2023 – A Year of Doom or a Year of New Beginnings!
Michael Lilley: The power of community and how to overcome life’s hardships with support from others (onthewight.com)
I have worked with people all my life that have been on the margins of society who have hit hardship with a bang. Often this rock bottom moment has been not of their making whether it was the Vietnamese boat people (refugees from Vietnam) in the late 1970s through to people in 2022 visiting Ryde Foodbank due to loss of jobs due to economic and pandemic crisis; but also of people’s own making whether making a wrong choice in a relationship which has resulted in misery and pain. Over 66 years of my own life experiences along with others has been littered with ups and downs and definite rock bottom moments. Many new years have been simply horrible, depressing and filled with anxiety of the future. The picture of the future is viewed as bleak and problems unresolvable. 2023 for many in our community of the Isle of Wight is at this moment going to be viewed as sheer doom and gloom. Life is like waves we see everyday on an Island, to every storming days with high waves, there are days of calm seas.
The Rock Bottom Effect
The key thing in life I have learnt many times over myself and through other less fortunate than me that you either bury you head under the duvet (which can be surprisingly therapeutic) or come out fighting and take action. At a time of my life when I was a single parent of three children and faced with homelessness, unemployment, and severe loneliness (rock bottom) I went to the library. I spoke to the very friendly librarian and just let out my misery. She calmly led me to the self-help section of the library and connected me to Citizen’s Advice Bureau, a debt adviser, gave me a leaflet of getting free counselling through my GP, and details of a single parent group. I also picked up some books on setting up my own business and how as an adult I could go to University. However, the best advice from the wise librarian I got was: “no-one is going to pick yourself up from the ground when you fall flat on your face and hit rock bottom other than yourself, but there is help out here in the community if you want it you only have to ask!”. My granny always had wise words and she would say “You can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make it drink”. My message is simple starting drinking the help that is out there through libraries, over 1500 voluntary/help groups on the Isle of Wight such as Community Action Isle of Wight and many other places. Every Thursday where I live in Ryde, there is a warm space at St. John’s Church Hall on High Park Road, where local volunteers and a range of agencies are there to provide a cup of tea and access to practical help.
Community Action – Either join others or create your own group with like-minded others!
As the IW Council Mental Health Champion last year I visited and supported a range of new groups led by community pioneers such as Dale at Veteran’s Hub, Karl at Men Only, and a wonderful woman called Claire who established Sensory CIC above the Duck restaurant in Ryde for families with children with disabilities. They all had a magic ingredient, in that they had lived experience of real strife and wanted passionately to help others through similar experiences. I cannot give answers to the issues of reality you are facing but I do know that sharing it with others and seeking help from those who have been through the mill of life and come out the other side, is a good start to new beginnings. There is a network of Warm spaces such as Ryde Library, St. John’s Church Hall, Veteran’s Hub, Men Only and Sensory CIC across the Island providing friendly faces, support and practical help. Perhaps the 2023 resolution is to go out and find these places and activities and ask for help and if there is not the right help or right job or right support group, create your own such has happen in Dale, Karl and Claire’s situation. There are some wonderful community champions and pioneers out there (living very near your) that will tell you how they have done it. You are not alone.