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Mark - With support I’ve come to appreciate how the hard times helped shape me

During my recovery taking part in activities with Flourish Australia made a positive difference to a tough time in my life. I gained the strength to make my own way in the world and a decade down the track, I’m still going strong! 

In the days when I first connected with their services, being picked up and taken to beautiful places every Tuesday and Thursday gave me something to look forward to. I later began taking part in pretty much all of the activities on offer with their Wollongong New Outlook program. For me, it was a safe and friendly space to spend time while I decided whether I felt ready to live independently out in the real world. 

After 10 years back in my community, the COVID-19 lockdown came as a real test for me, with all the panic buying and other unexpected side effects. I came through it and was more prepared for getting through the second lockdown by creating some structure to my days, like getting up and going to bed at set times and keeping busy around my home.

Creativity through art, music and particularly poetry, have become important outlets for me and I enjoy the New Outlook art group on Wednesdays. I’m very precise in how I place my words and get straight to the point. I enjoy reading and find I get more out of it by reading aloud, allowing my brain to soak in the words through my eyes and ears.

My work is abstract but always has meaning and a background, such as when I wrote about what happened in my life so far, when I first connected with Flourish Australia. I’m now working on my grandfather’s life story which will combine religion, war and the culture of his time.

I love learning new things so I’m also taking a number of courses at Kiama Community College and my local TAFE.

Being willing to step out of my comfort zone and constantly seek to broaden my support network is a key part of my commitment to staying well. As someone who tends to keep to himself, this can be challenging, but while I value my privacy, I also know the benefits for me of getting out there and engaging with others.

My advice to anyone managing a mental health issue is to consider seeing a psychologist. By doing so I’ve learned to turn negative thoughts into positive ones which helps me to acknowledge that the hard times have helped make me the person I’m proud to be today.

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