“I found myself with the Virtual Social Centre”
Sandra ‘Sandie’ Knight wasn’t in a good place. The Warrawong resident had suffered a series of devastating misfortunes, exacerbated by pre-existing agoraphobia.
After a terrible car accident, she was left badly injured and unable to walk for ten months. As a result, she became even more withdrawn, plagued by insecurities, and developed social phobia.
To compound the situation even further, the Covid-19 pandemic reared its ugly head and pushed her deeper into seclusion.
“I had no confidence talking to people and lived a very isolated life,” reflects Sandie.
Sadly, the distressing chain of events continued as 12 months after the accident, her beloved Pomeranian Ruby passed away. This induced an unprecedented sense of detachment and hopelessness.
“I pulled away from everybody. I was very, very low. Ruby was my best friend and I had built my life around her.”
Although Sandie didn’t know it yet, life was about to change dramatically yet again – but this time for the better.
An unexpected lifeline
A few months ago, Wellbeing Manager Barb told her about the Virtual Social Centre, an online platform with sessions taking place regularly.
Participants use their personal computer, tablet, or laptop to log into the Virtual Social Centre whenever they choose, review the calendar of sessions, and join whatever interests them. In each session participants can see, hear, and even speak to each
other and the facilitator in real time.
Knowing Sandie’s situation and history well, Barb said it would be therapeutic and provide a renewed sense of purpose.
“Barb told me there are other people going through things who will understand what I’m feeling. I thought I’d see how it goes – maybe just sit back and listen and not participate – but that certainly changed.”
Sandie quickly discovered that the VSC was a life-saving resource which not only reconnected her with the outside world, but restored her confidence in social situations.
“The VSC replaced my Ruby. I’d lost my smile and wouldn’t talk to anyone, but now I’ve become outgoing and can’t stop smiling and laughing.”
Joining a range of sessions, she signed up for gardening, meditation, singalong, writing, and even ukulele lessons. In fact, she’s looking forward to teaching her four grandchildren how to play!
“I decided I would learn a musical instrument and when I saw the ukulele I thought, ‘I’ll give that a go!’
“It didn’t take long before I felt like part of the family and when I’m not on there for some reason, I miss it.”
Playing the ukulele has also been beneficial for Sandie’s carpel tunnel, an unexpected but very welcome bonus.
“Our teacher Julie lets me shake my hands when I need to. It’s really good therapy for my hands as it keeps them moving. It’s good for my brain because I’m learning and it’s good for my self-esteem because I’m improving
Friendships, support and helping others
Forming special bonds with other VSC members has been a highlight for Sandie, who is incredibly thankful for her virtual community’s support and wisdom.
“My beautiful friend John says that when (bad) things happen, it’s just another pebble on the road, and he’s really helped me.”
She has also rediscovered her passion for poetic writing, expressing session feedback in poetry form. More than just a creative outlet, Sandie hopes her words inspire and bring joy to others.
“I’ve been through a lot so if I can help people and bring happiness, it’s great that a positive has come out of the not-so-great times. I want everyone to feel part of the family.”
A staunch advocate for the VSC’s unique ability to transform lives, she encourages anyone who is feeling isolated or “suffering alone” to join.
“Reach out and come home. You don’t feel like you’re looking into a camera – it’s like you’re in the same room and you’ll be welcomed with open arms.”
The journey of self (re)discovery continues
Sandie is excited to continue her flourishing growth journey via the VSC, a sentiment which is echoed wholeheartedly by her family and friends.
“My daughter and many others have noticed a huge difference in me and how much more confident I am. I was buried for so long and now I’m coming out of that hole – and know that I’m not going back in.”
“I have found myself. I was lost for a very long time, but this is the real me.”