Before coming to Mustard Tree I had been through a string of major life changes. I finished my degree, my mum passed away, my mentor (who was a significant person to me) also passed away and I split up from my long-term girlfriend. I was left in a situation where I felt like I had no life. I’d been a carer, a student and a partner, and all that had gone. When you lose all the things that define you, it is an awful place to be. I was totally lost and started to look around for ways to rebuild my life. I came across the Freedom Project through the probation service. There weren’t any other resources available to me, so I went for it.

Being on the Freedom Project has reinstated some good values in my life. This has started with having something to get up for in the morning. I have found that people at Mustard Tree are non-judgemental & forgiving. This is really important to me because it is very easy to be overcome by negative thinking and attitudes when you’re in a vulnerable situation. I’ve also benefitted from the opportunities that are on offer here – both the courses that are available and the chance to do something for myself. I have been asked to produce various documents to support the work of the art department and to work alongside Graham in delivering the art classes. For me, the opportunity to use my skills and abilities to develop something that fits the purpose of Mustard Tree has given me back my aspiration and my sense of self.

Over the months, I feel that I have regained my identity. I was suffering badly from anxiety but I am no longer as anxious or stressed or self-oppressed as before the project. My behaviour was erratic and irrational when I first started here, but this has also changed. I am re-acquiring all the principles and values that I had before my life went downhill. I still drink but nowhere nearly as badly as I did a year ago: I’m no longer a danger to myself or anyone else on that front. I am a lot more flexible than before, and I’m also able to take advice from others and to negotiate with people. I am quite a persistent person and I feel like I’ve also regained my former resilience and some of my former self-confidence. I’ve acquired some aspirations and expectations for the future.

Having project work to do here is good, but it is also a means to an end. I’m not just doing the work here for other people, I’m also aware of the benefits to myself. It is a way of getting me grounded again without exploiting others or being exploited. My main aim is to be a more rounded person again without being self-absorbed. One of my objectives is to get the kiln project up and running at Mustard Tree. Meanwhile we are also developing the work of Mustard Tree art department by getting ourselves prepared to have our art courses accredited. This will enable people who need help to get some education. I am a big believer in the power of education.

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