International Women’s Day Interview

Tuesday 8th March is International Women’s day. We wanted to mark this very important day by shining the light on a woman from the area who inspires others. We put the call out and were introduced to Roz, a lady from the Bow area who has lived in the East End for a large part of her life. Jayne Clavering recommended Roz for the spotlight and tells us why: “Her strength to keep going when life has been so incredibly difficult, how she has moved her life forward, her openness with others about her health and the empathy she shows others experiencing similar battles is so inspiring and enables them to open up, share, then feel supported.”

Roz has bipolar disorder and was diagnosed 15 years ago. She explained that her bipolar was always there and the diagnosis came quite late in life, it was a relief to know there was an explanation for her behaviour. When she is in a high phase she is extremely vulnerable because she is unaware of danger, everyone is a friend and it is easy to approach anyone in the street. After her diagnosis came the medication – something she found extremely difficult to handle. The medication turned her into a ‘zombie’ and she went from a size 8-18. All she wanted to do was eat and sleep and she lost all self-esteem, confidence, her ability to communicate with others deteriorated and she minimised her interactions with other people. Roz fought to decrease her medication by threatening to come off it entirely. She was able to work with her psychiatrist to bring down her dosage slowly and manageable over a long period of time.

With the medication more balanced Roz decided to get a dog and this little Jack Russel was a key turning point in her life. She explains, a dog forces you to go out and a walk really is the most amazing thing. It takes your mind off things and helps stop you spiralling into a negative place. It also allowed her to get her fitness back and she is now at a healthy weight.

Roz has spent time in hospital and vows never to return. It was a very difficult experience for her which makes her openness about what she has been through so inspiring. She has built up a network of support around her of neighbours and family. She tries to stay as active as possible by attending weekly Knit & Knatter sessions to talk with others and crocheting and hone her gardening skills with the Burcham Street Gardeners. Roz still experiences difficulties and has low points where she struggles to do anything but stay in bed but wither support network she is able to get through them. One of her greatest pleasures in life is to spend time with her granddaughters and she is really happy that she is able to be in a position to do so.

Roz is very open about her bipolar and willing to talk about her experiences. She has been mentoring a woman who was diagnosed and whilst she acknowledges this is very hard work for her, as she has trouble concentrating for long periods of time, she says ‘as long as I can help her, I will’.