Danielle was referred to the Women's Wellbeing Group by he psychiatrist. She now volunteers at NUAA but still attends the group.
When I say that I only feel comfortable with drugs in my system, I know the other women who attend the NUAA Women’s Well-being Group know exactly what I mean.
More than that, they are there to help me get beyond that, to build my self-confidence. This world is full of people who put you down, so you feel you can’t fulfil what you want in life. It’s amazing to find people who want you to feel good about yourself, to have goals and reach them.
At the women’s group, I am with women who get what I am trying to say, and respect my experiences and opinions. Because of that, I’ve been able to open up about things that bother me.
I started using at 17, had hep C by 18, and by 21 I was pregnant and on methadone, with my partner providing top-up. I was on and off methadone for several years and this last time, I’ve been on a program for 13 years. I’ve spent time in jail. I currently use ice and opioids.
There are people who would judge me based on that info. I’ve been lucky enough to find people who understand it and even respect it. They know that I can have that history and still care about my health and want to be the best person I can be. They know, because they share a lot of those experiences.
Being around people that get you is a powerful thing by itself. When you meet as a structured group, it’s also about safety. The group is led by women who are trained to help us stay focused as a group and move ahead as individuals.
An awesome team of a psychologist and a peer worker lead the group. They have given me many insights. For example, they have taught me not to imagine I know what other people are thinking about me – a really big one for me. I finally admit I’m not a mind reader!
I have been able to talk freely about all sorts of things that I’ve kept bottled up. Like that I often feel uncomfortable and allow myself to be intimidated by people more confident than I am. That I can’t say “no”. That, as a user, if something goes missing, I worry everyone thinks I took it. That I find it hard to take compliments and am suspicious of people’s motives.
I can talk about how uncomfortable I feel about people looking at the scars on my arms, slash marks I made to try and take some of the emotional pain away. I can tell them that when I did a Certificate at TAFE, I was so stressed at having to do a speech that, even though I was nearly finished the course, I left and never went back. And in talking about these things I own them, I am no longer ashamed of them, and I can change them.
What we women who attend the group have in common is that we all need self worth. We give each other support and confidence. I can talk about my stuff, get it out. Not only do I feel supported, it’s been good to find out about other women and realise I’m not the only one with issues.
Since I started going to the group, things have changed for me. I’m finding it a lot easier to talk to people about my stuff, to open up and to trust. I feel more confident and I’ve learned how to talk myself up when my head is doing me in. My anxiety levels have gone down and I actually enjoy contributing to a conversation now.
I’d really recommend the group to anyone who has stuff they need to get out and don’t know who to talk to. Come and talk to me and my group of amazing women. We even have Tim Tams. You can’t get more of a welcome than that!