I first attended ANDYSMANCLUB in Hartlepool on May 13th 2019 after being told about it by someone who works in the same building as me and lives in Hartlepool. I was really excited about going but the closer it got to the day the more I felt nervous. I suffer with social anxiety, as well as depression, and was worried about going as I did not know what to expect. I had never attended a group like this before and it felt so far out of my comfort zone.
That first night was fantastic and I really enjoyed the group and got on with the people I met, I had read a bit on the website about the charity and was in awe at how something so amazing could come from such a tragedy and how Luke and Elaine were able to turn their grief into something that has now helped thousands of people. I think in the 3rd or 4th week that I was there, Andy Greenway and a couple of the facilitators from different groups came up to Hartlepool and one of them said to me that they could see that I got what the group was about. That comment was massive for me and I have never missed a week since I joined partly thanks to that comment.
I have gained so much confidence from attending AMC and that has never been more evident than when the charity did the bus tour, in September, around all the towns and cities that had a group. The bus was due to arrive in Hartlepool at 5 pm but did not arrive until after 7:30 pm. Hartlepool had a football match that night live on BT Sports. One of the Hartlepool facilitators got us into the ground and we walked around the stands handing out leaflets to the crowd whilst they watched the game. I had conversations with different fans in the crowd about what AMC does. I also got to meet Luke and some of the facilitators from around the country for the first time. This was something I would never have had the confidence to do before I started attending AMC.
In September/October, I became one of the facilitators at Hartlepool and as a result, started looking for venues in Sunderland to open a new AMC. This happened in February 2020 when myself and John, who was the first person I met at AMC, opened the new Sunderland group at Bede College. The best way I can try to describe to people how ANDYSMANCLUB has helped me is by comparing it to a building site. When I started at AMC I was a dilapidated house, the group (building site) and it’s attendees (builders) have knocked that house (me) down and re-built it brick by brick to a point now where it is a functioning and thriving building.