Volunteering helps break barriers into work.

Volunteering helps break barriers into work.

I was always a very anxious and quiet child, fearful in new situations and not putting myself forward at school.

My extreme anxiety dogged me for my entire education and it would be hit and miss whether I did well in an exam because it would depend on whether I was having a good day or not. My teachers put all my emotional issues down to the fact that my parents were divorced. They had no idea (neither did I) that I was being systematically abused. I was rarely asked how I was or what was bothering me. When I fell apart during my A-levels one teacher, who had obviously been nominated to talk to me told me to ‘pull yourself together’. She really did. As a mature student at University I had a much better time with counselling support and understanding tutors and I did well there although my anxiety still prevented me from fulling reaching my potential.

I have had a patchy work record because of my mental health problems, mainly through not having the confidence to go for decent jobs, or the energy to sustain a demanding career. I eventually settled down enough to work continuously for about ten years. If I needed formal support I sought it outside of work. Informally some people were more helpful than others.

Coming back into work after a long break because of health issues I have gained confidence through volunteering. It has helped me get structure back into my week and I can build things in as my health and wellbeing improves. Working with others in the same situation as myself has added a new dimension to work and I can feel fully myself. It is much easier to say I am going through a bad patch, or my medication is interfering with my thought processes. People just nod and I feel it’s all ok.

Barriers to work over my entire life have been both internal and external. I have been grappling with debilitating issues that I thought were normal and this has taken a toll on my health. Mainly it stopped me from achieving anything like my full potential. Where I have had the right support and encouragement I have done very well, but this has been very hard to come by. I have too often been labelled as ‘difficult’, ‘temperamental’, ‘a creative type’ or ‘high maintenance’.

The things that have helped me have been:

  • the support I got at university through counselling and supportive tutors
  • finding decent counselling support and a good GP outside of work
  • an understanding manager who realised I needed more sick time than normal but that I made up for that by quality of work
  • an occupational therapist who got me into volunteering in mental health
  • peer support – all the way through I have been blessed with good friends
  •  recognising that I had a disability that wasn’t my fault

If you feel that you would like to write a Case Study for Wave-length, E-mail us at : info@wave-length.org.uk