Louise’s Story

I’m a townie from the Riverina. I was schooled in Griffith and went on to work in administration for Barters Eggs Head Office. I had an opportunity to move to country Victoria and turn an old dairy farm into a beautiful vineyard, with a friend of mine.

I’m a townie from the Riverina. I was schooled in Griffith and went on to work in administration for Barters Eggs Head Office. I had an opportunity to move to country Victoria and turn an old dairy farm into a beautiful vineyard, with a friend of mine. I became the manager there and for seven wonderful years, we rallied the community together, planting, harvesting and supporting a local hospital in the process. The venture unfortunately came to an end and we had to find somewhere else to live, so I moved to Narrandera on the Murrumbidgee and was lucky enough to find wine industry work, 30km away at Leeton. For seven years I loved working as a lab assistant for a family-run winery there. Everything changed for me suddenly, when a series of traumatic life events led to a lived experience of a breakdown and suicidal thoughts. I spent almost five years, in and out of specialised mental health care, between Albury and Wagga Wagga. Having family and friends around me to help me get on top of things was so important but it put a real strain on them, having to travel 170km each day to spend time with me. I also faced the challenge of having to travel to appointments from Narrandera to Griffith, Leeton, Wagga Wagga or Albury and needing to rely on others for transport and support. Mental Health support services in country areas can be very frustrating. For almost five years, it seemed that, just as I had developed enough of a rapport with a care worker to start opening up, they would move on or be transferred. I would have to begin the process of building trust all over again, with a new person. While I was so completely withdrawn, my partner Peter felt unable to leave me alone at home, so he became as house bound as I was and that placed us under significant financial strain. They say it’s a journey and for us, the hardest part of the journey was finding out where to turn for help. Things took a turn in the right direction for me when a care worker recommended Flourish Australia. They were very accommodating and met up with me at our local bakery in Narrandera. 18 months later, their support has made a world of difference to my life and wellbeing. All my life, I had held back a lot and wished that I could just let go and enjoy life the way other people seemed to. I struggled with anxiety, guilt and social acceptance. In just 18 months, with the support of Flourish Australia, I have become a completely new person and live with more hope, joy and confidence than I have ever experienced. I allow myself to laugh out loud now, without letting other people’s opinions get in the way. Flourish Australia’s social group in Griffith had been exactly what I needed. I had always kept things bottled-up and avoided expressing how I really felt or what I really wanted. Being together with new people on the bus trips and social outings, and trying new activities with the group, helped me to develop my confidence and new skills for communicating. I can talk to people now, without hesitation, when once I would stay in bed all day, sometimes for months on end, just to avoid communicating with anyone. My social outlook has changed completely. I am more outgoing and positive and better able to express my feelings than ever before. I’ve also become more aware of other people’s feelings and needs and I’m beginning to look after my own as well. The best part is – I am only just getting started! Flourish Australia offer so many opportunities to grow. They’ve encouraged me to go after my goal of pursuing further education, so I’m doing a Certificate II in business at TAFE. Before Flourish Australia, I felt too intimidated to go within 10 feet of a computer. My Peer Worker, Colleen, is like family now. Peter and I are both able to sit and talk through things whenever we need to. The trust that comes with knowing I’m unconditionally accepted and supported has made my relationships richer and more rewarding. What the people at Flourish Australia have shown me is that, even though they are from vastly different backgrounds and life experiences, they all share a willingness to listen and help you to laugh, so that you can start to relax and enjoy life again. It was with my friends at Flourish Australia that I realised I was laughing out loud for the first time. That wasn’t something that came naturally to me in the past. I would stress all the time and wish that I could be like other people who seemed so chilled. Allowing myself to just enjoy life has been a massive shift. Being a part of Flourish Australia has helped me to be able to love myself and honour my own needs and see all the shame and guilt I’ve carried over the years as the very experiences that brought me to a better place in my life. Without that sort of support, it can be difficult to accept where you are at and almost impossible to move forward.

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