Just a few words to convey my experience of Spark…

some of our Spark community

We all have lives and we all have our stories. Here is a small story about me. I’m a qualified Psychiatric Nurse. Held good positions in the NHS and the private sector throughout my 36 year career. I live alone and was pretty much ‘married to the job’. My career ticked all of my social contact boxes.

In my spare time I am an avid distance cyclist. Always been healthy and fit and always focussed on healthy living. So I had no real support systems for myself apart from my own self reliance. Well, that’s ok, I don’t need support, I’m Superman! Or so I thought.

I contracted Covid at work in December 2020. It felt like I had been hit by a train. Covid turned into Pneumonia and I was off sick from work for 7 weeks. I negotiated a return to work for only 2 days a week but couldn’t hack it. All the symptoms of long covid.

I left work in May 2021 to focus on getting healthy. I would cycle my way back to recovery and go back to work, no problem. But it didn’t happen. The long covid symptoms will not shift. September 2021, Osteoarthritis.

Also now currently being assessed for Polymyalgia Rheumatica. Unable to go cycling. So it all stacks up. January 2022 it finally impacts my mental health. The crash. 111. GP. Sarah, the Social Prescriber at my GP surgery sends me some possible helpful links, one of which is Spark.

So, 5 weeks ago I am standing outside Sherlock’s Bar in Southsea looking through the window. People inside drinking coffee and socialising. Looks like a ‘private function’. Up until then I hadn’t had an informal face to face conversation with anyone for 5 months. I look inside, a scary prospect and my heart sinks. I don’t have the courage.

So, I am about to walk away when the door opens and a welcoming face with a big smile ‘hauls’ me inside, sits me down, offers me coffee and introduces me to a couple of people. Boom! That was Becki, a life saver! Absolutely a life saver.

That may sound dramatic but if you know the very dark place my mind wanders to you would understand. I sit with one of the volunteers called Kevin. We have a chat and I am on the verge of tears! I didn’t realise how fragile I had become. Kevin smiles and tells me it’s ok. Great guy. Spark is a safe place.

I stay for 2 hours, full of good coffee and a lovely cake. I chat with other people, just like me. We all have our stories. On my way home I am saturated! Overwhelmed but in a very positive way. Did that really happen?

So I go back the next day and apologize to Kevin and Becki for getting a bit emotional. Not a problem at all! Excellent. An oasis! I have been going to Spark for 4 weeks now and will continue to go. I need to be there at this very challenging time in my life. With so many issues stacked up Spark has given me ‘time out’ from my difficulties and a reason to keep going.

None of us know what the future holds or how we will cope with it. Life is unpredictable. So, Becki, Kevin and all the folks at Spark I sincerely thank you. If you ever have doubts as to whether what you are doing is worth it, remember, you are enhancing lives, you are changing lives and you are saving lives.

You are making a difference. You have my gratitude and you have my respect.