This Hospice Care week (8th-14th October) a charity volunteer from Killingworth credits volunteering with helping her to get her life back on track following a tough battle with anxiety and mental health.
Having worked since the age of 15, Iris Anderson retired at 66 after a successful career working as a funeral clerk. Shortly after her retirement, Iris began to feel anxious and one day whilst stood in her kitchen, she experienced a severe panic attack which left her in need of medical attention.
The panic attack happened without warning and having never had an attack before, I was terrified and didn’t know what was happening. The paramedics attended and confirmed that I was suffering from severe anxiety which I put down to the dramatic change in my life following my retirement.
Shortly after this, Iris and her husband Ian went on holiday with some friends when Ian died suddenly during their break.
My husband’s sudden death combined with my pre-existing anxiety condition meant that I spent most of the 12 months following Ian’s death confined to the house. I became really anxious about leaving home for long periods of time and even simple things such as shopping and attending appointments became very difficult for me. I lost all of my confidence, self-esteem and motivation and became really demoralised.
Despite seeing a number of therapists and counsellors to help with her condition, Iris became disheartened as she was experiencing little improvement. It was a conversation with a close friend that would help Iris to turn her situation around.
My friend Liz knew of the work St Oswald’s did and that their local charity shop in Forest Hall was in need of volunteers. With her support I decided to visit the Forest Hall shop and express an interest in volunteering. I just remember being crippled with nerves and the first person I met was the Forest Hall shop manager, Doreen. I told Doreen about my situation and she immediately put me at ease, assured me that she could personalise the volunteering to suit my needs and gave me an enormous hug. Instantly, I felt comfortable and taken care of and knew volunteering was something I’d enjoy doing. Within weeks of volunteering I started to notice that my condition had hugely improved and I was feeling a lot less anxious. The support I received from Doreen and the rest of the team has been phenomenal. There’s always a brilliant atmosphere in the shop and the team is like a second family to me, so much so, that I often socialise with them outside of work and we often go to the bingo and for a coffee together. I’ve made some really close friends in the short few months I’ve been with St Oswald’s.
I feel really happy to come here and always feel safe and supported. St Oswald’s has quite simply changed my life and helped me get myself back on track after a difficult few years. Volunteering has helped me find confidence and gave me a purpose to get up in the morning. I would say to anybody else who finds themselves in similar circumstances to my own, that things will get better and socialising with people through volunteering is a great starting point. The first step is always going to be the most difficult, but once you’ve overcome that then you will feel huge benefits.
Doreen Hart, Shop Manager at St Oswald’s Forest Hall shop, said:
I have seen an enormous change in Iris since she started volunteering with us and she’s a valued asset to our team. She makes an enormous contribution to the running of the shop, the entire team loves her and now she beams with confidence as she walks through the shop door. At St Oswald’s we don’t just care about our patients, we also care for our supporters, our volunteers and our staff and that’s what Hospice Care week means to me. At St Oswald’s we take our duty of care extremely seriously and are pleased to support a versatile team of volunteers. Volunteering at St Oswald’s is just as much about what the volunteer can gain from the experience as what they can contribute to us, it’s very much a two way process. Without volunteers St Oswald’s wouldn’t be able to deliver the fantastic care we do. I’m so pleased that Iris has felt able to share her experience and I hope it inspires anyone in a similar situation to see how volunteering can help them.
To learn more about Hospice Care Week and the many ways you can support St Oswald’s, please click here.