Joanne’s* story about confidence

I was suffering from depression and I wasn’t referred to anybody but I happened to see a notice for PSS and I was referred to a Wellbeing Centre in my area. I had my first interview with them last May and was then referred to the Umbrella Centre. I wanted to lose weight but the main thing was how to seek therapies for my depression. All I was getting from the doctor was the same prescription every month for antidepressants and nothing was changing and I wanted change to happen.

I thought I would just be on the anxiety course but then there’s the lifting mood and raising self esteem course I’m currently on. In between times, there was another person who’d used the service before who came in and gave a talk about what the Wellbeing Centre had done for him and his recovery and we became friends. When I came for the review after the first course and asked if there was anything else I could attend, a member of staff said they had a mental health choir which would be performing soon and would I like to join that. There were three rehearsals over three Saturdays beforehand and I met lots of people. We became friends. One of my new friends asked me to go along to another local choir and I joined the Liverpool Mental Health Consortium and also Kindred Minds (that’s a group that people from the service have put together themselves). And I asked about the Umbrella Centre writers group and joined that. The latest project is working with a third year community drama student from LIPA to develop a story and a play for children.

It’s given me a lot of confidence to do things. This time last year I was still low and I had no sense of ever getting on the ladder to recovery. But coming here and meeting people gave me a lot of confidence, and following the course, especially the cognitive behavioural therapy elements, because I learnt to love myself and take that on board and say I was as good as anybody else. And then I was able to take that along with me and join outside organisations like the Armistead Project that has led on to me becoming a volunteer with Sahir House. I’ve done two weeks of training with them. I then had to attend for feedback and it was embarrassingly brilliant. They ended up saying I was a star and things like that and I’m not used to it but I loved the idea that people thought that of me. You can pick across a range of things and I’ve chosen campaigning and helping people who use the service in a supportive role. I’ll also be helping people on reception – taking calls and doing a bit of admin. One of the Trustees recommended me for the training. It’s up to you how many hours you do.

The other organisation I’ve volunteered for is the Citizens Advice Bureau. They’re a year into a project of getting LGBT people to come along to advice centres which they don’t seem to do, so after training I think that’s the team I’ll be joining. Sahir House is a commitment for life and my experience with the Citizens Advice Bureau may lead to employment opportunities.

My life if becoming more interesting and I’m more interested in a lot of stuff and people are more attracted to you and want to be in your company. I have a wider circle of friends that I never had a year ago and I think that’s important. And I’m reconnecting with the gay community from my youth because I think one of the things my depression was down to was the fact I wasn’t out. I haven’t come out to family and friends but I’ve come out to everybody else I’ve met since I came here and the friends I have now all know I’m gay. I don’t tell them but I’m just allowed to be myself and that helps.

I know it’s a cliche but if people had told me a year ago it just wouldn’t have registered. Before I’d compromised to fit in and I find I’m starting to rebel against that. I’m being myself more. I just want to continue and be happy.


*Name changed here to respect privacy