Sunrise Brought Me New Hope

Sunrise women’s groups are social groups for isolated women of all ages who have a disability and want to meet other women and feel connected, here is one woman’s experience of the group:

I have suffered intermittent periods of debilitating depression and social anxiety for many years.

The doctors, psychologists, books, therapies and pills could only help so much. I had lost touch with most of my friends and felt unable to interact with people most of the time. I felt desperately lonely and trapped in my house by anxiety and increasing agoraphobia. My physical health deteriorated. I had become morbidly obese and had to deal with all the health issues that come with that: mobility, high blood pressure, diabetes, low self-esteem and so on.

One day I realised, anxiously, that I couldn’t bring myself to walk out the front door to my letterbox. I could not leave the house on my own. Thank god for my mother because she took me to appointments during this period. I don’t think even she realised how much it meant to me especially as she did not really understand my depression or anxiety and was more inclined to tell me impatiently to just shake myself out of it.

A chance meeting with an old friend planted the suggestion that I join a couple of women’s groups she was involved with, to help me reconnect with people. I discussed it with my psychologist but it took me a further six months and several aborted attempts to work up the courage to go to my first session. That was two years ago.

Women’s Health West coordinates the Sunrise Women’s Group that meets every fortnight at the Laverton Community Hub, which is within easy reach of my home. When I first joined the group, the facilitator guided me through simple, unintimidating introductions. I was relieved that the only criterion for joining was that I felt I had a disability. (Unlike Centrelink who, at the time, were causing me even more desperate anxiety with their complicated assessment processes to get benefits).

On my first day, the group went ahead with their scheduled activities including me but not singling me out. At their own pace, the women made time to say a few welcoming words to me individually and to tell me a bit about themselves. I learnt they had a strong commitment to the guidelines they had written that included not being judgemental, being kind and respectful of each other and treating any confidences shared in the group as confidential. We shared contact details and some of the ladies encouraged me to call them for a chat. More than one of them was willing to pick me up and drop me home as I don’t drive and this helped lessen my anxieties even further.

Now, two years later, I look forward each fortnight to seeing the familiar faces of the ladies of the Sunrise group. We share stories, information, achievements, humour, joys and sorrows over morning tea. Like any group, we have our dramas and our ups and downs but we weather them. Our new group facilitator keeps us on track and arranges inspirational speakers, learning experiences, excursions and shared activities. I always leave feeling happier than when I arrive.

I still suffer periods of illness when I withdraw from the world for a time. But now I have people who care, that I can call when I am ready to talk to someone, who encourage me to come out of my isolation with slow easy steps, who raise my self-esteem and accept me just as I am. This has made my disability a hundred times easier to bear.

Thank you to the wonderful women of the Sunrise Women’s Group.

How to get involved

Please call or email Tess at Women’s Health West to find out more about the group and where it is held or to get a copy of our latest calendar of events.

Phone: 9689 9588

Email: theresa@whwest.org.au