Clare’s Story

Photograph of a smiling, middle aged asian woman wearing a blue top. She has bobbed shoulder-length hair and is leaning on a rialing, gazing out to the camera.Clare, 50, came to Thinkaction miapt Merton after finding out about the service from a local group she had started to attend, Focus for One. “I was definitely having a breakdown. I had lost my job, and the job centre was giving me nothing but hassle, which really made me anxious and stressed. Then I was also losing my home.” Clare wasn’t sure where to turn to, as she’d grown up in a family where “I was always taught that you do not divulge anything outside the house.”

“Before it all happened I was a very independent person and relied on nobody at all to help me through situations in life. Then suddenly I didn’t know where to go, how to be, how to fix this problem, it was a real nightmare.”

Clare, 50, came to Thinkaction Merton after finding out about the service from a local group she had started to attend, Focus for One.

“I was definitely having a breakdown. I had lost my job, and the job centre was giving me nothing but hassle, which really made me anxious and stressed. Then I was also losing my home, which really pushed me into a depression. It climaxed and became too much.”

Clare wasn’t sure where to turn to, as she grew up in a family where she was “I was always taught, growing up, that you do not divulge anything outside the house.”

Clare found Focus for One by accident. She happened to be passing Mitcham Vestry Hall, going in for something else and she saw a leaflet on the table. Before she stumbled across the leaflet, she had no idea what sort of help was available to her. After a few group sessions with Focus for One, Clare self referred to Thinkaction, thinking she might be suffering from depression.

“I thought it was leading to depression. I had it before when my daughter decided to leave home of her own accord when she was 16. And I went through a nightmare with that – we were mega close and it really hurt. I noticed the symptoms this time round but I didn’t know what to do. When you’re in that kind of depression your mind is not your own. Logically, you’d be thinking differently. But when you’re in that state, nothing really makes sense.”

Clare spoke to Hannah at Thinkaction for a number of talking therapy sessions on the phone.
“The first thing I noticed,” Clare says, “was Hannah’s voice. I found that she was talking to me in a relaxed way, which enabled me to come forward with more things and talk.”

Through their sessions on the phone, Hannah and Clare found a common ground talking about photography. This was something Clare had wanted to do a long time ago but had never had the opportunity to pursue. Hannah discussed with Clare that a balance of activities can help reduce depression. After the third or fourth session, Clare realised that she wanted  to take up photography again. She joined a photography club and finds photography, ‘relaxing, almost meditative.”

“It was something I would always like to do but I’ve never had time to do it. From that, I’m really eager to go forward even now. And it is something that does get me outside on a down day. Before Hannah and I mentioned it, on the really bad days I couldn’t see the point of even stepping out the door, let alone taking pictures.”

Hannah also helped Clare focus on small achievements, like housework to help her get through the day if she couldn’t leave the house.  This is a Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tool known as Behavioral Activation. Overtime a person gradually builds up their activity levels to regain motivation and increase energy levels which are often affected when someone is suffering from depression.

“Your mind and your body are two separate things,” said Clare, “and usually they work together and they act together. But when you’re in that depressive place, your head is telling you ‘you must do this’ but your body is saying, ‘I just haven’t got the energy for this, I don’t want to know’. So you’re working against yourself, not in harmony. The photography came after talking a couple of times. The first few times I would say ‘I’ve done a little housework today’ which I wouldn’t think was very much but Hannah said that this is an achievement on its own (at that point in time). It was important to hear this, it encouraged me to do a little bit more in the house, when I couldn’t get out the house. So even on the really bad days when I couldn’t get out the front door, the day still had purpose and a small achievement.”

After working together to find ways she could cope, Clare also found the Five Minute Rule (a tool to help you start tasks) very useful.

“Hannah sent me information sheets on that and we spoke on the phone about it. The five minute rule became very handy, because I had also developed anxiety as well as depression – that really helped me to get calmer in my thoughts and move forward. It was a very useful technique for me. I still use it today.”
Soon enough, after several sessions with Hannah, Clare turned a corner.

“I noticed the change of wanting to do more, having a desire just to do more things, whether that’s in the house or otherwise, about two sessions from the end. Maybe after the fourth session my mind just altered itself, it began to want to do things, anything!”

Although she was nervous about the sessions ending, Clare felt she had developed enough tools and self-care techniques to tackle her illness on her own. She has stayed with the Focus for One group to keep a steady presence in her week and she continues to develop her photography practice.

“I’m one of those people, before this happened to me, who wouldn’t even ask my friends for help. People say ‘you should speak to people’ and you just don’t hear it. When you’re strongly independent and you’ve been that way for a long time, it isn’t as simple as ‘go and talk to a friend’ there’s a barrier you have to get past.

“Now I’m doing ok, I’ve found out more info to aid people with mental health problems, or even being with people with mental health problems, is very helpful. I’m really going ahead with the photography, it makes me feel very positive, and relaxing when I’m taking photos. It’s almost like a therapy. It’s a different head space. But without Hannah digging in and finding out what I wanted to do, which I couldn’t see myself, I don’t know where I would be.”