News • 19 Sep 2018

Using a Lived Experience to pay it forward

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” – Albert Einstein

With the support of Open Minds and some true grit and determination, Natasha worked through her recovery journey and now empowers other people through their own mental illnesses recovery journeys.

A few years ago, Natasha, 33, found herself going through a tough time, and was both relieved and scared to receive a mental illnesses diagnosis. 

She needed to work towards her recovery journey, which is where Open Minds came in.

Making those first steps and seeking help was hard, scary, and a big unknown for Natasha, but it was the beginning of her healing.

Open Minds provided Natasha with eight months of support in Brisbane Metro North, and introduced her to the You+ workshops to help her build resilience. 

The first You+ group that Natasha attended was Mindfulness, which provides simple and effective ways to steady the mind, live in the moment, give clarity to thoughts and manage stress.

Natasha had regular contact with her Open Minds Support Worker either face-to-face, via email and over the phone. 

Natasha and her Support Worker talked through how she was feeling, and discussed both short term, medium and long-term goals – and all the steps towards achieving them.

Natasha said: “The Support Workers at Open Minds held hope for me, they listened to me and asked me what I wanted to do and didn’t assume. They supported me to discover who I am, they validated me and my feelings, they saw strength in me I’d forgotten I had, and strength I didn’t even know I had. They found opportunities for me to heal, supported my growth, and supported me in my recovery. They connected we with opportunities to showcase my strengths, and gave me opportunities to use my voice.”

Natasha’s Open Minds Support Worker also helped her with everyday things like housing and legal paperwork – sometimes small things could become overwhelming.

There were days when Natasha felt defeated and didn’t want to go, but she found inner strength and motivated herself to get out of the house, and eventually these types of days became less frequent for her.

During Natasha’s recovery journey, she often found that her biggest wins were actually a few small ones pieced together.

Natasha was comforted knowing that she could always debrief with her Open Minds Support Worker to discuss strategies to move forwards.

Next, Natasha participated in Women’s Strength and Wellness, Recovery and Action Planning (WRAP) course with Open Minds.

Within these groups, Natasha’s Support Workers helped her to realise her strengths.

Natasha said: “I must have shown signs of self-reflection and empathy, because staff saw parts of me that I didn’t see. They knew I was someone who was supportive of my peers and so perhaps peer work would be a good route for me. They were seeing skills in me that I didn’t know I had.”

Natasha’s special skill-set meant that she was well-placed to help others.

After completing the WRAP course, Natasha was invited to help facilitate the course for others, to share her experiences and help them through their own recovery journeys. 

Natasha was delighted to accept and undertook training to become a facilitator. She has now successfully facilitated three groups, and helped around 20 – 30 people with mental illnesses.

Natasha paying it forward and sharing her journey at the Open Minds Client and Carer forum

Natasha is now proud to be a Lived Experience Practitioner who helps others by sharing her story through facilitating groups and motivational speaking. 

She was proud to have recently presented to third year students at the Sunshine Coast TAFE studying Mental Health Peer work. Her presentation explained how mental health peer work isn’t always about being ‘on the ground’, advocating for other peer workers is just as important.

Her story of domestic and family violence survival, and her mental health recovery journey, enables her to advocate and empower others.

Natasha said: “I realised that domestic violence was part of the catalyst to my own mental health deterioration. And self-harm and suicide ideation were some of the coping strategies I used. I want other people going through the same experiences to know that there is hope and they’re not alone. I’m more than happy to use the learnings of my journey to evoke resilience in others, so that we are able to create a system and a society that is compassionate that raises people up.”

Natasha has held voluntary positions as a WRAP Facilitator and Mental Health Peer Worker with Open Minds, Aftercare, and the Metro North Hospital and Health Service.

Natasha’s best piece of advice she shares with the people she helps is not to compare yourself to others, because we are all unique in our journeys.

Natasha said: “I realise if I compare myself to others and what they’re doing, It’s never going to be the same, and I’m ok with that. It’s like the quote by Albert Einstein: ‘Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.’”

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