Volunteering with PANDAS by Tam Mason - PANDAS Foundation UK

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If you had asked me 7 years ago, before having my daughter, what I would be doing today, volunteering for a national charity supporting women and families affected by pre-and post natal illnesses, wouldn’t have been something on my list.

Before the life changing experience of having a baby, and then unfortunately developing PTSD after a traumatic birth, PND, and anxiety, I was pretty sure I had my life mapped out; I knew where I was heading, but how wrong could I have been.

I wasn’t well enough still to return to the job I loved after my maternity leave ended. I enjoyed being a stay at home mum but when my daughter started full time school, I suddenly felt lonely, lost and I began to feel like my purpose had gone. I looked for a job that would fit around school hours but this proved difficult and I was still struggling to manage my anxiety so actually the commitment of a job felt like an impossibility.

I stumbled across PANDAS by accident one day and right now I can honestly say that apart from having my daughter of course, it has been the best thing to have come out of the very difficult times I have experienced. It’s turned my bad experience of post natal illness into something positive. I started volunteering in the Autumn of 2013 as an admin on the Facebook page, I then did some time on the email support team before being asked if I would like to help out with the support groups team who at the time were short of volunteers and it is here that I have settled and found my niche. Nearly 3 years later, I am now the Support Groups Team Manager, a role I am very proud of and one which I absolutely love. I live and breathe PANDAS!

In my day to day role, I manage a team of 6 volunteers and oversee the running of a large number of support groups around the country. We help groups to set up, ensure their successful running, and signpost women and families affected by pre and post natal illness to them. At the moment, I am particularly enjoying developing and improving the service we provide to ensure our support groups can give the best support they can to the families who need them. I am constantly in communication with a large number of people and I really enjoy getting to know everyone. PANDAS has become like my extended family and we all look out for each other. Many of us have experienced pre or post natal illness so we understand and without even having to say anything we all share a connection not only through our experiences but through our passion for the charity and what we are trying to achieve.

It gives me a great deal of job satisfaction to know that I am helping someone even indirectly who felt as alone and desperate as I did in the depths of my illness and I am pleased I can give my time and commitment to PANDAS.
At the same time, volunteering with PANDAS has helped me so much. The experiences that I have through since having my daughter has changed me as a person and I have struggled to ‘like’ the person I have become. My role in PANDAS has helped me to find myself again, has increased my self confidence and belief in myself and have given me another identify alongside my role as ‘mummy’. This time last year I won the PANDAS ‘spark’ award for my volunteering, which was a really great achievement and gave my self esteem a really positive boost. My daughter and I often chat on the school run in the morning about our days ahead and she often asks ‘PANDAS today Mummy?’ and when I say yes, I get a thumbs up and a ‘good job Mummy!’ Her praise keeps me motivated.

I have met so many wonderful inspiring people through volunteering, many of who I am now proud to call my friends. It has been an absolute pleasure to have been able to meet some of these people in person and I hope in the future to meet many more. So if anyone were to ask me today what I do, I’m more that proud to stand up and say, ‘I volunteer for a national charity called PANDAS’. I am very pleased to do so and hope to be involved with PANDAS for many more years to come, I can’t see anything changing. This is the direction I am heading in now. They say things happen for a reason and I truly believe this. I was never meant to go back to my old job, I was meant to find PANDAS and all the opportunities it has given me. I will never be able to put into words how thankful I am! THANK YOU PANDAS!!!

AUTHOR

Catherine Jones

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