Why I volunteer: Priscilla Mann, social media volunteer
Priscilla is a social media officer for Gluten free Under Thirties (GUTs).
She shares her battle with coeliac disease and mental illness, and how volunteering as a social media officer has helped build her confidence.
“I was diagnosed with coeliac disease in December 2015. It was a long frustrating process; I repeatedly went to the doctors to discuss my symptoms, and had two blood tests that came back ‘fine’. Eventually, I managed to see a different doctor, and I was finally diagnosed.
“It was a relief to know something was definitely wrong and I wasn’t just imagining things, but I still found it extremely difficult to come to terms with. I had gone from being able to eat everything I wanted to being told that I had to follow a gluten free diet for the rest of my life. I had to learn how to cook differently and how to read labels, and eating out became difficult, which caused heightened anxiety, as I couldn’t just go somewhere with my friends, it all had to be somewhat pre planned.
“I began to lose a significant amount of weight, and was eventually diagnosed with anorexia and bulimia. At my lowest I felt depressed, anxious and suicidal, but after opening up about how I felt to my consultant, I was referred to the care of a psychiatrist and counsellor, who gave me the tools to help me manage my mental health. Gradually, my life began to change for the better.
“My consultant mentioned GUTs and I thought I would investigate it. I applied to be a volunteer after seeing a post on their Facebook group, and I’m now in my second year of volunteering as a social media officer. Our team use Facebook and Instagram to raise awareness of coeliac disease and share useful products and recipes with other young adults. We also occasionally do live streams over Facebook to check in with members of the community.
“Volunteering with GUTs has helped me to gain friends which will last a lifetime, develop new skills, and try new experiences. A particular highlight for me was attending the 2019 conference in Birmingham with fellow volunteer Natalie, where we were both interviewed about all things gluten free. I also got to meet Coeliac UK’s lovely ambassador, Jane Devonshire.
“I honestly believe that everything I have been through cannot be for nothing - I have a voice and I want to share my story to help raise awareness around coeliac disease, and the affects it can have on individuals. No one person has the same symptoms - some people have a few, others a lot and some none. If I can help even one person then it’s all been worthwhile.
“I’d like to say thank you to the people at Coeliac UK for being there to answer my phone calls and emails, because without them I do not think I would be here today. Anyone who’s thinking of volunteering should give it a try - you will not regret it at all!”
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