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Annabell's Story

Before meeting with my Employment Advisor, I genuinely felt that I had nothing to offer. She helped me to realise that I was capable of a lot more than I had given myself credit for.

Trigger Warning: This story contains references to suicide

I first came into contact with Solent Mind after being diagnosed with Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD) which was previously known as Borderline Personality Disorder. I had been in and out of mental health services since the age of 16, previously receiving treatment for anxiety, depression, OCD and anger management. I was eventually diagnosed with EUPD at the age of 32, after being admitted to hospital following a suicide attempt.

I was neither eating or sleeping properly, which obviously made it more difficult to manage my symptoms. I had been off of work for a few years and due to this my financial and living situation had become desperate. I felt completely trapped and alone. I didn’t talk to family or friends about how bad things had gotten for me because I felt there was nothing anyone could do to help, short of funding my own place to live and providing me enough money to stay off of work indefinitely.

After I was discharged, I was told that I would be able to start treatment for EUPD but there was a wait. One day I walked past Solent Mind’s Portsmouth Wellbeing Centre (now reimagined as PositiveMinds) in total distress. I didn’t know what it was or what the service offered, but I saw some notices in the window about mental health support and I just walked in in tears asking for help.

Their wellbeing advisors fixed me a drink sat and talked to me about what I was going through and invited me to attend their emotional regulation group to help me whilst I was waiting for my treatment at hospital. I feel I would’ve really struggled to keep myself safe without their support. Even just knowing I had somewhere to go during those difficult months made things easier.

Eventually my living situation became so intolerable that I needed to start working again so that I could afford to move out. My nurse referred me to Solent Mind’s Portsmouth Employment Support Service to help me back to work.

I was dubious at first. I had spent almost three years at this point on ESA (Employment and Support Allowance) and had very negative ideas about ‘support’ with employment after my experiences at the job centre. I could not have been more wrong and alongside my amazing mental health nurse, my Solent Mind Employment Advisor helped me completely turn my life around.

By this time, I was 34 or 35 years old, had been off of work for 3 years, and although I had good grades and work experience in management, I had never been able to keep a job for more than a couple of years. I had frequently been signed off sick for months at a time throughout my entire working history, so I already felt that I was too ill to even try to hold down a full-time job.

I had given up all hope of finding a ‘career’. I felt that I had nothing to offer and no one would ever want to hire me. Because of this, I was applying for jobs that I was over-qualified for. My Employment Advisor helped me to realise that I wasn’t incapable of working at my potential, but that my previous jobs weren’t great for my wellbeing and I wasn’t receiving the right support from my employers.

She took the time to go through my employment history and point out all the transferable skills that I had to offer as an employee, as well as all the experience I could bring to a role. Before meeting with her, I genuinely felt that I had nothing to offer, but she helped me to realise that I was capable of a lot more than I had given myself credit for. I also began to realise that part of my issue with my previous jobs had been that I had found them unfulfilling or unrewarding, which had caused my motivation to drop even lower.

My Employment Advisor encouraged me to apply for a job with Solent Mind after I expressed an interest in the work that she did. Due to my low self-esteem, I would never have even attempted to apply for such a position without her encouragement… I felt that I couldn’t possibly be qualified enough to help others.

She helped me construct an application and pointed out the qualities and skills that I couldn’t see in myself at the time. To my surprise I was offered an interview, and although I was unsuccessful, the interviewer asked if I would be interested in volunteering to build more experience. I started to volunteer with the team once a week and my Employment Advisor also offered me experience in helping her construct a quarterly newsletter.

Now that I had a goal to work toward, I found myself feeling a lot more positive about my future. I took a job as a Sales Assistant to make ends meet and continued to volunteer for Solent Mind. When the next opportunity came around to apply for a job with them a year later, I had working knowledge of the role on top of my own experience of receiving support from the service.

I’m pleased to say that I have now been an Employment Advisor for Solent Mind for almost a year. I absolutely love my role and my previous work issues are in the past. If I do need support, my line manager does all she can to help and I’ve not needed to take time off work like I used to.

My team (and the other teams we work alongside) are kind, supportive and open and I’m never made to feel that I am somehow less important or ‘difficult’ due to the fact I have a personality disorder. My lived experience with a serious mental health diagnosis, workplace issues, the difficult benefits system and as a former Service User gives me the ability to be empathetic and relate to the people I support in a unique way. I am so grateful to Solent Mind and particularly the Portsmouth Employment Support Service for helping me find my place and make my journey worthwhile.

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