How Volunteering has helped my mental health
If I take you back around 9 months ago I wasn’t really doing anything other than waiting for my psychotherapy, which I still am. My mental health was at a low because I had relapsed with both my OCD and PTSD. I think if I had been within therapy this wouldn’t have happened as I would have had the support I needed. I am to this day still trying to fix the broken pieces of this and some days I am winning and others I’m a little lower than I should be but i have a new therapy... volunteering.
Within the mist of days spent obsessing and having to start a new medication I thought I couldn’t do anything. I thought that was it, I’m done. I was waiting for my golden ticket, my treatment, to save me. Of course we can’t put all our eggs in one basket and sometimes treatment doesn’t help at all. So on one random day I thought to myself “I need to do something”. I had to take the hardest jump in my life and get myself out there. Being someone who has a fear of being abandoned and fear of being alone it’s not that easy to push yourself. But I did. I checked out what volunteering roles were going in my area and I applied for two. Now I’m not going to lie, I hopped no one would want me due to my fears but I got both roles! And to the anger of my mental health I accepted both and was due to start within the week.
For me, having awful anxiety about anything let alone something new, the day when I started my first role was a day that I panicked like there was no tomorrow. Looking back now I know there was nothing to worry about but when you are in it you honestly can’t see past the fear. I spend the day clock watching, getting into a state and pacing the flat until the time came when I needed to go. I knew deep down I had to do this to help me with my recovery so with that tiny bit of strength I went. You know that saying, “The thought is always worse than doing it”? Well I can honestly hands down say that it’s true. Everything I had thought about doing it went out the window. Did I die? Nope. Did I have a panic attack? No. Was I sick? Nope. Nothing bad happened. In fact I had the best time in ages.
Volunteering for me has helped me so much with my confidence. It’s given me a purpose that is of such a value to me. I’m needed massively at times and being someone who has zero confidence it’s been such a boost. Pushing myself every week to try new things and tasks is amazing when you have anxiety. You are in control because you are just helping out so there are no ties to what you do. I only do things I think I can do at that time and it’s brilliant as I don’t get myself into a state. One of the biggest things that it’s helped me with is switching off from my issues. The moment I’m there I’m in a mode of care, support and making sure everyone is having a good time. I teach, I listen and I play! I can’t think about my OCD thoughts or worries because I’m so busy and for me it’s bliss. I can honestly say that Volunteering has given me so much positivity in my life and I did it all off my own back - that is something to be proud of! I think the main thing I’m taking out of volunteering is to stop trusting myself when it comes to fears because the truth is, your mental health is a liar. If I had listened to my thoughts back on my first day I wouldn’t have done this and I wouldn’t be here writing this post. I feel like I’m getting some control and normality into my life by Volunteering. I have a purpose and it’s something I bloody love! It’s something that is one step closer to saying screw you mental health!
While awaiting treatment most people do end up getting worse, I have done so many times in the past but this time I turned it around. The funny thing is I started volunteering to help myself but now I'm completely in it for others. I go to help, play, assist and teach - the tables have turned! I'm so excited for the future with volunteering and I think this is the proudest I have been of myself for years. It's just made me realise that there is so much good in the world and my mental health really is a drop in ocean.