Suzanna speaks softly and slowly as she shares her story.
Years of abuse starting from childhood. The pain of losing a friend. The anguish of battling mental health conditions. The struggle to stay strong for her children.
“I felt like I didn’t belong in this world,” Suzanna says. “That I didn’t deserve to be here.
“I’ve been the victim of abuse throughout my life starting from a very young age. Some of the things I struggle with are chronic anxiety, depression, agoraphobia [and] panic attacks.
“You get tired of being strong at times. Mentally, emotionally, physically, spiritually—you feel depleted.”
One day three years ago, Suzanna was on the brink.
“Life was pretty much hell,” she says. “I was pretty much a prisoner in my own home. I felt that if I went outside someone would attack me.”
But early in the afternoon that day, everything changed.
Suzanna heard a knock at the door and she immediately froze. She wasn’t expecting visitors and she felt on edge.
She crept towards the door, then squinted through the peephole and saw a young woman. Suzanna opened the door just a crack and peered anxiously at the stranger.
“Hello, can I help you?” she asked, her voice shaking.
Standing there, smiling warmly, was Aly.
Aly introduced herself as the manager of Mallee Rose Cottage, the local ADRA community centre in Macquarie Fields, Sydney. Aly explained she was door-knocking in the neighbourhood to get to know some of the residents and invite them to the activities being run at the centre.
"We want to make sure that every person who walks through the door is welcomed with open arms and accepted for who they are."
As they talked, Suzanna began to relax and feel comfortable. Aly’s enthusiasm and warmth were infectious, and Suzanna felt good. They eventually got talking about art. Suzanna was a keen artist and it just happened that Aly was running an art class at the centre.
Three years later, Suzanna leads out in the art group multiple times each week, helping others like herself overcome their pain through painting.
The new manager of Mallee Rose Cottage, Melissa Baleilekutu, describes why the ADRA centre is so important for people like Suzanna.
“We want to make sure that every person who walks through the door is welcomed with open arms and accepted for who they are,” she says.
Melissa shares the incredible transformation she has seen in Suzanna’s life.
“When Suzanna first came here she needed a lot of support. Now she’s much stronger, she’s more resilient and she’s keen to give back to her local community.”
Painting, Suzanna says, is her release. It allows her to let go of her pain and dream about the future. And she loves nothing more than doing her art at Mallee Rose.
“I think of happier things here. I sometimes get caught out singing here, dancing here. I love having the people here around me,” Suzanna says. “I can share a part of me with people here that I had thrown away for a very long time.”
As Suzanna continues to heal, there are still tough days. But her life has a purpose now.
“After feeling worthless for so long, being here at ADRA has given me a sense of value within myself as a human being,” she says.
Compelled by the love she was shown that early afternoon three years ago, Suzanna is determined to make a difference.
“A simple knock at the door changed my life forever and for that I will be forever grateful,” she says.
In October, the ADRA Appeal is your chance to support people like Suzanna, and others around Australia and overseas. If each church member can raise just $50, you can help more than 55,000 people all around the world. Be compelled by love to help others thrive. Visit www.adra.org.au/appeal.
If you or someone you love is suffering from mental health issues, please seek support and professional help.
Josh Dye is communications coordinator at ADRA Australia.