by Desley (as told to Grant J Everett)
Desley discusses how life has changed for her in the time since she completed Flourish Australia’s Young People’s Outreach Program (YPOP)
I’ve reached the point where I don’t have (or need) support from a professional point of view anymore. I prefer to look after myself. I already get plenty of support from friends and family, even though confiding in family can be…weird. When somebody knows you so well, it can feel really awkward opening up to them.
Now, I’m somebody who provides support to others. For instance, my best friend Talia, who I love and adore to bits, recently returned to her family in Queensland. I encouraged her to do this because she wanted to get back to how she was a couple of years ago. Before Talia moved down to NSW she was doing really well: she was working, she was a vegan, and she was exercising. Once she got to Sydney, though, she began to feel as though she lost her way. She didn’t know what she was doing with her life. She was at that point where people are either going to Uni or climbing the ladder at their career, but instead, she was stuck in a loop. She was anxious about the move back to Queensland, but I reminded her that it’s all good.
I have a lot of useful, practical skills that I learned through YPOP. For instance, I now know how to use the SEEK employment website. I used to find it really complicated: the classification system, having to choose such detailed information…I’m an experienced kitchen hand, so why can’t I just type that in? The YPOP guys helped me with this and I ended uo applying to 32 places. I only heard back from 2, but you win some, you lose some. That was a realy good experience.
The result of my job seeking is that I currently work in a salad and wrap place in Eastgardens called LeWrap. I’ve been there since March 2017, and this has been my longest job to date. Jobs and me, we don’t usually go together all that well, but that’s because there used to be complications that aren’t there anymore. I enjoy LeWrap because it’s engaging without being stressful. This is good, because I like a challenge. When we have waves of people it can get pretty hectic, though.
When I was referred to YPOP I was a bit reluctant but a lot of the other people who went through YPOP felt the same way. We all need a nudge from time to time because it can be hard to step out of your comfort zone without the right support, so I’m glad my then counsellor Hazel gave me that encouragement as before YPOP I’d been slowly getting into a darker and darker place. By putting myself through the program, I’ve come out the other side a different person, and, well, it’s been like a miracle! Looking back two years later, it still feels weird that I’ve managed to get to from where I began.
I met people from all walks of life, and some of them were really interesting. One girl lives in my area, so I see her constantly. I like having casual friends you can run into at random, as it doesn’t feel forced or anything. Over the phone, it’s a lot of pressure. What if they don’t answer? What happens if they’re busy and I’m interrupting? I have one friend who lives around Hurstville, so if I want to hang out I can just call him. He’s never busy…unless you consider playing World of Warcraft to be busy! He’s great, though. He’s one of the people who I really connected with straight away.
When you spend time with people from similar backgrounds with similar life experiences to your own, it’s really comforting. For instance, my friend in Hurstville has anxiety, and it was great that I could understand where he was coming from. So while you’re learning from the people who run YPOP, you’re also learning from the people who are taking part in the program, too.
There was a book I read during my time at YPOP that changed my life. It’s called “A Sane New World” by Ruby Wax. She’s fantastic! The way she talks about her experiences of mental illness, how she meshes it together with mindfulness exercises, really helped. Three quarters of the way through the book, I felt a change: I felt very grounded and anchored into life. Where I was at that point, the book really did help.
Something else that helped was keeping diaries. I got the idea from that mystery TV show Veronica Mars. While some entries are completely pointless, they link up with other days, and you can eventually see a pattern. Keeping a diary helped me to better understand myself 100%. At the beginning, I made a pact with myself to be honest…and I can always hit backspace if I break this promise, but you need to be motivated, or it won’t work.
I’ve just turned 20 and I’ve been having an ‘existential crisis’ about where I fit and where I want to be in the grand scheme of things. I want to write. I’m not sure if I’ll be able to make a career out of it, but I want to keep doing it. I’ve done several short stories, though none of them have been completed. I just end up going blank and starting a new one. I’m also very hard on my own writing. I’m constantly going, “Do I like this one? Is this any good?” But one story I really liked creating was called The Game. It’s about me typing four different stories at the same time, and weird things happen. For instance, Morgan Freeman is the narrator, people were riding giant canaries…it’s strange stuff.
One New Year’s resolution that I actually accomplished was that I decided to start setting smaller goals, and I’ve been doing that ever since. Weird, I know! I’d recommend this to anybody who tries to overachieve. I’ve become more social, I get out of the house more often, and I’ve even been on a diet. The whole diet thing was interesting, as I’ve never done that before. I actually ate healthy! I forced myself to have a pear. And then I started to like pears. Best of all, I did lose a little weight, and it wasn’t heaps hard. So whatever you’re trying to achieve, smaller goals do help.
I had such an amazing time with YPOP that it took me a while to realise that the staff weren’t the ones helping me: I was the one helping me, and they were just there for the journey. They weren’t holding my hand or anything, but they were in the background, supporting and encouraging me, that whole time. By the end, when I was told that it was time to exit the program, they gave me heaps of notice. And even though I didn’t feel like I was ready to leave, when I look back on what I achieved I feel really proud. For instance, I got a job on my own, and I’m proud of that.
See the other stories relating to the Young People’s Outreach Program (YPOP) on page 35 and 42 of this issue.