As is customary during Mental Health Awareness Week we publish stories of participants who came to the Wellbeing Programme struggling with their mental health and have managed to turn their lives around. This year’s story comes from Trudy.

Trudy’s story: a door to new possibilities

Trudy came to the Swindon Wellbeing Programme with a long history of chronic anxiety, depression and low esteem. These issues stemmed from childhood, following the traumatic loss of her 11-year-old brother in a car accident when she was only four-years-old. She recalls the day, saying, “He went out to play and never returned.”

“I didn’t understand death at the time,” she explains, “I thought people just disappeared… they would go out one day and not come back.”

This event shaped the rest of her life, affecting her childhood and adolescent years, and continuing into adulthood. As a result her education suffered affecting her confidence and self-esteem, and her anxiety and depression escalated when she left home. She developed a fear of going out and being with people, “I knew I was very isolated, but I thought I could cope with that.”

Trudy didn’t leave her house for ten years, and she wouldn’t read newspapers or listen to the news as it was all too frightening for her. She was open to mental health services at the time and the Community Psychiatric Nurse (CPN) assigned to her would visit her at home.

Things improved when she met her future husband. “I met Andy in 1992 through friends of mine who had organised a blind date for me. Ten months later we got married.” Andy was her carer and her ‘rock’. With him, she felt able to leave the house and go to places, though she would still struggle to go outside on her own.

Sadly Andy died of cancer in 2009 and Trudy’s mental health took a turn for the worse. She didn’t seek help at first and it was only because her sister took her to see her GP that she got referred to mental health services again. Trudy found this helpful. One of her support workers referred her to TWIGs –  a community garden project in Swindon for people experiencing mental health problems – and she enjoyed the mix of working in a team and being outside in nature.

It was through TWIGS that she found out about the Swindon Wellbeing Programme. As both projects share similar aims, she found the programme appealing and she decided to self-refer.

Recalling her first day on the programme, she says she felt very nervous, but she puts this down to the fear of the unknown. Going to the meeting point to be picked up by the staff on the mini-bus was a challenge for her at first, as the meeting point – the town’s train station – is a busy location and she’s uncomfortable travelling by bus. But she persevered and feels comfortable with it now.

For Trudy, the programme has been like a door opening to new possibilities. “I was very quiet at first, I didn’t speak to anyone, I didn’t know what to say, I didn’t know what to do. But I’m learning new things now and my confidence is growing. The programme has really changed my life. I’ve become more social and I’ve made some good friends. I feel I’ve grown as a person.”

Trudy has progressed from participant to the role of Voluntary Support Assistant, in which she supports other participants who are experiencing difficulties. Her own life experiences and her empathetic nature makes her very understanding and patient towards others.

When asked what the best thing is about the programme, she says, “The best thing, is all of it. The whole experience, the whole package.”

Trudy now lives with her mum, and although she still doesn’t go out much on her own, she manages to walk to the local shops and her GP surgery, which is a marked improvement.

She is an avid advocate for what the programme sets out to achieve and would recommend it to others struggling with anxiety and depression. “The group is very friendly and the staff are there to support you; you’re not judged, and you’re not on your own. Everyone on the programme is in the same boat and there is a feeling of understanding amongst participants. If you’re feeling low, and need help, joining the programme,” she says, “is the best thing you’ll ever do.”

Get in touch

The Wellbeing Programme offers nature based activities for people who are struggling with their mental health. The activities on the programme range from nature conservation work, wildlife walks and nature-based crafts, and can help improve a person’s mental wellbeing.

If you feel you would benefit from joining the programme, or know someone who might benefit, please get in touch with us. Call the office on 01380 736 098 or email us for more information.