A group member turned Reader Leader Volunteer shares her powerful story and tells us what Shared Reading has meant for her.
“I see a lot of me in the books I read, I think if you read it as you, it is meant for you at that moment.”
I’ve always suffered from mental health issues but used to hide it. I used to work for a secondary school behaviour service, which I loved, I actually opened a feel-good factory, which was about making other people feel good! – but myself, I was right down.
I have depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis and I’m diabetic, things came to a head about 18 months ago. I’d been suffering silently, spiraling. I’d been running on adrenaline, doing everything myself; when I met my husband, suddenly I had somebody to share things with and I just sort of let go – my body said, “Oh my God” and fell apart.
It was the furthest I’d ever fallen. I was hallucinating, I had an ambulance and the police here – a complete and utter meltdown. I was far deeper than I ever thought I would ever have got – I never even knew that deep place existed. I was taken to hospital but was discharged and referred to IAPT, with a long waiting list. I said, “Well what am I going to do in-between? I can’t be like this!” They offered CBT, which I’ve had before and didn’t have any effect, instead they referred me to a recovery college while I was waiting.
I looked at their prospectus and burst out crying, “I can’t do any of that.” I felt useless and pointless to everybody. I knew these things were meant to make me feel better, but they were all medical and goal-oriented – all about ‘issues’, poking and prodding.
Right in the middle of the booklet though The Reader stood out to me. It wasn’t like all those medical things, I thought, “I want to do that one.” It was books! I love reading.
I’m so thankful to The Reader because it’s given me back the spark that I thought I had lost and now I want to pass that on.
I can remember the very first session and my memory is not very good so it must have been magical.
We read a poem about someone who just wanted to eat a boiled egg. It was about how something really simple is absolutely enormous to do. It takes water pipes to be installed for the water to boil it in, gas pipes for the cooker, all these things behind a little boiled egg. Sometimes you read things, don’t you, and you just think, “Oh my God, I’ve been there, I’ve done that. So, it’s not just me.” It makes me read on because I like to think it’s something normal – whatever normal is. I see a lot of me in the books I read – I think if you read it as you, it is meant for you at that moment.
I just sprung into life really once I’d started the group. I kept waffling onto one of the facilitators at the recovery group, “Oh it’s brilliant this!” She said to me one day, “You’re really good at it, why don’t you try the training?’
It gives me real enjoyment that I am helping people again. The training has given me the confidence to say, “Hello! I’m really good at something, I’ve not forgotten it.” It’s like realizing there are bits of me still there, the old me that I really loved. The group’s reconnected me to that 100%. I’ve run my Shared Reading group for five weeks now and I’m really excited but dead scared; I’m hiding the dead scared bit because I know I’ve got nothing to be scared about. All the people that I’ve met have been great, and The Reader is a very safe place. I’m hoping to start this group off and then volunteer at the recovery college – I want to give back what they gave to me. I’m so thankful to The Reader because it’s given me back the spark that I thought I had lost and now I want to pass that on.
*All our Reader Stories are anonymised
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