I walk in and it looks as though there is a lot is going on. I tell someone I am here for a tour and I wait. A woman eventually appears and points to where everything is from halfway down the stairs. The big open plan office, café area is full of people who are not interested in me. That’s a good thing.
I look around and I am offered a coffee, I say no thanks and I am out the door. My first experience of Clubhouse is daunting, scary even but it’s over. Most of the people seem a blur and though I now know where the toilets are, I am no closer to becoming a member. I needed to become a member a few years earlier when I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety disorders, when the world went pear shaped and I awoke to the worst position I could be in, thinking about suicide, but not knowing how to go about it. I was confused, scared, and didn’t know what I was doing or what to do.
While in the local mental health hospital I was given the diagnosis and that had to be a good thing, as now I know what is wrong. Now the medical community and I can fix it. That was what I thought anyway. I told the Doctor that I was glad for the diagnosis as I could work towards fixing myself. He said I was the first to say I was glad of a diagnosis. One of the staff said I might become mental health’s loudest voice.
I did not know that ten years later I would still be ill. I spent the next few years milling about not knowing what to do, going to drop-in centres and other recreational establishments. I would see a Case Manager every week, which was really beneficial. Just being able to listen to someone else was good to make me stop thinking. I found it difficult to talk to people as I did not trust what I might say. A lot of the time with my Case Manager we would just sit in silence for an hour. That was good for me, as it made me stop thinking about what was going on in my head.
One day I said to the Doctor “What do I do about these delusions”? It was a big moment in my recovery. I had been on medication and in and out of Hospital for about six months at that stage, and I had put on about 30kg. I hoped my delusions were not real, but they seemed so real that I could not get them out of my head. I started on the different courses that the mental health system has, to teach me more about mental illness and strategies for coping.
After some time of not getting anywhere with my illness or my life, my family who have been very important to me, went to a talk given by a member of Stepping Stone Clubhouse. They told me I should go to SSCH (Stepping Stone Clubhouse). It had been a few years since I really spoke to anyone other than my family or mental health clinicians and I was very lucky to have mental health professionals who were sympathetic, and just nice people.I cannot thank them enough.