BLOG: Emz’s Story

BLOG: Emz’s Story

Oakleaf is always encouraging people to share their stories and experiences in the hope it will encourage others to do the same. We would therefore like to share a story from one of our newer clients, Emz, who has found solace and strength through Oakleaf.

“My Oakleaf experience began only four months ago, yet I have already achieved so much with their support. This unique community has been a massive comfort, providing access to mental health support and peer support from other clients. My mental health struggles began in my teens, dealing with gender dysphoria, body dysmorphia and undiagnosed ADHD, resulting in feelings of isolation.

A cushion Emz created in Upholstery

At university, I learned to control my emotions but despite presenting a ‘terminally cheerful’ demeanour, struggled with feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness. I couldn’t form lasting relationships and often changed jobs due to mental health declines caused by ‘office politics.’ I could never seem to stick anything out for long, but always found alternative work when I wanted it; I was highly employable, but struggled to maintain the motivation and enjoyment of each new place I ended up in.”

After university, Emz faced personal challenges that deeply affected their sense of identity and prompted them to seek help from Oakleaf.

Emz’s late companion, Beretta

“I was in an emotionally abusive relationship for six years, losing my sense of self. I forgot what it was like to be the Emz everyone knew and seemed to enjoy having around. During a dark period of grief, after losing my home, my adult friends and my career, my GP suggested I explore Oakleaf, but I was too lost to consider it.

At 28, I was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, after suffering with chronic pain from the age of 16, and later ADHD. These diagnoses clarified many struggles but the loss of my job managing a café broke me. I spent a few years out of work and lost my dog, Beretta; my stalwart companion through all the hardship. It was at this point that I self-referred to Oakleaf and started therapy.

Oakleaf’s Weave & Stitch activity

Since February 2024, Emz has immersed themselves in Oakleaf’s wellbeing activities and found both therapeutic benefits and a supportive community.

“What an amazing ride it has been already! My first month was chocker-block with activities like ‘Managing Stress and Anxiety’ and ‘Somatic Art Therapy’, where I have drawn some of the most meaningful images, providing deep insights into my subconscious. ‘Upholstery’ has been a great feature of my weekly routine, and the pride I felt finishing, stripping and rebuilding a drop seat using traditional techniques was nothing short of amazing. Oakleaf’s ‘Wellbeing Brunch’ is also a staple of my week, meeting both familiar faces and new individuals starting out with Oakleaf.

The friends I have made through ‘Pain Management’ have been crucial. Finding individuals who can understand and relate to my struggles and who I can feel a real camaraderie with has been truly wonderful.”

Emz’s new pup, Molly, who’s been a great support

Reflecting on the growth and support they have received so far, Emz is keen to embark on a new chapter of giving back and contributing to the Oakleaf community.

“So, what is next for this cheerful goth punk that rocks up most days at Oakleaf and makes as many people smile as possible? I already dedicate time to sharing my journey with Oakleaf on my own social media and I recently volunteered at their ‘Wall of Positivity’ event for Mental Health Awareness Week. So, I plan to continue volunteering, whether that be at another event or even as a wellbeing activity leader and give back to the place that is helping me feel more human.

Emz volunteering for Oakleaf during Mental Health Awareness Week

Being open, honest, and communicative about my struggles and my life comes naturally to me. So, I’d love to help others do the same and build towards a world where we don’t have to feel ashamed for taking time to heal. We are all valuable in our own way.

Oakleaf is helping me every day to see that I am worthy and valuable, regardless of the situation I find myself in with my pain, my mind, or my future.”

Emz’s story shows the resilience and transformative power of community support. We are so pleased to be able to share Emz’s experiences and in turn, encourage others to foster a world where everyone feels seen, heard and valued.

If you would like to donate to Oakleaf, you will be helping people like Emz access the support they need. A donation of any amount makes a difference.

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, please don’t hesitate to reach out. Help is always available. For more information about our Upholstery offering, please visit: and for general information about Oakleaf, visit:

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