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Deb - Harnessing painful life experiences to bring hope through Peer Work

I’ve overcome many storms in my life to achieve life goals that once seemed impossible and now use those experiences to encourage others going through similar situations, through my Peer Work with Flourish Australia.

My journey has been marked by family breakdown, mental health issues and homelessness, a humbling experience that showed me how easily this can happen to anyone, and how important it is to bring hope and encouragement to those going through it.

It was my Dad who first shared concern that I wasn’t my usual self when I returned from a year of backpacking Europe, where I worked as a Nanny and held a job at the Australian High Commission in London. I was excessively joyful, what some would call manic, and upon admission to a mental health unit in Canberra, I was diagnosed with Bipolar 1 at age 20. 

For the nine years that followed, I worked full time and managed my day-to-day life and finances well, up until a short-term admission to Camperdown mental health unit. 

In my determination to get life back on track, I pushed myself to maintain a punishing work schedule in a role which was not highly paid which led to becoming homeless and reliant upon the support of family and friends for somewhere to stay. Sadly, many people in my life cut ties with me when they heard about my situation. 

The turning point in my recovery came with finding my faith at 30, when Christianity became central to my life. It helped me to find forgiveness for myself and those who had mistreated me, which changed the way I view the world.

I didn’t give up and when transport strikes prevented me from being able to get to my place of work, I reached out to a Homelessness Line for help with emergency accommodation nearby. Moving into a women’s refuge was humbling and taught me that homelessness really can happen to anyone. 

 

My self-esteem grew as women from the shelter called me their mate and came along to church with me and I took the opportunity to move to Canberra when my sister invited me to move in with her and cook and clean in exchange for rent. 

I found work locally and began reading ‘The Barefoot Investor”, a book about accomplishing financial goals, which motivated me to save for a deposit on a home of my own. Refusing to be discouraged by people who said I was kidding myself, I hit my savings goal of $75,000 in four years. 

The two-storey, two-bedroom townhouse I was able to buy through the ACT Affordable Housing Scheme is above and beyond what I’d hoped for and achieving my goal inspired me to want to give back to my community. 

Since finding my calling as a Peer Worker with Flourish Australia in Queenbeyan in 2023, I’ve felt empowered by transforming the painful times in my life into a source of hope and empathy for others navigating their own mental health challenges. 

In particular, assisting women who have a disability to find a home of their own brings me a real sense of living with meaning and purpose.

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