Simone Oxley: “I Choose Living”

Simone is a prime example of how a positive attitude and unfleeting determination can help you to achieve whatever it is you want in life. A happy, confident and ambitious person, she won’t let anything get in the way of her or her dreams. If you met her today, you would have no idea of all the challenges she has had to overcome on the long road to reaching her goals.

When you see everything that Simone has achieved this past year, it is hard to imagine that things were not always so positive for her. In 2010 she sadly lost her mum and a year later was made redundant. These events understandably had a big impact on her life. When she started getting bullied in her new job, she finally hit rock bottom. Overcome with a low mood and other mental health problems, Simone was finding it difficult to see the bright side of anything.

Troubled by suicidal thoughts, Simone reached out to The Samaritans, who helped her to put things in perspective. She commented, “The massive thing that stuck with me when I called the Samartians was I was asked, ‘Do you want to die permanently or just until things get better?’ I answered, ‘Just until things get better’. The listener simply told me to find things that help me feel better. I firmly believe what happens in our lives can either make us or break us, but we’re always in control of how we react to it. The tattoo on my wrist says, ‘Get busy living or get busy dying’. I let myself forget briefly that it’s a simple choice I need to make each day and each choice gets you closer to one of those options. I choose living”.

Determined to turn her life around, Simone started a college course and continued to look for work. That’s when her work coach at the Job Centre referred her to the Positive People project. Simone joined the project in 2017 where she met with a change coach who helped her set goals for the future, connect with social groups in her community and fund her travels to college. Although this support was very helpful for Simone, what she feels she gained most from the experience was having people on the project to talk to – people who encouraged her and believed in her. “Without people wanting to invest in you, you won’t want to invest in yourself. I just wanted to find myself and find a path for my future. Having people believe in me gave me the confidence to do this.”

During her journey with Positive People, Simone was referred to Cosmic because she wanted to receive digital training. The digital training Simone received was specifically around using a fitness tracker, purchased for her by funding from the project. Simone had an ongoing goal of improving her health and wellbeing. To achieve this goal, she set herself an ambitious challenge of travelling 875 miles (the equivalent distance from Land’s End to John O’Groats) through walking, cycling and swimming. To track her progress and help her achieve this goal, the project purchased a FitBit for Simone, which could track the exercises she was doing and monitor the distance she had travelled over time. The tracker is water-resistant to 50 metres and can also track calories burned, heart rate, fitness level and many other statistics. Simone talked about the value of this device in helping her to achieve her goals. “Having the FitBit is like having a friend on your wrist to motivate you to get off your backside and do 250 steps every hour! Metal health wise, doing my walking challenge was also massively beneficial – by the end of it I found out I could run!”

Simone’s worn-down trainers after they had travelled about 1000 miles.

A proud smile: Simone on the last leg of her challenge. She delightedly completed her challenge, and even had a week to spare – well done Simone!

Simone is now participating in a photography course and has met new friends along the way who she can share her experiences with. She reflects on how her experiences have changed her way of thinking: “A massive thing for me is the word ‘depression’. To me that word focusses on the inwards feelings. It is easy to get stuck in your own head. So, I flip that focus around and think about it going outwards. I think about how I can do things for other people and get out of my own head. For me it’s the mantra of ‘You get what you focus on’. I look for beauty now. I was even amazed at the patterns of oil in vinegar last week! Now I’ve built up a good group of people who are in a similar boat to myself. I can use my experience to encourage other people and I feel more confident to talk to people now. As I get stronger emotionally, I’ll probably start volunteering with people who are really struggling themselves”.

A beautiful picture captured by Simone as she looks for the beauty in things.

During her photography course, Simone joined her group on a photoshoot at sunrise on Exeter quay. She explained, “It made me feel fulfilled and with a purpose I’d never felt before. It felt like I was a professional photographer only happier because I was with friends. My difficulties with work have always been because I’ve never felt like I’ve fitted in (literally) and because of my crippling lack of confidence, I’ve never gone for jobs that are worthy of the me deep down I know I am. Rejection has also been a driving force in my life so I’ve rarely tried for things I feel I’m not likely to get”. This is no longer the case for Simone as she continues to set herself challenges and has now received an unconditional offer to study a degree in Fine Art later this year. She is also looking at setting herself up as a Massage Therapist once the course is finished.

One of Simone’s captures from her photoshoot at Exeter Quay.

“Thank you for all your help, FitBit and encouragement. I won’t forget your kindness, it gave me such a boost to meet people who want to help me and care about people achieving their potential. I can barely remember the broken-hearted woman who came to see you in March and was so nervous to meet a new person. I was in such an awfully dark place and Positive People literally saved my life. I’m so thankful for that, eternally”.

Simone is now looking forward to the future and is making big plans as she sets herself on a new career path. She is also considering doing some tutoring work to support others who have been in the same position as her. One day, she even hopes to live abroad! Positive People wish Simone all the best for the future, which is sure to be as bright and positive as she is!

Positive People offers a lifeline to people who are not in work to build hope, confidence and skills. Positive People is funded by the European Social Fund and the National Lottery Community Fund.