“I feel I lost 28 years. It seems ridiculous that someone can’t remember nearly three decades of their own life, but it is just a haze for me. I can’t think about it for long because I get too upset,” tears welling in Virginia’s eyes.
Often the most caring and nurturing people who connect with FSG Australia, are the ones with the most harrowing stories. Virginia is one of those people and here’s her story of change. Medicated to the point where she couldn’t remember one day to the next, her past contains tremendous pain and suffering, but from it has emerged a mentor, mother figure, guardian and friend.
Her traumatic past culminated with an ugly divorce which nearly cost her life. Her assets frozen, her mental health in a bad way, Virginia was forced to find accommodation where she could, moving into a room at a local pub.
“When I met Virginia, I saw a confused and frightened person who didn’t know where to start in terms of getting back on her feet,” says Bec Shorter, FSG Beaudesert Hub Coordinator. “It was extremely sad because under all of that was this amazingly caring woman with a wonderful sense of humour.”
Virginia has used her experiences to care for others in a unique way. “Virginia touches everyone wherever she goes, even to the point where she comforts other customers of ours when they are distressed. That’s something I have never seen before. She came into FSG seeking assistance herself but at the same time showed great compassion, comforting others who need it,” describes Bec.
The FSG team helped Virginia start to move forward with her life. Together they navigated the murky legal waters around her divorce settlement and assisted her to achieve more control and understanding around her medical appointments and treatments. The top priority, however, was to help Virginia move out of the pub room and into her own independent accommodation.
Living at the pub was difficult for Virginia, but even in that situation she still helped other residents, nursing them through various challenges. Whether it was being there for someone coming off a bad drug experience, or simply being a shoulder to lean on, she just gave herself to people she didn’t really know.
Over a year later and Virginia is now a very appreciative tenant of her own one bedroom cottage. Her eyes lit up and her smile was contagious as she summed up her past few months, “My new place is wonderful. I’ve put some plants out the front. I would not be here if it weren’t for Bec. I honestly trust her with my life which I’ve started to finally get back.”
Virginia’s nurturing personality has led her to be a mother figure for some of the young people FSG currently walk alongside. One of her projects is repairing old bicycles and gifting them to youngsters like Max.
“Virginia has earned a name for herself, Virginia’s Bike Restoration,” laughs Bec. “She noticed that Max didn’t have a bike like a lot of his mates, so she got an old donated mountain bike, bought a new chain and fashioned it into a BMX style bike for Max. He could not believe her generosity. She has now built a reputation for restoring bikes for others in need and locals donate their old bikes for her to repurpose them. She’s that good at it she needs to turn it into a business!”
“I see it as a win win experience. They get a new bike and I get to see their delightful smiles,” says Virginia.
Goals being achieved and a dream to be realised. Virginia wants to eventually write a book about her experiences to hopefully help others in her position. “The book will be called ‘I Want to be Free’ and it’ll be about how hard the painful steps in life are, but also necessary for us to grow. It’s about having the courage to accept that.”
When asked where she saw herself in five years’ time, Virginia laughs at the question, “That’s way too far ahead! I’m too busy enjoying myself at the moment. Something I haven’t been able to do in a long time. I’m safe now and I have wonderful friends and supports around me.”
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