Walking through life together, riding into the future

SAM WITH HIS BIKE.jpgABOVE: Decreasing the sense of isolation was a challenge for me before I was introduced to Flourish Australia PHOTO PROVIDED BY SAM 

By Sam from Hervey Bay

Not having to struggle through the whole mental health challenge on my own anymore feels like flourishing to me. At Flourish Australia, I have others around me who “get it” and walk with me through it. It took time to build a level of trust and connection where I felt safe to open up. What I needed came about quite organically while we were walking through life together. 

After graduating university I lived in London for two years working as a paramedic, that I absolutely loved. I have also struggled with mental health issues since I was 16, which had caught up with me many times throughout my life. About a year ago my mental health issues caught up with me again and my UK employers weren’t very understanding about it. This lead to me having to return to Australia and in doing so I moved in with family here in Hervey Bay, Queensland. After moving to Hervey Bay I found my mental health worsening, I wasn’t working and I felt quite isolated.

Creating new friendships and decreasing the sense of isolation was a challenge for me before I was introduced to Flourish Australia.

At first I was apprehensive about going to Flourish Australia. I wasn’t sure what to expect, so it took me a while to take the step to try it. I initially only attended the movie group on Wednesday afternoon, but this was good because I didn’t feel pressured to start talking to people. Eventually I started feeling better about coming in and hanging out with people at Flourish Australia. Each time I turned up, I felt more comfortable.

“…riding together had built a level of trust and connection where I felt safe to open up.” 

One of the peer workers, Tony, was one of the first people I met. He explained everything and showed me the ropes. Our relationship grew from there as we found we had common interests; like skateboarding and an experience of living in London. 

It took time, but sharing our interests eventually got me to the point where I felt safe to open up, and share my thoughts and feelings with Tony. I spoke with him about how I had been frustrated about not having access to a car and having to ride my push bike everywhere.

After some time of cycling everywhere an opportunity arose for me to buy a motorbike, the only problem was that I didn’t have my learners yet or anyone to supervise my riding. In Queensland a learner needs to have someone with a motorbike licence follow them around while riding and I had no one to do that for me.

Tony and I were getting on so well that I was bragging about my new bike to him, it came up in conversation that I didn’t have anyone to ride with me. We spoke about what it would mean for me to have the independence that would come from having a licence, and how we might be able to make my need for supervision an opportunity for peer support.  

Together, Tony and I took our ideas to the Hervey Bay Flourish Australia manager as well as Queensland transport. Everyone was in agreement; riding with Tony would enable me to improve my skills and qualify for my licence, and after each ride we would sit down for half an hour to talk about how things were going with me. We did this together, every step of the way, and made it happen. 

On one of our last rides, I was feeling pretty down. I wasn’t ready to talk about it when we set off but when we pulled up I felt comfortable asking him if we could have a chat about how I was feeling. Tony listened to how I felt and we spoke about how we might manage things better. Sharing feelings like that isn’t easy for me, but riding together had built a level of trust and connection where I felt safe to open up. It was pretty cool!

Now I’ve got my motorbike licence and I’m back at university studying nursing. It’s such a relief to not have to cycle home along dark roads late at night or in the rain.

Having a safe place, such as Flourish Australia, where I can just hang out and not put on a show and no one’s going to care if I’m having a bad day, means at lot to me. I’m getting better at sharing what’s going on for me instead of bottling it up and that’s bringing more stability to my life. 

As told to Tina Irving

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