I’ve noticed something about adjusting my world view and how that allows me to communicate to others.
When I first started going to the Clubhouse, I thought it meant there was something wrong with me. I’ve internalized a lot of negative ish surrounding mental health treatment, and one thing that stuck in my mind regarding the Clubhouse program was the negative view that one of my past therapists had of Clubhouse members. Because of this, I assumed that Clubhouses were exclusively for low-functioning people; furthermore, I assumed that “low-functioning” held the connotation of “low worth”. My current therapist, bless her, told me to think of it as volunteering at a peer mentoring program. She told me to focus on the staff when they tell me things such as I am an asset to the program and they are glad I am there.
During the first month or so of attendance, I felt out of place. I tried to keep it a secret and referred to it as a volunteer job if it did come up at all. I didn’t want to tell my family members I was attending because there was so much outside pressure from society (and, in fact, pressure from within the mental health treatment/recovery community) stating that this was something to be ashamed of. And so I was.
Clubhouses are about building community; clubhouses are about building bridges. I had to build a bridge with my immediate family and let them in to my life a little bit. I would hyper-focus about what kind of accomplishments I should be bragging about (and couldn’t, because I hadn’t gotten there yet), and so I would shut down when I was asked what was going on in my life. Something that stuck out to me when it came to building bridges like this was a conversation I had with my father after a graduation party with a friend of his from college. His friend is a minister of sorts, and he and I had a lengthy conversation about Biblical homemaking; the Proverbs 31, or “virtuous” woman; and Titus 2 mentors. A couple of weeks later, my dad had a question for me regarding getting something done around the house. He offhandedly mentioned that “You are so knowledgeable about homemaking, so I figure you must have all the answers.” He was trying to acknowledge that he was proud of me for learning so much about what I was doing with my time, and going about it with intentionality.
When I was given a space I felt safe sharing about myself in, I was able to open up. To build these bridges – to build this sense of community – I need to work on creating these safe spaces for myself, rather than assuming they’ll turn up organically. When I have the opportunity to share what’s going on in my life in a non-judgmental setting and express my progress (even if it’s not progress by neurotypical standards), and when people can see how excited and passionate I am about what I’m doing… it helps get them excited, too.