After battling depression for many years David Roberts found comfort and solace making bespoke walking sticks.
"Growing up in a small town in north Wales we were kicked out of the house in the morning and told not to come back until tea time. The mountains, hills and woodlands became our playground and we had loads of fun. However, there was not a lot of work and I stumbled into many jobs until I joined the army in 1989.
I started my basic training at Lichfield Training Depot and things were hard at the start but got easier. Finally my training finished and I was posted to Berlin where I was attached to the Irish Guards. I returned to the UK and had two six-month postings in Northern Ireland and Bosnia. My final posting with my regiment was at Chepstow. Later on I applied for a transfer and spent my last year and a half in the army in The Kings Troop RHA. In April 1997 I left the army.
Back then the army didn’t offer any sort of debriefing to help you transfer back into the civilian world. I was a soldier one minute and a ‘civi’ the next. It was hard to forget one and become the other. I’d get jobs but felt I didn’t fit in and subsequently I’d lose them after a few weeks, and all of this affected my mental health.
By 2000 I was struggling with anger, anxiety issues and self-harm, and after three suicide attempts I sought professional help. My family has been a great support and it has taken many years but now I have more good days than bad.
After being made unfit for work in 2000 and a drawn-out battle to get my pensions my wife suggested that I sign up for a college course, and after making excuses why I shouldn’t, I bit the bullet and signed up for a two year art and design course.
A few years ago I began making walking sticks. The first few were rubbish but I got in touch with a local gent who has been making them for many years, and he showed me how to make a basic stick and the tools I needed. Over time my bespoke walking sticks got better and better. And people actually wanted them! And this is we’re I am today. I have made walking sticks for celebrities like Sir Tony Robinson, Sir Patrick Stewart, and Dame Judy Dench.
When I’m having a rough day and I'm struggling with stress, anxiety and depression, and I don’t want to face the world, I head to my little shed at the top of my garden, with a large mug of tea. I stick on my ‘80s music and create things. I don’t have a plan or an idea, I just let the materials talk to me and after a few hours I end up with a piece of art that I created from nothing.
Making these walking sticks lifts my mood and I have a sense of accomplishment and pride. Having these positive feelings has helped me to fight through some of the darkest moods I’ve ever had. I’m glad it did because I wouldn’t be here today telling you my story."