The fourth and final part of Beccy’s blog series about getting involved in your own care, looking at the lessons she’s learned from her time doing service user involvement.
Lessons and growth
In this final part I thought I’d say something about the lessons I’ve learned over my time doing involvement work. It has helped not just the service and others but also my own personal growth and understanding. My motives for getting involved were twofold in that I wanted to pass on the positive things I had got from my time in the service but I was also scared of going back to old behaviours, avoiding going out and mixing with others. Involvement gave me a focus away from my own head. While I have been challenged in the various roles I have had during my time in service user involvement, it has been at a pace that I have been able to manage, with the support of other service users and staff. I have taken time off when I needed to and been more involved when I was able to.
Sticking to the purpose of the task at hand has been an important lesson to learn. Not only does it mean you achieve more but it is important to keep separate personal needs and involvement needs. Using available resources and groups to talk about how I am coping with the ongoing journey of managing my day-to-day life has kept me focused on current needs rather than mulling over the past. It hasn’t always been easy, as there are times when other people’s issues have triggered things for me. Being able to manage those times has been a lesson in itself.
Overall, there haven’t been many clashes or disagreements with others. By remembering that we all have different opinions and ideas that are equally worthy of consideration and keeping things focused on the task at hand it is amazing what we can achieve together. When things have gone more to personality clashes I have learnt that sometimes it is because I recognise in others something I don’t like about myself or I am envious of how others seem to do things I can’t with ease. Recognising that everyone within service user involvement brings new viewpoints and experiences and new knowledge has meant that more growth can occur in both the services and myself. Remembering that we work together on an equal footing has resulted in realising that whether we are service users or staff we are all on our own journey through life and equally learning as we go.
Acceptance of who and how I am has been an important lesson. That doesn’t mean I don’t continue to learn and move forward, but that today I recognise my strengths and weaknesses and am able to challenge myself at a pace that works for me, and to realise that it is okay to do that. As I mentioned in an earlier article, society is not good at allowing people to work at a speed that is right for them. Being able to accept that I don’t always work at speed has meant that my inner, often critical, voice has been quieter. Anticipation and expectations have become more manageable as I have taken proactive action to manage my behaviour and time rather than wrestle with intrusive thoughts and negative beliefs of how I should be. I am who I am today rather than torturing myself over who I think I should be. This has been a freeing lesson that has enabled personal growth without me really struggling.
Change happens whether we want it to or not. It also seems to have two speeds: slow or rapid. Sharing those times with the others around us has helped me to navigate those sometimes-hard times and accept it as a natural part of life. As the newly branded Emerge service begins, I hope involvement continues in whatever way current service users need, bringing new ways of working to improve the experiences of service users current and future.