Stories From Past Participants
by Shanelle Peace
As far back as I can remember I have always felt disconnected from everyone in my world and like I did not fit in or belong anywhere. I spent years and years running away from my problems always ending up with what I was running from coming back in full force. I had tried the mental health system and was apart of it for approx 8 years having a couple of hospital stays due to being suicidal or having a suicide attempt. I was not functioning well with all of the medication they had me on and often my family would see me ‘zoned out’ and it concerned them and they questioned me being on it. They had me on a lot of medication and had me convinced that I had Bipolar. In fact I had many label I thought they must be right because they are the professionals so I accepted it as there was something wrong with me right back from a 5 year old and it had been missed.
In October 2010 I was in my local supermarket I was days away from ending my life. I thought I had tried absolutely everything to fix myself and to take away the pain I was feeling deep down inside. I felt like no-one understood me and I was alone and isolated with no support. The day I walked into the supermarket I was being my usual self head down trying not to make eye contact with anyone as I felt ashamed about who I was so I wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible.
In the queue at the checkout a man was standing in front of me and he turned around and said, “How are you, mate?”
I cringed on the inside thinking please do not talk to me I’ve got nothing nice to say no-one ever listens so whats the point so I responded with my usual and ever so empty robotic response, “I’m good, thanks.” This man must have sensed something in me and he gently touched my arm and said “No, no. How are you?”
I was not used to people asking me how I was and being so genuine in asking the question and his kindness was so overwhelming it brought a tear to my eye I honestly was trying really hard to not break down in line up at the check-out. Clearing my throat I said “I’m not doing okay but I cant talk about it I feel like I’m going to cry.” Our conversation led to us talking in the car-park at the supermarket and thats where my journey began. Thats the day Pat O’Connell saved my life. Pat told me that he and his wife Jenny helped run a not-for-profit organisation called Leading From Within. He gave me his number and he said if I would like some help I was welcome to call. I mentioned to him that I felt I had tried absolutely everything and nothing seemed to work and that I had been scared from the Mental Health system and had completely lost hope that anything could take the pain away.
I thought to myself what the heck I might as well give it one more try and he seemed like he genuinely cared. I really went into it thinking not much. I had to really force myself to go and I had to convince myself that they would be different from the mental health system. I was so terrified but I knew I had a end plan if it didn’t work.
I have learnt so much about myself through doing the Leading From Within Program. I have learnt to trust people again and that there are safe people out there to talk to and share your vulnerable side to who are not doing to take advantage of you. I also learnt about the effect of Trauma and how it effects the body. I learnt about generational pattern. I learnt to not feel ashamed about who i’am and that due to my life experiences that its ok to be me. I learnt to find my voice for years and years I was too scared to speak up and tell people how I was really feeling because when I had done in the past I got responses like ‘get over it’, “‘you need to toughen up’, ‘What’s the big deal?’
Also when I had in the past disclosed information about struggling I was treated differently and many times people would not know what to say and would slowly loose contact with me. So I was terrified to speak up. I learnt about my masks I wore on a daily basis hiding my true self from the world in fear of more rejection and hurt.
The biggest thing I learnt was my story was important and that a lot of the things I had chosen in life and bad choices I had made was me just simply living my life in reaction to the things that had happened to me all of which I had no idea that they in fact had a impact on me right back from the age of 5 years old. The things that happened when I was 5 years left me feeling different to everyone family and friends and I found it really hard to connect with people and if I did I would usually connect with unhealthy people. I was severely bullied at school I remember one time I was walking home from school and I had rocks thrown at me by younger kids and I was always worried about getting bashed because of the threats.
by Maree Williams
Five years ago we were a family of 5 people – husband and wife and three great kids, ages 22, 18 and 12. Four and a half years ago we became a devastated, broken, shattered family of four members.
In June 1999, Michael took his own life after a disagreement with a work mate and once face to face with accusations he felt cornered with nowhere to go and no way out...
When I look back over the last 5 years, the first two years were really trying to keep us together and trying to handle day to day events, not only with our own feelings, but also with a lot of Michael’s friends and their families. Initially there was a lot of support from local agencies, but after a time there was nothing. Only lots of anger and lots of questions: each waking moment there were questions.
We were fortunate enough to come into some money a short time after Michael’s death. There was a lot of family discussion on how to spend it and finally it was decided to go on an overseas trip. Here we were able to regroup as a family, share all the exciting things of another world and at the same time wish our Michael was with us – and he was in spirit. Once home again we were able to look at how we could help others. We were able to join Leading from Within when funding became available, to start the group program.