I want to preface this post by stating clearly for one and all that I am not a ‘gym person’. Lots of people actually will tell you this, in the same way a lot of people will tell you that they are not ‘good at maths’. So I guess by default, if we know these people to be largely, in fact ‘good at maths’ then maybe, secretly I am a ‘gym person’? Anyway, regardless of this thought, I still feel strongly that I not a ‘gym person’. And yet what I am about to tell you is how becoming a person who regularly attends a gym helped to keep me alive.
It all began in 2017
2017. The year of the Great Depression, in my history at least. Last year was just so fraught with emotional turmoil. I have been over it enough I think. If you need or want to reminisce, you may do it by following links here or here or here. I will only confirm one spoiler in that they are not written in the deepest midst of my depression. That would be depressing to read (get it?!). It was during this time that I began seeing a whole lot of new doctors, from all over the place. I adopted a locum doctor, Dr Cope, while my GP was on leave. This doctor also referred me to a psychologist, Dr Anne, who helped me through my depression with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy techniques and a whole lot of much needed Talk Therapy. Meanwhile, at Royal Perth Hospital and my Neuroimmunology Clinic, my team of specialist doctors decided I needed to revise my medications. They referred me to an ‘in-house’ Psychiatrist, Dr Well, to help me with my antidepressant medication. The one question they all seemed to push was “And do you have a strong network of support?”
Did I have a strong network of support?
My answer, short and sweet was “Yes.” I had focussed on building up my communication with those close to me. I felt that the people I was closest to knew what was happening and how I was coping, and this is what a good network was. In fact, I only have a few close friends and we mostly communicate in groups of one or two. We do not see each other often as we are all at such different points. They also catch up regularly and try not to let me know so much, as they know I cannot be included. Late nights out in the city drinking alcohol and dancing in dark bars is just not something I am capable of. In other circles, I catch up with people for tea or coffee, or I’m superficially friendly with staff at my local grocery store or health stores. Again, not strong, regular relationships. I was wrong in what I thought. I lived an isolated life and this was the problem.
I was told I had to fix my problem
Dr Well, Dr Cope and Dr Anne were all agreeing in their isolated appointments with me. I will not truly be able to heal until I acknowledge that I do not have a network or community around me. That didn’t mean getting a partner, moving in with family or changing my friends. It just meant I had to make an effort somewhere to become engaged in regular activity with other people who are interested in the same…thing…as me. I needed to pick a ‘thing’ to focus on, find somewhere I could immerse myself in, what they hoped was, a long-term commitment. They didn’t ask me to actually immerse myself yet, just to think about what ‘it’ could be. The idea scared me for a month. In fact, I even resisted this concept for the first week. That was until I was given the flyer that changed my life.
The biggest opportunities will come when you least expect
I have a ukulele, I am good at art, I like patchwork sewing and reading. When I first started thinking of a community, these were the kind of places I looked for. There was even a week where I went to a few meetings through an app called ‘Meet Up’. None of them worked and I quickly became disheartened. I spoke about it with my folks but there was not much they could think of which really helped. Finally, one day I was at my chemist. They had some promotion on, I think it was for breast or ovarian cancer. Either way each customer received a ‘ladies’ health’ pack with samples, testers, flyers and vouchers to sponsoring organisations. One of the flyers was for ‘Club Fernwood’. I had not heard of Club Fernwood. For once I wasn’t cynical about the smiling face and invite for a free 2-week trial to …whatever it was they were selling.
What is Club Fernwood?
Club Fernwood is a gym. I mean, you had to see this was leading there. And you cannot then be surprised when I say that it is actually so much more. It is a women’s only fitness, wellbeing and lifestyle gym. I met the then-manager Nicole. She didn’t look like the kind of person I expected to be managing a gym. This lady had a healthy, ‘fuller’ physique of a normal women. She didn’t look like she worked out 1-3 hours each and every day and ate a strict diet of no-sugar, part protein supplements and a whole lot of kale. Nicole let me cry as I told her my history, and then tried to organise something that I would be capable of. Later another trainer would show me the equipment and how to use it. The doctors would sign a document approving me for slow exercises at low-impact and minimal strain. A trainer, specialising in nutrition, would help me think of food positively and treat it with respect.
So how did this gym save my life?
Nicole insisted I join a particular class. Three times a week at 10am I go to this one class called ‘Low Impact’. It is a half-hour class for ladies rehabilitating from injury, illness, or suffering from the pains that come with age. Because, yes, most of the ladies are above 60 years old. Joy turned 93 not long ago. The women have taken me in. They are my surrogate mothers. Even when I cannot do the class I try my hardest not to miss the morning cup of tea that follows our class. Did I mention Fernwood offers tea and coffee all day in their kitchen area, as well as breakfast until 10:30? So, of course after class, us 6-22 ladies (it depends on the day) all gather in the kitchen area and chat. I am fitter now and able to try other classes, such as yoga, Pilates, Zumba (the one for ‘Golden Oldies’) and stretch. I can last for 40 minutes on the elliptical, as well as 20 on the bikes and sometimes I fit in a weights circuit. But I will never stop attending my Low Impact classes. You couldn’t tear me away from my community if you tried. The ladies are ‘My Second Mothers’ and they are reason enough to keep going, in every respect.
Thank you Fernwood, if it weren’t for the support and community I found within you, I d not think I would have had the strength to continue. You are more than a gym, you are my saviour.