Author: Sue Perry, Service coordinator, VOICES
After initially experiencing poor mental health myself 27 years ago after the birth of my son, I returned to work on a full time basis. The pressure I put upon myself made me feel unable to manage in my day to day life, and to relax, or ‘get through it’, I would drink a glass of wine in the evening. Over time this increased, eventually leading to drinking multiple bottles per night. Through drinking my relationship broke down, as did the family unit, leading to me having to move out of the family home, leaving my children behind.
This was an extremely difficult part of my life as you can imagine, compounded further by the loss of my driving license for 12 months, due to possession of a motor vehicle whilst drunk. In addition to the problems I already had going on this left me feeling extremely isolated, as if my freedom had been taken away.
It took me a long time to come to terms with, and overcome the issues I faced, but with a little help I was able to do this and have now been abstinent from alcohol for 8 years. I am able to drive once again and my relationship with my children is now better than ever.
With my new found confidence I started volunteering with Voices in October 2015, this gave me the opportunity to give something back, helping others who may have been in a similar situation to myself. Creating hope and helping people to get their voices heard when they feel unable to speak for themselves. Through volunteering I learned new skills, refreshed my old skills and was given the opportunity to complete training courses which enhanced my CV, as I was actively looking for employment. Most importantly it helped me feel part of a team again, boosted my confidence and self-esteem by meeting like-minded people.
I find it refreshing that an organisation has been created that encourages and welcomes people to share their lived experience with the intention of hopefully being able to create and sustain a fulfilled life.
In April 2016 an opportunity arose to apply for the position of Service Co-ordinator, which I decided to do, even though I was daunted at the prospect having not had an interview for the 8 years prior. As you can imagine I was very nervous, and unfortunately was not successful. Even though I didn’t get the job, I saw the experience as a positive one.
Since then I have applied again, this time I was successful, meaning I am now employed full time with the Voices project as a Service Co-ordinator.
Without the opportunity to volunteer, I honestly feel that I would not be where I am now, and so my advice to anyone considering becoming a volunteer is go for it, you never know where it might lead!