Charlotte took a Leap of Faith and began volunteering to tackle debilitating depression.
“During my last few months at sixth form, at 18 years old, I was formally diagnosed with anxiety and depression. In particular, I found social interaction extremely difficult, especially with people I didn’t know. But I was 18 and I needed to get out into the world and gain some work experience. I needed to face my anxiety head on.
“I took a leap of faith and began volunteering with the Salvation Army charity shop in Swinton. I remember to this day how difficult it was. It was the first time I had to deal with people on a daily basis – not just complete strangers, but colleagues that I had to build relationships with. I also suffer from obsessive compulsive disorder, so I would constantly be worried about what I was doing and how I was coming across to customers and the team. Did they think I was awkward? Did they think the way I interacted was strange? It all added to my anxiety.
“I’ve now been volunteering with the shop for five years and the support of The Salvation Army and the shop team has been an incredible help to me. I’ve been able to express myself as a person and develop at my own pace. Even though I still suffer with anxiety, my experience in the shop has given me confidence in myself and my interactions with people.
“Actually, the best part of my day is interacting with our customers, making connections and building relationships with them. You just never know the difference you can make to someone’s life – you can tell them they look great in the outfit they’ve tried on, or chat to them about their day. I know first-hand that you can’t take someone at face value, because you don’t know what they’re coping with mentally. If I can use volunteering as a way to connect with people and make them feel happy, then my leap of faith is worth it.
“I continue to volunteer at the Swinton and Adwick Road shops, giving at least one shift a week. I’m actually training to be a key-holder so that I can help run the charity shop if Diane [manager] needs me to. It’s brilliant to be working towards having that responsibility.
“I can honestly say that I would not be where I am today without my experience as a volunteer. About 18 months ago I went for an interview and got a job in retail. Volunteering gave me the skills I needed for my career, but it also gave me the chance to build my own self-esteem. I owe a lot to volunteering and The Salvation Army.”