For one woman, diagnosed with MS, her long years as an invalid had drained her confidence. She no longer saw herself as a competent human being, certainly not as an artist and was astonished to find herself facilitating a fellow participant. At the end of a long programme she referred to this as the highlight: ‘finding I could help someone else do something they never thought they could!’
For another woman, suddenly struck down with a hospital infection resulting in the amputation of both legs, life had turned very bleak indeed. All offers of support and encouragement were turned away and this strong, erstwhile leader of people, retreated into a private hell. Eventually she accepted an invitation to take part in a pilot programme Social Services was running with BCA. From that first afternoon, faced with hearing so many different stories of the predicaments and possibilities of others, and playing with entirely new ideas of creativity and communication, she began to come out of herself. Working with the BCA process, responding to the presence of others and supporting them to find courage and motivation, she became a natural leader, mentor to more than one, and an inspiration to all. Her images and poetry were powerful, her humour biting and dark, provoking us all to rethink all our ideas on helplessness and victimhood.
For older people in a residential home life can be bleak indeed. Deprived of all that is familiar, lacking in convivial companionship, they can become depressed and demotivated. Getting up in the morning can seem pointless. However a programme of shared enquiry with the encouragement to be original, to think through issues together, to support each other to paint and write, to recall and reflect, can significantly change the quality of life in the home.
One resident started marking her diary with the project days so as not to miss any sessions and came to know her companions quite differently. Never before had she heard their stories told in such depth and nor had such attention been paid to hers. “You have given me something to get up for!” she told us, and when we asked how that had come about she replied: “You asked me to be original!”
Another resident was encouraged to tell her life story in a book, illustrated with her drawings. In spite of limited life chances and little education her story was so moving that a fellow resident, highly educated and whom she suspected of looking down on her, commented: “I have never before heard a story like yours – I feel quite humble when I look at what you have done with your life, faced with all your difficulties. I do not know that I could have done the same!”