Hello, my name is Joy. I worked for a bank for 27 years and was always a pretty happy, easy-going person.
In 2001 I started experiencing depression which escalated to such an extent that I had to take early retirement due to ill health. My little girl, Charlotte, was 7 by then. I would get up each morning, take her to school, return home, go to bed, and set my alarm for 3 to go and pick her up. I just wanted to block my thoughts out. I was so emotional all the time and felt guilty about not working.
During this time my mom was my rock and would stay with me as I was frightened to be on my own. As time passed though, she became frail and poorly and I took on the role of her full-time carer. I just got through my days the best I could.
My daughter became my world and the only reason I kept going. In 2014 she was diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma and as a family, we went through a horrendous 6 months with her having chemo every 2 weeks. She has now been discharged after her 5 years in remission and is a wonderful caring girl who will always be my hero for her bravery and determination.
My Employment Specialist (ES) and I found an internship role to help build my confidence but starting was difficult for me. I became really upset as I felt I wasn’t good enough. Like I mentioned earlier, my inner voice is not kind and it can still belittle everything I do and destroy any achievement or confidence I have. My consultant and ES both discussed how I was doing as they could see my mental health was deteriorating significantly. They came up with a plan which was to start with little steps and gradually build instead of going straight into a graduate role or full-time employment.
In 2015 I lost my dear mom and we moved house. With no-one to care for, my depression started to take hold again. Then my mental health care was transferred to Park House in Cannock.
My CPN Lucy was very supportive and wanted to help me improve my quality of life. After myself being diagnosed with a rare form of leukemia months after losing mom, I underwent a short course of chemo and thankfully achieved full remission. I don’t know if going through being so ill made me want to change my life, but I started thinking of returning to work.
“I told Lucy of my hopes for the future and she referred me to Helen at Step-On. I can honestly say that meeting changed my life!“
I immediately felt at ease with Helen and we started working together to find a job. I got an interview for the first job I applied for in retail but was not confident with my chances of getting the position at 57 years old and having not worked for 14 years.
Helen met me the day before the interview and assured me to just be myself and amazingly I got the job. I had a few wobbles, days when I felt I couldn’t continue but I would phone or text Helen and she would meet me to talk things through. I confided in her my hopes of working with people who had suffered mental health problems like myself and we were in the process of looking at support worker jobs when the role at Step-On came up.
I applied for it and was successful.
I was a peer recovery worker for 10 months where I helped people who wanted to work but werent quite ready to start applying for jobs. I shared my experiences with them and assured them they could be successful too and change their lives.
“I am excited to see what the future holds for me. I no longer wake up feeling depressed and worthless. I look forward to the day ahead and feel my life has a purpose.”
Step On supports people who have experienced mental health difficulties, but who are now ready to return to or look for paid employment. The team work with service users in Staffordshire involved with mental health services. It is made up of skilled employment specialists and peer support workers who provide advice and support on possible career opportunities, focusing on a person’s abilities and aspirations.
My mum finished working when I was around six years old due to her struggles with depression. In the fourteen years, she didn’t work, her mental health didn’t really improve at all. In fact, after my grandma died ( who my mom cared for ), it only seemed to deteriorate. She would spend whole days in bed, and seemed to have lost her spark. I noticed she would be quite manic some days, and extremely low the next. I decided to encourage her to get a job, as I felt it would help to give her a purpose.
Shortly after she started seeing Helen from Step-On and got a part-time job at Dunelm. I immediately saw a change in her mental health, and when Helen suggested she apply for the peer worker role at Step-On, I knew she would be great at it. Since getting the job and ultimately being promoted to an employment specialist, the change in my mum has been incredible.
She wakes up every day with a purpose and is excited about life again. I can’t thank Step-On enough for what they have done for my mum, and for giving me back the woman I love most.
I have always been proud of her, but seeing her proud of herself is a dream come true.