Emma, carer, shares her experience of the recent drama workshops at Carers Leeds.

“I have just participated in six weeks of drama workshops with a group of carers at Carers Leeds. The workshops were facilitated by Sarah and Naomi of Fall into Place.

Carers had signed up for the workshops late last year so when we arrived in January, meeting each other as strangers, we all were nervously anticipating becoming involved in the group. Each of us had seen the workshops in the newsletter and felt there was something unique about this activity that made us want to come along and commit to six weeks of workshops.

We were asked what we hoped to gain from meeting each week, many of us were simply pleased we had managed to attend at all! As you will all know as carers taking any time out from our roles can sometimes be a practical impossibility. Compounded by feelings of guilt around leaving the one we care for to peruse interests of our own, this can be enough to stop us from taking time out for ourselves. So it was fantastic to arrive and see a room full of carers, who had all already overcome many barriers to make it to the group.

Although none of us knew what to expect, our initial nerves were soon alleviated by the facilitators, Naomi and Sarah whose refreshing approach made us feel comfortable and at ease. They provided us with a safe, non-judgemental and welcoming space where they were open to our individual needs which were heard and responded to with great care.

Over the weeks Sarah and Naomi used a combination of drama games, improvisation, character development and script work.  They had a gentle way of guiding and encouraging each of us to use our own abilities. It was a co-operative experience, we were not told to how to act, what to do, or say, instead the facilitators used creative ideas to draw out our unique talents.

We all agreed that it was important, as carers, that we feel valued as individuals in our own right, with our own unique talents and abilities. Often our identity as a carer gets so bound up with the one we care for that we can forget who we are and what we enjoy. Having the time and space to explore through the medium of drama allowed us to, leave our busy minds and step into funny characters, bringing to each session much laughter, fun and a sense of companionship within the group. Each session would end with a brief mindfulness meditation and we would use a mantra that reminded us of the inner resources we have and tell ourselves, we can do it!

We all agreed that the drama workshops have given us some new positive coping mechanisms. We have developed a sense of self belief, we had all entered the group the same, not knowing what to expect and having anxieties about ‘not being good or able enough’. We all agree that in attending these workshops, we have realised the importance of taking time out from our caring role and doing something that pushes you out of your comfort zone. Although it may be scary you also uncover hidden talents that help us appreciate our inner resilience.

Prior to the start of the course, we had all expressed feeling isolated, struggles leaving the one we care for and not having opportunity to try out new things. Holding the workshops at Carers Leeds, which is based in central Leeds, an environment carers are familiar with and accessible for us all, made it possible for us to attend.

Although we did not speak to each other about our caring roles at length, what everyone learned was how to express ourselves in front of others and learn new ways of exploring the world. That gave us the freedom to talk about difficult topics with our peers, during tea breaks, the loss of a loved one or challenges of being a carer would be chatted about with ease. We gained confidence in ourselves and were able to do this because we knew that we would be soon acting out another scene which would bring us together in laughter and give light relief.

Being a carer can be fraught at times, as caring for and making decisions that affect another person is a serious role. However, everyone agreed that the most important part of the experience was shared laughter. There is a saying laughter is the best medicine and that sums up how we felt as a group. Having fun with one another showed us we can deal with difficult situations in a light-hearted way.

By the end of the 6 weeks we had created our own improvised short performance, we performed this skit on the last week in front on staff and friends from Carers Leeds. We left this experience feeling empowered and confident to peruse other groups and activities. Arriving as strangers and learning how to come together to create a performance was a powerful experience for all of us.

In summary we laughed a lot, made lots of silly noises and faces, we meditated, we talked, we drank tea and coffee, we learned new things about ourselves others and life. We stepped out of our safety zone and did something unexpected and it built our confidence.

So all that is left to say is try it! What do you have to lose? Its great fun!

On behalf of the group we want to extend a big thank you to Naomi and Sarah for their patience and sharing your skills and we hope to see you again soon. And to Carers Leeds thank you for always striving to find new and creative ways to engage and support us, it’s always appreciated.”

Emma Roberts, The Neurodiverse Mum

If you want to find out more about Emma Roberts, she is the author of the blog The Neurodiverse Mum: https://medium.com/@NDmum.

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