Suzanne’s story …

What were you doing before the course and how did you feel?

I was widowed 12 years ago, and having got over that trauma, I’d started working at a pub and ended up as Land lady for 6 years running three pubs. I also worked at the YMCA as a support worker. That was 5 years before I came to the Ready for Life course. I’d been out of work and been really poorly. I had breast cancer and the chemo effected my liver, I had a heart attack and was diagnosed with diabetes and I had a stroke. Although I’d recovered from all those physical illnesses, the worst of all was my mental health I’d become anxious about everything, was terrified to go out, on top of that I was diagnosed Bi-polar, and had lost all my confidence. I was lonely, isolated and when I went for ESA assessment my doctors said I was not in a fit state to even attend the appointment.

How did you find out about the course?

Karen (at the Job Centre) referred me, she thought it would do me the world of good, because I’d got into a real rut not going out and only doing ‘Loaves and Fishes’ (a lunch club for old people in our village) and I needed to get out and meet some younger people. I’ve never really had any confidence and everything had got a lot worse – I’d got to the stage where everything that happed was my fault. My brother had a car accident on his way to my house and I’d convinced myself it was all down to me and got myself so upset I cried for two days and couldn’t pull myself out of the slump I was in. I was really suffering with my health and my confidence was at an all-time low.

What did you expect before you came?

I actually thought I’d make an idiot of myself and I was dreading it in case you would ask me anything and that I’d say something stupid because that’s how I felt about myself…

What was your experience of the course? What are the things that you have taken away and have remembered?

I remember your campaign about not saying SHOULD and I never do ! I’ve also convinced my brother and half of my family – they all realise how negative it is and makes you feel and we’ve all stopped saying it. My Callum saw my collage that we did and told me how amazing it was and how powerful – I remember how that made me feel at the time and how much it has helped me since – it’s still up on my wall now. I remember how you taught us to change things we’re not happy with and to not be afraid to look down different avenues and try new things.

On the course we learned about changing one thing and I resolved to get up 10 minutes earlier so I didn’t start every day in a rush. That morning I took time to stand and look out the window on my landing. I remember telling everyone that day at the class how much it had changed the start to my day, how beautiful it was looking out and appreciating my surroundings – it’s a habit I’ve kept – I still do it now. 3 robins were sitting on my window sill on the morning of my birthday ! It was like they were the spirits of my Mum and Dad and Bob (late husband) wishing me Happy Birthday - I would have missed that if I hadn’t listened and made that change.

I appreciate things more now – taking things in, looking round me and being more aware – even on the way here today I notice the fields and countryside and how beautiful it is – I never would have notice that before – it lifts your spirits and reminds you how much we have to be grateful for.

We talked about that on the course when we were discussing Mindfulness. I loved that, I remember how good it made me feel the first time we tried the practise in the class – I do it every morning now, I’ve even bought myself a high chair so I sit and focus. I also bought the Mindfulness book you recommended. I love it and it’s REALLY helped me.

5 months on - how has the course helped you?

It’s totally changed my attitude. I don’t blame myself anymore. It made me realise I’m not the only one. There were some lovely people on my course and I really enjoyed getting to know them and understanding that a lot of them were like me, with the same problems and experiences, and we were able to help and support each other.

I feel like Suzanne again and she’s trying to fight back now – I want a life again and I know I can have one. I had lost all hope.

This time last year I’d get so upset about the little things, even making a cup of tea wrong, I’d worry that I’d forget the sugar or something – my family noticed the change in me after the course, they all said we can all see a real difference in you. I’m not afraid to fight back now ! I was too soft for years. I’d still do anything for them, of course, they’re my babies, but I don’t let them walk over me anymore.

It’s true to say that this course honestly changed my life – the panic attacks I used to have, spending my whole time worrying about ‘what if…?’ They’re GONE ! – Now I just live for the day and enjoy doing it.

What are you doing now?

Well, I’ve had a rough time of late, finally had surgery on my hand and that has gone wrong – it’s still holding me back and now I have to have the other one done – I’m just waiting for a date. But I’m not giving up and not letting it stop me. Before (the course) I would have let it win - I’d have just sat at home and gone down that spiral again – I’m doing more, I sit in the garden more and watch the birds and go out and get involved – I don’t need to hide away anymore – if people knocked I wouldn’t answer the door, but not anymore - I always answer my door when a neighbour comes round.

I’m fighting back now – not putting up with people treating me badly – I tell ‘em, I speak up for myself – I’m more assertive. I’ve learned that I’m important as well.

I do something positive everyday so I don’t feel like I’ve wasted time – that’s what I was doing before, really wasting time, but not anymore.

What are your next steps from here?

I’ve got to get my other hand fixed and then I would really like to start volunteering, getting back out there and getting involved with life again. I need a bit of a booster again, it’s a while since I finished the course, but just coming here today, walking back in and seeing you all again has reminded me how good I felt when I left here at the end of my course. I haven’t done as much as I’d have liked to when I first left, but without the course, I wouldn’t have coped with the last 6 months nearly as well as I have. I’ve stayed strong and I want to do something with my life. I want a new pathway and coming back here and meeting with you and Zobaida has given me refreshed hope that I can find a new direction and look at all sorts of options to help me move forward. I’m coming back on Friday to meet with some old classmates at the drop in and to sign up with Zobaida for the BBO programme. It’s been so great being back here with you guys again, I can’t wait to come back on Friday. I’m looking for a new start and feel like I’ve just started !

What message would you like to share with people who may be thinking about coming to meet us at CCN?

Definitely, without a doubt, COME !

It opens up your mind. It’s just yourself that’s given up on you – nobody else has, especially not the guys you’ll meet here.

It makes you realise you CAN and gives you confidence to move on, positively to the next step in life. It’s harder when you get to our age, but not impossible. The course gives you your fight back and you have a lot of fun learning how to use it.

Now I have come back and met them (CCN) again, I’ve already got new ideas and loads of food for thought. I’ve been sitting for weeks trying to do it on my own, but the friendly team here help so much and make it all sound so easy and possible – they give you great help and support and make you feel brave enough to get back out there. DO IT !