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Member Stories

Member Musings: Life in the Time of Physical Distancing
April 18, 2020

From Members of Austin Clubhouse, Texas USA

Change, by Kristin Thompson (pictured at right)

Life at the Clubhouse changed drastically three weeks ago. Today we are living in a time of uncertainty, social distancing and sheltering in place. Thank God I have been able to stay connected to the Clubhouse community virtually and remotely. I still get to participate in the work, and work side by side with other members and staff. It seemed strange the first week, but we hit the ground running and haven’t looked back. We’ve ramped up our connectivity so that when we can physically return to the Clubhouse, we will be stronger than ever.

I was seriously concerned with how I was going to fill my days while stuck in the house isolating with my parents. I can’t even go to the grocery store anymore because they are both over the age of 70. This puts them at great risk as they are considered more vulnerable to the Coronavirus.  Happily, we are all doing well.

That being said, life is harder than ever right now. To be frank with y’all, my anxiety had been extremely high because I was afraid my depression would worsen knowing I couldn’t go to the Clubhouse. I used to attend the Clubhouse 3-4 days a week and frequently, all day. Thankfully, I have found that I’m keeping that same schedule remotely and virtually. I was really concerned about having enough things to do, but my days are packed! My morning starts with the 9:30 Clubhouse check in and I wrap things up around 4:30 pm.

The most important aspect is keeping connectivity. I’ve spent some of my time calling members, with staff. We’ve all worked hard! In the last three weeks we have made 560 calls, just checking in to see how folks are doing and giving them the information they need to stay connected.  I’ve been on virtual wellness walks, put together the Poetry portion of the Spring Newsletter, contacted donors thanking them for donating during Amplify Austin, data entry and more. I’ve also been able to attend daily meetings.

Today via Zoom, a group of people met virtually with a group of folks from a Clubhouse in Maine.  Being on Zoom meant we could all see each other’s faces! Boy have I missed seeing faces! I’ve had very full days. Full days of laughter, work and progress.

The best part of my day is the connection.  I don’t feel so alone. All of us are experiencing the same things living in such tough times. I am feeling less anxious because I keep my therapy appointments and stay busy with the Clubhouse. I wrap things up with the Clubhouse at 4:30, and then it’s ‘me’ time. I treat the day like I’m back at work. I hope you will join me. I promise you are missed and there is much work to be done. You are valued and we want you with us!  Let’s keep each other company during this surreal time. We all make a difference in each other’s lives.

The Importance of Staying Connected, by Alizah

Staying connected with Austin Clubhouse has allowed me to nurture ideas and projects. I get the opportunity to participate in the flourishing of the Austin Clubhouse, and in turn I feel a sense of accomplishment. In the past, I hadn’t really understood the value of having this kind of connection.

Thankfully, I have learned that staying connected creates a restorative feeling of being a full human – of being seen. In the Jewish religion, this kind of connection is what helps someone regain their dignity. Austin Clubhouse provides that nonjudgmental environment where you get a sense of being a productive and a valuable member of society. People at the Clubhouse understand you, are there for you, and are in tune with helping you be a better you. The act of letting people be there for you, and you being there for others, is a kind of healing.

Having a community that supports you can mean different things to different people. For example: it can give you a sense of belonging; it can give you a sense of accomplishment because you contributed to a project; it can allow you to pull from existing strengths to develop further as a human, etc. So I hope that you are able to create wonderful moments in your life that fulfill you in being and staying connected.

Coming Together, by Ashley Leonard

These are very strange and uncertain times. This is very new to us all, and nobody really knows what to expect.  A lot of you may be riding this out with friends and family, or you might be alone. It’s perfectly normal to feel anxious and fearful. It is also important to find hope and stay positive. Stay in contact with your loved ones. If you are by yourself, take this opportunity to have quality alone time. Find reasons to laugh. Discover your own strength. Remind yourself that you can handle this, and anything that comes your way. Find something wonderful, out of something unnerving. We don’t know what the long-term outcome of all this might be, but take solace that we will come through on the other side together.

I Am Struggling, by Trisha Beasley

I am struggling.
Not that old kind of struggling
Where every fiber of my being is trying
To destroy me.
It’s the beautiful struggle that comes from
A flower fighting its way out of the
Darkness of damp soil,
Or a butterfly, wings still wet from
Making way from a cocoon.
It’s the painful struggle of a baby
Way out of a womb
That no longer served as a safe place.
It’s the struggle that comes from all of
Those things but wanting
Down to my core that I could go back to
That safe place.
But I still struggle.
Not to bathe in what I want but
To baptize myself in my need
For change.

The San Angelo Clubhouse in the Covid-19 Shutdown:“Know that you are not alone! We are here with you and for you.”

by Ruben Gallegos

May 25, 2020. At the beginning of March, with the 24 hour news cycle continually discussing the Covid-19 pandemic, I began to wonder about the type of shutdown policy, that my clubhouse, the San Angelo Clubhouse (SACH) would adopt.

Then, in Mid-March, we had a SACH House meeting that told all members that we needed to close the SACH. Members that were not at the meeting were called and told the next day. 

The message from the SACH was: “Due to the Corona Virus, the San Angelo Clubhouse will be closed until Friday, March 20. We will be posting lots while we are closed. Please stay with us!!” 

On March 19th, news reported that schools in San Angelo would be closed through April 10.  Since the Clubhouse typically follows the San Angelo School district’s closure policy, SACH would also be closed through April 10, and potentially many months of closure.

I felt confusion, depression, worry, and anxiety all at once.

For approximately the last fifteen years, I isolated to the point that I had no friends or even acquaintances.  I saw doctors, the occasional therapist, the pharmacist, and checkout clerks at Wal-Mart.  It had gotten very bad at the time I was introduced to Clubhouses.  The Clubhouse was a lifesaver and is helping me in defeating Isolation and providing me a road to recovery. 

And now I felt I was losing the SACH and being forced to isolate by the government?

But, soon I was being invited to a meeting, as a member, with our director,

Ami Mizell-Flint, and staff.   There we were told that while the SACH was closed there would be staff and a few key members to help keep the Clubhouse operating, and also keep in contact and engage shuttered members. 

As a member and “mentor” of the Cultivation Unit, I would help in keeping our vegetable garden, indoor plants, and outdoor flowers alive.

Our first task was for each of us to call SACH members, to check on them, and let them know they were not alone.

The SACH also quickly posted much information on agencies, that could help with specific COVID-19 issues that could affect members, e.g., COVID-19 drive-thru screening and testing, lists of restaurants that provided free meals, and hotline numbers, etc.

It’s here that my personal fears began to be alleviated.  It seems without missing a beat our Director and staff had began planning for a “virtual clubhouse.”  A virtual clubhouse experience that would closely mirror our physical clubhouse, so members would be engaged and continue to be needed. 

And then the ZOOM meetings began.  I remember at our first meeting and how it was a happy event.  Everyone glad to see each other, everyone talking at once!      

The online ZOOM meeting agenda was born with two conference calls a day. 

We also used ZOOM to discuss The International Standards for Clubhouse Programs and current clubhouse topics.  With ZOOM, we attend mental health webinars and webinars from the San Antonio Clubhouse and Fountain House.  We discussed many topics on wellness and topics on isolation.  We continued our Ambassadors meetings.  SACH also began offering on-line socials, like painting, and Karaoke.

Last year, the SACH created Mental Health Awareness Spirit week, which we did again this year, and started the SACH on-line Book Club. We did an on-line Talent show social, and one where members read poetry.

The entire SACH also worked together to cook and deliver a weekly hot cooked meal to members isolated because of Covid-19.

And then on May 3, finally this Face Book Message: “Good Afternoon Clubhouse Members!  Today we have had the pleasure of reopening our doors at 25% capacity. We all have missed seeing each other and working together as a Clubhouse Family.  Everybody is working hard while being safe.”

Yes, progress in reopening! Clubhouse doors reopened on May 10, with some changes, including wearing masks and social distancing, but at least we could be together in person.

This whole ongoing experience gives me such satisfaction to be a member of the SACH.  A community of Director, staff, and members who daily show commitment to one another’s success through the Clubhouse Model, even through the extraordinary difficulties of the Convid-19 pandemic.

“Know that you are not alone! We are here with you and for you.”

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