Laura* had a successful career as a writer, but after suffering multiple traumas she decided to take a couple of years off and work on her mental health. But this decision saw her spiral into social isolation, which made it difficult for her to maintain connection with her hobbies, community, and sense of self.
"I'm not going to wait for the 'right time' to get better"
Laura started the Community Connections Program (CCP) through Uniting Communities with the goal of becoming more comfortable in a group setting, to support her longer-term goal of returning to the work force.
Together with case worker Olivia, Laura began to explore group activities in her local community. They went to the library to see what’s on offer and, to help Laura over her anxiety of attending anything alone, Olivia accompanied her to a few different group sessions.
But not everything went to plan.
“There was a tai chi group Laura was interested in,” says Olivia. “The organiser advertised the wrong time, making our arrival very awkward. It also became apparent when we started that this was a group targeting the elderly, so the moves were broken down very slowly.”
Olivia smiles when she thought back at what happened.
“We ended up having a good laugh about it afterwards and reflected that even though she might never go back, it was a win for the fact she got out there and gave it a go.”
Going at it alone
After the tai chi disaster Laura signed up for a walking group and attended that on her own. Whilst riding the waves of mental health problems and accessing other supports, she stayed committed to the program.
Olivia kept catching up with Laura over coffee to discuss her progress with other supports they had been accessing to address Laura’s mental health. She kept being impressed with Laura.
“This amazing woman has showed an increasing amount of initiative in connecting with her community, with little outside influence. She’s made so much progress since our first meeting, where she was nervous to meet at a café down the road from her home. It has been truly inspiring to witness her increase in confidence and enthusiasm to find and attend community groups independently. As well as the resilience she displayed for getting back out there when things don’t go to plan,” says Olivia.
By the time Laura left the CCP program it was clear that she was determined to tackle her social anxiety as part of her treatment, not just as an additional commitment. She wasn’t going to wait for ‘the right time’, and that took a great deal of courage.
* Not her real name.