Life finally feels like it’s coming together!
Clarissa had fought a long battle with enduring depression, but felt her life was on the up with a new job in banking. Then the pandemic hit and she learnt she was being made redundant before she had even properly started in the role. This led to Clarissa’s depression and anxiety really taking hold and she had to work hard within herself to keep going. Knowing that good work would give her a routine, a distraction and a reason to get up in the morning, Clarissa was referred to Twining Enterprise where she was matched with Peter, an Employment Advisor. Working closely with Peter, Clarissa ended up finding a training course which boosted her confidence and is now about to start a new job! Life finally feels like it’s coming together. Here Clarissa tells us her story in her own powerful words…
Where were you prior to finding Twining Enterprise?
I had actually been in a really dark place in terms of my mental health – I have a long history of severe depression and anxiety – since I was 13 years old and I’m now in my early thirties. I have never really had any real treatment; I’ve been on anti-depressants for a long time, and had some counselling, but it gave me more anxiety. I’m off the anti-depressants now – I felt like I could function normally – and there are quite a few side effects – which I’m sick of – sick of being in a way a slave to the anti-depressants. I decided to stop them completely about four years ago.
My mental health has always been a huge challenge for me. I tried at 15, 19 and 22 years of age to kill myself. It took that for someone to take notice of me and my struggle. People provide more support to physical medical conditions as they can see and understand them. People don’t understand something they can’t see. I learnt to adapt how I behaved around other people. Your internal life is true and real, then you have another life where you just pretend how you’re feeling to those around you. In 2015 had a full mental breakdown – I didn’t go out for almost two years. I just got to a point where I didn’t want to pretend anymore.
Before the pandemic hit, I had secured a good job working for a high street bank… but then the pandemic hit. I had been really excited for the banking job – I had started six weeks of training and I was really excited to start the role. However, three weeks into the training my branch manager and supervisor took me into a meeting and told me I was going to have to be let go. My last day would be the end of February 2020. They explained that it wasn’t personal – it was all the new starters.
A lot of people really struggled during the pandemic, but I had so much other stuff going on too.
This was all a massive shock to my system – it was the worst timing – I was supposed to move house that month too – I had been looking for different places all around London, and it was all coming together for me finally after a long period of uncertainty. I thought I was at a great point in my life. Due to the pandemic, I was uncertain if the house move would still happen – I wasn’t sure if the movers could still come – so I just let it be and thankfully that aspect worked out, and I moved.
With all the sudden change I realised I just had to try and collect myself. I was still in a bad place mentally – and ended up being in that funk for about one and a half years. I had no idea what I’d do job wise and I was trying to look for other banking roles but a lot of them were quite senior roles.
Despite everything I had to remain as positive as possible. My mental health was bad, but my physical health had always been very good, even in the pandemic, so I tried to stay appreciative of that.
How did you eventually find Twining Enterprise?
I had been getting a lot of encouragement from friends and family. They suggested that as I didn’t know what was happening with the bank, I should consider looking at another industry. I looked at customer services or more junior roles. I was also looking at jobs in my local council but didn’t see much that I thought I could do.
During this time, I also had bouts of suicide - where I attempted suicide. I had to let my employment advisor at that time (not my Twining advisor) know what was going on – I had to be honest where I was mentally and emotionally. I had to let him know what was going on with me, otherwise he would have just made the assumption that I was not interested in fulfilling my side of the agreement. I just needed to be honest – it may not have been what he wanted to hear or what I wanted to share – but I needed to let him know. There had been no rapport built up with him – it was just a very transactional relationship – I just shared what my ambitions were and what sort of career I wanted. After I shared how I was feeling he referred me to a disability employment advisor, who he felt was more experienced in helping people like myself.
He referred me to someone who was in fact perfect for me. I didn’t necessarily want to tell her about my mental health though. People still didn’t really talk about mental health prior to COVID. So, I ended up suffering in silence. You feel so alone and that no one else is going through what you’re going through. You can end up spiralling. You can end up in a very bad situation. I had no aspirations at all at that point.
However, it was my disability employment advisor who referred me to Twining Enterprise. I really wanted to find work - I knew it would boost my self-esteem. I’m best when I’m busy and have goals. Being busy is a distraction from depression. You’re struggling with it by yourself and all you have left is just your depression. Depression can be destructive when you’re not doing much.
How did Twining Enterprise help you?
After being referred to Twining Enterprise I got in touch with Peter, who became my new Employment Advisor. My job applications weren’t going any further than video interviews, so Peter said he could either support me to find a job – or alternatively help me with finding a training course. It felt like training would be more helpful. This benefitted me as I learnt about working with all different kinds of customers; and when you haven’t been in work for a while those skills go.
The course has helped refresh my work-related skills and find new ways to engage with people. Today is the last day of the course and last week I had to deliver a presentation on equality and diversity in the workplace – focusing on the nine protected characteristics – one of them being mental health. It felt like I had come full circle!
Peter was so good at listening. He had such dedication. I felt like he just really wanted me to succeed; whether that was in a job or on a course. He just really worked hard to help me find the proper resources that would help me.
Sometimes I really struggle to find the confidence to sell myself or believe in myself. I find it hard to talk about my qualities, but Peter was really encouraging in that sense. He helped me on how to answer those sorts of questions and sell myself. He was so dedicated to me and really wanted me to do well. He would always ask me how I was getting on, maybe a day or two before my interviews. He also sent really good information on developing my CV and how it can be improved.
I now have a temporary job – I am just starting the training and hoping to start in January. It’s something fresh for the New Year! I’m also not the only new starter so I don’t feel so alone. I’m always a little apprehensive about things but in the main I’m really looking forward to it!
How do you feel now?
I feel like my confidence has been boosted and I feel like my spirit has been a little bit uplifted too. I now feel like I can have that boost whereby I can just apply for roles that in the past I may not have. In the past I may have felt intimidated by the role, even though I might have had the experience, I didn’t feel like I had it. The course has just reminded me that I am capable and I am good enough. I can do it. I really needed that reminder.
I hope that Twining is accessible to the people who really need assistance and anyone who is hoping to turn their lives around should contact them. My main goal from writing this story is that people will reach out and help themselves to find their own life changing story, because it really is possible to turn your life around and connect with people.
Please note - This charitable project is funded by the European Social Fund and The National Lottery Community Fund.