Centrepieces' Assistant Co-ordinator, Dawn Tomlin, relates how the charity has given her the confidence to rebuild her life.

'Forget Me Not' by Dawn Tomlin

I have been with Centrepieces since the end of May 2014 thanks to my counsellor, who suggested that I contacted the Co-ordinator to see if I could volunteer for the project as an art tutor. I was present for the last three weeks of the charity being based at the Crayford Centre, and joined in with the packing up and move of Centrepieces to the Lodge at Hall Place. Those last three weeks meant that I got to see everyone pull together as a team which was a great encouragement for me, due to a life-long distrust of people.

Sculptures by Dawn Tomlin
I have suffered since secondary school with depression and extreme social anxiety which developed further into full blown panic attacks. Bullying was emotional, verbal and physical. It was this bullying that caused me to follow a dysfunctional adult life where I kept myself isolated from people, even work colleagues, as I did not trust anyone. This was not only a very lonely life, but I became emotionally stunted, due to the fact that not having friends meant that I had been unable to communicate and mix with other adults in any type of situation. This lack of social skills also meant that I would run from any form of negativity or confrontation, no matter how tiny or insignificant it actually was, which led to me walking out from every job I ever held.

'Distress' by Dawn Tomlin
Once I had begun on my new journey with the volunteers and the artists of Centrepieces I soon began to realise that I had lots to offer people, not only as an artist and as a volunteer tutor, but as myself. With all of my insecurities, phobias and distorted ways of thinking, I was still accepted and valued by everyone. This acceptance was to act as a starting point for me: I began to see myself in a different light and this enabled me to begin to grow into my adult shoes.

I now help run the Lodge and as Assistant Co-ordinator I find myself dealing with people both internally and externally. My protective barrier has been lowered, my understanding and participation in work-related and friendship relationships is fully functional and I have found that, thanks to the encouragement and support of all at Centrepieces, not only have I blossomed as a person but I am a strong person.

This change has also influenced my work as an artist. I am able to open up and show my deepest fears and emotional traumas by producing thought-provoking conceptual art. This form of communication not only helps me to heal, but just as importantly, it acts as a message to a wider audience. By sharing my deepest fears, crippling emotions, thoughts and worries, I allow people to glimpse what it is like to suffer with a mental illness. I am now able to reach outwards towards people with confidence rather than hide in a corner, alone.

Blossoming is possible.

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