Trying to be A Useful Human Being

Hello readers. As some of you from Facebook or Twitter maybe aware I suffer form a number of mental health conditions. Primarily these are anxiety and social phobia with the odd spell of depression thrown in for good measure.

I wasn’t always like this though. There was a time before I developed those conditions. In those days if you asked me who to describe myself, I could have given you any number of answers.
I was a support worker for adults with learning dissabilities. The sole breadwinner in our house. A single mother to two teenage boys. The type of person people went to if they wanted help at work or advice about things. The person who others knew they could go to if they needed a favour.
In short I was a useful human being.

Trying To Be A Useful Human Being

I think one of the worst things about these conditions is even when I’m feeling reasonably well, they seam takes away my sense of usefulness. Its not as if Im always bored. I have plenty of hobbies that I enjoy which occupy my time, but none of the things I do particularly benefit anyone else.

Why am I not useful any more?

There are many reasons why I often don’t feel useful any more, and they are often related to the things I use to do when I was well.

I don’t have a job

From conversations ive had with other sufferers, this is something a lot of people feel. This is certainly a consequence of our capitalist culture and conservstive government. We are constantly bombarded with the message that working people are honest, reliable, good people whereas people that dont work are lazy, untrustworthy and a burden on society.
Although I do not claim any sort of benefits, and still have a small part time job, I sometimes feel like a burden to my husband (not that he sees it like that).
The role that I had before has changed a lot in the last few years. The most important skill a support worker needs to have now is the ability to drive, and yes you guessed it, I’m one of those useless people who cant drive.

I’m not a parent any more

This was always a huge part of how I described myself, I was a mother. I know that children grow and this role changes, but for me a series of events that are too complicated to list here have prematurely ended that role for me. I am a mother still, but no longer needed as a mum.

People dont want my help or advice

Sometimes I think people are reluctant to ask for my help any more. They might feel that im too fragile to be burdened with their problems, they might think its unwise to ask the opinions of, or rely on somone who is by their own admission a bit mental. I understand its not easy to accurately judge the possible opinions of others towards me when I’m looking out through my anxiety goggles, but the requests for help are certainly few and far between these days.

In not needed

When I look back at the list of things I said I did before I developed the anxiety, they all have one thing in common. They are all roles that involved doing things for other people.
It is often said that people who work in care roles are not just doing a job, a carer is who they are. I believe this is true. And to go from being someone who was needed by others as a worker, colleague, mother or supportive friend to someone who isn’t needed any more really shakes the foundations of who I am.

But I can still be useful


Its not all doom and gloom being mental me. I still have my part time job, and it is something I absolutely adore. It is the one day a week when I feel useful and needed. The individuals I support are wonderful, and even though I’m only part time, my colleagues treat me as an equal. Earning money is great, but the real benefit to me of doing this job is in the boost to my self esteemed every week.

I have been thinking a lot recently about how I can further make myself useful, and in doing so (hopefully) help improve my mental wellbeing further. I think the route I am going to try is volunteering. There are lots of different places I could try. The local community library is always asking for people to help out for a few hours a week. This would involve me having to speak to strangers though, so Im not sure how well that would go. I could volunteer to visit some elderly people in their homes a few times a week (via Age Concern). I quite like this idea, but my lack of transport might be an issue. I could offer to work in a charity shop. This is probably the best option for me. I can help in the back of the shop sorting through donations and getting them ready to put in the shop.

I am in the early stages of researching these options, and will do a follow post at some point when I have made more progress, but I am determined I will become a useful human being again.

Have you had any experience volunteering? What advice would you give me?

Scientific Fact* Anxious Dragons feed off blog comments. please help keep this dragon well fed. Thank you Xxxx

*Possibly not true

My Random Musings


  1. FDL

    September 7, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Good article. Thank u for inspiring me to volunteer as well.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 7, 2015 at 10:00 am

      Your welcome x

  2. Claire (happyelastic)

    September 7, 2015 at 9:20 am

    Hellooo! I can completely relate to the needing to feel useful thing. I was so upset when I recently tried to give blood after a year of successful donations to find I failed the iron test and got myself suspended for a year.

    I have lots of experience in charity shop work. When my middle child was a toddler and we were trying to have our third (he took his time) I went to volunteer at Age UK. I wasn’t confident enough to find myself a regular paying job as I had a condition that meant I couldn’t predict my health, thus making me unreliable. Plus after almost 7 years of not talking to other humans that I didn’t make, my self esteem was low. I ended up working there for 18 months sorting bags in the back room, right up until 2 days before my due date with my son.

    Fast forward a few years. My now ex husband was unemployed and a job came up in my favourite local charity warehouse. I went for it and despite talking far too much about my kids in the interview and being kept waiting for a month, I got it and I’ll have been there three years in November. The longest I’ve ever had a job! I had an operation to sort my previous health problem and I’ve lost 4 stone because I sell furniture and move it around all day. Work is my other new ‘safe space.’ I’m comfortable there. People know me by name and I talk myself hoarse some days. A very stark contrast to how I was, barely leaving the house and unable to do a lot of things like ask for help in a shop or put petrol in my car. Obviously I still have anxiety but it’s more background noise than a full on feature film in my life.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 7, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Thats a great story, and a positive incentive for me, thanks xx

  3. whatrhymeswithsarah

    September 7, 2015 at 10:03 am

    Hi there, I can completely relate. The useful/useless thing is a bit of a monster, it can keep you depressed for far longer than you need to be. I’ve had to try and get rid of it completely because constantly striving to be “useful” feels like a bit of a treadmill for me. If instead I try and see myself as acceptable no matter what, then I feel a lot better.

    Claire, I totally know what you mean about giving blood! The first time I properly tried, they couldn’t get enough blood out of my vein so they had to give up and I was devastated. None of my friends or family understood why I was so upset about it, it just seemed to be confirmation of how useless I felt at the time. I wonder how many other people have felt the same.

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 7, 2015 at 10:09 am

      It is a common theme for people with these kinds of conditions isnt it. I think being acceptable is a good goal to aim for x

  4. Random Musings

    September 7, 2015 at 1:00 pm

    To me, this post right here shows you are not useless and you are still helping people. I think a lot of people with depression and anxiety will have felt this way at some point, and by sharing your story, it shows them they are not alone.
    Good luck with your volunteering 🙂
    Thanks for linking up to #AnythingGoes

    1. Mrs Tubbs

      September 7, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      I also agree with Random Musings. Everyone’s got something to offer and your experience will help others in the same situation. Knowing you’re not alone is very powerful. Good luck with the volunteering. #anythinggoes

      1. The Anxious Dragon

        September 7, 2015 at 8:47 pm

        Thank you x

  5. The Blog Centre

    September 7, 2015 at 8:18 pm

    Totally agree with Random Musings was going to comment more or less along those same lines. Have also chosen this post as one of our #SandOut posts for this week. Will be published tomorrow.
    Visiting now from #AnythingGoes Linky

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      September 7, 2015 at 8:46 pm

      Thats great, thank you xx

  6. nightwisprav3n

    September 8, 2015 at 1:32 am

    That’s so cool that you wrote this. I just today wrote a blog about changing careers and I have felt the same way. Without a purpose I feel unfulfilled but I am working on finding my way. As I told you, I was a counselor/advocate and that was a volunteer job. They have here in the states, different types of hotlines like suicide hotlines, parenting hotlines, etc. For these, they give you training then you basically work from home as the callers call the hotline and the call then gets forwarded to your home where you can counsel the person on the other end. I thought of this for you in consideration for your social phobia. Hope this helps. Great post! Thanks for sharing.

  7. Sandy Sandmeyer

    September 13, 2015 at 9:22 pm

    By simply sharing your stories, you can be useful in helping others who are dealing with similar conditions. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself. Thanks for sharing at the #AnythingGoes Link Party.

  8. A

    November 11, 2015 at 12:51 am

    For the library, could you do something behind the scenes? At my library one of the tasks they really need people to do is just sort books. No public interaction – often no interaction with people at all!

    1. The Anxious Dragon

      November 11, 2015 at 6:29 am

      Our library is a tiny little community one run just by volunteers, so there is no space to be behind the scenes so to speak, but thats not a problem as its not a busy library xx

  9. Fran

    February 6, 2016 at 2:13 pm

    the first part of the article made me really sad. Ive struggled with depression for a short time and feel I am prone to depression perhaps. Ive felt a bit like you describe. Its still such a taboo. the hole mental health discussion still makes people shift in their seats and it shouldn’t. I salute you for talking about it and putting yourself out there. you aren’t alone.


      February 6, 2016 at 2:31 pm

      Thank you. I have to confess than im still no further along with my plans to do some voluntary work, but im feeling a little less like a useless human bean at the moment xx

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