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On Wednesday 13th April 2016 I experienced what is commonly known as a nervous breakdown. Looking back now from a distance of nearly two years I can see that it had been slowly approaching for a long time. It hadn?t been my day, my week, my month, or even my year.

I was finding it hard to deal with anxiety about my job, my normally settled home life was suddenly quite chaotic, and I felt that there was no way out. In retrospect I also realise that I was withdrawing from my friends and social events because I was depressed. But even if I had been socialising more, life is too short to want it to go quickly five days a week. The next few months were really hard. Visits to doctors, lots of soul searching, and more than a few tears. When stress gets a grip it doesn?t let go easily. You feel lost and alone, but the truth is that everyone you pass in the street has their own struggles. For every cheery social media post there are ten people reading it and wishing their life was better or different.

There are two organisations that were there for me when the rain started to pour. One is a peer support group called SWADS – South Wales Anxiety and Depression Support. SWADS is a friendly and informal social group that organise regular meetups of all sorts of activities in a relaxed and non-judgmental environment. There?s no pressure to chat and everyone is welcome.

The other organisation is Valleys Steps of course! When I first went to one of their stress control classes I almost backed out and didn?t go in. I?m so glad I walked through the doors because I learned so much over the six week course that I finally felt hopeful about the future for the first time in as long as I could remember. I knew I was not alone, and there were things I could do to manage my stress. I also attended Valleys Steps mindfulness classes which changed my outlook on life dramatically and has helped me notice when I?m ruminating about the past or fretting about the future. By meditating most mornings and remembering to be mindful of how I feel throughout the day, I?m more content and able to enjoy the little things in life.

Last summer I began doing voluntary work for Valleys Steps supporting their classes, and it?s by far the most rewarding thing I?ve ever done. I love to be able to help other people access the courses and benefit from them as I did. In fact, many other Valleys Steps volunteers also started out as attendees on the courses!

I don?t know what my future holds in store for me, but I hope to continue my voluntary work for Valleys Steps. I?ll be there for you, ?cause you?re there for me too.

I could write more about how great Valleys Steps is, but I have to get back to binge watching every ?Friends? episode on Netflix. As Chandler might say, could I be any happier?

Ryan Emmett
Course Support Volunteer at Valleys Steps