About four years ago, I was sitting at home contemplating the fact that I had nothing to look forward to other than really waiting to die. I was a full-time carer to my very disabled husband and had significant health problems such as COPD, asthma and angina and had totally written myself off. I couldn’t be bothered to go out, to see anyone, to engage with anyone, and on reflection I think I was probably very very depressed. The only activity that I had which I enjoyed was taking my little dog, Pip, who was a registered pets as therapy dog to visit a local school once a week. Having said that, I very much hid behind my dog as he listened to children read.
I saw a poster advertising an open meeting at Healthier Fleetwood and decided check it out. It was quite incredible to listen to all kinds of people talking about ways in which they were involved in activities in the town. There were Representatives from the NHS; the police; the local council; the YMCA and many others all of whom talked about what they did to help people get involved with activities with them. I liked the sound of this!
I attended a second meeting with my little dog Pip and spoke briefly about the work we did in local schools and it was incredibly well received. Pip was the absolute hit of the evening! I began to realise that I needed to make changes to my life and that the only person responsible for my health and well-being with me. I will own up to being a frequent flyer at my doctor’s surgery and with hindsight I realise I wanted him to fix my life, he couldn’t help me – it was all down to me.
I started trying to eat more healthily and take a little exercise. The exercise was particularly challenging because of my health problems and if I’m perfectly frank I particularly dislike it! I kept going to the meetings at Healthier Fleetwood and learned more more about the things going on in our town. I had done some research that had told me that my breathing would be improved if I sung regularly, the British Lung Foundation recommend singing as a very useful exercise. My nearest BLF singing groups was too far away to travel. I then learned through Healthier Fleetwood that a singing Group was being set up in the town called harmony and health. I fired off an email immediately to the person organising the group and got my name down. I was quite anxious on the first day because I’m not very good at meeting new people and I was severely lacking in confidence. I needn’t have worried! My Tuesday afternoons were taken up from then onwards getting together with a group of wonderful people, from a variety of backgrounds and abilities, and we sang our hearts out. I found that I was able to forget my troubles and always felt so much better after the session I made friends I met new people and it was good. In my head I have a wonderful singing voice worthy of the stage at La Scala Milan, in reality this isn’t quite the case!
I continued to attend the Healthier Fleetwood open meetings which were held each month for the residents of the town to have their say. To talk about what they wanted to happen, what activities they wanted to enjoy. The ethos of the organisation was not to do unto people but to encourage people to make things happen themselves and accept responsibility. Many successful groups emerged over time including one set up by a lady who has become a dear friend. She suffered with social anxiety, it was her belief that she couldn’t be the only one that felt this way and with the encouragement of Healthier Fleetwood she set up a group for ladies who felt the same way. It was my absolute pleasure to mentor Katrina and help her on her way and watch a change and grow during the process.
I became more and more involved in Healthier Fleetwood and as my confidence grew and as the word got about that Healthier Fleetwood was doing amazing things I felt able to give talks about the work that we did in order to encourage other people in other areas to kickstart something similar. It has been my pleasure to address all kinds of people in all kinds of places and even attend a couple of black tie dinners (something I’ve never done before!) where Healthier Fleetwood had been nominated for an award. Indeed we have won some very prestigious awards and I am proud to be part of that journey.
I have to say that I am no longer the sad old lady sat at home thinking her life was over. Getting out and getting involved in the community has made a massive difference to my life. Not only is it giving me an interest, it is restored my confidence and I feel able to talk to anybody about the benefits are actually taking that first step, being brave and reaching out. You’ll be absolutely amazed what a difference it would make to you!
Pauline Kennedy is attends groups at Healthier Fleetwood.