Story from a WEA student

I was involved in an incident where I was assaulted at my workplace. I was punched in the mouth causing issues for me which even now are still ongoing. Before this happened I was a very strong, confident, "loud" person. The way that this incident has affected me no one would believe if they had known me a long time. I can't believe it myself. I was off work initially for two weeks until the visible damage of what happened was no longer there. I went back to work after that as I needed my wages to pay for my young child. As time went on it was clear that the person who had been charged with this offence was not happy about the fact that I had called the police, and their family would sit outside where I worked and wait for me to come out, they even found out where I lived. For me, that was petrifying because of my other family members and my child, I feared harm would come to them.

I loved my job and people were always telling me how good I was at it. It's all I know! I ended up not sleeping, scared to go out of my house, scared when my family went out in case some harm came to them and I started having nightmares, flashbacks, and imagining if the assault had been worse ... someone having to tell my child I wasn't coming home ever again. It was dreadful for me. I started seeing the bad in every situation and imagining all sorts of terrible things. I had to go to the doctors for help and they diagnosed me with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and declared me temporarily unfit for work. I had to take tablets to help me also as without them I wouldn't go out of the house. I do still take them. They put me on a list to see a counsellor but I am still waiting so in the mean time I decided I needed to try and "fix myself".

Because of what's happened, something which may seem like nothing to some people, has had such a massive effect on me, and I find it very hard to come to terms with. How can one thing affect me so much and in such a serious way? I was very scared to meet new people and I was very stressed about what I was going to do about work because I physically could not go back into my workplace. I was petrified. That job was all I could do though and I thought I was too old to start learning new things. I even avoided speaking to my work friends for fear of them asking me how I was and when they would have me back because they miss me. I missed them too but I could not see myself being able to go back ever again.

But burying my head in the sand and becoming a recluse was only going to make my situation worse. One day I was sat at home and a leaflet came through the door with a list of WEA courses. There were so many courses on there that I loved the sound of. Many courses were on the other side of town to where I live, so the chances of knowing anyone there were very slim. I felt like what happened to me had begun to define me and I didn't like that. I wanted to make a fresh start. I didn't want anyone to know me and talk about what happened. I wanted to enrol in beauty and also baking for beginners. I went along to the centre on enrolment day and all the staff and tutors were absolutely fantastic. It's like a little family in there. I signed up for my classes and left with a lot of hope for my recovery and future. I even found another course at another centre which was doing hair styling and I signed up for that too. That was courses to keep me going on weekdays!

I started the courses and immediately felt so much happier in myself. I made new friends very quickly and was almost overwhelmed by how lovely everyone is - the other students, the staff at the centre, and the tutors. I absolutely LOVE my courses. I feel so much more hopeful now about my future, knowing that I can do other things and have new skills that don't involve my previous career so I don't have to go back to it if I feel like I can't.

In my beauty class, it's quite busy and I am pretty shy in that class and keep myself to myself. Everyone is friendly and chatty but I just prefer to work alone in that class. My tutor there is lovely.

In my baking classes the tutor is absolutely amazing. I look forward to her classes so much, she is brilliant. I don't think she realises how much we all appreciate how fantastic she is. I have learnt so much and have something to focus on every week I go to these lessons. It takes my mind of other things going on in my head and the fact that I am ill. I feel very confident in this class and love to chat to everyone. I feel more like the old me. What I love as well is that we are all very different ages and from different backgrounds and such a group of very, very different people who all enjoy doing the same thing - it's like a little family there and I love every second of the class! Another tutor actually takes this class with us as a student. She is a fantastic lady and she's always helping wherever she can. I want to sign up for her class next term and I look forward to it!

I really love how relaxed all the classes are. It's not like school, it's not about who's better than who and not being able to do things as well as the next person, it's all a team effort.

My hair styling class is a brilliant laugh. My tutor here is a lovely, bubbly, chatty lady. It's such a pleasure and a good laugh on her course - another thing to take my mind off being not well. I struggled at first in there I'll be honest, but she was patient and just put me at ease.

What I would say to anyone wanting to do courses is, just go... get yourself out, give yourself something to focus on, make new friends, live your life and learn new skills. I am absolutely over the moon that I did and I have WEA and my amazing teachers to thank for that. If they weren't such lovely personable people, I may not have kept going to class. I may have still been sat in my house making my condition worse. So I have them to be grateful for that. I have signed myself straight up for next term! I can't wait to see everyone again and I will miss it over Christmas!

(This student has requested they remain anonymous).