My account of my first meeting
There was a meeting at mind in Rushden, I was the only person to turn up, I was so nervous. It turned out I had nothing to be nervous about. Lou introduced herself and told me about NCPS. She saw I was very withdrawn, depressed, in pain, exhausted. I talked, She listened, I answered questions, she listened. I was very tearful, she was very empathic and showed she cared by offering time just letting me offload all my problems related to chronic pain, which had never happened before.
Lou invited me to the hub in Kettering on a Friday weekly to get me out and meet others who suffer from chronic pain that affected their mental health too. Interacting with others who lived with chronic pain like me, sharing our experiences, and supporting each other all helped me to see I wasn’t alone. I took part in activities like adult coloring, board games, and life skills. All helped to take my mind off the pain for a few hours. I decided I would go to the hub as it sounded like it was just what I needed and Lou was so warm, caring, empathic I felt I was being helped straight away.
I went a fortnight later. I felt someone had finally really listened and understood me for once in my life. I didn't feel alone anymore. The anxiety, nervousness I felt before walking through that door at mind had gone in a matter of minutes by just talking to one person, I felt a heavy load had been lifted. Sharing my thoughts, feelings and emotions helped me, both with my chronic pain and my mental pain because other people were suffering in the same ways, fighting the same battles, both physically and mentally.
Click, I felt accepted, not judged. I attended the hub on Friday a fortnight later on my own. I drove to Kettering on my own, nervous, anxious. I sat in my car for about half an hour. I slowly walked up to where the hub was and just stood still, so anxious about just walking through a door into a room full of strangers. Eventually, I crossed the road and I bravely walked through the door on my own. I was so relieved to be greeted by Lou who was delighted I had made another step in helping myself with chronic pain. I had stepped into a chronic pain support group hub.
The group meetings that changed my life
Wow. I was introduced to everyone, they welcomed me. I interacted with other chronic pain sufferers in the room. I really felt I belonged. I never looked back after that and went to the hub every fortnight on a Friday I could, health permitting. I pushed myself to go because I knew I would have my mind taken off my pain, I could have a 121 with Lou if I needed to, I had support from the other chronic pain sufferers. I always came out of the hub feeling lighter, smiling and I had been laughing, feeling comfortable with people who knew what I was going through.
Unfortunately, the hub was no more when covid arrived plus the funded lease of the building had come to an end. Some fantastic times were had in the hub with various activities, serious stuff like life skills, meditation, mindfulness, and an unforgettable Christmas party. Everyone bought different things to eat and we all enjoyed sharing food with each other. Lou came in with a sack on her back dressed as Santa. So funny.
She had a gift for every one of us and she had paid for these gifts out of her own pocket. We all had an amazing time throwing fake snowballs, laughing. It was honestly the best Christmas party ever and that's the truth.
The hub has been a lifesaver for me. The 121's Lou offered helped me so much, you wouldn't believe it. I felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders. You could walk into that hub in tears and you were never judged, always empathised with, why, because we were all in the same boat and we all understood and exchanged our thoughts, feelings, fears. I always felt lighter leaving the hub.
Everyone in the hub adored Lou because she is such a big character, a genuine person, straight to the point talking and she is a fantastic communicator and teacher, hence teaching the life skills, mindfulness, relaxation, etc. So many strings to her bow.
When covid changed everything. Zoom and used for online meetings which I didn't like particularly as I needed social interaction. I.e. the hub but I had to like it or lump it due to the covid. Some people it was better for them, like housebound people which I fully get and appreciate but for me personally, it doesn't work. I love the face to face social interaction.
I want to be able to give help to others like myself with chronic pain who are brave enough like I was to walk through that meeting door and I know from my experience they will come back after that first visit. The support, the compassion, the empathy is NCPS in a nutshell and all we need to get people in Northamptonshire with chronic pain to reach out to us. Somewhere to escape from the isolation chronic pain causes. Somewhere to feel they belong, feel comfortable, feel safe, feel better mentally and have their minds taken off their chronic pain for a while. To experience the feeling as I did weekly leaving the hub with that weight on the shoulders feeling a little lighter, having had a laugh interacting with others. Walking out of that hub with a smile on their faces as I always did. Contact us here:
How has volunteering helped you Mandy?