When the first COVID lockdown was in place, St Christopher’s outpatients Val and Sheila were finding life difficult.
“I was slobbing around in my night clothes and not bothering and I was getting deeper and deeper into a depression,” says Sheila. “It was quite hard to climb back out of.”
She was contacted by someone from St Christopher’s and invited to virtually join our online programme of Wellbeing sessions.
Hesitantly, she signed up and called Val – who she’d met at the hospice six or seven years ago when they were both receiving treatment for their emphysema.
“I’ve been housebound … so I was doing some crafts at home but I was still lonely. My husband was there but he doesn’t want to be listen to me chattering on 24/7 … so I signed up,” says Val.
“It’s given me the mind to not just sit there and die,” she adds. “It’s given me something to live for.”
The pair are now a staple fixture at nearly all of the Wellbeing sessions, from two quizzes a week to singing and music-making groups to creative writing.
The singing particularly appeals to Val, who spent summer 2021 belting out verses to her neighbours through the open living room window.
It’s given me something to live for
“I haven’t got a very good singing voice so I felt quite sorry for the neighbours, but I didn’t realise they could hear me until I saw them all keep looking,” she laughs.
For Sheila, it is the writing sessions which stands out as providing the most therapeutic experience.
“You start writing stuff that really connects to you,” she says. “And this stuff just comes out of you and you’re just putting on piece of paper and you just think, ‘gosh, that’s in my head.’ You actually do shock yourself.”
“It’s like it’s us talking to ourselves,” interjects Val. “It’s nice to know you’re not alone. You know this illness can make you feel like that, and any illness can, but you’re not alone. There are people out there that want to know how you feel.”
The sessions, which also include Death Chat, Bingo, and Create and Chat, are facilitated by a member of staff from St Christopher’s and are currently predominantly run virtually. While some people, particularly Val and Sheila, prefer to take an active role in the sessions, others prefer just to sit back and listen.
“Come and try it,” encourages Val. “Try the different things that are on offer because something may suit you. It doesn’t have to be everything, but something may and I think you get a lot out of it. We do.”