Sharah, an atWork Australia client and employee has recently been interviewed by Take 5.
Breathing deeply, I tried to calm my racing heart. You can do this, I told myself. Just get in the car. My mum, Jan, had picked me up so she could drive me to the supermarket for groceries. She took the task in turn with my dad, Glenn. It was a simple trip but the thought of going outside filled me with fear.
I’d been struggling with depression and anxiety for a few years, since I’d lost my job in hospitality. My self-worth was shattered. Suddenly I went from spending all day around people to living alone without purpose. The longer I went without socialicing, the more anxious I felt about talking to people. I couldn’t go to the shops without having a panic attack. My parents tried to help me but they didn’t understand what was wrong. “Are you okay?” Mum asked me at the store. I nodded and tried to smile but inside I was a mess. I felt faint until I was back home.
Most days I sat in a dark room, too scared to venture outside. This is all my life will ever be, I thought. I wanted desperately to change but didn’t know how.
When I was 21, I saw an ad for atWork Australia – an organisation that helps people with physical disabilities – they helped those struggling with mental health too.
My hands felt clammy as Mum and I walked into their office. I was too frightened to make eye contact with my job coach but she was lovely and patient. “I have anxiety too,” she revealed. “One day, you’ll be fine, like me.” For the first time in years, I felt hopeful. This woman had been through similar things to me and she was thriving.
My job coach suggested I join the resilience group, which met for five hours each week. The thought of meeting new people was terrifying but my job coach helped me break it down into manageable steps. First, I focused on walking through the door, then I set my mind to making a coffee. Before I knew it, I was talking to people. I was still nervous but I knew I wouldn’t be judged. After six weeks, I finished the course and, although I still had anxiety, I felt more confident.
Two years have passed and now I’m a job coach for atWork Australia, helping people just like me. There’s no cure for anxiety but my mental health is under control. I feel so fulfilled now that I can help others. “My daughter loves coming to appointments with you,” one mum gushed.
At my darkest time, I couldn’t leave the house. Now I have a purpose and I look forward to every day.
To find out more, head to atworkaustralia.com.au
If you or someone you know is struggling to cope, contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit www.lifeline.org.au