Alicia’s Case Study
Alicia had just turned 20 when she was introduced to Turtle Dove by her key worker. She was working with another Cambridge-based Women’s organisation at the time, having just come out of a damaging and abusive relationship. This had had a massive impact on her life. She was used to believing everything that her boyfriend said to her and about her and when the relationship ended she was left with cripplingly low self-confidence and anxiety.
Alicia had reached a point where she was unable to do anything for herself. Even the thought of going for a job interview or phoning the doctors to make an appointment would trigger immense anxiety and often lead to panic attacks. Reflecting back Alicia told us “I was not in the best place.”
When Turtle Dove Co-Founder and Managing Director Kate Nation first met Alicia she saw in her a young woman being punished for her ex-boyfriend’s behaviour. It was clear that if it hadn’t have been for him Alicia would be in a very different place. He had been a huge injustice in her life and had held her back for too long. Nevertheless, Kate saw a “spark” in Alicia and knew that she had huge potential.
In her initial meeting with Turtle Dove Alicia identified two key areas that she wanted to work on; her confidence and work experience for her CV. At that point in time she rated them as a 2 and 1 out of 10 respectively. Jumping in at the deep end, Alicia joined the team in catering for a wedding of a Turtle Dove event staff member. It was a busy and stressful day and Alicia recalls being worried that she was going to have a panic attack. Quite the opposite happened. Alicia started to really enjoy how many people were there and all the different tasks that arose throughout the day. “It was great because it was never boring so it kept me engaged.” She soon forgot all about having a panic attack and instead took the lead in supporting the other young women, who she could see were nervous. “It made me feel good that I could do that.”
Although the wedding was only her second event, Alicia recalls it with the most warmth and enthusiasm. “It was really stressful but we all managed to have a laugh together.” By the fourth Turtle Dove event she was no longer concerned about having panic attacks.
Alicia quickly became an encouraging and inspiring presence for the other young women. Discovering that she was a natural leader and role model, Alicia’s confidence and self-esteem began to improve significantly. At events she started to connect with people more, a quality she claims she always had in her but before Turtle Dove was not as confident acting upon. For example, at the ‘Reclaim the Night’ march against sexual violence, where Turtle Dove were hosting the stall holders, speakers, and helping collect donations, Alicia remembers really wanting to join in with the demonstrators. “Hearing the women’s stories was so interesting. I enjoyed being a part of something bigger, something that connects women.”
With her confidence rising, Alicia found other areas of life becoming more manageable, such as travelling to places by herself and eating and sleeping well. She could now work well in a team and had learnt to think quickly on her feet and problem solve. All in all Alicia attended 18 Turtle Dove events, adding up to over 70 hours of work. In a review session held less than a year after joining, Alicia rated both her confidence and her amount of work experience as 10 out of 10s; an 80% and 90% increase respectively!
Alicia tells us that the whole experience of Turtle Dove helped her to change her life. “If I hadn’t have come to you I don’t know where I’d be right now.” Describing the ethos of the organisation, Kate says, “we come to you where you are at and we work with you as a part of a team, but to an extent we allow you to simply get on with it. We trust you to do a good job.” It seems that it was exactly this kind of faith that Alicia needed someone to place in her, and she certainly rose to the challenge.
“Everyone at Turtle Dove was so supportive. There wasn’t one person I didn’t get on with.”
Alicia’s life now is full and busy. Since working with Turtle Dove she has gone on to interview for several jobs and has secured work in demanding, high-stress environments such as on a Covid-19 ward at the beginning of the crisis. To achieve such a feat is all the more remarkable when one considers the state of Alicia’s confidence and anxiety three years ago. In fact, Alicia tells us that her struggles with her mental health helped to propel her forward in a stressful work environment. She felt better equipped to understand and deal with the tensions of her colleagues as it reminded her of how she could be during bouts of bad anxiety.
Alicia feels more confident about expressing her views now. She recalls several occasions where she has stood up for herself and her colleagues, who she felt were not being treated well by the management. As she tells us this story Alicia emphasises with pride that there is no way she would have been able to assert herself like that before she came to work with Turtle Dove. Such was her conviction that a certain job was not a working environment where she could thrive, Alicia took the initiative to apply for work in a nearby care home instead. Here she could have a more involved, hands-on approach to helping patients. Indeed, Alicia is much more satisfied with her work now, describing the care she gives as “so rewarding.”
“You’re everyone’s favourite; putting a smile on their faces everyday makes me happy.”
In the future Alicia would like to work with young people supporting them with their mental health. She is currently taking an introductory course to counselling alongside working at the care home and has recently moved into her own place. When asked how she feels about her life now, Alicia replies “I’m proud of myself, and I couldn’t say that before.”
*Names have been changed to protect identities.