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.
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?
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*Possibly not true