Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Writing Group

Today was the first meeting of my new writing group.  The old group, which I set up in the local village hall with a group of my friends, just to give me teaching experience, has been disbanded for now, although I was sad to see it go.  I wasn't sure I would have time to run two groups.

This new goup is held under the umbrella of the organisation I work for - a local charity which employs people who have had experience of mental health issues, to help others on the path to recovery. 

Anyway, the writing group has been in the pipeline for quite a few months.  I organised a venue, put up lots of posters in various places, spoke to several people...  Then the summer holidays intervened, and I got distracted by all that sunshine and sand and fun and games.  Then all of a sudden the holidays were over, the kids were back at school, and the group was due to start.  The contact number on the posters was that of my employers, so I called them to ask if there had been much interest. 

It was only a few days before the group was due to start, but there didn't seem to have been much interest.  So I stuck up my last few posters around and about.  A couple of days later when I called to check the situation there still didn't seem to have been much interest.  I started to wonder if anybody was going to attend this group.  But you can't advertise a group and then not turn up to run it, so I went along anyway, hoping that perhaps one or two people would be there. 


I was not really surprised, but I couldn't help feeling a bit disappointed.  I started to write at the top of the blank piece of paper I had in front of me.  First writing group, 5th September 2012.  Attendees - NOBODY.  Then I doodled over and around this for a minute. 

Then I thought - well, I can sit here and feel sorry for myself, or I can do something positive.  So I made some notes on how I can garner some interest in the group.  Then I started to text all my friends, asking them to ask anyone they know who might like to attend a writing group (it is open to the public, not only those with mental health issues ). 

Pretty soon I had loads of replies to my texts, which made me feel a lot better.  Some of my friends work in related areas, and they had some practical advice.  After an hour of planning and texting I packed up and went off to collect my youngest from his Grandma, which was a good thing really because the early finish meant we got to spend a little extra time together in these precious last days before he starts school.

And just think - next week if I get even one group member I will be really happy!


  1. A writing group is such a great idea, especially for people with mental health problems, I really hope people turn up next week.
    I've recently started a blog, I was inspired by your book actually, and I've found that writing about my experiences is better than any therapy. I'm not a natural writer but it feels so good just to get that stuff written down. For me, I find it more helpful than talking as it gives me the time to express myself. Best wishes, Emily :)

  2. Well done you for turning a negative experience into a positive one! As horrible as this may sound (hear me out!) it may have been good that no one turned up to the group yesterday as it showed you that you alone are capable of turning a bad experience into a good one BY YOURSELF!! Sometimes we need to go through something bad in order to become a stronger person and although this group was nowhere near as bad as the breakdowns you suffered, this negative experience has made you that little bit stronger!

    I obviously don't know you personally but after reading your book I can imagine that maybe even a few years ago, had you even managed to organise a group like this and it turned out like it did then you would have been upset and maybe imploded a bit. But yesterday, you, by yourself, turned the bad day into a good one and now you may even get a bigger group now through those texts you sent than you were expecting with the posters! Might I even be bold enough to say that not too many years ago you wouldn't have even had the courage to arrange a writing group? And now you've arranged, advertised and are going to lead (another) one! I'm only saying all this to point out how far you've come over the last 20 years or so and how proud you should be and how also your family should be too! Plus you had the bonus of more time with your youngest :)

    If I may say so, then I am proud of you! As well as this, you have given me hope that I too may one day have the courage you now possess! I can identify with so many things in your book, the uncontrollable blushing for example, and I have now stopped resigning myself to thinking I'll never have courage in social situations! It obviously won't come overnight but knowing that you've fought and are beating social anxiety gives me the hope that I too will be able to fight it one day!

    I start a creative writing course at the end of the month, 2 hours one night a week. I'll be taking my Mum with me as she's my carer but also because I'd be too scared to go by myself! Maybe though if I pluck up the courage I'll be able to go to a few by myself, who knows?! You've given me hope and proof that it is possible though!

    Sorry for the long reply but despite it not being a good day for you, the fact that you turned it around by yourself has inspired me! Keep up your good work and keep me posted about Newcastle!!

  3. Hi Emily, nice to (virtually) meet you. I have just read your blog, and it was really very interesting - I have left a couple of comments... I am very glad you are enjoying writing the blog and that I was part of the process which got you started. Well done!

    And hi Katie (sorry, feels awful to call you Freakshow even though it is your chosen moniker and I know it is just an affectionate nickname given to you by your sister!). Nice to hear from you as usual. Thank you, I was quite pleased with myself for not moping too much about the group - it helps to know that I will get paid for the hour I waited about and this was part of the reason that I used the time constructively. Having a job gives me a certain sense of pride.

    Social anxiety is awful, but it helps to know what you are battling. I used to think it was just part of my personality; I had no idea that it was treatable. And it really keep going with that. I hope you have managed to get on a list for CBT...

    Good luck with your writing course. I hope you have a good teacher - although it is not so much about the teaching as the fact that it will motivate you and encourage you to keep writing. Also, it will be a venue in which you can test your social anxiety - part of the CBT is testing the old and new thought processes in different situations. You could get a book to start you off, while you wait to see a therapist.

    I will be at Newscastle either on the 3rd or the 8th October - I am still waiting to hear for sure - I will post on here as soon as I know.

    Thanks again for your comment.

    Louise x

  4. Maybe people didn't turn up because often, once diagnosed, one looses confidence in one's abilities. Also- the meds stop you from thinking clearly. But I agree with you, writing definitely helps getting trauma out your system. One of my babies died in the womb at 6 months. It was a traumatic experience and I kept having flash-backs until I sat down and wrote it all down while- crying buckets of course.

  5. Ah, that's really sad. I just can't even imagine how awful that must have felt. Poor you. But well done for working out a way to help yourself through it.

    Yes, I think both your suggestions are probably correct, and also apathy might have played a part in the lack of attendance - I spent a number of years after my secong breakdown not making any effort to recover, because it didn't seem worth trying. Also, I don't think the group had been well enough advertised, because the summer holidays intervened. And last Wednesday was a lovely sunny day, so maybe the beach beckoned.

    Anyway, I will keep you all posted about next Wednesday's group - it will be interesting to see what happens!

    Louise x