October 2013 saw the beginning of the rest of my life. I am here now, unrecognisable from back then. All because I had the courage to challenge my boundaries and join the Time To Change campaign. Speaking to the general public for the first time was daunting, I was so nervous, but the acceptance I felt grew. People were listening to what I had to say and smiling at me. I later even saw people moved to tears when they heard my story. The encouragement of my fellow volunteers was inspirational, we all believed in the campaign, each other and this rubbed off on our health. I slowly began to believe that recovery was a choice. I took more care over my appearance, I lost weight and my confidence grew. I began to get up in the morning, excited about what the day had in store. I saw that I had something to offer society, that I could belong and be part of an amazing organisation that was supporting me into changing myself. I joined to challenge other people's attitudes, what happened was they changed me. By reaching out and motivating others to do the same, I propelled myself into a new future. That was inconceivable to me at the start.
Since my work with the campaign ended, I remained a Champion and I continued to do the work it started. We secured more funding and the emphasis of our workshops started looking at stress management and well-being. Using self-care strategies and, more recently, working with a wonderful psychologist receiving a CBT treatment, I took two years to come off my medication, of which I am now six months free. I have learnt how a healthy diet, exercise, regular sleep and work can change how I relate to myself. I love my life, I am happy. I never thought I would say that again. I now understand my relationship with stress held me back for so long. I still get anxious, but I roll my shoulders and go for a walk, and I feel different. It’s not perfect, old patterns of behaviour still catch me out, but I recognise that's all they are. Being kind to myself and challenging my attitudes allows me to change my behaviour. Much like Time To Change and all our work, what it has done to British perception of mental health. Working on this campaign has taught me that change is possible. I hope to help give others the same opportunity TTC so generously gave me.
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