Ash, 22, youth centre worker/guitar tech, Eastbourne Circle.
How did you find out about ABoB?
I used to live at the Foyer, a hostel in Eastbourne. James Wong from ABoB visited last year but it wasn’t the right time for me initially. I’d just had a break up and I felt that I wasn’t in a good enough emotional state. He came again this year and I decided to go for it.
What was it that attracted you to doing the weekend?
I think it was just that something was being offered that could possibly help. I’d been dealing with a lot of mental health issues including anxiety and depression. I just thought I’d try it.
How was it for you growing up?
My parents got divorced when I was 4 and I didn’t have a clue what was happening. I moved with my mum and two elder brothers, and from that point I didn’t have a father figure. I got into trouble at school, I got kicked out of lessons. Punk rock helped me, I loved the music and it was a group of other kids who were outsiders. It felt as though I belonged to something.
How was your relationship with your mum?
Not easy. My older brothers both had conditions that meant a lot of focus was put on them. The older one had autism and epilepsy. The other had ADHD. I got into my teens and started acting out. Now looking back, I can see I was trying to get attention. But I left home at 17.
How was the Quest for Community weekend?
It was eye-opening as when I was growing up, I was always ashamed of showing any feelings unless it was through music. Suddenly I had permission to open up. I found it hard but worth it. At one point, I had to go off for an hour and a half, and people were concerned that I was missing. Something really hit home then. Search parties were sent out. I realized that it was okay in this community to not be okay and that it was okay to talk about it all. It really helped me.
Have you had suicidal thoughts in the past?
I did the QFC in April. 2 months before, I had a break up and fell apart, I was doing drugs and self-harming. I tried to kill myself six times. I went to the Sanctuary for a week in order to get myself together. I had a lot of anger and I was able to express it at the weekend in April.
How has being a part of abob affected your relationships?
My relationship with my mum is much better. She saw all the praise that I was getting at the Homecoming ceremony and was proud of me. I hadn’t realized how much the divorce had impacted me. I’d built up a lot of anger against my dad for leaving. Abob enabled me to become aware of all of this.
Who was your mentor?
Nick Carling. Participants get to pick their mentor and I felt that he knew what I’d been through deeply. And he did. We met up every week. It was very useful for me. He’s also passionate about music like me. Not the same music. But still that means a lot. I feel as though he understands me and that means so much. I did my first staffing recently, and he was on it too.
How are the weekly meetings?
Really good. Even if I don’t have anything specific to share, I still show up. I feel happy to support others there. I find myself being moved. Often.
How has your life changed?
My depression and anxiety have changed because I feel I have somewhere that I belong. That is such a great feeling. It’s great to be part of a community. I’ve learnt that if you say you’re going to do something, you do it. I do it.
How do you see your future?
I want to work full-time as a guitar tech and I am already doing it for several bands but I hope to go on tour and be paid for it. I also play guitar so I’d like to be in a band too.