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Member Stories

Member Voices
May 26, 2022

In recognition of the month of May 2022 as Mental Health Awareness Month, we are celebrating #MemberVoices — a web and social media platform featuring the voices of Clubhouse members who demonstrate every day that RECOVERY IS POSSIBLE. Please follow us on our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages, and add your voice to those who are sharing theirs.

Here are our newest stories. Click on each of the links to drop down to each member’s story!

Story #15: When Therapeutic Works Better Than Therapy, by Bill from Thunderbird Clubhouse

I stood there – listening about two ruined turkeys. I had thawed them too soon. They would have made members sick. 

My love language, acts of service, had become mumbles. My irrational fear of hurting others was coming true. I could feel myself slipping over the edge to a dangerous place.

Drowning in a raging river of shame and self-doubt; blueprints on how to build myself a boat of self-awareness, esteem, and love wasn’t going to save me. I needed a judgment free life ring and friends giving nonchalant encouragement as we walk together to land. I was at Clubhouse, so with relaxed caring, members and staff went over the basics. 

It was not a big deal. Clubhouse procedures worked as designed to keep everyone safe. There was an easy fix. They were grateful for my participation and effort. They were glad I was there.

Then we found another act of service for me. Peeling potatoes. I am particularly good at that actually.

That’s the positive benefit of meaningful work In that kitchen, in that moment, I was happy. I was with my peers, peeling potatoes, giving those potatoes and my peers, my best work, recovering as I did.

Story #14: A Young Adult’s Perspective: Hayley’s Story, from Genesis Club in Worcester MA, USA

“I heard about Genesis Club when I was in the hospital. I get really anxious about going to new places so it took awhile to get up the courage to actually come here. On my first day I took a tour and then went straight into the Young Adult Committee meeting. Everyone introduced themselves and said how long they had been a member. When it was my turn, I said, “Hi, I’m Hayley and I’ve been a member for thirty minutes.” That broke the ice and I spent the rest of the day at the Clubhouse. Everyone was so welcoming, I didn’t want to leave.

I was at a point in my life where I didn’t feel like I had a purpose or any direction. I wasn’t doing much of anything. I love that there’s so much to do at the Clubhouse and that people will help you to learn things you don’t know how to do. There are so many people at the Clubhouse who were willing to help not just me but all the younger members, figure out ‘adulting’ things.

Last fall, the young adults I knew were really depressed. It was super frustrating to see things slowly open up, and then shut down again so fast. We were afraid to start new jobs or go to school. I got a job offer but turned it down because I thought with the pandemic the company would just shut down anyway.

As for school, I was adamant when I graduated from high school that I would never go back to school. Ever! Then, I started coming here and people would ask how I felt about education. Eventually, I joined a small group on a visit to Quinsigamond Community College and I really liked it. Now, I’m enrolled in classes there and have a part-time job helping a child with his schoolwork from home.

It’s hard to describe how supportive this community is. It doesn’t matter if I am away from the Clubhouse because of school or work, or whatever. When I come in, I feel at home. And for me, that means a lot.”

Story #13: Meet Mary, Shore House Member, Long Branch, NJ USA

Hello, my name is Mary Husowech and I have a mental illness.

I wanted to start with something humorous because my mental illness can be funny sometimes.

I have conversations with myself. Hey, if I can’t laugh at myself, who can I laugh at?

I was misdiagnosed for 13 years. I’m sure you can imagine how frustrating it was to be around people that don’t understand you.

So my passion is to educate people about mental illness to take the fear out of it.

In the summer of 1986 I was hospitalized for the first time.

When I returned home I was stable but because of my illness I became isolated and was very alone.

I didn’t have friends and I began to wish I wasn’t alive.

Shortly after my parents moved to Lancaster, PA, my mother died and in 1991 I moved there to be with my dad.

It was Amish farm country, mental health services were really lacking and again I had no friends. I felt so isolated and alone and my illness got progressively worse.

Finally, I found a doctor that correctly diagnosed me.

In 1999, my sister who lives in this area helped me to get on a waiting list for housing in Wall Township even though I was still living in PA.

Housing took 5 years to become available and in 2004 I moved here to live near my sister, her husband, niece and nephew.

It’s really synchronistic the way I found Community Connections and then Shore House.

When I got here, my caseworker referred me to Community Connections because her husband worked there.

Community Connections is a partial care mental health program through Monmouth Medical Center. I was at Community Connections for 8 years, graduating in 2012.

My psychiatrist and I had been talking about what I would do when I graduated from Community Connections. He suggested I might like Shore House.

He knew that I was ready to fly on my own and leave partial care. He also knew that it wouldn’t be a good idea to be alone – on my own. Just like the synchronicity of finding Community Connections, the same thing happened in finding Shore House. It felt like it was meant to be.

At Shore House my favorite part of the day is mealtime. Whether I’m one of the members preparing the meal or just gathering at a big table eating it – everyone together. We talk and share like a big happy family. For me that’s when my worries disappear. It’s my home away from home.

Shore House brings me to a very spiritual place in my life – it gives me empowerment, confidence, something to feel passionate about. I have dreams and I know now, I can move toward them.

With the support of Shore House to back me up, I want to realize my dreams. One day, I will be an artist. Shore House is my Community and everyone should know what a Clubhouse can do for a person.

It’s a positive environment and a place to grow to find your own purpose.

That’s what Shore House has done for me.

Thank you for letting me share my story with you.

Story #12: Finding Hope at Magnolia Clubhouse, Cleveland, OH, USA

Members Talk About Their Experiences at Magnolia Clubhouse.

Story #11: Member Stories from Elevation House, Rome, GA, USA

Members tell their stories of triumph and the hope they found at Elevation House.

Story #10: Member Stories, from Club Nova, Carrboro, NC, USA

Club Nova members talk about the value of the Clubhouse in their lives and how they have replaced “hopelessness with hope and isolation with belonging.”

Story #9: Lauren’s Story, from Austin Clubhouse, Austin, TX, USA

Before I went to Austin Clubhouse, I was bored and just not feeling motivated in life, I was in a funk I felt I couldn’t get out of. I didn’t know where I was going in life. Just mainly sitting at home day by day with no accomplishments. I had heard of the Clubhouse and thought I was not ready for something like that. A member that I was living with in a boarding home kept saying such good things about the Clubhouse that I asked him to take me with him.

Coming into the clubhouse I felt welcomed. Went on my tour and the Vitality Unit drew me in because of learning new recipes and how to cook them. The Operations Unit helped me with wanting to learn more things to do on a computer and what office work is all about. I felt wanted and needed through sweeping in the kitchen and helping with a flyer in the Operations Unit. I felt like there was always something to do here, never a dull moment. It would get me out of the house and I felt like I would accomplish something every day just coming a few times a week. It would keep me going and motivated in everyday life.

I have always been afraid of working. Coming here has given me stamina and patience with myself and has helped me to be brave. I have the opportunity to start working with the Transitional Employment position with Mae at the S. Lamar Goodwill location. I am nervous. Yet the clubhouse helps with that. I just want to say thanks to Austin Clubhouse for giving me power in myself I forgot and didn’t even know I had.

Story #8: Dave’s Story, from Cora Dale Clubhouse, Goshen IN, USA

I have been dealing with mental illness and anxiety most of my life. It effected my concentration and my ability to be social. I hated school and I couldn’t hold a job. I was finally diagnosed with bi-polar and depression in my early to mid 20s. I self-medicated, becoming an alcoholic and drug addict. Life has been a rollercoaster, one minute I’m up and the next I’m down. It was hard for me to have relationships, it impacted my family tremendously. I’ve been in and out of mental health care for the last twenty years. My whole support team recommended Clubhouse to me and we talked about it for a long time.

Last year I finally had to try and come in. My life was very chaotic and I was tired of being lonely and not having a life. The first time I walked through the doors I had a complete panic attack. I walked in talked with [Clubhouse Director] Rich Meyer and walked out shaking like a leaf, I was way outside my comfort zone. About a month later I worked up the gumption to come in again. I observed and watched and slowly moved past my anxiety. Rich really made me feel welcome, like I was needed and part of something.

Now, I have done a 180-degree turnaround. My social skills are better and I am getting more involved with the Clubhouse. I am working on my sobriety and looking forward to starting work again. I would recommend this place to anyone who has mental health issues. I have seen this place do wonders for myself and others.

Story #7: Chimere: Fulfilling My Dreams, from Gateway Club, Greenville SC, USA

My name is Chimere Sherald and I am a member of Gateway. A former athlete, I played basketball at Spartanburg Methodist College and Limestone College. I have three college degrees; an Associates in Art from Spartanburg Methodist College, a Bachelors in Studio Art with a concentration of Graphic design from Full Sail University, and a Masters in Media Design. I’ve worked as a high school women’s Basketball assistant coach and as a graphic designer for an indie music label where I designed album covers for music artists. I was always used to accomplishing something. Having goals and reaching every one of them. In September of 2005 my world became dark, confusing, and pointless in my eyes. Dealing with the death of a family member and a friend while having difficulty with employment, I was so far gone I didn’t realize I was depressed. I was hospitalized over twenty times. I lost my job and became homeless. All hope seemed lost. I was depressed and suicidal.

But then I discovered Gateway. And it changed everything. I’ve never experienced anything like Gateway. Gateway is uniquely different because at Gateway you are not treated as a number. You are seen as an individual, as a human being.  You know you matter, and you are always wanted. There is no stigma at Gateway.  There is caring and hope and dignity.  At Gateway I am surrounded by unique, intelligent individuals, and our diagnoses doesn’t matter because our diagnosis doesn’t define who we are at Gateway.

It’s hard to describe Gateway adequately with words.  Gateway is effective and transformative.  Gateway helps members go back to school through education programs. Gateway also helps member with independent living and getting a job. Gateway removes barriers

The Clubhouse has given me purpose and a community.  Through the Work-Ordered Day, Gateway has given me confidence to use my talents and has brought me out of my depressed shell. I have established amazing relationships with my Clubhouse family. We all encourage and push one another to grow, dream, and achieve.  I think we give one another the love that we never received anywhere else. We all know what it’s like to be misunderstood because we deal with an invisible illness. Some people don’t have the tools to understand mental illness and what’s it like to deal with it. But I’m back to being social where I was isolated before. I am no longer homeless because Gateway has blessed me with my own apartment. I am also back in the workforce. I had the opportunity to return to work through a Gateway Transitional Employment job with Swamp Rabbit Café and Grocery as a dishwasher and I loved it!

Most of all, I now have hope and a reason to live. I also have some exciting news to share…now, through the help of Gateway, I am fulfilling my dreams of working in the graphic design field! This is my dream come true; getting to create, working with lots of different people and learning from different artists in my career field.  And I have plans for my future…

So, if you know anyone suffering or fighting a mental illness, don’t shun them away. Listen to them and hear them out. Sometimes that’s all it takes is for someone to just listen. You can also tell them to learn about Gateway.

Story #6: Liz: Poem with Two Questions, from Fresh Start Clubhouse, Ann Arbor MI, USA

An Ode to my Heroes

What is a hero? How do they impact my life?

A hero helps me think positively, to live beyond just my strife

A hero hears me ramble, sometimes a lot, every single day

They listen to my questions, and always know what to say

A hero helps me calm down my (mostly) irrational fears

And on the bad days, helps me wipe away my crocodile tears

A hero rewrites the tape in my head with some encouraging words

And recognizes my brilliance without calling me a nerd

A hero loves me intently when I can’t even love myself

And makes sure there is always healthy food on my shelf

A hero helps me know that who I am is enough

And gives me a gentle shove on those days that are rough

A hero teaches me to take the option of suicide off the table

And stops keeping track of my weaknesses, focuses on ways I am able

After much deliberation, there’s a realization that’s true

There’s a hero in my life, and that hero is you!

Liz also shared some helpful coping skills:

What is your favorite coping skill? There are SO many, but the most helpful is to put on my favorite music and sing along. It interrupts the obsessive thoughts more than anything else I’ve tried.

What is one thing you want to tell others like you? Take suicide off the table. You are worth fighting for!

Story #5: Fatou: There is a Place for Us, from Fountain House Stockholm, Stockholm Sweden (click here to read Fatou’s story in Swedish)

We who have felt bad or feel bad are not left out.

I was sick and unwell. Stayed at Sankt Göran for 2 months. Administrator via the Social Services suggested Fountain House. I wanted to get out in the community. The first time I came for a new visit and I was warmly welcomed by Jackie and Elin. I felt it was a place for me. I started coming almost every day and became a member from February 2019. When I arrived I started in the office. The tasks I did were bulletin, statistics and I was part of the young adult group. This summer I went on many excursions. Through all this I have evolved.

Through all this I have evolved.

When I got to the clubhouse, I felt safe and I wanted to work. Over time, I realized that I was getting better and better. I then chose to start at the job market to be able to apply for different jobs and at the same time I came to the house. I told the supervisor on the way out that I wanted to go to work. I received help and support from supervisors and members. Members came up with various tips on jobs.

FH does something nice for one’s personal development.

Today I work at a nursing home and I got the job through Robin, a member of the house. I enjoy my new job, but when I have time I visit Fountain House to hang out with members and supervisors. In this way, I regained my self-confidence and myself. Today I am the person I once was and like it a lot. I am the one who wants to work, get a family, be happy and fight every day. I want to give something back to society and I am doing it right now. With each passing day, I get stronger.

I received a warm welcome.

I want to tell others about Fountain House. It is a special place that does something nice for one’s personal development. You get closer to the community in a safe way by being a member of Fountain House. We who have felt bad or feel bad are not left out, but there is a place for us. I have met amazing people. I got to know members and supervisors as well as the manager who are incredibly nice. Fountain House is a place for everyone who feels that they have mental illness.

With each passing day, I get stronger.

Story #4: Member Testimonials from Academy at Glengary, Sarasota, FL, USA

Story #3: Nicola on How Mosaic Has Helped Me, from Mosaic Clubhouse, London England

I became a member in November 2019. At that point my confidence was very low, and I was feeling very isolated, spending too much time at home on my own.

Mosaic helped me get of the house and structure my days. The centre had a relaxed feel, and I found the people and staff very welcoming. I loved the way staff and members work together on things side by side. Even though I was still struggling with my mental health, I felt like I could just be myself which was invaluable to me.

At first, I went to Education & Employment meetings and did outreach work which involved phoning members to remind them of upcoming activities and events at the centre. I also supported members with their reading which made me feel like I was doing something worthwhile.

When the pandemic and the first lockdown came, my engagement worker was great at keeping in regular contact with me. This helped keep me sane while I was stuck at home, helping my son with online school for all those months.

My engagement worker also encouraged me to access a couple of online courses which I found very helpful. The first was on employment in childcare which helped me realise the skills I had to offer. The other course was mental health first aid which really allowed me to gain a good insight into potentially helping others with mental health issues.

In 2021, I found myself going to Mosaic a lot more regularly which really helped me get to know members and staff better and develop friendships. I really like the fact that I can now come into the centre where people know me and have meaningful conversations

As well as helping with work activities, there are a range of other activities you can attend such as such as the walking and writing group. I really enjoy the weekly yoga as I find it’s a good way to exercise and stay grounded.

More recently, I’ve helped with other projects such as organising complementary hairdos for some members at a local salon which they loved and assisting at the monthly wellbeing check in at the centre.

I’ve also become involved in volunteering for the Hospital peer support project funded by SLAM. This is where we go into local mental health wards and offer support to those in need. This has been quite therapeutic for me so far, as it was not that long ago that I was in the same situation, and I am now able to use that lived experience to help others. It feels good. I think it might be something I’d like to do as a job in the future.

Mosaic also provided me with a new laptop due to my involvement with the peer support project which I was so grateful for as my old one had literally conked out!

In short, Mosaic has helped me so much since I started. Whilst doing worthwhile activities and accumulating skills, I’ve grown in confidence, become more sociable and developed meaningful friendships. I can now see possibilities for the future.

Story #2: Edward’s Experience with Hope Fort Bend Clubhouse in Richmond TX, USA

Story #1: Catherine’s Story from Genesis Club in Worcester MA, USA

Genesis Club Makes Mental Illness Survivable

“I lost my voice to mental illness and then found it again at Genesis Club.” 

When I moved to New England, my whole self didn’t arrive. I wouldn’t leave the house except for emergencies. I became paranoid, believing people were whispering about me and judging me. I believed I was at risk all the time and anything could happen to me. 

One thing I did to relax was plan my own suicide. The only thing that stopped me from following through was imagining the paramedics struggling to get my roly-poly body down the narrow staircase. I couldn’t bear to be the joke of their shift. 

I didn’t speak for days at a time. Going to family events was unbearable, but I knew my mother-in-law had a limited number of family events left. After her passing, I knew my condition was worsening and that I needed help. 

My therapist referred me to Genesis Club. I was desperate enough to give it a try. I had imagined a program where people would sit in a drab office space in front of a bank of computers, searching for work and then go home. Instead, I found a community.   

I worked in the Kitchen Unit. It was safe, but also stimulating after being isolated for so long. The kitchen was full of strangers, but we all had something in common: we had a mental illness. I didn‘t have to hide behind a persona of wellness. I had come to a place where I could exist as myself. I could help. I could work. I had a purpose.

I began joining the lunchtime wellness walks. Later, I joined the Structured Exercise group, in which Genesis Club subsidizes membership at the YMCA to make the gym accessible. Going alone would have been too overwhelming for me. I realized that strangers at the gym were just people working out – “practice strangers.” I’ve lost fifty pounds. Taking control of my body helped me gain the confidence to take control of my life. 

Through Genesis Club’s Transitional Employment program, I worked as a mail clerk at UMass Medical Center. For the first time in ages, I was earning a paycheck.  Many days I had sweaty palms, my heart pounded in my ears, and my limbs froze. However, I knew I needed practice working, just like I needed the practice strangers at the gym.  If I could just hang on, I knew I would get through, and every week was less terrifying and more liberating.  

Today, I work two jobs. I’m a dietary aide and a pre-school gymnastics coach.  I love working! I love going out with my friends and family. And instead of feeling like a burden to my family, I now feel like an asset. 

Without the support and structure I found at Genesis Club, I would still be at home, terrified, and feeling useless.  I no longer soothe myself by planning my own suicide. I have plans and a future, and the future is bright! 

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