We last chatted to William several years ago when his experience of homelessness was more recent and although he was doing new things, he was struggling to manage his mental health. Since then a lot has changed. He looks puzzled that he previously used the word ‘nervous’ to describe himself.
“I’m quite surprised where that word came from. I have a different outlook and I definitely don’t feel nervous. I don’t deep think things anymore. In the past I would think and think until it made me sick. I’m definitely less like that now. I don’t take things as personally.”
He thinks it’s a combination of volunteering and finding the right medication to manage symptoms which has improved how he feels.
“For the past year or so I’ve been doing lots of volunteering. I’m in touch with people all the time whereas before I was slightly isolated. I’ve also qualified as an IT teacher trainer. This hasn’t really materialised in the way I wanted it to as I have these qualifications but I wasn’t getting the practice of using them.”
It was at this point that William saw a volunteering position advertised to support The Connection’s drop in IT class, which operates from the centre’s activity room on a Monday morning. It’s an informal group, which introduces people to digital technology in a fun way so it appeals to people who might not be ready for formal IT classes.
“My role is to support staff and clients. I will support development of the sessions and any exercises. If a client needs a hand with how to do something on a computer or Ipad I give them support. We try to cover a wide variety of subjects and make it fun. We’ve got all kinds of IT stuff which revolves around games and a lot of online questionnaires. We have quizzes which involve safety online, how to job search and little competitions for design of posters to register to vote.”
“The more I volunteer, the more I’m surrounded by positive people and I feed on that positivity. I like IT and after a long time I found something I’m not too bad at.”
And when things don’t quite go to plan William has developed strategies to cope and thrive:
“Nobody is perfect, but in a personal sense you give yourself very high standards and you try to live up to it and it doesn’t really work. It’s actually not a bad thing to realise that you’re not perfect and just get on with it, relax and enjoy it. I think you have to have a sense of humour to keep life fun and it’s even better if you can laugh at your mistakes and take a positive view of that.”