A chance shopping experience at our Dunston shop where Angela saw a poster advertising the need for volunteers completely changed the course of her life and would lead to a huge boost in her mental health as well as landing an assistant shop manager role.
Angela said: “My husband worked away during the week so I was often home alone most of the time and felt cut off from the world. I’d struggled with my weight on and off and would often avoid going out with friends as I didn’t feel I had any worth and my confidence was rock bottom. I felt anxious, depressed and had felt that way for most of my life, but it got really bad for a few years. The longer you cut yourself off the harder it is to get back out there. I knew that something had to change.
“When shopping in Dunston, I saw a chair I liked in the St Oswald’s shop window and saw some posters advertising volunteering roles. I decided I was going to force myself to apply so that at least I was meeting people and socialising.
“Once I started volunteering, I was wracked with nerves and spent the first few months avoiding customers and wouldn’t go on the till or answer the phone. Now, rather than avoiding people, it’s second nature to me and I love the interaction I have with the staff, volunteers and customers. Going out to work helps build you back up and gives you a real purpose.
“I was later given the opportunity to do several courses which gave me a lot more skills and knowledge about retail and customer service and when a paid assistant manager role came up in the Dunston shop where I’d been volunteering for some time, the shop manager encouraged me to go for it. I never dreamt I’d be good enough to do something like that and without the support and encouragement I received from all the fantastic people at St Oswald’s Hospice, I don’t believe I would have.
“Within a matter of months I’d noticed a dramatic improvement and I can’t quite believe the transformation I’ve undergone in the past four years. From being isolated, to volunteering, to working part-time in a busy shop. The confidence this gave me had a ripple effect through all other parts of my life and I’ve been able to re-connect with old friends again, make new friends and it has given me a confidence to speak up for myself. At one time, I’d let people walk all over me and now I won’t put up with people putting me down or with some of the awful situations I found myself in. I now feel good enough and as worthy as anyone else. St Oswald’s has given me my life back and helped me be me.”
On what advice she’d give to others in a similar situation: “The first push is always going to be the hardest and you know yourself you need to reach out and get help but find yourself thinking ‘not today, I’ll do something tomorrow.’ But it’s a case of gritting your teeth, taking the plunge and as soon as you’ve done it you’re so pleased you did something positive to improve your situation.
“Volunteering and now working with St Oswald’s has completely turned my life around and I wish I’d done it years ago. The first step will always be frightening to someone struggling with mental health but once you’ve overcome that, each step gets that little bit easier and you’ll be amazed at how far you’ve come.”
If you’ve been struggling with your mental health and have been inspired by Angela’s story, why not consider volunteering with St Oswald’s Hospice. Head to our volunteering section to learn more about the wide variety of volunteering opportunities we have.