RDP; open

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The prompt today ‘open’ gives me an opportunity to talk about Opening Doors which is a mental health program I belong to and volunteer in. In case you don’t know me, I’ll give you a little background:

When I arrived here 10 years ago I was escaping an abusive husband and had to leave everything.  After 28 years of being mentally beaten down I was a shell of a person. Certainly not ready to go out for job interviews or even hold a job.

Luckily I had my sister to help me out, some financial help and then help from my government who added on to my meager income once I got a permanent part-time job at 61. Working with people also gave me someone to talk and joke around with. Slowly over the years I got back on my feet.

This winter I was happy to be retired but ended up being alone for days and days on end. I still haven’t made close friends in the 10 years I’ve lived here. Part of it is my introverted and hermetic ways; I like being alone but too much of it is not a good thing.

Social isolation is very depressing. Exercise class didn’t help when you are in a group of women with much different lives: lives with children and grandchildren, holidays and husbands and renovations. So many times I’m in a group and no one talks to me. They don’t notice because they all know someone and all have similar lives. You end up feeling more depressed and lonely.

In February I saw a notice on Facebook from our Community Health Centre where my doctor is. They were starting a new program called Opening Doors which is a mental health program aimed at those who have anxiety, depression or any other mental health problems and experience social isolation. The marginalized and misplaced. The ones that feel they don’t belong anywhere.

The program includes exercise (I have to admit here; one of the main reasons I wanted to join is that exercise class is 1:30 pm to 2:30 and not 8:30 in the morning or at night, like the other exercise classes), exercise games so there’s more interaction and fun, Art and Conversation, cooking classes, guest speakers… things to do.

Last week they took a whole bus load of us to a local tourist town to walk around, have lunch then bussed us all off us to a show at the theatre. All paid for. Our small town group joined up with the larger group from The City so we all got to meet new people. For some people it was so exiting to do something like this; I felt humbled about taking for granted all the great things I’ve done and seen in my life.

This program is fantastic! We don’t need counselling, we don’t need medication, we just need to be with people, other weirdos and misfits like us. Friends with similar lives. Friends who encourage each other to ‘get out there’! It’s Opening Doors we’ve felt closed out of.

When we were at lunch, taking three long tables, I could see the waitresses looking at us a trying to figure out what we were, what is this group about? A waiter did ask and our leader said, “We’re just a group of friends out having a good time!”

The health center is enrolling me in a program to teach fitness to seniors for new programs they are starting in the fall. I intend to start a dance fit class because nothing is better for exercise and feeling better than dancing. I told my group leader what I was planning and she said, “We’re counting on it”

Opening Doors certainly has opened doors for me.

Here are my creations from Art and Conversation so far;

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This is a painted vinyl album melted into a bowl

Yes, they are chuckle worthy but we all had good time doing them!

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