My journey with Dorset Mind began in 2018. I have struggled with depression and anxiety for most of my life, but at this point in my time it had become overwhelming.
Becoming very isolated, I stopped leaving the house, and I felt very lost. I had been out of work for a while, and my confidence had hit rock-bottom. I really wanted to get back in to work, but my anxiety was holding me back. My GP suggested that I try applying for voluntary work. I came across a list of volunteer vacancies at the local library, and as a result of this I applied to become a Befriender as well as an Administration Assistant for Dorset Mind.
I remember when I started volunteering, I was absolutely terrified! On my very first day, I met a staff member who also used to be a volunteer like myself, and it gave me hope that maybe that could happen for me! She was incredibly supportive, and helped ease my worries straight away! Everyone was incredibly supportive, and I immediately felt like a part of the team.
I hadn’t experienced such a healthy workplace before. Staff would ask me how I am, and they would wait to hear the answer. It was great to work with other people who were all so open about their mental health. Hearing their stories allowed me to open up and connect with others about my own experiences and struggles too.
In 2019 I began volunteering as a Befriender. I had been matched with a participant who had recently lost her job and was suffering with anxiety and panic attacks. It was quite apparent from the outset that she was really struggling. My client was very withdrawn, she avoided making eye-contact and had completely lost her confidence. She had recently come out as transgender and was using her preferred name, but told me she didn’t yet have the confidence to dress as her preferred gender. We set some big goals quite early on. She wanted to find a job, she wanted to study, and she wanted to start socialising again.
We started meeting in the community at coffee shops, and going for walks. This was a struggle at first, and some days it would be a phone call because she felt like she couldn’t leave the house. But as the weeks passed, we started spending more time in the community. We also attended a few Dorset Mind support groups together. She signed up to a job club, which I attended alongside her during our sessions, and she started applying for jobs. She started gaining the confidence to grow out her hair and wear makeup during our sessions which was such a huge thing for her.
Hope and confidence
Just as our match ended, she had received an appointment date to start her hormone therapy and she was in the process of applying to legally change her name. She told me she was feeling so much more positive about the future. I was absolutely blown away by her determination and it was incredible to see her confidence grow.
She achieved so much in the year we worked together. And to know that I was a part of that journey with her was so rewarding. This experience really helped to build my own confidence.
During this time, I also began volunteering as an administration assistant. I was scared at first of making mistakes and I put a lot of pressure on myself to do well. But the staff were incredibly supportive and gave me a lot of encouragement, and in time my confidence grew. Through this I was able to learn and broaden my skills in an office environment, and take on more active duties.
After a year I was offered a job within the training team, which eventually led to me being offered the role of Volunteer Administrator. I now assist in the welcoming and onboarding of new volunteers. I feel like my own experience of being a volunteer has given me a great insight into the role. Being a part of the Volunteer team has been incredibly rewarding. I wanted to use the skills and experience I’ve gained to help others who may be feeling the same way.
Special thanks to…
Our guest blogger is our amazing Administrator Sam – we know it took her a lot to share her story and we’re extremely proud of her!
If you’d like to find out more about the volunteer vacancies we offer, follow this link.