Why do I volunteer?

I had my first voluntary job when I was 15. I worked in a local charity shop. I would be there every weekend and I did this for about 7 months. This was until my GCSE exams hit.

Then during the summer I volunteered and helped out with a care company. When I started sixth form I got a paid job but I still wanted to volunteer. I just struggled to find any voluntary work.

In the following summer I completed the NCS programme, and my love for volunteering grew massively. I did my social action project where I helped the homeless. After the programme I volunteered on the programme. I then started volunteering with girlguiding, I also did volunteer work with a mental health campaign within NCS, I volunteered in helping with lessons in school, I also volunteered with a local charity.

I was hooked.

I couldn’t stop volunteering, and the more I did the more I found time to do.

After having my mental illness being at the centre of my mind for the last few years volunteering was a welcome distraction.

It also gave me self-worth, and confidence.

Since coming to uni I have started working with a local guiding unit, and have started doing work with Time2change. I still wish to do more.

Volunteering gives me a purpose, it gives me happiness, and I’d be lost without it.

National Citizen Service (NCS)

The summer of 2014 was a tough one, but it was one that changed my life.

I always hated the summer holidays. I’m the kind of person who likes a routine, so when summer came I always struggled. This summer holiday was particularly tough as I was deeply struggling with my mental health at the time.

I had just completed my first year of 6th form. However, I hadn’t really as I had deliberately failed my exams as I couldn’t deal with the pressure, and I had just floated in and out of classrooms the whole year. This was all due to a massive decline in my mental health. However, at least a school I knew I could be safe. I was dreading being left alone during the summer with nothing to do. But the summer had to come at some point.

So it did.

During the first couple of weeks I got myself into bad habits and self-destructive behaviours. But one day I was scrolling through facebook and saw a friends post. There were pictures of him having a great time and enjoying himself. I was curious as to what he was doing. Then found out. He had gone away on the NCS programme.

So I did some research and signed up for the programme. I don’t know what came over me to do that but I’m glad it did. As it was nearing the end of the summer I wasn’t expecting to hear from them. However, two days later I got a phone call asking if I wanted to go on programme… that started in a two days time!

I said yes. Then everything changed.

I rung up my mum and she helped me get stuff together for the residential. I rushed around for a couple of days and got everything together and then before I knew it I was on the coach to the middle of wales.

I didn’t know anyone before I go there, but by the evening it was like we’d known each other for ages. After three days of being there I turned round to a member of staff and said “I want to come back, I’m going to work for you”.

I went home that weekend and didn’t stop talking to grandparents about my week, then it started again on Monday in a different place for our second residential. It was amazing.

I had my rough days whilst being residential, my mental health problems did cause my to have moments of self-doubt and tears, however, I came out of the residential programme a new person.

Once I had finished the programme and graduated, I went back as a volunteer in the autumn programme. And then cam back in the spring as a paid team leader, and have done every programme since.

Even as a member of staff I still feel myself growing and encountering new challenges each time, whether these are personal or challenges with young people, they have all helped me grow.

From this programme I have gone on to work with the cabinet office, BBC radio, and the press. I have also become a volunteer for different charities. Everything I do now is thanks to the NCS programme.

In summer 2014 I was in a very low place, NCS saved my life, and gave me a new one.

Thank you!

 

10 Tips for University (first semester)

I’ve decided to put together a list of 10 things that either I found helpful or that I wish I had known before I came here.

1- Budget !! Sit down with a parent or adult or someone who knows what they’re talking about. I started the year with know budget at all and now I have no money. My Dad came up and saw me and sat down to come up with a budget and I feel so much better now.

2-Plan. Plan whatever you need to. Depending on how stressed I’m feeling depends on how much I want to plan, sometimes I just need to plan a specific day, sometimes i need to do the week.It could be only specific things like meals, or essays (definitely plan these). But a plan for me always makes me less stressed. There’s so much going on in your first semester that it should put your mind at ease to be organised.

3-Confidence. Fake it. If you’re not naturally confident (most people aren’t) then fake it. In the first week you may have to push yourself out of your comfort zone slightly just to get to know people. But believe me when I say that its worth it.

4-Cry and threaten to leave. Okay, sounds weird I know. But everyone in my flat has done. And I’m sure we’re not the only ones. It is bound to happen. You’ll get homesick. You’ll wonder why you ever came. If you’re like me you’ll wonder why you came so far away. You’ll call your family and say you’re moving. But you’ll most likely stay, because of various reasons. It’s important that you do this though if you need to and not try to stop yourself from crying. Make sure you talk to someone.

5-Go home (if you can/need to). It is okay to go home. Someone told me not to come home in the first term as I wont want to stay. However, I’ve been home or near home a few times and it has helped. In fact it made me want to go back to uni. But definitely don’t be ashamed if you need to go home.It’s nothing to be afraid of. Just try not to in the first week as people are getting to know each other then.

6- Set goals. This can be something small like writing the intro to an essay, or could be something like get through to the end of the week. Setting goals when you feel like you’ve lost motivation helps. My advice would be small achievable goals as then you’ll feel better about yourself for completing them.

7-Do the work. After all you’re paying to be there to learn. So do it. And do it when it is set. I was always terrible in sixth form for leaving work until the last minute but I am learning that I can’t do that here. The best thing to do is to start it when its set, plan, read, and write it. Do several drafts.

8-Join societies. They have so many different types of societies to join and you’ll find this at your fresher fayre. I recommend you try to join at least two. However, you don’t want to join too many and then not have time for it. So try something new, or do what you enjoy but try to do something. This will help you make friends all over the uni and not just in your year. Also if there isn’t the society you want then you could find out how to set you your own.

9-Talk to your flatmates. Communication with the people you live with is important. Imagine being at home and no one talking to each other, its horrible. These people are effectively your “family” for the next year, so it’s important you get along as best you can. set up rotas for cleaning, eat together, let one another know when you’re going out. Also, resolve any problems/arguments as quickly as possible.

10-Enjoy yourself!!

University

A few months ago I didn’t think I would be in university.

This may sound odd, as I have always wanted to go. I took an extra year in sixth form to resit exams in order to go. Yet I was so ill that I didn’t think I was going to make it through the day let alone make it to university.

But here I am. I’ve made it.

When applying for university I had one criteria that I had to hit and that was that it had to be far away. I wanted to go up north, I had spent my whole childhood in the south west and I wanted a fresh start.

I applied for four universities at least 4 hours away and got offers from all. I ended up accepting the one the furthest away, this was due to the course content.

And now, I’m here.

During the month or so before uni I was excited to go, so excited.

But the week before I was suddenly filled with dread. I was panicky about going so far away (I know) and that no one would like, I wouldn’t understand things, and that the university would be horrible. I know these are usual worries, but no matter how many times I heard “you’re all in the same boat” I never felt better. My mental illness made these worries ten times worse, and I really didn’t want to go anymore.

When I arrived it was crazy, we were so busy unpacking things that I forgot about my worries. My flatmates seemed lovely, and they were, still are. The first week was one that was just all over the place, but after a few weeks I know feel pretty settled.

I’m getting there, and I’m so glad I’m here.

I made it to university.

Abbie xx

Why Blogging?

Blogging is something I have wanted to do for a long time.

So here it is. A blog.

Blogs have been a key part of my mental health journey. Unfortunately some have ended up doing more damage than good, however, the majority have been extremely helpful. For me it was important to hear other people’s stories so I didn’t feel so alone.

So I have decided that I am going to try and blog. I want to create somewhere where I can be honest, but also where I can help others.

My aim is to aid people’s recovery, give advice, and try to inspire others.

I hope I am successful in this

Thanks,

Abbie xxx