This is my story
Living with a mental illness can be a daunting situation.
People often feel ashamed, alone, and totally misunderstood. Add to that the misperception and stigma of mental illness. This is particularly exacerbated for people who suffer from a severe mental illness.
Due to this misunderstanding and judgement, people are often categorised into ‘the weirdo’ basket. What most people don’t realise is that mental illness can affect anyone.
As the last word states, ‘illness’, that’s exactly what it is. Just like cancer, just like a skin disorder, the only difference is that you can’t see it.
And just like these other illnesses, mental illness can be treated for recovery.
I recently lost my youngest brother, 32, after a long battle with what we ‘think’ was schizophrenia, depression, severe anxiety, and a long list of other health issues stemming from his illnesses. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you exactly what he suffered from because he never chose to disclose it. We were also denied the right to access his information. We weren’t allowed into his illness; therefore we couldn’t provide support to help him recover.
Personally, I have always enjoyed success in my career and my studies. I am intelligent, I am caring, I am a loving mother of two young boys, I am a loving wife, and a great friend. And I too have suffered from severe depression and anxiety for more than 20 years.
I was medicated and hospitalised due to anxiety. I saw numerous therapists, tried acupuncture and herbal remedies. Anything to make it all go away. That is, until I saw an amazing therapist who introduced me to Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP). NLP uses communication, personal development, and psychotherapy to help people achieve specific goals in life. I changed my diet and omitted all sugar, alcohol, and caffeine; and I started walking everywhere, eventually running long distance trails in the Mountains.
I now have strategies to stay on level ground in terms of my depression, but mostly my anxiety. I know when I need to slow down, I know when I need more sleep, and I know when I need to run that extra 10kms. I celebrated the small steps to recovery, and didn’t beat myself up over little setbacks. I wanted and needed to change. I took responsibility for my illness by putting my hand up for help, asking for support from my friends, family and a therapist, as daunting as it was.
Due to my brother’s death and my situation, I want to help raise awareness of mental illness. That it is a treatable disease. It is not something that people can just snap out of. They are just normal people. By simply sharing my story it may just help a young person like my brother or myself to overcome the hurdles that mental illness throws at you and get back to leading a ‘normal life’. By becoming a SANE Speaker I hope I can do exactly that.
I also want to share my story of recovery and hope. I would love for anyone out there with a mental illness to feel the freeness I feel, simply by making a change for themselves. Remember there is help out there.