Stepping outside my comfort zone



Our community support services provide personalised help that can help people living with mental illness to rebuild their confidence and take part in new activities. People can be referred to this service by a healthcare professional or contact the service directly for support. Sarah shares her experience.

Before coming into Rethink Mental Illness, I very much isolated myself in my bedroom and didn’t even think about going out into the community or seeing friends/family and meeting new people.

At first, I was terrified at the thought of having to meet my community support worker and figure out goals to improve myself. This was totally new to me and felt very scary. Initially, the goals given to me by my worker were to meet in town and build my confidence from there. But I found this too scary. I was very anxious meeting my worker for the first time in the office, which my worker noticed so we discussed my struggles around my anxiety. She changed my goals and we instead did gradual social exposure work in my local area near my home, which seemed a bit more possible to achieve.

Starting the support, I had mixed emotions. At first, I was forcing myself to go out and the moment I was outside all I wanted to do was run back home. However, as I started meeting my worker on a weekly basis, my emotions changed to become more positive.

I was building up a weekly routine, openly speaking with my worker and building up a relationship with them, which then helped me to look forward to going out more – I’ve always found it nerve-wracking talking to professionals but as support has gone on, this has improved.

I opened up more about my personal issues and my past with my worker, I felt like she understood me more, listened and encouraged me to connect more with the community to improve my well-being.

She also encouraged me to go to a local drug and alcohol support service. This was a big step for me. At first, I didn’t feel like I deserved the help, but my worker came with me for the first couple of sessions, and I have now been actively engaging with them for six months on my own.

My worker also made various group suggestions (pool, Dungeons and Dragons, cycling, walking group) and helped me to engage with them by coming with me until I felt more confident. This was particularly important to me, because now I have a reason to get out of my bed in the morning as I have made connections with various people with similar interests through these groups.

By getting this support, it has helped me to get past my fear of trying new things, thinking more positively about myself and I have now started to do more things by myself! I have gone to various other social groups without my worker’s support and I even took part in the Tour De Moor cycling event this year, which was a big achievement for me. Before I came to Rethink Mental Illness for support I always had the idea that I wanted to learn Japanese and go to Japan to explore the culture, but I thought that this dream was stupid and that I couldn’t realistically do it. But I told my worker about it and she put support in place to help make my ideas a reality, by encouraging me to save money, do basic Japanese lessons, build my confidence more and also reduce my cannabis use. Now I am going to Japan for three weeks next spring to do Japanese school and explore.
As support has gone on, I am now looking at going to university to become a teacher.

Looking back at the person I used to be, that person was very negative, but with the changes that I have made on myself and the support, which has been very positive, has made my biggest goal to excel myself much more achievable. I applied to go to university ten years ago, at the time I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind, but now with support it has given me a boost in confidence and been able to give me more opportunities to improve myself.

Before I came to Rethink Mental Illness I was getting some support from the Community Mental Health Team. They helped in a way, but I don’t think they fully understood what was going on with me – particularly my anxiety. They would suggest various groups to go to, but I had to contact and attend these all without support, which I found way too daunting – I did try but I didn’t fully engage. Having my Rethink Mental Illness support worker by my side helped me to build up my confidence, and she’s continued to support me to step out of my comfort zone.

11 months ago, I would have never thought I would be doing any of this. Back then I felt too anxious to do anything, but through the support I’ve had, I have found that my confidence has improved massively. I’m speaking to more people, doing more things out of my comfort zone and gaining new opportunities.

If I met someone now who is feeling the way I was and being too anxious to do anything, I would definitely recommend they come to Rethink Mental Illness!

Every year our network of services helps over 16,000 people experiencing mental illness to get the help and support they need. In total, we provide over 200 expert mental health services in England. These can help you or someone you know with everything from housing to employment, legal rights to nursing care, carer support to help for young people.

*We have changed the author's name and used a stock image for this blog at the request of the author.