By Helen Morrell
Key Themes: mental health, autobiography, recovery, empowerment
Helen tells her own remarkable, uplifting and powerful story of living and working with sufferers of mental health problems. Included in her tales are first hand extraordinary life accounts written and told by some of the people she was lucky enough to have supported through difficult times in their lives.
She shares her experiences with passion and energy giving inspiration and the ‘can do’ attitude to her readers in a subtle format. For 25 years she has worked with her heart and soul to help others. Her style is, at times, ‘off the wall’ and eccentric and she has used these qualities to successfully run her community. At times she goes where angels fear to tread. By demonstrating times of laughter and sadness this is a book that should appeal to a wide audience as she takes you on a roller coaster of emotions.
About the Author
Helen Morrell is 52 years old. She lives in Norfolk with her soul mate and partner Dave and has four sons. Rising from a failed education, a teenage pregnancy, and market stall holder to running a therapeutic community she quickly established herself as a peoples’ person and a fighter for the rights of the vulnerable.
For 25 years she lived with and worked tirelessly alongside the worried well to the extremely disturbed mentally ill. All of these she sees as people just trawling life’s journey in their many colourful ways. Helen has a big personality and trades in the unorthodox. She is a fearless opponent but a compassionate and understanding friend though not without expectations. She successfully established a healing residential community and would run through brick walls for the good of her residents so they had every opportunity available to them to tackle their mental health.
Helen has a no-nonsense approach to care; has no time for the idiosyncrasies of bureaucracy but equally expects her clients to work hard at using whatever resources they may have within themselves to improve their health. Within all this she assumes an innate ability to empathise and has an awareness of the needs of those sufferers of poor mental health.
Eventually she retired from the community with a view to continuing her work with the mentally ill away from the pressures and rigours she had previously experienced.
I was born Helen Easton and have one sister and two brothers. My parents were very supportive to us and ran their own businesses. My dad was a self employed coal merchant and my mother ran her own newsagents shop. There were times when my mum would be in the yard with my dad bagging up coal by floodlight late into the night!
I remember when I was about four I used to deliver papers for my mum, as all the family had to have a paper round. I delivered to a couple of chaps called George and Bill Curson who lived across the road from us. They had lost their mother, neither of them had married and they lived in this little stone cottage which had no kitchen but only a corrugated iron lean-to with one little electric burner to cook on. They always made me so welcome there. They lived in squalor to be honest, and they certainly didn’t have a cleaner, not seeing cleaning as a priority. For instance, George used to keep a spittoon next to his chair and nearly always had what I can only describe as a grubby hand rolled cigarette stuck to his bottom lip. As I got older I used to go and help them out a bit and they used to give me Quality Street. I would do things like fry them eggs on a Saturday morning. I loved their quaint loo which was a bucket with a big wooden seat on it in a shed outside. This loo required pumping out weekly which was not for the faint hearted. I remember there were lots of birds nesting in the roof of the shed and it was quite exciting to sit there and watch the birds go to and fro. Unbeknown to me I think my time spent with these two gentlemen formed the foundations of my interest in wanting to care for people.
In my early teenage years I used to go out selling firelighters for my dad which was a good grounding in meeting and negotiating with people. These firelighters were a job lot that he had found and were perhaps past their sell by date and so virtually ‘unlightable’; as one of my customers pointed out, “it took me almost a whole box of matches to light it.”
I had wanted a pony for about as long as I could walk and talk. My parents went to Watton horse sale and came home with a beautiful hot-headed 12.2 hands four year old. I was ten years old and had no riding experience other than my metal framed rocking horse and a few rides on my friend’s horse up the road. It was the most inappropriate purchase, but my dad loved a bargain, and this glossy coated liver chestnut had taken his eye as a good buy. Neither of my parents had the slightest idea of what suitable meant. My mother was terrified of the creatures. The pony was called Johnny and the love I had for him gave me grit and determination for the future. On one occasion Johnny galloped with me flat out along the A47, an immensely busy road that claims many drivers’ lives, let alone the life of a child fiercely clinging to the pommel of a crazy pony. Johnny galloped the last two miles home with me clinging on for dear life.
Due to my non-existent experience with horses he was allowed to be outrageously naughty at times. For instance, he dragged me around a field hung from a stirrup by one foot until the leather gave way and I bounced onto the wet grass…
It was not unusual for him to run out of control with me desperately trying to pull him up.
On another occasion he somersaulted me into a ditch where he became stuck in the mud until rescued by a local farmer who had witnessed the incident from his bedroom window. He hauled him out with a rope attached to his Mazda truck. This incident occurred because we had been racing another horse, failed to negotiate a corner and discovered too late that a large ditch was too wide to jump. On reflection I think this was one of many examples when I have been looked after by a ‘Guardian Angel’.
I continued to be deeply involved with horses and in my early teens used to take part in competitive eventing on behalf of a Canadian family who owned a large string of horses. I was fearless and would take on challenges most other people would avoid. One of my jobs was to return the horses from a field to the stables, and I would jump the two five bar gates with only the head collar on the horse but no protective hat or saddle.