Cultural Spring Blog Post

By Glenda Young

It’s the sort of thing you never think will happen to you. Anxiety, panic attacks… I’d heard about them of course but didn’t fully realise what they were or how powerful – and life-changing – they could be. But for the first time in many years I had to go on sick leave from work after stress caused by my job resulted in panic attacks and anxiety had been eating away for months. Even just thinking about that dark time I feel my shoulders tense, my jaw grind and my blood pressure rise.

As part of the healing process, I decided to learn something new, something completely different to anything I’d done before. I hoped it’d take my mind in a new direction, putting the focus on learning and healing instead of panic and stress. And that’s when I joined the Cultural Spring ukulele group at the Quaker Meeting House in Sunderland.

Me? Play a musical instrument? It was well out of my comfort zone! I haven’t got a musical bone in my body – but I was determined not to go under with panic and anxiety. And learning something new in a safe environment seemed a good way to start. Joining the ukulele group where nobody knew me or what I was going through was cathartic. Everyone was welcoming and kind and the tutor patient and talented.

And so it went, once a week on a Wednesday night I turned up at the class, wanting to learn as much about how to play the ukulele as to focus my mind on something new, not dwell on the difficulties I was going through. Along with meditation, yoga (and ultimately, leaving my job to take up my life-long passion to become a full-time writer) the impact on my mental health has been profound. I am happier now than ever before. Yes, I still suffer from anxiety but I can handle it better now I’m aware of what’s happening.

The Cultural Spring, for me, has been life-changing in a way I didn’t expect. The courses they offer are run in a way that is welcoming and warm and those who attend the groups are (I’ve found) really nice people. It’s a lovely, inclusive way to learn something new, to challenge yourself, to think about what it is you can do, not what you can’t.

And just what happened with me and the ukulele? Well, we parted ways after a few weeks. I felt at times I was holding the class behind as I often struggled to get to grips with the cute little Hawaiian guitar. I knew I would never be the new Lonnie Donegan, but I am pleased to say the course was a watershed for me and I came out being “the new me.”

Since leaving my stressful job I am now a full-time author and have written three novels set in Sunderland in 1919.  All three novels are published by Headline and you can find out more at my website