How Papworth Trust helped me to become a published author

By Craig Bristow

I was just 24 years old when my life changed forever.

At the beginning of 2014, I suffered a nervous breakdown which has shaped and moulded my life ever since. A nervous breakdown which led to the eventual diagnosis of a number of mental health illnesses including depression, anxiety, panic disorder and hyperawareness.

I was initially signed off from work for a fortnight, telling myself that I would then go back to work like nothing had happened and I would put this experience behind me. Sadly, for me, that never came close to being a reality.

After suffering a crippling panic attack, on the morning of returning to work, I was signed off from work indefinitely. From 2014 until 2018, I was unemployed. I suffered panic attacks when I had meetings with the Job Centre.

My life progressively got worse. I was still unable to work and I didn’t dare think of the future, because I wasn’t sure if I would ever see it.

'I was talking to someone who made me feel human'

I was then contacted by an organisation called ‘Papworth Trust’ – at the same time I had a new dream I wanted to pursue.

I had been writing my thoughts and poetry since my nervous breakdown. It was poetry all about what I was going through and what I was fighting. It had only been a secret hobby, something which helped me to relax and an attempt to make sense of what was happening to me and why.

I never wanted what I had written to be read by anyone because it was so personal and extremely honest. I eventually let my mother read some of the poems I had created and she suggested the idea of seeking publication, to allow others to read my work in the hope it could help them

Walking into my first meeting at Papworth Trust with Andy Bissell, I sat down not knowing how he would react to my suggestion of wanting to become a writer

He immediately put me at ease by treating me as a person. I was talking to someone who made me feel human. Andy had created such a safe environment for me that it felt like I was talking to a friend I had known for years.

When we got to the topic of what I wanted to do for a career, I still felt apprehensive knowing I would answer with a desire to become a writer. After I told him, he gave a simple answer which will stay with me for the rest of my life, and one I think about often when I sit down to write: “That’s a fantastic idea, lets see how we can make this a reality.”

'I know how fortunate I have been with the support I have received'

Andy put me in touch with an artist who created a picture for one of my poems. He brought someone in specially for me who had experience in self-employment. He researched publishers, ways of self-publishing, agents, schemes for funding through Art Programmes, and he even contacted someone who had self-published their own book, to share with me their advice on how they achieved it.

And here I sit today, a published author. A person who five years ago suffered a nervous breakdown and the eventual diagnosis of depression and bipolar disorder. A person who attempted suicide twice. A person who at times couldn’t leave the confines of a bedroom for days.

I type this as a person whose book will be in a real bookshop in my local area. I know how fortunate I have been with the support of my mother and my family, my friends, the medical professionals I have seen, my counsellor and Andy.

My advice to others?

Do not let others make you feel degraded and worthless because you are unemployed, you are a person and not a statistic.

It is not the job which defines you, you are defined by the person you choose to be.