THE BLOG

Volunteering Turned My Life Around

20/01/2016 09:46 GMT | Updated 19/01/2017 10:12 GMT

October 2014: I was consumed by anxiety, unable to attend my lessons without being so overwhelmed that I would have to leave. Just the thought of being asked a question by the teacher spiraled into an uncontrollable anxiety attack.

Then things began to change. I was lucky enough to have the support of CAMHS (Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services) who helped me to start to take control back. But it wasn't just months of CBT that turned my life around. Finding my passion made a massive difference. That passion was helping others.

Volunteering was a big part of my recovery journey and is still a very big part of the way I help myself during set-backs. Over the past year or so I've taken part in so many different volunteering opportunities with different organisations that really have helped to build my confidence and give me that purpose that I felt I needed. I started off small, volunteering online, and as my confidence grew I decided I wanted to take it a step further and do some face-to-face volunteering.

That was when I found Fixers, the charity that gives young people a voice. I'd always wanted to do something about the lack of education surrounding mental health but I didn't have the confidence, and I certainly didn't believe it to be possible that I could actually make any difference. As I looked into what Fixers does, I saw that they could be the ideal people to help me turn these ideas into a reality. For the first time I thought that I could actually make a difference- after all it has to start somewhere.

In March of last year I had my first Fixers meeting so that we could discuss my ideas. I was very apprehensive as meeting new people was always a struggle, but at the same time I was very excited to see how Fixers could help me with my project. That meeting was the first time I noticed a change. We soon discovered that just talking about my ideas and discussing my passions brought out a completely new side to me, one that people hadn't seen before. A side to me that was full of confidence.

At the end of August we had the filming day for my project- every Fixer (a Fixer is a young person who uses their past to Fix the future) is given the opportunity to create a resource that will get their message across and help other people. I'd decided that I wanted to create a film to show young people how to spot the signs of mental illness, so they could help their friends.

I got a group of my friends together to come and help on the day, and we all had so much fun. I didn't realise how many friends I had that would be willing to help with something like this until that day, and it turns out that I've got a very supportive group of friends who are all very understanding of my mental health.

I then had the very exciting (although daunting at first) opportunity to film my broadcast piece with ITV Wales; something a year ago I would have almost certainly turned down in fear. Of course I was apprehensive, but I felt so supported through the whole process, and once I got into it again I just filled with this new found confidence. It's like when talking about these projects somebody just flips a switch that turns my anxiety off. I am freed from it for once, and that's why volunteering has made such a difference.

The night that the broadcast was shown gave me such a buzz; I knew I was helping people as I was getting messages saying how much people appreciated me speaking out. It gave me that purpose that I'd always felt that I never had. Suddenly people knew a lot more about me that I'd ever have thought I could open up about. But it felt good, it was all for a good reason. People were starting to understand and I barely received any judgement for what I had done, it was mostly praise which did build my self-confidence.

My Fixers film, workshops and broadcast really became a turning point for me. The process helped build my confidence so much, and I found my true passion that I now hope to continue to work with in my future career. Nobody, including me, would have ever guessed that me of all people would be able to stand in from of an entire class for a lesson to deliver my mental health workshop with such confidence. But that is exactly what I'm doing. Sharing my experience and my workshop has opened up so many opportunities for me, including going to visit high schools to deliver my workshop. I now don't hesitate when taking up face-to-face volunteering. It has helped my mental health so much that now volunteering is the last thing that I would ever give up when I am struggling. In fact it's quite often the opposite, and I try and do a lot more when I feel like I am beginning to struggle.

To find out more about Fixers go to www.fixers.org.uk