I’m an independent artist living and working in North East England. I also manage a creative social enterprise I set up in 2014, which supports other artists by providing space for them to sell their work. I used to offer creative workshops and they helped members of the community maintain their own well-being by exploring their own creativity.
Unfortunately, I had to stop running the workshops when I lost my speech in 2018, after being attacked one evening as I was leaving work. I already had problems with severe post-traumatic stress and depression but had never had issues with my speech.
I have struggled with the loss of speech as it brought many frustrations both at work and socially. Most strangers assume because I can't speak, I must be deaf so they shout at me, which triggers my PTSD. Others are just unkind and ridicule or abuse me verbally because if I can't speak then I must be stupid. They don't see me; they just see my disability.
I did have some speech therapy but it was ineffective in returning my speech. I can no longer use a telephone and I have had to purchase communication aids, which means I have to type every word I wish to speak. This has led to me now having quite serious repetitive strain issues in my hands and lower arms, which now also require medication and further aids. I avoid texting as it involves using a touch screen, which can cause me significant pain due to the over use of my hands.
The way I used to work as an artist changed dramatically, as teaching became too challenging and time-consuming. Losing my speech forced me to give up an aspect of my work I loved: sharing knowledge and enabling others to access their innate creativity.
Things were difficult before COVID-19 but social distancing has become a barrier to communication. At two metres my hand-held device is useless and so since March I have been unable to communicate anywhere apart from at work. I work alone, so can only communicate with customers when they visit. I can't speak to my neighbours; I can't meet friends. I feel imprisoned in silence by my condition.
I have asked for help twice from the NHS but both referrals have been refused, with the latest one in August stating I must wait another year before reapplying. I don't feel I can cope with another year of silence and frustration as I have already lived through two years of enforced isolation. My mental health is deteriorating and it's becoming more difficult to recover from low points and maintain myself
I have found a private therapist who is supportive and helpful but I am struggling to fund this myself due to the impact of COVID-19 and my disability on my business. If I can raise the funds required for a year of therapy it would remove a pressure from me and help me to be less concerned about my future. I appreciate any help you can give to help me reach that goal.
- Charles Marshall
- Louise Charlton
- Julie Meredith
- Heather Harker
- Sandra Bell
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