I’m so proud and excited to be an Age UK joint Internet Champion! To be chosen for a role I believe in so strongly in puts a great big smile on my face. In this, my first blog for Age UK, I’ll be filling you in on my background and explaining what inspired me to get online.
One of the first things people find out about me is that I am bipolar. While I don’t let that define me, it is a fact that’s absolutely central to the story of my journey to becoming one of Age UK’s Internet Champions this year.
I was 50 when I was properly diagnosed, following a series of what I would call mini-breakdowns. I became unable to cope, lost my career and quite a bit more besides. That was when I found myself searching the internet for the first time, and eventually found my way to the brilliant Bipolar UK website. I already had a guiding light in Stephen Fry, one of the judges of the Internet Champion Awards.
I joined an online forum, and ‘met’ some very kind and encouraging fellow-sufferers. Through the long nights when I was awake and battling despair, my online forum friends were there to talk and to listen, to help me keep the suicidal thoughts at bay, to share a favourite quotation, a joke, a beautiful photo… Suddenly, I was no longer alone.
I learnt to self-manage my condition, and found sources of help to make my life into something really quite beautiful. I jokingly say to people I meet: ‘The only thing I didn’t get from the internet is my husband!’ but there’s a serious meaning behind that. About 80% of my life is spent indoors. So I make sure that within the limits of my life I can be as effective as possible. The internet has been such a lifeline, and in wanting to share that with others, I have set up an IT Club for my neighbours in the sheltered accommodation scheme where we live.
The club is full up these days. Word is getting out that it really is fun, that it’s useful, safe and nobody judges or laughs at you or thinks you’re slow. We’re all on a journey of discovery, sat in front of our computers.
To those who have never tried the internet, I’d say from my heart, ‘Give it a go – you never know when it might come in handy. And maybe sooner than you think.’ I wish everyone an exciting time on their own, personal Journey of Discovery.