“I suppose the social anxiety really started when I was a child,” recalls Steven, now 46. ” I did get past it at one point in my life, I was going out and mingling with other people, and then it started to go back to how it was when I was a kid again; not wanting to go out and not wanting to mix with other people.
“I would get up in the morning and do everything I needed to do in order to be ready for the day,” he says, “but then I was just met by what I can only describe as an invisible brick wall.
“People would understand if it was a physical injury that was challenging me, they would see the bandages, but with this, some would think I was just trying to swing the lead. They couldn’t understand how real this was for me.”
Steven’s work history has been affected by his anxieties, with lots of long periods of unemployment between jobs. But this time, things have been different.
“The job centre referred me to Lauren at the Seetec Plus Restart Scheme, who in turn put me in touch with Pluss’ Health Works for Cornwall.”
And Steven found himself partnered up with Change Coach Rob.
“Both Lauren and Rob were brilliant. They both supported and encouraged me to do things that I never thought I’d be able to do. I would have been too anxious in the past, but slowly my confidence was returning. It’s amazing how they’ve helped me change in a year!”
The aim of Pluss’ Health Works for Cornwall is not to push someone into finding a job, but to give them the emotional and physical tools for them to work towards being in a better position to consider employment.
And that’s what Rob did with Steven:
“He would meet up with me and come on walks in public and we would talk and it would help me focus,” Steven says. “To begin with, I couldn’t leave the house. Then I would venture out but with headphones on, head down and my baseball cap pulled down over my face. Little by little, Rob helped me change that.
“We would go to a café and we’d just chat about how I was feeling and stuff like that. It was usually fairly quiet in there but one day we had been chatting and Rob asked how I was feeling. I told him I was ok and he asked me to take a look around us.”
Making changes one step at a time
Whilst they’d been chatting, Steven hadn’t noticed that the café had filled up with other customers. “It was packed. I went into a little bit of a panic attack. But Rob knew just what to do and he told me to look at him. He started talking directly to me and that calmed me straight back down again because the focus was back on him. He is a brilliant bloke.”
Steven has done so well since he started with Health Works for Cornwall that he’s now found himself a job – almost by accident!
“I went along not thinking it was an interview,” he smiles, “It was with the Brandon Trust, and I thought I was just popping in for a chat about what they did and whether it might be something I’d be interested in. Turns out, it was actually an interview – and five minutes after leaving the building, they called and offered me the job!”
And it’s a job that Steven has now been doing for the past two months. “It’s great,” he says. “They are even looking at starting a support group for staff who have anxiety challenges so I’m going to take a look at that.”
Steven’s enthusiasm is contagious. He wants to succeed and he knows he still needs to keep working towards his goal: “I cannot deny that there are still times when I feel like I’m up against that invisible brick wall again. But now I know how to approach it and how to get through it.”
And what would he say to anyone else in his position who had the chance to join up with Health Works for Cornwall?
“You might find it a challenge. It might not be easy. But just give it a chance. If you don’t try, you won’t know. And you might end up being lucky like me.”
We wish Steven the best of luck and thank him for sharing his story.