Team stories

Michelle’s story: I’m stretching my comfort zone with Quiet Connections

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Guest Storyteller

Guest Writer at Quiet Connections
Speaking your truth is the most powerful tool you have. Our shared stories create connection. They tell us it's ok to be vulnerable; to talk about our perceived flaws and ask for help when we need it. So we invite people who have felt socially anxious, shy and not good enough to share their stories so you know you're not alone.
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I was bullied at school

It started in May 2004, when I was 13.  I was verbally bullied at School, by a friend who felt very controlling.  Because my bully was a friend, I had no one. My teacher said that after the summer holidays he would make sure we were not in the same classes together. But it turned out that we were in every single class but one. The bullying continued and I started refusing to go to School.

The bullying really affected me and I suffered with psychosis for a while. My Mum tried to support me as best she could, but didn’t know how to. So she took me to see the Doctor, who was very helpful and contacted the School. This lead to me being educated at Education out of School.  Unfortunately they could only offer 5 hours of Schooling a week.

Not only did I not receive the education that I was entitled to, I also had no friends. I’d keep my head down whenever I left the house or went out in the car; I didn’t want to make eye contact with anyone. I still find it’s not easy to trust people.

Challenged at college

I went to Cornwall College to take media studies. I hoped it would help to build my confidence. I remember once having to remove props off the stage during a performance. I wasn’t the one acting but I think I felt more anxious than the actors! I tried to look everywhere except at the audience and get off stage as quickly as possible.

I didn’t want to be in front of the camera, I like to hide in the background. But on the first day, we were given a nerve-racking assignment: to create –and star in- a dating video. This was really challenging for me as I don’t even like having my photo taken. But I managed it. The worst part was when the teacher played all of the videos back to the entire class. We didn’t know what order they would be played in and I sat back with my heart speeding, feeling like I was going to throw up and worrying what everyone would think about me all the way through. Mine was the last one to be shown. My avoiding worsened after this.

I wish my teacher hadn’t assumed that everyone would be ok with the task he set. Having options are important. I will step outside of my comfort zone myself, like I did in making the video, and it’s not helpful to push someone too far too fast.

Since then, I have found it difficult to get into work. I worked in retail for a while but it wasn’t a good fit for me and I felt like I was being taken advantage of a lot because I was quiet. Volunteer Cornwall helped me to get a placement with the Girl Guides where I found it a challenge to get involved in all the high-energy activities and I’d find myself quietly observing at times.

Quietly connecting and growing in confidence

Then, last summer, my Mum saw Hayley’s very moving story in the West Briton, and realised that Quiet Connections, which Hayley had started, was just the help I needed.  I had tried several other things before via the Doctors, but they didn’t help.

I have been with Quiet Connections for 9 months now, and things are looking up. I have had 1:1 coaching, and I am finding Speaking Connections very helpful. We all understand what we are all going through. I have met some lovely friends who I stay in contact with and meet up face to face often; stretching my comfort zone every time I take public transport or go to a café to meet someone. I have been able to do things I never thought possible.

I now also volunteer for Quiet Connections, my role is to help others feel at ease when they first approach Quiet Connections and to be that supportive friend from then on. I have also helped out at events; baking cakes, running the cake stall (always the most popular stall!) and talking with lots of strangers. I would not have been able to do something like this in the past, but with all the help and support I am now able to do this.  If it wasn’t for Hayley I don’t know what I would have done.

My feelings of social anxiety have reduced and I am slowly putting my life back together, with the help of everyone at Quiet Connections. With all their help and support, I know I will get there. I am starting to know what I would like to do career wise, and I’m looking forward to new training opportunities that are coming up which will help me on my journey.

I hope this story helps people realise they are not alone, and that there are others who have been, or are going through the same thing.  I was very lucky to have found Hayley and Quiet Connections.  It was meant to be, the day my Mum saw the story.  I don’t know what my life would have been like without their help.

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