Today Brenda is in her early fifties and lives in the North Devon area. Around six years ago her parents died, although her parents split up when she was young, and so did not really know her father. Her mother was the one constant in her life and when she died, Brenda struggled with her mental health and felt alone.
She was the youngest of seven brothers and sisters. There was no close contact and only one sister kept in touch.
Over a period of many years, Brenda experienced a series of long-term relationship breakdowns. After a less than amicable break up of a three-year relationship, Brenda effectively became a recluse only venturing out to go to work or to buy food. Her only company were the dogs that belonged to a couple who Brenda rented an annexe to their house from, in Fareham, near Portsmouth. This lasted for a period of around four years.
Gradually Brenda’s mental health suffered. Slowly becoming more withdrawn and mistrusting of men. Brenda became socially anxious and was effectively isolated from the outside world.
“I felt so ashamed of what had happened, that I didn’t feel ‘worthy’ to be socialising with other people. I felt very sad, lonely and unloved. Having always been in a relationship since the age of 16, being alone with no‐one to talk to was hard.”
The long road back
Around 18 months ago, Brenda’s sister got in touch, visited her and then persuaded her to move back to Devon. Brenda eventually agreed. She stayed with her sister and her husband for a few months until Brenda was able to get her own place. During this time Brenda had a very low self-esteem and lacked confidence.
“My sister did all she could to restore my mental state and sense of wellbeing and to regain confidence in socialising. It was a huge gesture and undertaking. Not only was I depressed and very ‘anti-men’ but I had also become dependent on alcohol, which helped me to forget my sad existence.”
Thankfully things slowly improved, over a period of months. Eventually Brenda took a job in a nearby town, about half an hour away from her sister. Around this time Brenda also stopped drinking due to dangerously high blood pressure.
Brenda got herself a flat and things were starting to look up. Unfortunately, six months later Brenda lost her job. This was around the time of the first Covid lockdown. Brenda was completely alone too, as her sister lived in another town.
“Basically, without going into too many details, I began a relationship with a man and my vulnerabilities were still there and it was a mistake. During this period, all the hard work put in by my sister to get my mind into a better ‘head-space’ was undone.”
During that lockdown period, Brenda’s work coach referred her to Positive People for some support.
“Initially I worked for a short time at a medical centre, spending hours calling people to cancel their appointments. This wasn’t good for my blood pressure and phobia of calling people.
Hello Positive People
“A lovely lady from Pluss (the organisation responsible for the Positive People programme in Devon) called me and was very kind. She helped me to open-up about my feelings and emotions. I was able to admit that I needed help to improve my feeling of self-worth and she asked if I would like to join a six-week Empowering Women course via Zoom.”
Brenda had only used Zoom a few times. She had no wi-fi either, so she had to use her mobile phone.
“I attended all the sessions and on the final session, called, ‘reflections and feedback’ I was a completely changed person.
“I was no longer the nervous, emotional person that I was in the first session. Initially I was anxious about opening up and speaking about my feelings to people I didn’t know.”
Brenda was put forward for a job with a charity in Barnstaple. She was unsuccessful but another position was offered which Brenda accepted.
“It’s been a long, hard road and I’ve read several self-help books and I’ve agreed to share my experience on social media. I’m happy in my own company and I try to keep myself busy so that I don’t listen to those negative voices in my head, saying ‘you’re not good enough’.
I know I’m worthy of love and respect – everyone is. And, if sharing my experience helps just one person, then agreeing to expose my vulnerabilities and issues is a small price to pay.
The Positive People programme does not judge people. Everyone has their own unique journey. Trained coaches work with individuals to address the barriers that are holding them back. Brenda’s story is one of many. Each one is shared to encourage others who are experiencing a challenge in their life, to give them hope and to reach out to Pluss for support, which is just a phone call or email away.
Positive People can make a difference
When Brenda was asked how Positive People helped her to overcome her challenges, Brenda said: “Positive People helped me to learn to love, forgive and believe in myself. I also learnt various digital skills with computers which will be useful in the workplace.
“I also learnt to not walk out of a job interview after messing up the test which I did at the Barnstaple charity. In the past I would’ve been embarrassed. I didn’t. I was open and honest and apologised that I hadn’t done the test correctly.”
The difference the Positive People experience has had on Brenda’s life could not be clearer. It serves as inspiration for anyone who is struggling with life’s challenges.
“I’m no longer scared of being alone. I’m focussed on being the best version of me, I’m happy, healthier, more motivated and I have a much more positive outlook on life. I don’t need a man to complete me or to love and protect me. I am enough. I enjoy being in my own company. I’m assertive and will stand up for myself when I need to. I apologise when I’m wrong, treat others the way I wish to be treated. I have also learnt to not hold grudges, but to forgive and move on.”
You can find out about the Positive People programme and what support is available at https://pluss.org.uk/positive-people/. You can also speak to someone on 0800 334 5525 or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.