Steve’s story …

What did you expect before you came?

I didn’t have great expectations to be honest, most other courses I’d been forced to go on before hadn’t really helped. But I was stuck in a rut, with no social life and nothing to really get me out or keep me occupied. I was suffering with pretty bad depression and desperate to try anything just to try and kick a start a more positive life for myself.

What was your experience of the course? What are the things that you have taken away and have remembered?

I really enjoyed it. I have a few problems with my memory but I distinctly remember that I enjoyed it immensely. For such a long time I had been stuck at home not doing anything – it was nice to have a focus and a place to go. I began to think differently about myself and my situation and realised that I had plenty of opportunity to change, to take more control and make some decisions to change things about the way I was living. It was also how I met Hayley, Mags and Tony. All great people and SO similar to me. Hayley particularly is an incredible person – I really value her as a person and I love how outspoken she is. We have become really close friends.

How has CCN helped you?

The RfL course fundamentally was the catalyst to the huge change (for the good) that I have experienced. More positive Mindset, new friends and being in charge of my life rather than depressed at home alone – my life really has changed massively.

The course was the start of all the positive things in my life at the moment. They introduced me to Garden House Hospice where I have been volunteering ever since. I love my job there, scanning books, DVDs and CDs and raising money for the Hospice – I am there every Tuesday – I give them my time happily in the afternoons. I enjoy good company there, being part of the team and have made some friends, especially with Brian who I work with regularly.

Meeting Hayley and Mags and having the chance to see them every week at Friday drop-in is probably one of the things I have been most grateful for. I love spending time with them, my Fridays are really precious – it’s a guaranteed laugh and a great excuse to catch up with people I have come to hold very dear. We need a need new chess board though – the pieces have been broken so we haven’t been able to play chess for ages ! At the Hub, I really enjoy having people to talk to and we’ve started meeting up outside as well – Hayley and I had coffee at Costa last Saturday.

How has being part of our community helped you?

Through the Friday Hub and working with Zobaida, I got a work mentor, Rob, through the BBO programme. He introduced me and helped me to get a voluntary peer mentor job with Mind. I’m just finishing my training in Watford and Letchworth now actually and I’m really looking forward to getting matched with my first client soon. None of this would have been possible without CCN, the RfL course and Friday Hub. It really has been life-changing – genuinely, I mean it. Working with people with mental health issues is something I’ve wanted to do for years. It finally feels as though my life is going in the direction I wanted it to – for the first time ever.

I’ve spent a lot of time in therapy and trying different voluntary jobs over the years, but none of them have really satisfied me or felt fulfilling. But doing this peer mentoring has been amazing, I realise it’s what I’ve wanted since I was in my early 20’s, pretty much the kind of profession I’ve always wanted to get into.

I ended up working on an interview panel for Mind. The feedback I got from that was hugely positive and a massive confidence boost. One of the people I’ve met at Mind told me I’d be perfect for working with people with complex needs – something I’d like to aim for but never dared think could be possible – now I’m mixing with professional people in this field who regularly tell me how well I’m doing, they give me really positive feedback about my performance and my potential The praise I get from Mind and Rob is incredible, it stops me feeling that I’m winging it and actually doing a good job. These people see qualities and attributes in me – it’s making me really believe in myself – this is a huge contrast to how I felt before.

None of this would have happened if it was not for CCN, the courses and Friday drop-in. There is a paid position like a peer mentor going with Mind, I asked them about it and they said apply after you’ve done this volunteering for a few months – I’m starting to feel quietly confident that this could be a positive outcome for me. I’m daring to hope that within a year from now this could be my job – a proper paid job ! If I get experience working voluntarily with 3 or 4 clients, that will give me a great advantage in applying for the paid position – a year from now I could be working, in a field that I’ve always dreamt of doing but never believed possible.

What changes have you experienced since coming to CCN and how do you feel now compared to before?

None of this would have been possible without CCN, the courses and the Friday Hub – it’s sincerely life changing - radically in ways I never could have expected or dared to hope for.

Compared to before I came to RfL, I was very depressed, at my wits end and close to giving up hope of anything positive ever happening for me. I was desperate to do something to change for the positive but I had no idea how to – I was not in a good place, about as low as I could get.

The catalyst for change was the RfL course, honestly genuinely that was it – for one thing it was meeting Hayley & Mags – meeting people who have become really good friends.

The course got me to look at my life with a different perspective – it was a massive reminder of things I’ve thought of and known about from the various therapies I’ve had over the years, known about but never been able to put into action – the course with the Hub follow up, gave me the impetus I needed and the momentum to carry on with the new positive outlook I had discovered and the actions they’d encouraged. In spite of my best intentions as I finished the course, they would have fizzled out without the support from the Hub.

What are your next steps from here?

I will continue working at GHH, I love it there, my job and the people. I’m excited about getting my first client as a peer mentor with Mind and working to help them. And I have a really clear plan that in a year’s time I will apply for a paid job doing something similar.

Have you got a vision for the future you?

Beyond that, I will be working within MH and perhaps Mind or some other organisation who does similar work, and hopefully progressing up the ladder to a supervisor or manager role – that would be mind-blowing. I’m looking forward to taking on more responsibility – that is my clear goal - it is what I’m aiming for.

That reminds me of the RfL course – remembering how you say things and Mindfulness that has stuck with me – how you say things is so important to how you feel. When you talk about things in a more assertive way, your confidence and motivation goes up and you start to make things happen. It’s really very exciting…… I’m genuinely excited about work and having things to aim for professionally, for the first time ever. Because it’s so exciting, it’s made me work even harder towards it, setting realistic goals on the way so I pace myself – just like we talked about on the course – that’s another things that’s stuck with me. I have a vivid plan laid out that I’m following and so far it’s going better than I ever dreamed of.

Before the course, I’d have said at best I was 2/10. Now I’m a 9/10 – I’ve achieved so much already and come so far. When will I be 10/10 ? When I get the paid job !

What message would you like to share with people who may be thinking about coming to meet us at CCN?

Ready for Life is nothing like anything they’ve done before. It’s not boring or the same as other courses they’ve been sent on – it’s actually really worth the time and effort and they’ll get a lot out of it. You couldn’t ask for better people who run the courses – 2 of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. I genuinely liked both of them, they were really inspiring and caring. I owe a lot to you all to be honest. My experiences with CCN have been absolutely life changing. I’d always needed but never had before the kind of help and support I’ve got.

I’d also say stick with it, don’t lose patience - things take time, they don’t happen automatically – but don’t lose hope. Attend the Hub every Friday – it has a massive positive effect, you’re surrounded by like-minded people in similar situations – together, we can actually give each other inspiration and hope for a more positive future.