Raylene Story

Being engaged in work I love that brings together the mental health knowledge I gained through my own lived experience and the admin abilities I utilise through Flourish Australia’s Skills Development Program, has brought balance to my life.

For more than 41 years, since the age of 5, I heard voices and lived with an unsettling sense of unreality. I had excelled at High School and went on to hold clerical positions with businesses like Qantas and Woollahra Council but my symptoms could be disruptive at times. When I first stumbled on Flourish Australia I had been out of hospital for almost 10 years and was living at The House with No Steps. I became a member of Flourish Australia’s New Outlook program so I could access services and join in group activities like the Flourish Australia Learning Network, Hearing Voices Group and social groups.

As I got involved with the groups, I became interested in taking on more responsibilities and learning new skills.  Members are often involved in the daily running of the centre and together, management and I developed a work experience program that suited my skills and expertise. This included general office and cleaning work. I later branched out with more administration work and now I keep records of all of my rounds, I’m the Secretary for the Members Committee on Tuesdays and I provide work, health and safety consultation which involves keeping an eye out around the centre and checking in with staff so I can document anything that needs addressing to keep everything running smoothly.

We’re starting a newsletter here at New Outlook for members, so I’ve put myself forward to coordinate pulling that together and I facilitate a Hearing Voices Group every Thursday.  Although I have no formal training, I’m able to draw on my own experience to empathise and relate purposefully with the people in the group, because I understand what they are experiencing. I look for opportunities to ask someone how they are doing and if they say ‘not so good’ I listen to what’s going on for them then look into how we can best support them.

I feel valued in my work here and the contribution I’m able to make is so rewarding. I receive compliments and encouragement from the people I work with, every day. It gives me such a sense of security to know I’m surrounded by supportive and understanding colleagues.

In addition to the work I do here at Flourish Australia, I’m a peer mentor at The House with No Steps and I’m on the Council of Intellectual Disabilities where I assist with administration. I also get involved with recovery camps that The University of Wollongong run. 

As I’ve become more engaged with other people and work that I love, I really feel I’m managing my experience of hearing voices with strength and positivity,  and have a whole new life outlook and attitude; so being recognised for the Women Advancing Flourish Australia campaign has great meaning for me. I hope that once I share my story, it will encourage people who see it to connect with me for support or guidance.

This April I’ll share various aspects of my story in a webinar with The House With No Steps and an audience of about 70 people.  It’s miraculous how many wonderful doors are opening for me now. I’ve come such a long way and I want to continue to gain as much training and insight as I can. Just being in this environment, I pick up a lot from a psychology viewpoint and although I’m not studying it at university, it’s a field I’m fascinated by. 

As I’ve mastered new skills and built new support networks, my confidence has grown and my life is starting to make sense. I would like to see many more people find their way to Flourish Australia’s New Outlook program and begin their own healing process. I hope to take the Hearing Voices Group to the next level and grow it so that I can engage more people and I would like to have more opportunities to share my Christian faith which has been a source of strength for me on my journey. It helps me to remember not to dwell on what might have happened in the past and re-focus on helping someone other than myself. Above all, I want to play a part in bringing people happiness.

For now, I’m looking forward to some quiet time on a holiday up North with good friends, to re-fuel for all of these projects I’m involved with. After my holiday, I would love to take up dancing.

I feel I’ve found my calling and a life balance, here with Flourish Australia, and I hope to build on my social connections in the Wollongong area.

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