Back to Work : Linn’s Story

October 9, 2015
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Linn wanted to tell her story in her own words “because everyone needs to know how great Active Plus is!”

My story begins in November 2013, I was working full time earning minimum wage and not exactly enjoying the job, my boss was not a very nice person to work with,  believing that if you put someone down constantly they will come back stronger….  many people were driven away by that attitude!  I had been there for over 5 years and was totally fed up with being treated like rubbish so was looking for another job to go to, but in this day and age it’s not easy.  I had been to my doctors and got anti- depressants to help with my working situation, but he advised me to find another job asap for my health benefits if nothing else.

On the 20th November 2013 my dad passed away suddenly and it was too much for me to bear and I had a break down…my doctor put me off sick for a week from work to help, during this week I visited C.A.B to see what I could do about my work situation.  They advised me to go back to my doctor and get a sick note for 3 months and then hand in my notice at work and start claiming ESA (Employment Support Allowance).  I did this and used the time to arrange my dad’s funeral and sort out what would happen to all of his belongings.

Once I was on ESA I had nothing to do except housework and looking after my children, being a single mother I had no one to talk to except my children and they were too young to really understand what I was going through.  I got into the habit of taking the children to school and then going back to bed and only getting up to go and get the children from school, I would cook their tea and make sure they were ok and then go back to bed to watch tv….I didn’t do anything else and stayed that way for many more months.

In June 2014 the Jobcentre contacted me to say they wanted to see me for a back to work interview – going back to work was the last thing I wanted to do!  I went and explained I was suffering with depression and the doctor was still trying me with different sorts of medication as we had not found one suitable for me yet. The Jobcentre were sympathetic but they still needed me to get back to work.  I explained I had no confidence at all after years of being told I wasn’t good enough by my previous boss, this is when they told me about Active Plus, a group of people who help you with your confidence and it’s only across the car park in Engage church!

At the beginning of July 2014 I found myself in the Engage church hall with a group of complete strangers I had never met before (it took me a while to realise I knew one of them from school!)  We were all nervous and anxious about what was going to happen, whether we would be sat talking all day or learning things, no-one knew for sure. Stuart who was the team leader at the time introduced himself and gave us a little information about what they did at Active Plus and then the other staff and volunteers introduced themselves and gave a little of their background, then it was our turn.  One by one the members of our group introduced themselves and why they were there, many of them were like me, depressed and in a rut they needed to escape from.  Then it was my turn and I explained about losing my mum many years before and then being in a dead end job that I hated and then my dad dying suddenly and I was stuck in a rut and not sure how to get back to normal (whatever that was!).  Stuart said he couldn’t help me get back to normal as everyone’s idea of normal differs greatly but he could help me be more confident when talking to people and working with others and networking to get what you need in life……..this was going to be very interesting!

After the introductions we set out solving a task which involved water and buckets and I could not do it! I couldn’t understand how it was solved and actually felt a complete idiot for not knowing the answer to the puzzle. The second task that morning went much the same way and I was getting more and more upset with myself.  At the end of the morning we were asked to fill in a feedback form, I used this to inform Stuart and the others that I felt like a complete failure and hated every minute of it, they were meant to be helping me and not making me feel worse!

The following week I turned up and expected much of the same thing, however Stuart had a chat with me to explain I wasn’t a failure and that I actually brought a lot to the group without realising it…I found it hard to believe but I went with it anyway.  More tasks appeared and I managed to complete them this time with some help from my new team mates, it felt good to complete a task and not walk away defeated.  That morning’s feedback form was a lot more positive than the previous weeks!

As the weeks went on I found myself looking forward to the group meeting up and doing our tasks and also realised I was taking charge in some situations, this was good as I hadn’t had the confidence to do that for a long time, I was happier in myself too.  As the last week loomed I realised I didn’t want this experience to end so I approached Stuart about volunteering myself to help others, he said that was a great idea and to get in touch with Tim, the head of Active Plus, to set it up.

In September 2014 I began volunteering for Active Plus, helping people who were in a similar situation to where I had been, and able to help and give advice.  My doctor and I had found a medication that worked well for me so things were going really really well.  I had also started a computer course at NPCL which is underneath the Engage church hall where Active Plus was held.  During my time as a volunteer I saw many people including Jobcentre staff and visiting Active Plus tutors, but the person who helped me onto my next step was Rod from Pluss, an organisation who help people with disabilities into work. They were starting a new programme to get people from Active Plus courses to continue to work together, building tables at a factory in Burrington Way.  I signed up immediately, I had come to the end of my time with Active Plus and I needed to move to the next step in my life.

Christmas and New Year came and went and I started my new project with Pluss in January 2015, a group of us, many I knew from Active Plus, worked in a woodwork room preparing scaffolding boards for cutting and painting and making into tables ready for a community cafe in Plymouth.  We spent some time in the Pluss factory at Burrington Way where they had made a space for us to work in so we had a feel for factory working life.  I had never been inside a factory before and I loved it! The other Pluss team were building bed frames to go to Vi Spring, a bed making firm in Plymouth.  After a couple of weeks making tables, the supervisor of the factory asked me if I wanted to have a go at making some bed frames and  I jumped at the chance as Active Plus had taught me to take every opportunity offered to you! I was soon spending all of my time making bed frames rather than tables.  Pluss offered me a six month traineeship to work there making the beds for Vi Spring but three weeks into my traineeship a job became available at Vi Springs to help mix the hair that goes into the mattresses, my Job Advisor at Pluss asked me if I would like to be put forward for the job and of course I said yes! I had my interview on the Tuesday and by the Wednesday I had been offered the job! I was so excited but also a bit sad to leave Pluss and all of my friends and work colleagues behind but onwards and upwards as they say!

I started working at Vi Springs on April 13th 2015 and I have been there for almost six months now, full time employment and almost double the wages of my previous employment with no overbearing boss! If it wasn’t for the Jobcentre sending me to Active Plus I would be at home now moping around still depressed with no money or fiancé  (I met David at NPCL) so I am forever grateful to Active Plus and everyone who volunteers there as it really turned my life around!!

Life is so much better now and in the future I am hoping to save for a new car, house and holiday, something I wouldn’t have been able to do a few years ago.