Testimonial to the power of shared reading

This testimonial was generously provided by the lovely Helen who I met in Liverpool. It was written in support of the facilitator of her shared reading group within a pain clinic. She eloquently describes how shared reading supports her to deal with her challenges.

Musing On My Reading Group

All the benefits!

I really enjoy attending my reading group that consists of people, like myself, in chronic pain. It is nice to have a support network of fellow suffers; to know you are not alone is an important factor in dealing with high levels of pain day in and day out. Although we discuss aspects of our condition and related issues such as depression, isolation etcetera, these discussions do not dominate our session. We ask after missing members, we genuinely care and show concern for each other from a sympathetic and understanding position. However, this only occurs in our initial ten minutes meet and greet, at the opening of the session.

Then Kate begins to remove the handouts, our conversations diminish and we begin to engage with the session proper. Lately we have been reading books a section at a time, so we gather our thoughts on the previous happenings of the novel, how we felt, what we hope will happen next, what we think will happen next (not always synonymous ideas), sometimes how we have thought about it through the week, and discussed it with people at home. The reading group reaches much further than the people sat around the table, I carry this two hour session with me through the week and take it to my loved ones (whether they like it or not!). I appreciate the fact that for the majority of the two hours I am totally disengaged with my pain and the devastating and destructive path it is warring through my life. This is true time out, a brain break, time to relax, time to just be me.

Occasionally I have had to miss a session for a variety of reasons: not feeling up to it, medical appointments, or family obligations. For the two hours that I should be with my reading friends I am very conscious of their absence, I am aware that I am not joining in their discussions, or hearing their opinions and points of view about our beloved novel (no matter what we read, we devour it, we cherish the story and all become very involved in what is happening in the story). By Friday I can feel a real difference in my mood because I did not have the grace of my reading group on Tuesday. I feel low and I am anxious for it to be Tuesday again, I need my fix. Needless to say I have never missed two weeks on the run!

On travelling to the reading group one week, I thought to myself “Why do we meet in a hospital? Surely it would be better to be away from that environment, don’t we see enough of hospitals?” Then I realized how perfect it was that we do meet in a medical setting; I don’t have that same dread and doom when I go to the hospital that I used to have. Now, because I attend the hospital for such a pleasurable activity, I do not mind being there, the hospital feels more welcoming, more nurturing.

I cannot thank Kate enough for all her hard work and dedication. What the two hours reading and discussing literature on a Tuesday gives to me is priceless and I treasure it dearly.

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