Restoring Joy

Laura D

May 14, 2024

A massive thank you to our Peer Worker, Laura.D who has shared her inspiring story of recovery.  We hope you feel equally inspired!

‘Hi, I’m Laura and I am 51 years old.  I started as a permanent member of staff with Calderdale and Kirklees Recovery & Wellbeing College in April 2024 and I could not be prouder of myself and the team or be more privileged to be here. Let me tell you why.

I have had Depression, Anxiety, M.E. and a long list of aliments and life events that led me to being retired from my previous job several years ago.  At that point I felt as if I had totally failed, myself, my family and that my life was over.  The only thing that kept me going was my daughter and my dogs (they do insist on getting me up in a morning and have often been the only reason I have ventured out of bed never mind my door).  I am sure you all know that feeling.

For about 3 years I struggled on, thinking I was working on getting better, doing everything my Doctors, CPNs and Psychiatrists advised.  I tried numerous changes in medications (I had been on mood stabilizers and anti-depressants for over 15 years and boy aren’t some of those side effects fun!)  I tried everything and thought I was getting better and I successfully applied for a part-time job, caring for a wonderful lady but after just a couple of weeks I had crashed again. I was physically and emotionally drained.  My health hadn’t improved and the only thing I had learnt was to put a bigger smile on my face.

So now, I really am at the depths, right down there below the mud and the sludge, below the sunken bones where it’s so dark, you can’t see, hear or think. Everything feels heavy and overpowering. I can’t step outside of my own front door without my dogs, Mum or daughter with me.  Even then I’m in such a state of anxiety that often have to turn round and run back in.  It got to the point where I was no longer safe to be alone. I had to move home to my mums with daily CPN visits.  That was not a time I like to remember, but it is part of my journey.  As my CPN began to reduce her visits she mentioned the Recovery College. I thought I can’t carry on like this, the strain I’m putting on my mum is unforgivable, so I enrolled.

At this point COVID had hit and we are in full lock down, the wonderful Rachel from the College gets in touch and before I know it, I am on my first online course, ‘Understanding Anxiety’.  I was petrified.  I can’t remember if I even spoke. I started with my camera on but as soon as I realised you didn’t have to be seen off it went.  I was panicking but soon realised so was everyone else.  The lady who ran it was fab, she had been where I was and here she was talking to all these people – I could never do that!  Things she said rang so true, she described exactly how I felt which made me think perhaps I’m not such a loser, maybe I’m not wrong, perhaps I’M NOT ALONE.

With each subsequent course, the message was reaffirmed; I’m not alone and it’s ok to not be ok.  I learnt so much about why I reacted the way I did, what led me to where I was, how to ground and calm myself and how to take back control. Although I had been told how to do these things before, it wasn’t until talking with others who had been through it that made a difference. This first-hand experience, with practical information helped build my confidence slowly but surely.

My first turning point came when the final session of an online animation course actually took place in person at the Recovery College. Yep, I would have to travel AND meet people.  It helped that I’d already met fellow learners online and staff at the college were brilliant, discussing strategies with me on how to get there and what to do if I felt overwhelmed. Despite everything I did get there and it was one of the hardest and most enjoyably terrifying things I’ve done but boy am I glad I did it.

For the next few years, I continued to attend courses, dragging my poor mum along as I couldn’t face the journey alone, let alone getting through the door.  Slowly, I progressed so I could drive and walk in by myself.  It wasn’t easy and I had plenty of panic attacks before setting off, on the way and during courses, meaning that I wasn’t able to complete some courses due to my anxiety.

My second breakthrough came on the Writing for Wellbeing course.  My goodness, how this opened the world up for me.  Thank you to the Facilitator, Heather for introducing writing to me (especially free writing).  This is where I learnt to let go of all that stuff that ties both our heads and hearts up in knots. This was when my wellness journey really took flight.  For some people it’s learning why our mind works like they do, it could be meditation, creative activities or other wellbeing tools. There is always something to be found at the College to help you on your journey.

With the encouragement of the staff, I became a ‘Friend of the College’.  I had gained so much from attending the courses, I had actually begun to think about returning to work. Although the thought was completely terrifying and I was very unsure whether I could work again, being a ‘friend of’ seemed like an ideal solution.  I loved it! Being able to give back something back to the people and place that had helped me the most.  I even found the courage to suggest some course too, and with support, I developed and delivered these. From there to now, my life has been a bit of a whirlwind!

In December 2023 I was in the process of becoming a fully-fledged College Volunteer but at the same time, the position of Peer Worker was advertised, so I applied and here I am!  You have probably gathered that I love the work that the College does and will be eternally grateful for the tools and joy they restored in me.  My dream is to encourage, empower, support and guide anyone who wants to start their wellness journey with us. So, if you are sitting at home debating whether or not to enrol or call to find out about a course, my advice is just do it.  The day I made that call changed my life; I would love to be sat here reading your story one day.’




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