Harriett's Story

I used to work supporting adolescents with eating disorders. It was quite a stressful job, and I found it hard to do alongside juggling my own anxiety and mental health challenges. I decided to take some time out of work.

One month rolled into two months, which rolled into a year. By the time I felt ready to go back, I had been gone too long, and I wasn’t able to go back. I got quite depressed. I felt frustrated. It was typical of me not to check how long I could take off. However, while I was off, I was diagnosed with ADHD. That at least explained a few things to me – I realised why I kept feeling overwhelmed by things.

When I go through difficult periods, I tend to go off the radar. This felt like a final kick – I realised that ignoring how I was feeling wasn’t the right thing to do.

I felt like I was going mad and wasting away, so I decided to go to Thailand. I knew someone who worked at a rehab centre there, and I got the chance to do an internship, supporting people who were struggling with addiction. Going out there built my confidence and independence. If anything went wrong, I had no one to fix it – I had to sort it myself. A lot of people get stuck in a rut because they like to feel safe and are scared of failure. Sometimes, you need to pull the rug out from underneath you. You’ll either sink or swim. Most of the time, you swim.

50 Voices: Harriett at Hestias Age Well Roehampton

I had to come home due to Covid-19. I applied for jobs but was unsuccessful. It knocked my confidence but, in that moment, I decided to let go of the idea of a job. I thought as long as I’m doing something, it doesn’t matter. I quit drinking, joined a gym, went vegan and started a period of self-reflection.

Then I found a volunteering opportunity with Hestia. I joined the Age Well Roehampton service, which is near me. I help older adults learn IT skills on a Monday, facilitate yoga sessions on a Thursday, and host coffee walks too.

I take my little dachshund with me to the sessions too. A while ago, a family friend died of cancer. Before she passed away, she asked me if I’d look after her dog, Charlie. I’d never had a little dog before, but I’ve appreciated the companionship.

The older ladies love him. At first, he was really nervous as it was a new environment for him. Now, he’s grown in confidence, and when he trots in alongside me, they all comment on how far he’s come. He used to be chauffeured around in my backpack. Now, he can easily do a 5K walk.

50 Voices: Harriett at Hestias Age Well Roehampton

Volunteering has eased me into working and it’s given me the space to think about what I would like to do in future. I know I want to help people. Growing up, my mum struggled with addiction, so I know I have the background to relate to people in that area of work.

Because of my background, I was placed on an estate in Roehampton at the age of 16. It was overwhelming. I had a bit of immature resentment towards it here because I didn’t have a choice of where I lived. Now I’m grown up, and through my volunteering, I’ve realised it’s a hidden gem. When the estate was built in the 1950s, it was something of a landmark architectural pursuit. Tourists would come and visit.

50 Voices: Harriett at Hestias Age Well Roehampton

I’m now part of the community I’ve grown up in and contribute in a meaningful way. I’ve got a new perspective on the area, and I’m grateful to continually meet new and fascinating people. It’s given me a sense of accomplishment.

Which film has impacted me the most?

It’s a cheesy one, but Shawshank Redemption. You can’t get away from the story of hope, perseverance and integrity.

Which book has impacted me the most?

The Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists. It’s a tale about class structure and inequality in society. It’s a political commentary. It’s really long but it’s so good.