“The best decision I’ve ever made” – Ben’s story

18/05/2022

After experiencing a breakdown, Ben was put in contact with our Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support Service and hasn’t looked back since. After setting up his own support group and helping others through their struggles, Ben now works for Rethink Mental Illness and says that he has finally found purpose. Here’s his story.

I have struggled with my mental health from a young age. I have had severe depression and anxiety and a diagnosis of OCD from a fear of being touched. I have lived with depression since my teenage years and the anxiety and OCD since my mid-20s. After working for years in a mentally draining job and experiencing a massive breakdown, I ended up in hospital after attempting to take my own life a number of times.

Slowly, with help from the Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support Service and another charity, P3, I started to gain confidence and opened my own peer support group, focusing on art. We ran different activities which helped people create different styles of art. For example, my work focused on zentangles and mandalas (very detailed linework and patterns) as well as tattoo art and engraving. My favourite part of running the group was learning new styles from other artists and helping others through their own mental health struggles. We all became basically a family. This led to us meeting outside of the group, and allowed us to support each other with lots of other things we were going through.

  • We all basically became a family.

The group allowed me to feel more assured in myself and provided me with the opportunity to support others that were going through the same thing. Plus, it gave me more of a purpose, as I hadn’t worked since my breakdown.

Running the support group made me realise how rewarding it is to help others. All the past stuff I had experienced has given me the tools to help others going through the same things, which is a priceless lesson to learn. I went through a peer support group and came out of the other side feeling better than I was when I started. This proved to me how much they help and how much I wanted others to feel the way I do.

As my confidence grew, I took a bank staff role with Rethink Mental Illness on the emotional support helpline as part of my recovery. Whilst working on the helpline, I was answering calls from people who were struggling with their mental health or feeling lonely and didn’t have anyone to talk to. I’d talk them through distraction techniques, signpost them to other places or just generally have a chat with them about how they were feeling. It was hard work but very rewarding. It could be emotionally draining at times, but I knew that I could always talk to my manager or another member of staff if things got difficult. This helped me loads and made me realise what I wanted to do with my life: help others.

  • It could be emotionally draining at times, but I knew that I could always talk to my manager or another member of staff if things got difficult.

When the full-time group development worker position became available, I applied for it. By showing my passion for peer support groups and how much they can help others, I got the job! I was overjoyed when I heard the news. The first person I called was my fiancé and she was so happy and proud of me. She has always believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. That sense of pride was a whole new sensation. I was nervous because I hadn’t worked in six years, but that feeling was overtaken by optimism because I hadn’t felt proud of myself for a really long time.

I have now been in the role for nearly two months, and I can honestly say it’s the best decision I have ever made. All the staff are amazing, and all come from a personal lived experience of mental health. I’m feeling so much better about myself, I’m sleeping better than I ever have, I have more energy, I’ve lost weight, my anxiety has gotten loads better and I am looking after myself much more than I ever have. It has improved my mental health so much that I’m not on medication anymore and I am managing my mental wellbeing on my own with everything I have learned.

  • It’s the best decision I have ever made. All the staff are amazing, and all come from a personal lived experience of mental health.

Obviously, I still have some days where I have a wobble but I know that my manager, team leader and other members of staff will be there to support me and help me if needed.

I feel like I have found my place in life and can finally see a future for myself.

I really would like to thank the Derbyshire Recovery and Peer Support Service for totally changing my life for the better and for believing in me.

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