After suffering a series of disabling strokes, the breakdown of her marriage, and the loss of her job and her home, almost inevitably Anita suffered a major mental health breakdown.
“I simply didn’t want to live”, she says. “I was unable to leave the house for nearly three years. Life was just a series of obstacles – how do I get to lunchtime, how do I get to the end of the day?”
“I felt useless. I was terrified of the outside world. I contemplated suicide and self-harm. I was desperate for help.”
That was when friend Nikki suggested that Anita come along to Maidstone and Mid-Kent Mind. “I was desperate for help, but I would only come in for ten minutes at a time, that’s all I could handle”, she recalls.
But everyone was so calm and patient, that I started to come to the weekly art group, and to talk to the counsellors and staff. I then joined the cooking and social groups, which gave me the confidence to talk to other people. It helped me feel safe.”
“For the first time, I didn’t feel alone or ‘mad’.”
“Attending the `Coping with Life’ course really turned my life around. It gave me the tools and skills to manage and recognise stressful situations, and cope with them.”
Gradually, Mind rebuilt my trust, gave me the power to think differently, and taught me how to cope with anxiety. I still had meltdowns, but with the support and patience of the staff, I became more confident. I was starting to see a future. I felt so motivated.”
“I began to go out socially with friends. I even drove to Bristol with my daughter-in-law for my son’s apprenticeship awards – I’ve never driven that far in my life!”
But Anita’s story has one additional chapter, of which she can be very proud.
Some years ago, she worked as a teaching assistant, helping children with special needs or with challenging behaviour. “It was my life, and I really wanted to get back to doing something as worthwhile as that”, she says.
And she has. Today, Anita is an active volunteer and bank staff member for Maidstone & Mid-Kent Mind, going into schools and delivering a course called `Managing Me’, helping young people facing their own struggles with life. She also helps out at Mind’s cookery and arts and crafts classes.
I absolutely LOVE it”, she says. “I have a purpose in life again. Staff at Mind have made me feel like a valued member of the team. I now look forward to waking up each day – and making a difference.”