Hilary, from Beeston, suffered a mental health breakdown a few years ago but had support from a colleague at Nottinghamshire Healthcare who she says “literally changed my life”.
Hilary said: “I will tell you about my ‘journey’. I prefer to call it that instead of a ‘story’ and it is a journey which I am very much still on. For the last 30 years or so, I have struggled a lot in many ways. I have, what was only diagnosed three years ago, a mental health condition called ‘Social Anxiety Disorder’. It is not a case of ‘just being shy’, it is an extreme fear of certain, everyday situations.
“Going back three years, my mental health really took a nosedive. Whereas I had always tried to hide my struggles, I felt I had now hit a brick wall and there was nowhere to run. I started to feel like I had no place in society and that I was a waste of space. For as long as I can remember, I was often on a short fuse, angry a lot of the time, falling out with folk. I was angry with the world. When things got really bad, it was recognised at work and it was time to admit I had a real problem. One night, I was so overwhelmed with feelings of despair, I was almost to the point of suicide. I was brought to A&E and then spent two nights in a mental health unit. I was at rock bottom. It was there that I got my diagnosis.”
Hilary has since been supported by her local community mental health team, and has had fantastic support from Kerisa Beverton, Occupational Therapy Assistant.
Social anxiety disorder works like this...you are convinced that in normal every day situations, people are being critical of you or viewing or judging you in a negative way. It is not shyness or paranoia, it is a serious mental health condition that impacts your life in so many ways.
Hilary said about Kerisa: “she has completely changed my life. She has helped save me. She is fantastic and an amazing person.”
During the time she spent with Kerisa, which was every Monday, they worked on ‘graded exposure’, pushing her to do more and more each time.
Hilary said: “The graded exposure therapy that I received from Kerisa was a rollercoaster of emotions to say the least! When I very first met Kerisa, I knew straight away that we would get along. She totally put me at ease and I knew I could put my trust in her.
“The therapy started with aiming for small goals. So, at first Kerisa caught the bus with me and then the week after, I caught the bus alone and Kerisa met me when I got off. The next time, I was in Tesco with her and she stayed at the side of me whilst I paid. Then as the weeks went on, she sent me on a mission each week. It began with me having to go into Tesco alone, buy an item, pay by myself and then meet Kerisa outside. I was petrified to say the least. We built it up each week until I was getting a full basket. It took ages at first for me to find the items I needed, it was all new to me. In my head, I felt like people were looking at me, knowing that I couldn’t find anything. I felt so ‘on show’. We did more and varied things each week. I’d be buzzing each time I achieved a goal.
“There were times when I was terrified, in tears, had a moan and nearly gave up but there was no way Kerisa was letting me do that. And I’m glad she didn’t. She always had such a way of turning anything negative into a positive and would always give me the praise and encouragement I needed. I truly believe that if I hadn’t been lucky enough to have had Kerisa as my support worker, then my life today would be a totally different story. Massive thank you to Kerisa!”
Paula Vaughan, Mental Health Care Group Director at Nottinghamshire Healthcare said:
“It’s always heart-warming to hear that our health professionals make such a difference to people’s lives. Kerisa has made such a positive impact to Hilary’s recovery journey through her outstanding care and compassion and the support she has provided. We are really proud of Kerisa, well done.”
Hilary was discharged from the local community mental health team, just a few weeks ago, which she found very daunting after having a support worker for three years but she is doing really well. She recently went to Nottingham arena with a friend to see a concert, for a meal, went to the bar, and even danced. “And it all felt so natural and easy. Rewind a few years and I could not have even dreamt of doing all this, living a ‘normal’ life!”
Kerisa said “I have worked in the Trust for going on 23 years, I have never had anything like this. I have had thank you cards and letters written thanking me for my support. I absolutely love my role and seeing people progress and achieve their goals. This is a reminder why I still love my job after all this time.”