Claire - Chesterfield ADHD Drop In Group
"This group gives me and others an opportunity to unmask, relax and socialise in a way that feels good – it’s a nice place to meet, chat and laugh together”.
"It’s nice to feel understood and unjudged when we have our meet ups. It’s a safe place to share experiences with others who ‘get it’".
A journey from personal need to community impact
Claire’s story, the impact of the ADHD group she created and the valuable role that the Feeling Connected Project has played in her efforts to make a difference.
In the heart of Chesterfield, a local peer support group is not only transforming lives but also sets an inspiring example for the power of small, informal community-driven initiatives. The Chesterfield ADHD Drop-in Group, created by Claire Gibbs, has blossomed into a haven for adults affected by ADHD, offering peer support, understanding and a sense of belonging.
A Personal Journey to Making a Difference:
Claire's journey began with a personal mission to address her own needs. Feeling isolated due to the challenges of ADHD and other health conditions, Claire took matters into her own hands. She decided to create a face-to-face peer support group for adults with ADHD, a space where they could unmask, relax, and socialise in a supportive environment. Little did she know this would go on to become a lifeline for others grappling with loneliness and isolation.
“I felt lonely as I don’t get out as often as I’d like due to other health conditions. Most of the people who come have said they feel lonely or isolated too. This group gives me and others an opportunity to unmask, relax and socialise in a way that feels good – it’s a nice place to meet, chat and laugh together”.
A Safe Haven for All:
The group's inclusive nature is one of its many strengths. It caters not only to individuals with ADHD but also welcomes their partners, support workers, carers, and family members. The diverse mix of ages contributes to a welcoming and relaxed atmosphere. It's a place where anxiety and isolation can be set aside, allowing for genuine connection and shared experiences.
“There’s a really nice mix of ages which adds to how relaxed and welcoming it is. Several members of the group also have anxiety and struggle to get out but try to get to our meetings as they feel safe”
The Vital Role of In-Person Support:
In an age dominated by online interactions, Claire's commitment to providing in-person peer support sets her group apart. The value of face-to-face meetings cannot be understated. It helps bypass the challenges of interpreting online interactions, particularly relevant for individuals with ADHD. It allows everyone to be fully engaged in real-time conversations, fostering a truly inclusive and relaxing experience.
“There are tons of online groups but I really wanted the in person experience. I find that meeting face to face allows us all to get to know each other better – you get to know the ‘real person’ and much quicker too. That’s really helpful because there are new people joining us all the time”.
Overcoming Personal and Practical Hurdles:
Setting up the group was not without its challenges. Claire had to overcome personal doubts, logistical issues, and the task paralysis that often comes with ADHD. Her determination to make a change prevailed, and she held her first meet up at the Sorbo Lounge in the centre of Chesterfield.
“I actually took a book with me as I fully expected no one to turn up! I was really pleased when four people came to that first meeting!”
Since then Claire has organised meetings twice a month for those affected by ADHD in Chesterfield and surrounding areas. Meetings are held on different days and at different times to accommodate the various needs of her growing group.
The Power of Shared Experiences:
The group's impact is undeniable. Participants have shared heart-warming stories of feeling comfortable and unjudged. It's a space where individuals can "unmask," share experiences, and connect with others who truly understand. Conversations flow naturally, ranging from discussions about ADHD to sharing personal interests and hobbies. Laughter, deep conversations, and camaraderie are all part of the mix, making the group a dynamic and uplifting environment.
“Feedback I’ve had from group participants has been really nice to hear and makes it worthwhile. Some have come with a support worker initially or have suffered with anxiety and said it feels comfortable and doesn’t feel daunting.
Even professionals who have come to check out the group before recommending to their service users have said how different it feels”
"People have said it’s nice to feel understood and unjudged when we have our meet ups. It’s a safe place to ‘unmask’ and share experiences with others who ‘get it’. But it’s not just talking about ADHD - so often we’re just connecting and chatting about our interests and life. For example, we have someone who builds Dr Who Daleks so the conversations really can and do go anywhere!”
Supported by The Feeling Connected Project:
The Feeling Connected Project has played a vital role in supporting Claire’s efforts. Through workshops and interactions with other volunteer organisers, along with the individual support provided by the Feeling Connected team, Claire gained invaluable guidance, access to funding, a sense of belonging and a wealth of knowledge to enhance her group's impact.
"I thought it was too good to be true, but it's not. I love that there's always someone to contact if I get stuck or need to bounce any ideas around - someone who can offer encouragement and support, practical or otherwise, and just knowing I'm not alone”
“It's also helped me consolidate and share my own understanding and experience of loneliness - and that helps to challenge the typical stereotype of a 'lonely old person.’”
The Feeling Connected Family, a supportive community of individuals and organisations from across Chesterfield and North-East Derbyshire, share Claire’s passion for bringing people together to tackle loneliness and isolation. It has offered Claire a platform to share ideas, access practical support and guidance from other members and played a significant role in improving her group.
Making a Real Difference:
The Feeling Connected Project's support extended to helping with running costs through funding and offering a free printing service for her posters, enabling the group to reach more people in need. Claire's group now proudly carries the Feeling Connected logo, showing that it is part of something bigger than just Claire alone and signifying its commitment to inclusivity and connection.
“The Feeling Connected logo image of people with their arms around each other really communicates what my group is about – helping people with ADHD to feel supported and less alone.”
Claire's journey from personal need to creating opportunities for connection is a testament to the power that individuals have in our communities to make a difference.
"Feeling Connected gives people wings when they have ideas and feel stuck on the ground”
The Feeling Connected Project has not only helped Claire to tackle loneliness in her own life but has had a meaningful impact on those she serves in her local community, demonstrating that a small, informal initiative can make a significant impact with the right support.