My jobs are very important to me. They help with my confidence, self-esteem and give me a sense of achievement, structure, routine and a reason to get out of bed in the morning.
Most of all, I no longer feel like an outsider. I used to feel as though the world of the living was for other people, like I didn’t belong in the real community. I needed a lot of care.
Recently my community psychiatric nurse said he felt sad that there was nothing I needed help with. He said it tongue-in-cheek, but it was good to hear.
I’ve come a long way and, if anyone asks ‘Was it worth the effort?’ I would insist that it was very much worth the effort. The empowerment of taking my life into my own hands and the responsibility of living a healthy lifestyle is very pleasing.
The first job I applied for, more than two years ago, was a conservation job, gardening in public and private spaces. I started early in the morning and worked until the middle of the afternoon. It was hard working nearly all day, having been idle for a while, but it was only one day a week. I would come home at the end of the day and feel really proud of a good day’s work and, soon, I went looking for other work.
Before Christmas 2015 I started working in a charity bookshop. My manager wanted to make sure my illness wouldn’t get in the way or cause problems. I told him some of the signs and said I would tell him if I had stopped my medication. I’m still at the bookshop and it’s the longest time I’ve spent in one job. They are all very nice people that work there. I really enjoy the job and get a first look at some of the books; I buy a lot fewer than when I first started!
Along with the bookshop I now work two other jobs too. I joined a charity working with vulnerable people. They were concerned I was still vulnerable myself, so gave me a job in a café, but after a month or so I asked them to give me a job on the frontline. I now work on reception, assessing people and signposting them to the people that can help.
Then, a couple of months ago, I started volunteering for ²gether NHS Foundation Trust, working a couple of hours a week talking to people with dementia. I find this incredibly rewarding. I am making a difference in people’s lives and, after all the help I’ve received, I am using my knowledge of what it’s like on the other side to help.