Kath Deans shares her mental health story for World Mental Health Day
“Around 10 years ago I had taken maternity leave from my job as a carer and I developed post-natal depression. I would describe it as feeling really low and not wanting to mix with people and not wanting to do anything. I’d avoid situations as I couldn’t face people or conversations. I could barely be bothered to do basic things like eat or speak to anyone; I had no joy or energy. After initially trying to return to work, I realised just how bad my mental health was and I felt that I if I was struggling to look after myself, I shouldn’t be looking after anyone else. I’m a naturally caring person, so it felt really strange to feel so empty and to be so emotionally numb.
“After leaving my job as a carer, I decided to give volunteering a go with St Oswald’s. I forced myself to sign-up as a volunteer and almost immediately my mood began lifting and my energy started to come back. I felt incredibly valued even as a new volunteer. It was such a turnaround in a really short space of time. It forced me to get back out into the world and have adult conversations. It helped me to be proactive, feel useful again and gave me some goals and daily structure. I had something to do, I could get through the day and I could make a real difference. Even though I wasn’t working as a carer anymore, by volunteering in a St Oswald’s Hospice charity shop, in a way, I felt I still was. I knew that the money I raised would go towards patients and families at the hospice who needed care and support which lifted me up and made me feel good.
“About a year later I was encouraged to apply for an Assistant Shop Manager role, later becoming a full-time Shop Manager. Thinking back to my mental health when I started volunteering, I could never have imagined I’d end up managing my own shop and my own team.
“More recently, my mental health has been affected by grief following a family bereavement and menopause. I’ve had lots of low moods through this period but the support I’ve got from everyone at St Oswald’s Hospice has been wonderful.
“I’ve been offered counselling, support sessions and regularly talk over my problems with colleagues who share how they deal with their low moods and anxieties. My managers over the years have all helped hugely and have gone through similar situations so can relate and have been able to offer support to me whenever I have any self-doubt. The help I’ve always received has given me the confidence to carry on and to come back stronger each time I’m down.
“St Oswald’s Hospice has given me my confidence back, opened up opportunities I never thought possible, and supported me throughout. I just love St Oswald’s Hospice and everyone who is part of it!”
Kath ended: “My main advice is just to talk about it. I’ve noticed that as soon as I start talking to others and telling them about how I’m feeling, even a stranger at the bus stop, they’ll immediately open up to me, share their experiences and often they’ve gone through something similar which immediately makes you feel less isolated.
Working as a charity shop manager is a bit like being a counsellor. People come in and talk about their mental health and we all share our own stories and experiences which is a lovely feeling.”