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Posted on August 26th, 2012

My name is Dena and I was diagnosed 10 years ago with a mental illness. At that point I didn’t know where I belonged in society, but I believe I have found the spot. I have been a member of the Austin Clubhouse for just over a month and already call it home.

I found out about the Clubhouse last summer by attending a local NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) meeting. I thought at first that the clubhouse was for and about another type of illness,

but as I read the flyer and the NAMI website, I soon came to realize this was for me. I made a few phone calls to get more information and learn about the process of becoming a member. I thought membership might cost something, and with a limited income I needed to know all of the details. I also wanted to know whether it was in a safe neighborhood and if anyone would recognize me or know why I was coming. As you can tell I was a little nervous and quite hesitant. I was tired of being called “one of those people” and didn’t want my confidentiality to disappear. Was this some sort of adult daycare for the mentally ill or what? So many questions that I hoped would be answered soon.

Finally, I made the decision to make the initial call and my mind was soon at ease. After finding the location and the times available to visit, I decided to take a tour. Still, I was a little nervous, and not knowing what exactly to expect was still scary, but I knew I had to take the next step. Which I did, on the very next day, a Thursday.

That Thursday, I arrived and was welcomed with open arms. I was first given a tour of the facility. The first stop was the reception area, then the kitchen, where lunch is fixed every day the club house is open. It’s only $.50 and you get a full meal in return (talk about a bang for your buck). Then there was a room with a computer, work and education area (an awesome set-up by the way). After the tour I was asked to fill out a membership application which is kept confidential. I was more than happy to do so. I sat down and while filling out the application, which is very short, I talked with other members. They all had great things to say about the clubhouse and their experiences here. I was impressed. After filling out the application, I handed it to a staff member. I was eager to stay, but it was Thursday and close to 4 pm. So I would have to wait till the following week. The clubhouse is only open Tuesday through Thursday from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. So wait I did.

The following Tuesday I arrived and was eager to get started (I could barely sleep the night before). I waited in my car a few moments before going inside. I was still nervous but decided to just go for it. I wasn’t sure where to start. The staff asked me, “What would you like to do or work on?” We had a meeting around nine with the staff and members. We all have input on what’s going on at the clubhouse, as well as assignments for the morning. We have an opportunity to volunteer for as many positions as we find suitable for us. For example, there is a clerical unit, which may include leading tours or helping with lunch. We also have a business unit, which includes working on employment, continuing your education, or improving your computer literacy. Each member chooses a job fitting to their goals and strengths for the morning shift. Being a new member, I was not sure where to begin, but I soon found myself working with some other members on housing. Before I knew it, it was time for lunch. At lunch we all sat and ate together.

After lunch we have a p.m. meeting that follows the same format as the morning meeting. We can sign up for different jobs or the same as before, it is all your choice. During the afternoon shift, I chose to work on employment. Preparing my resume and cover letter was first on my list. I soon started working along with others on different tasks. Once again before I knew it, my first day was done. I went home happy and satisfied with my day, and the fulfilling work I had done.

As you can see we keep busy at the clubhouse with a variety of jobs to choose from.

I can’t believe it has already been a month since I joined Austin Clubhouse; the time has definitely flown by. So, far I have finished my resume and cover letter, and am now sending them out daily. Also, I have been involved in the kitchen duties, housing, and now I can add receptionist to my list of job duties. Trust me, I’ve been busy being involved.

I am very excited to be here and be part of something very unique and much needed in our Austin community.

I want the give a big thank you to the staff, members, our donors and the Austin Community for letting me be “one of those people”. I know now where I belong and will always be welcomed.

–Dena