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Article published on: Wednesday, 13 March 2024

Alex shares his experience of being supported by the Bucks Mind Befriending service.

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I’m not sure a nightmare exists that I have yet to experience. During the worst of my mental illness, days were spent making new and terrifying fear associations and nights were spent reliving them. The result was the slow, steady, and seemingly permanent regression to the four walls of my home.

Eventually, I found treatments that began to ease the symptoms of my severe generalised anxiety disorder. But this is where the medical system fell short. I was left to my own devices to reintegrate myself back into society again. At the beginning, simple missions, such as going to the grocery store, elicited deep anxiety within me, which for most of us is reserved for things such as public speaking. Each new everyday activity that most of us take for granted, felt to me like climbing a mountain. On my own, this felt nearly impossible.

I wish I could say societal progress has reached a point where most would be understanding of my condition and eager to help. But this is not the reality we live in. For the mentally ill, it is pain all the way down and pain all the way back up.

The help given by the Bucks Mind Befriending service has been my first experience of recovery that has not been painful – the opposite, in fact.

Emily, the support worker who first got in contact with me, was kind, understanding and I found inherently likeable and down to earth (the sort that, in my experience, is quite rare). When I sent a photo, briefly explaining my worry of arriving at our first meeting without knowing what the other looked like, she did not hesitate to send a photo back.

Adrian, the Befriender, has a patience and willingness to help beyond what I had expected. Adrian has spent his life in the armed forces, historically a place where mental health is not openly discussed. On paper, he is not someone who I would have normally interacted with. Yet, I found myself not only comfortable in his presence, but surprised and grateful for the amount of empathy he holds.

The Befriending service seems to attract Befrienders from all walks of life – such is its impact.

Before I started the Befriending service, I feared going on a simple walk round the park. Now, with Adrian’s help, I feel much more comfortable in coffee shops, pubs, grocery stores – on trains and buses. I am now in the process of looking to socialise and make new friends.

Of course, life is still difficult for me, I still feel anxious a lot of the time – the Bucks Mind Befrienders are not miracle workers. But Adrian has helped my ongoing reintegration into everyday life be a lot easier than if I had tried to on my own.

I would like to thank the charity Bucks Mind for providing the Befriending service.

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