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Member Stories

Josiah's Journey
November 20, 2017

The Bonds and Life Lessons That Make An Incredible Clubhouse

By Josiah Lillard

What makes in incredible Clubhouse? I would like to share my experiences with Clubhouse and the valuable life lessons I have learned.

Your home is supposed to be a safe haven full of love, acceptance, grace, and protection; a place where you can find peace and relief from everyday struggles. This was not my reality at home. I desperately wanted to connect with my family, but my depression, anxiety, and inability to put multiple thoughts together caused frustration, misunderstanding, and at times hurtful words from family and friends. They just did not understand what I was going through, mentally and emotionally. This caused me to isolate and to hide my true feelings for years. I felt like the black sheep of the family. I hated that my relationships with my family and friends were suffering.

Finally, I came to a crossroads that would change my life forever. I reluctantly went with my mother to see a therapist. I was skeptical. Little did I know this therapist would change my life forever. Gene Ward was her name and I will always be grateful to her. She was able to build a relationship that helped me open up to my family and friends. In our last session, Mrs. Ward directed me and my family towards my new family, Next Step Clubhouse. Next Step helped me get my life in order and put my dreams within my reach. This was the beginning of experiencing the hope in my life that I never had before; a family to support me, to help me grow and get me where I wanted to be.  

Eight years ago, I began my journey trying to find help in the mental health field. I wanted to find a place that I could call home, belong to, and not be judged by my mental illness. Coming into Next Step Clubhouse was a life-changing experience for me that I will never forget. For the first time in my life I was seen as an equal. Having peers who were able to relate to my struggles, welcoming me, making me feel at home. The most important moment was meeting my unit leader Michael Lancaster for the first time. Michael had such an amazing way of connecting with people and he helped me find the right fit in the clerical unit. I felt right at home immediately. I was not just meeting people with mental health issues, I was becoming part of a family. Making life bonds that were becoming stronger daily, working on projects together, talking about our struggles, laughing, crying, talking music, sports, and any other subject our unit could cover. We did this together and helped each other overcome our weaknesses, making each member’s life stronger.

Clubhouse gave me an outlet to work on my anger issues, my creative ideas, and a safe space to be able to write my thoughts. Having Mike working with me daily, along with staff and members helped a lot. They challenged me to tap into my emotions, to write about the parts of my life that I needed to share. I found healing that I never thought I would find. Establishing relationships, sharing each other’s burdens, and seeing each member come back the next day better than they were before is what I believe a Clubhouse is all about. 

I know the future is bright for me because in four short years I have found hope, direction and purpose for my life. My goal is to someday to start a Clubhouse of my own. I know my goal and what God has put in my heart and life: meeting the needs of the mental health community and always finding a way to make life better than it was the day before. I believe diversity, hope, faith, hard work, relationships, and dreams in life help create the bonds and the life lessons that create an incredible Clubhouse.


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