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‘You’re digging deep into yourself’- Camilla’s Reader Story

Written by Rachael Norris, 5th October 2021

This Reader Story was collected and written by Fiona Magee.

'George’s voice became deeper… “Guys like us, that work on ranches, are the loneliest guys in the world. They got no family. They don’t belong no place…They ain’t got nothing to look ahead to…With us it ain’t like that. We got a future. We got someone to talk to that gives a damn about us.” 

Lennie broke in “…because I got you to look after me, and you got me to look after you, and that’s why.” He laughed delightedly.'

(Extract from Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck)

Since May of 2019, I’ve been off work with depression. I was in hospital for a while. I went through a patch where I was getting quite isolated. The hour a week that I spend on Zoom, doing the Shared Reading group – it helps. It’s meaningful and important to me, and I’m glad I’ve got it. 

I had the option of going to groups for depression but I was already having CBT at the time and I just felt that would be a bit of overload. It can be quite heavy, or difficult, to go to a group where you talk about your issues. In the reading group we’re just people; people who are a bit lonely presumably, and we come together because we enjoy the reading and we enjoy the company. It feels very supportive, like a community – everyone is very friendly and nice so that’s been great.  

I have read quite a few self-help books in the past and perhaps I’m being a bit cynical, but I’m not sure how much they help. I find the short stories and books that we read at the group just as helpful, but in a different way.   

We’re reading Of Mice and Men at the moment and it really spoke to me. You’ve got (the characters) Lenny and George; George is looking out for Lenny, Lenny has got lots of good things about him but he’s fairly helpless, can’t really look after himself. That slightly resonates I suppose – I was feeling a bit helpless, like everyone knows what’s best for you.  

When we are reading it all together – it’s almost like we are acting out the book: you’re really living it. You feel like you are in the room, or the barn, with them.  

The story looks at life in quite a gritty realistic way – a harsh story about people who’ve got to work hard, don’t have their own home, but do have some hope. Perhaps that’s what life is all about really? About choices and hardships and how people get along with each other. It’s a book that just speaks the truth, in a lot of ways.  

I enjoy the sense of participating in something, in a group. I find it quite difficult to socialise, or communicate, so in a way the reading group is kind of like a vehicle and a way for me to contribute. You feel like you’re getting together and sharing with people, and you’re sharing from the right place, if that makes sense.  

Sometimes, in the outside world, in day-to-day life, when you’re communicating with people, you don’t always know what’s really going on and whether what people say is what they really mean: the reading group seems to cut through all that because we’re all focusing on the story. We’re talking about the people in there and how they react and what’s going on. That feels easier than other kinds of groups, like the pressure is off from the point of view of being sociable.  

It’s stimulating, it makes you think – OK, it’s not in person, it’s on Zoom, but you are participating with other people and it’s constructive. You feel like you’ve done something. I’ve found going to the group really helps with my thinking – it provides focus. You’re concentrating on words and what they might mean and you are not thinking about anything else, you are really applying yourself in a way that feels heartfelt and meaningful. You’re digging deep into yourself, you’re searching and you’re helping each other search and you’re sharing your ideas and coming to a meeting point and a conclusion on something.  

It feels quite gentle in the way that it’s led – it’s very inclusive, everyone has a chance to speak and say what they think.  

Everyone has got a voice, everyone’s important, everything you say is going to be taken account of – there’s a real feeling of being listened to.  

I know that some of the group are from different countries and I think it’s amazing that they’re studying literature in a second language. Finding out about other people and their experiences – the group and also the characters in the stories – hearing all their thoughts and ideas, it just…touches me. At the end of every session, it’s like I’ve entered a slightly different world and there is a bit of an uplift and a feeling of just having connected, properly.  

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