Working together to build confidence and hope

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Keesha had reached burnout at work resulting in a breakdown, and this had prevented her even considering working again.  However, she took that brave first step and found Aniko, one of our Employment Specialists, who instantly put Keesha at ease by reassuring her that they would work at her speed to find work that was right for her, whatever form that might take.  Here Keesha tells us her full and inspirational story in her own words…

I was so impressed that Twining Enterprise got in touch almost straightaway after my care coordinator had referred me to them around six months ago. Admittedly, however, I was quite nervous at first and wasn’t sure what to expect. I hadn’t worked for many years due to poor mental health, and I was concerned that, in taking this step, there would be pressure on me to get back into employment quickly and that I’d get anxious and overwhelmed. I’ve always put immense pressure on myself to ‘achieve’; a mindset that, ironically, resulted in me burning out and having a breakdown at my last corporate job, and has blocked me from seriously considering working again.

But any fears I had were soon put to rest by my brilliant Employment Specialist, Aniko, who immediately reassured me that we would work together at a pace that felt comfortable and that there was no fixed timeframe and no specific milestones to reach, beyond an overarching aim of supporting me to find employment that was right for me, whatever path and form that might take. This holistic, flexible, and patient approach has been vital in helping me let go of unhealthy, rigid expectations and in broadening my horizons, and learning to take baby steps.

From the outset Aniko took time to get to know me as a whole person, not only find out about my professional experience or skills. Being out of work for a long time and battling severe depression and anxiety I found my whole world shrank, and with it, my self-worth. When you’re employed, you take for granted the direct and indirect benefits of the structure and human interactions that employment provides. I’d become so isolated and I’m terrible at ‘reaching out’.

So, for me, an immediate positive impact of working with Aniko was having regular, but manageably spaced, in-person meetups, to help re-establish structure and connections and, thereby, rebuild my self-confidence. Since I stopped working, most of my contact with other people outside of my family has been through mental health related appointments, which have tended to reinforce the ‘unwell’ aspects of myself. The regular meetups with Aniko gave me the chance to reconnect with my capabilities and to engage meaningfully with someone aware of my mental health difficulties, but within a practical framework. This included mutually agreeing mini tasks or ideas to explore between meetings, so there was an ongoing sense of momentum and accomplishment. Aniko was so knowledgeable and inspiring in researching and suggesting different opportunities and ways of thinking about work and about life. She also created a relaxed and collaborative dynamic that allowed me to explore different ideas and gave me the space to say “no” and to change my mind (again, things which I’ve always found very difficult) along the way. And she never made me feel judged for the things with which I struggled and needed help. 

For example, I’d long been aware of various courses run at my local recovery college to which you can self-refer, but I’d always been too scared to, and I felt particularly anxious about all the unknowns – the environment, the number of people involved, etc.  Aniko completely understood my apprehensions, so she arranged tours of both the recovery college and the creative studio attached to it, which she accompanied me on. Having her with me and being able to discuss things together afterwards was invaluable. Thanks to her support and the introductions she facilitated, I ended up doing a music production summer course and I am currently doing a weekly ceramics class, which I am greatly enjoying. I’ve benefited so much from these creative courses, not only in terms of learning new skills, but in regaining confidence being around people in a community setting.

Aniko also helped me with a referral to my local mental health trust’s patient involvement service to become an Expert by Experience (EbE). Again, this is something I’d been interested in for years – as I wanted to use my lived mental health experience to help improve local services for others – but I had never had the courage to follow through, and, similarly to the recovery college, there were practical steps involved, like making initial contact and form-filling that had further deterred me. With Aniko’s support, I am now on the EbE register and I have already undertaken a paid assignment that, in turn, led me to undertake an online course about Quality Improvement, which I found interesting and rewarding, and will prove useful for future EbE work.

I know that recovery is a continuous process and that I still have a little way to go in finding and sustaining suitable regular employment, but the fact that that even feels possible would have seemed inconceivable six months ago. My experience with Twining Enterprise and Aniko has been so positive and so empowering in ways I could never have imagined – from the practical and motivational framework it has provided to the enriching creative courses and EbE work it has helped facilitate. More than anything, after years of bleakness and isolation, it has enabled me to reconnect with the world and with myself; it has given me hope. And for that I will be eternally grateful.

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