Hello, I’m Jamie
Where do you live: Porth, Rhondda
How did you get involved with Valleys Steps?
I have suffered with anxiety and depression for many years. I live with Crohn’s disease and this affects my stress levels and mood generally, and meant that I had to stop working a number of years ago. I had got myself into a situation where I was really unhappy with my life, I was in a lot of pain and had started using drugs to manage and this was doing great harm to me both physically and mentally. I saw a poster in my GP surgery for the Valleys Steps Mindfulness for Everyday six week course and went along the next day. I remember, when I attended the first session in Porth Library, I was so anxious that I wouldn’t take my coat off; even though it was a really hot day and I was sweltering. My coat was my safety blanket and I pulled it tighter around myself for reassurance. The next session I did take my coat off and as the weeks progressed I even sat closer to the front and got more involved with the course.
At the end of the six sessions, I felt like I had benefited so much from the course that I wanted to help others so I spoke to Jane (the volunteer coordinator) about volunteering. Also, as I was not working at the time due to illness, I wanted something to help fill my days and to help me progress back into work eventually. To begin with I did a couple of hours a week and then as my confidence grew, I ended up covering lots of sessions. I hoped to then continue my journey back into work by getting a part time job – but that has been delayed by the COVID crisis.
What did you do as a volunteer?
I helped to set up the venue, greet people on arrival and with a bit of admin. I remember being so nervous the first time I attended the course myself, and seeing the volunteer with a friendly face with a smile saying “hello”, helped to reassure me greatly. So, now I am the friendly face with a smile for others.
What do you think are the benefits of volunteering?
It gives you a great sense of feeling useful, and a sense of purpose, because you are doing something good to help other people. Also, the bonus of helping out with six sessions of a course means you benefit from the repeated information being given out. It is good to see how different practitioners deliver their sessions, as everyone has a slightly different approach and it helps you to understand the material, hearing it in different ways.
Would you recommend volunteering to others?
Absolutely! I would definitely recommend it to other people who are looking for a boost in their confidence. I frequently recommend both the courses and volunteering to people that I know or anyone I speak to who has any free time – even a couple of spare hours a week.
Did you go to college?
I went to college to complete an Access course, as I had been out of education for over 20 years and wanted to get back into learning and to possibly even go on to a university course if I did well. It was a Level 3 diploma so was quite demanding and tough to manage with my health issues, but I stuck with it and had such a great time and met so many new people. I achieved the diploma but unfortunately I am not able to commit to a degree course at the moment as my health has taken a dip but I still plan to go to university when I can and I know now that I can do it!
What advice would you give to students starting in college in September?
I was really nervous before the first day, and worked myself up into a state by constantly thinking about it. I found that mindful breathing, focusing on my breath really helped. I also used some positive thinking, I thought, “have a go”, “try it or you’ll never know”. Also I tried not to worry too much that I let things escalate, but to stay in the moment, not going too far ahead or into the past with my thoughts. Just taking each moment as it comes and enjoy it. Exercising by going to the gym or for a 20 minute run helped greatly with both my mental and physical health and regular mindfulness, just 5 minutes a day helped calm my mind.
Valleys Steps Volunteer