Shad has been coming to Book Break, one of our shared reading groups, for two years. He is Kurdish, originally from the north of Iraq.
This is Shad’s story, in his own words.
I’m very ill, sleeping all day if there is nothing to go to. I get up for the group because it is something to get up for.
My childhood, my problem started when I was four or five years old. I stayed away from groups. Coming to this country was not easy, it was completely different. Book Break is the first group I have been to in my whole life! I was talking to my occupational therapist and he said “We have a Book Break”. I like reading; it is a hobby, I like education and to study. I enjoyed reading as a kid. That was my enjoyment as a child. I wanted to know things. In my country I was reading Chekhov, Agatha Christie and Shakespeare but in Arabic. I’d been trying since I came here to the UK. Before Book Break I’d spend three hours in the library and buying books but I can’t concentrate reading by myself. I still can’t read by myself and enjoy it and keep going. I can’t concentrate. I believe I was losing my memory. I can’t remember the story.
At Book Break when someone starts talking (about what we read last week) then my memory comes back, like a flashback. I have it. It triggers, I remember.
We read it slowly so even if I can’t get the words or the meaning, I get a sense of it and when we stop reading I can ask the English word. Then when I go home I find it on google.
It’s getting my confidence back that I can read stories again. I lost trust to be with people or put my opinion. I lost confidence. But here in Book Break I can discuss difficult things and people still welcome me back. That was missing in my life, even in my family.
Book Break is like you say whatever you are going to say. It’s really friendly. Book Break is like a perfect family. Different ages, male and female, we all still talk and discuss. I can’t believe this kind of group exists. I feel it’s like a true family. It’s hard for me to feel comfortable and relaxed after all I’ve been through.
Since 2005 the furthest area I went to was near my house. I came to Waterloo Station for the Book Break Christmas party which was really big for me. It gave me confidence and hope. I looked at the faces – we all looked like we’d been lost and found each other through Book Break. It linked me. I thought, “They are like me, they like novels, they like stories.”
I’ve been told to go to many groups but I couldn’t find myself there. I feel sick going to interviews. Book Break is the only group I come to voluntarily. I love it. If I’m not well I can come back as if I hadn’t missed. People are welcoming.
Usually in a group when I try and talk about what I’ve been through it feels wrong and I don’t feel I can talk about it or go back. Here at Book Break, through the stories, I feel I can talk and I feel really good, not bad. And I feel a relief. This is what happens through the stories. Comparing myself with the stories, this helps me. It gives me hope.
I tried to end my life because I found no hope or where I belonged or who I could trust or who I could talk to. In this group it’s about the books and discussing things that happened to us. And listening to other people’s stories, it’s not just me, it gives me hope.
In the street people don’t talk about what’s happened to them. But in the group we talk about what’s happened to us. We can help each other. Trust is there. I helped another group member with the puncture on her car and she thanked me. Book Break feels safe.
I want people to know my story to encourage other people.