, in more detail, you can check out their website HERE!
So how did I find out about Designs in mind?
Turns out they’ve been running for 25 years! To begin with they were under a different name, but they’ve been in town for the entire time that I’ve been living in the area. However, I only found out about them before Christmas last year.
In a bit of a rush to get my bus, I walked past a store that I’d never noticed before. It seemed really bright and somewhere I’d probably find myself mulling around in. But due to being late already, I didn’t have the time to stop and go inside. So, I took note of the name with the intentions of looking it up when I got home.
That’s exactly what I did.
The store is called JOLT and after a bit of mooching around I found out that it was connected to the designs in mind studio that was right next door.
After discovering the idea behind the shop and studio I was so excited by it.
If you’re following my blog, you’ll know that I talk A LOT about my recovery with my own mental health issues. Not only is it a safe way of me processing what I’m feeling, but it’s also a started point for what I want to do later in life.
There are three big points that make up me. My faith in GOD, my passion for WRITING and my ongoing battle with ANOREXIA and my mental health.
One day, my aim is to join these three things together to do something that’s good, positive and that will help people.
Designs in mind seemed like the perfect place to go to start doing this.
What did I do there?
I think the question should be, what didn’t I do?
The staff, volunteers and the members were all so kind and gave me so many opportunities whilst I was there.
I spent a few days in the shop. I helped shuffle around some of the products, made some origami flowers ( I made my mum a bunch of them for mother’s day what you can see in the photo above). I even assembled some of the jewelry people had made and learned how to clean a window properly.
On my last day, the lovely ladies in the after noon even taught me how to knit!
It was such a welcome break from the hectic time I have on my Saturday job and I learned so much.
There were times where I was in the studios. The have two different ‘types’ of sessions there.
One was for new referrals. There’s no pressure in this group to be good at anything craft or creative wise (not that there is in the other group). It’s a small group with a few really kind, positive volunteers running it. It wasn’t about making anything for the products or commissions, it was juts getting people used to being in groups and teaching them creative skills.
For the weeks that I was there, they were doing lino printing. I was even allowed to have a go whilst I chatted away to some of the people there (the results you saw in the picture earlier on in the form of pink and back hand prints). I particularly liked this group because there really was no pressure to be good. Everyone there was in the same boat, even as a volunteer I was a bit nervous about trying to do those prints. What if I was terrible? Or what if everyone else’s were so much better than mine? But everyone was at the same starting point and the encouragement and support of the people running the workshops was just amazing!
The second group was the production group. It was a much larger group but there was a really nice buzz there. Once people feel able to, they transition from the referral group to this group. It’s more focused creatively for the products in the JOLT shop or any commissions they have going on. One thing I really enjoyed was that there was no ‘Us and Them’ atmosphere. I couldn’t tell who were the volunteers in the group and who were the members. Everyone was equal and I loved that.
I did other small jobs during my time there as well. Whilst I find organising a store cupboard, paper draws and cleaning an office very relaxing I doubt it’s going to be an exciting read for you all. So, I’ll skip past those bits.
What was in it for me?
I do love it when I can incorporate the title of a post into the post itself. I think this part should be more of a ‘What did I get out of this experience?’ or ‘Why I chose to spent my two weeks volunteering in a potentially triggering enviroment?’
For the record, it wasn’t a triggering at all.
The weeks running up to volunteering was a bit anxious for me. When I asked if I could do my work experience at designs in mind I was in a good place. But a few weeks back I wrote a post (that you can find here) explaining that I was going to be taking a step back from talking about my ED recovery.
It was a mixed time for me. In my post I was very positive about my reasons for taking a step back, and those reasons are true, but I also had relapsed. When I blog about my recovery I always like it to be positive and encouraging and I haven’t felt able to do that recently. I’ve also had a run of being depressed.
It is unbelievably rare that I suffer from depression, I’ve been blogging about my mental heath for about 8 months now and this is the first time I’ve said that I can suffer from it. It’s just that rare for me. However, when it comes knocking it’s very bad.
So combine a relapse and just finding my feet again from a run of depression, I was nervous about going to volunteer somewhere that was about metal health. To the point where I had considered calling several times to just say that I wasn’t coming. I didn’t think I could be positive or encouraging to those around me.
However, I am so glad that I followed through and went.
I never told anyone there the volume of things I suffer with involving my mental health. I know that it would have been a safe place for me to do so, but I didn’t. I’m very harsh on myself so my logic was ‘I’m a volunteer not a referral’ what is true. But it would have been nice to have asked to have an hour off to go to my appointment with my counselor. But my own harshness towards myself didn’t allow that, so instead I rearranged it for a 8:30 appointment in the morning.
Designs in mind are running a crowd funding campaign (you can donate here). Part of that campaign is #SmashingStigma. It’s such a cool idea and it’s made me really that I really need to smash my own stigma’s involving my own metal health.
So that was quite a good reflection to have during the week.
(Rather ironically that session with my councilor was also about trying to reduce the shame I feel regarding my ED and to tell someone what I was fighting.)
I also found a lot of engorgement from the members there. Every one of them would have fought something with their mental health at some point. But they still showed up and contributed. If a room full of people who were fighting could get themselves out of their bed in the morning, then so could I.
Another thing I found really interesting was how the place was run. For someone who’s studying business I’m used to seeing hierarchical structures where the CEO is on top and the lower staff have little to no contact with them. However, everyone at Designs in mind appeared equal. Sure there were people who would have more responsibility enlisted on them due to their job, but everyone seemed to have an equal voice and I loved it!
I really want to go back to designs in mind.
I only have a month and a bit till I am done with college. Sadly, I have to get a job pretty much as soon as I leave though. Financially working voluntary for a year won’t be possible, but if it was I’d be helping there every day they’d let me.
I know I was very shy for the first week but by the end of week two I was feeling like I could start helping and contributing. For me to feel confident in my abilities by the second week is just credit to them. I’ve been volunteering as a Guide Leader for over two years and it took me past a year to feel confident in my role. The fact that I felt that way in just two weeks was just amazing.
If I can find a job, and if I can find a job especially that allows me to work part-time, I’ll be spending my days off at designs in mind if they’ll have me again. It’s an amazing thing that I want to support and help keep running.
Just being there for a short while, I could see the difference it was making in people’s lives. But if I find that I can’t volunteer there in my year off, I’ll still make a point of trying to buy birthday presents or gifts from JOLT. If I can even contribute in a small way, like buying products from their shop, then I will.
Designs in mind is just too valuable to lose.
I know that I was only volunteering there, so my mental health probally shouldn’t have improved. But you want to know something?
After finishing those two weeks, for the first time in a while I could say that I felt ok.