Judi’s Story

It means the world to me to hear Brendan say he feels safe now, and to know that he has other people supporting him who care.

Flourish Australia has been a safety net for my son and I. Brendan feels safe now and I have the peace of mind that comes with knowing he is surrounded by support people who genuinely care and know what they are doing. They listen to my concerns and we all work through problems together.

I have my family back and I’m beginning to reclaim my life. People tell me I’m so strong, but I’ve only done what any mum would do, to support my son through a lived experience of a mental health issue. I was drawn into Brendan’s struggle with absolutely no experience of mental health issues and everything else that came with it.

I had no idea what to do to help him or where to seek help. My life became a relentless cycle of responding to Brendan’s frequent distress calls and supporting him through repeated hospital admissions.

I wondered if what his case workers were telling me was true – that Brendan would never change and I just had to accept that – but I could never give up on my son.

I would ask myself, when will this stop? Why is it happening? What would happen to Brendan if I wasn’t here for him; and what about people who have no one?

The hardest thing for me was not being heard by mental health and medical professionals. Brendan was so afraid of being hospitalised that I was the only person he trusted enough to talk to openly about what he had done and what was going on for him.

That was a terrible burden to bear on my own but I wasn’t believed by the experts I turned to for advice, because it didn’t fit with their assessment of Brendan. Just prior to his last period of difficulties, Brendan called in desperation and said ‘mum if you don’t help me, I’m going to do something’. When he eventually came home, I wasn’t equipped to cope with the mental health issues Brendan was still struggling with.

Doctors would ask me to bring Brendan in for a script at times when his state of mind was so alarming that I had no idea how I would get him into the car with me. Even after he was placed with an independent living program, I spent most of my days rushing down there, in response to his cries for help. That was two years ago now.

Finally, Flourish Australia became involved and suggested a share home arrangement for Brendan. I had my reservations about group housing, given our negative experiences of supported accommodation, but when I saw the house and the neighbourhood it is in, I felt so hopeful.

The peer support Brendan receives from Flourish Australia has brought peace of mind to my life.

A weight has lifted because I know he’s somewhere safe and surrounded by people who know what they are doing and genuinely care.

I see the respect they have for Brendan as a person. He’s not just a number or a diagnosis to them. They are so empathetic and understanding and I am so grateful that they take the time to listen to us both. I can share a real conversation with them about my concerns and we work through the problems together.

If Brendan slips with his medication, they are onto it right away. They notice things and address him in a straight forward way that he responds to. It’s like a huge safety net for us both.

Flourish Australia have helped me to understand what is going on for my son and why. I am a lot less stressed these days and I relate differently with him. He still overloads me with information but now I’m able to encourage him to speak with his support worker and they’re always there for me too. It means the world to me to hear Brendan say he feels safe now, and to know that he has other people supporting him who care.

Always being there for Brendan meant that I had shut myself off from other people in my life and had little to give my partner or younger son. Daniel has become so wise for his age, as a result of our lived experience of his big brother’s struggle.

As Brendan is gaining more independence, I’ve been able to step back a bit and find the freedom and time to take care of my own needs. The house Brendan now lives in is such a homey, friendly environment that it’s starting to feel like family to both of us. I have my son back and feel I’ve gained two more, in his housemates.

I can visit him somewhere that feels like home to him and catch up over a coffee. Things have turned around so completely for us now that Brendan even likes to join me in the work I do to help the homeless. Volunteering with local charities was an escape for me, to take my mind off my own problems, when I felt powerless to change my life or Brendan’s.

Now, helping people is something we like to do together. Brendan and his brother have reconnected too. All of our lives and relationships are so much better and we have Flourish Australia to thank for it.

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