by Grant J Everett
ABOVE: Tink painted this flag as a statement about equality PHOTO BY GRANT EVERETT
Tink has been attending the New Outlook day-to-day living centre in Wollongong for about 12 months. Her mental health worker, Carly, helped her to connect up with this service.
Like most of the people who access our services, Tink has a funding package from the NDIS. In addition to New Outlook, Tink has connections with programs such as Partners In Recovery.
Tink is a creative type. She likes playing the ukulele and the djembe (a type of African drum), she sings at New Outlook’s karoke nights, and she creates all kinds of art. Tink is an artist of many different mediums, and has created quite a few works in New Outlook’s dedicated art area. Recently, she’s been drawing snakes with charcoal and pastels.
Most of all, though, Tink’s favourite thing is to make other people happy.
“If I see someone sad, I’ll go and make them smile. That’s my aim everyday: to make three people laugh or smile before lunch. I’m actually designing a course on how to be happy, on how to love life, so that I can get even better at this.
Of course, it hasn’t been easy all the time. Tink has had some very, very serious health issues in the last few years.
“I haven’t always been this happy. Two years ago I had surgery and almost died, and it totally changed my outlook on life. It was the deepest, darkest part of hell, and it took time to drag myself out of it. It took me a while, but I got there. Now I’m with the happy part of life, I’ve gone up to the top of the ladder and stayed there. Now, I don’t have any problems, I don’t have any stress in my life. If I fall over I get up and laugh about it!”
Being a positive person doesn’t mean you ignore reality or pretend something isn’t happening: it’s about acknowledging it, and then responding.
“Nowadays I’m never half full or half empty: my glass is always full. I find as adults that we forget, what with being swamped with this bill and that bill, how great life really is.”
“I was born with NF1 (Neurofibromatosis type 1), and it’s gotten into my lungs bad enough to punch holes in them. With my lung problems, I really, really had to give up cigarettes, and thankfully it’s now been 4 years since I had one. I’ve also had a brain tumour removed, and I still need to get more bloodwork done to make sure I’m all clear. I’m a bit worried about this because I haven’t been feeling great the last couple of weeks. But the good news is I still have a brain!”
“Being a positive person doesn’t mean you pretend something isn’t happening: it’s about acknowledging it, and then responding. They told me I only have about 20 years left, but I’m going to prove them wrong!
“When the dark times were happening, it was hard to imagine getting through it. I hit rock bottom. I couldn’t see any hope. But I’ve come through the other side now. There have been a lot of things that helped me to climb out of the dark.”
Tink has made a lot of new friends at New Outlook. They’re so close that she considers them her family, and loves spending a lot of time with them. She also has friends outside of this service.
“I have a friend who goes to the movies with me every week. I get paid one week, he gets paid the other week, so we take turns at shouting.”
“It makes it a lot easier for me knowing that the other people here have gone through the same things that I have, because that means they understand. My friends will always ask if I’m alright, and I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’m alright,’ and I do the same for them. You look after your friends. I can tell if they’re not doing well, and they know with me.”
“I like to mentor people, help people out, teach them new things.”
“I had a drug habit when I started at New Outlook, but I haven’t had anything for nine weeks. I want to stay clean permanently.”
Tink has some charity work planned.
“I’m going to colour my hair to raise money for blood cancer research with World’s Greatest Shave. I’m going to bring lots of cans of hair colour, and people can pay $1 to colour a bit of my hair.”