She said to me, “Penelope, you need a support worker.”
I said, “I don’t know how to go about it.”
She goes, “You have to go through the NDIS.”
My story starts from [a] very young age. Of course, I was born overseas and by the age of three – [me] and my brother – we got abandoned [by] my own mother. So, my dad didn’t have a choice – so believe it or not – he put us in a plane with a family member and we flew to Greece. I went through poverty. We went through a lot of abuse.
There were a lot of issues. I think that was the time that I actually became mentally not well. [At] 15 years of age, my dad decided to bring us back to Australia. He was actually remarried. I saw a lot of arguments, a lot of mistreatments, a lot of yelling. I wasn’t coping of course [with] all the abandonment, the family problems and everything.
That got me to the point [where] I didn’t want to be here. A lot of suicidal thoughts went through my head. I felt [I had] no value. I felt not needed. I was worthless. Years went by.
Three years later, I ended up married [at] a very young age because I felt I needed to run from my house. So, I ended up marrying my husband at the age of 18. He was 23. [Just] my luck, he had schizophrenia. I ended up becoming very depressed because I didn’t know what mental illness was. Throughout my marriage, I was beaten up, I was pushed, I was punched, I got sexual assaulted, [by] my own husband. Twenty years later, I’ve lost everything – we ended up getting divorced.
I took my kids and I decided to move on with life. After I took my kids, I went through personality research. I hit alcohol, smoking… I ended up meeting the wrong people. I started working. I was working two jobs – full time, part-time, night shift, morning shift – anything I could so I could help my kids.
Unfortunately, as my kids got older, my oldest son got unwell. The mental illness passed down to my oldest son and [he] was diagnosed with psychosis, and then of course, mental illness. Unfortunately, that took his life later on. That was the last straw.
I had to pick myself and [I] said, “I need to do something to help my other two [children]… I need to do something to help Penelope.”
I had to take time to actually say to myself, “I’m better than all of this. This is what has happened to me. It’s not who I am. It’s all the experiences that I have been through but it’s not defined the person that I want to become.”
After my son’s passing, my kids got separated. My whole family got separated and I ended up alone with my daughter. I had to watch my daughter go through self-harming. She went through her own up and down in life. My other son was diagnosed with schizophrenia as well.
So now, someone had to be strong for the whole family. The only way that I had to do this was by fixing myself and getting help. I ended up here – [where] I am today – because I didn’t give up. I didn’t give up on me and I didn’t give up on life. I didn’t give up the fact that I recognized what I had, and that’s where the healing process started.
I believe I [have been] with PSS now [for] three years. [In] three years, it has become my second family – believe it or not. I love everyone here. The first time all of us got together – because it was other people as well, was mixed – different nationalities, different people with disabilities, mental, physical, it happened right here.
I was amazed. I thought when you go through things on your own, you think you’re the only one. But when you start talking to people and you see people going through pain [too]. Sometimes we keep quiet because we feel embarrassed to share it but – I don’t know what happened, I think the warmth, the love, the caring, the way they approached you – I was like, I’m going to continue this (opening up) and see what happens.
I said to myself, “I have this opportunity, I feel like I’m receiving a second chance to actually do better in life, and I’m going to take it. If these people are willing to help me and stand by me, then I’m going to push with them.”
So slowly, slowly, I started getting the help that I needed.
I had support workers. I continue with my therapy. I start talking to them (support workers) about who I want to be, what my needs are… [We] go together, we have lunch, we dance, we share each other’s values; helping one another. I tell you, I didn’t miss any day of the activities.
I have never experienced so much love [as] from this office, so much caring. There are people in the support workers that actually saw me for the person that I wanted to be in the future. Yes, I am comfortable in my own skin. I don’t have the sadness [and] of course, I have found a way to heal myself.
PSS helped me with psychiatry, therapy and support. Now I can say that, I can be at home – feel relaxed, read a book, or watch a movie, or do my chores, whatever – and I feel happy in my own skin.
[My] plan for the future? I’ve got a lot of plans. I’ve got a lot of dreams I’m trying to achieve, and I will not give up – that’s the thing. I will keep pushing and pushing. If I go down, I’ll go down fighting.
No matter what you are going through [in] life, no matter what you’re facing… Doesn’t matter how many times you fall down, [it] doesn’t matter how tired you get… Get up and move forward.
Individuals with disability and support workers talk goals, family, and why PSS is right for them.