Ever since I finished college I had felt lost. I decided to not pursue university due to my shyness and social anxiety. The idea of leaving town to travel somewhere I had never been before, interact and live with complete strangers, all to pursue an uncertain goal felt like too much of a risk. I decided to go into work instead but that was just as uncertain. I started to fall into a state of depression which gradually grew and intensified over the next five years.

The only work I could find was part time seasonal work, zero-hour contracts with employment agencies or free work that never went anywhere, and that was in between months of unemployment making each interview increasingly difficult and my self-confidence all the more miniscule. When I did find work, it was all the more apparent just how disposable me and everyone else in the same situation really was. The job centre wasn’t any help either, increasingly difficult requirements where I was expected to apply to the same job repeatedly just to avoid having my benefits terminated. Superfluous courses and training programs that do nothing but diminish the self-esteem and clarity of the people involved on account of providing anything but a clear answer. At this point my physical and mental health was diminished. It seemed I could never understand what the world expects of a person and nothing ever made the mark. This constant cycle and increasing depression culminated in a mental breakdown in 2015. I refused to leave my house for several months, stopped eating and sleeping and developed Exploding Head Syndrome which lead to Insomnia. I eventually became so unhinged I went to Mansfield Police Station and demanded psychological attention and a safe room. The officers I spoke to were sympathetic, they got in contact with my Mother and they put me in contact with Millbrook Mental Health clinic, they however turned out not to be useful. The job centre put me in emergency support allowance after a request from my Auntie who worked with the department at the time.

I was expecting either some form on counselling, psychological evaluation or cognitive therapy, it turned out however the only thing they could provide were mindfulness courses which didn’t help in the slightest. When I expressed how frustrating and confusing the whole ordeal had been there only reply was “we can’t help you unless you know what you want.” As if somehow, I should have a comprehensive experienced insight into something I hadn’t experienced or a full education on the mental health profession and what it can offer. At this point I felt my most hopeless, lost and confused in an uncertain world as my own life past me by.

The only person at that point who was sympathetic and understanding to me and my experiences at the time was my Auntie, I asked her if there was anything she could possibly do to help me, it was at that point she told me about the Towards Work program being that she knew one of the employees Steve Morris, who became my work coach.

After the first few appointments my sense of self-worth already started to improve, just someone who was willing to see me as in individual and listen to what I had been through was enough to start a change. When I began attending I initially had to bring my Grandma with me due to the discomfort and anxiety I would have communicating with people, eventually I developed enough confidence and initiative to start attending on my own. I actually looked forward to improving myself and take my life in a new direction, the only thing I had in mind at first was to improve my self-reliance. I started to leave the house more, became more communicative with people and developed a daily routine again. Eventually I started volunteering at a local charity shop working with customers and new people and I had never felt so comfortable in my own skin, this progressed to volunteering at Mansfield Play forum to the day I was asked to attend an interview for an actual job at the company.

If this was any other point in my life, I would have never imagined myself in a job where I am interacting with new people on a regular basis to actually create a significant change in the lives of others, but since I came onto the project I am used to surpassing the expectations of myself I used to have. Now I work on helping other people overcome the challenges I once faced.

As of 2022, Max is now working for The Towards Work team at Mansfield CVS as a work coach, helping others overcome their barriers.

The Groundwork Greater Nottingham Towards Work project is part of the national Building Better Opportunities Programme.

Jointly funded by the National Lottery Fund & the D2N2 Local Enterprise Partnership’s European Social Fund allocation; the programme is delivered throughout Nottingham, Nottinghamshire, Derby and Derbyshire by a partnership of local organisations who specialise in supporting people into work.

We aim to support with those first vital steps towards gaining employment through a personalised service and support to overcome barriers an individual may face.

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