I have a mental illness. I am what mental illness looks like. It also can look lonely and unloved. It can look disorganized, unkempt, messy and ugly.
There is still a stigma associated with mental illness. It really needs to be removed and rescinded.
Realistically, I have had anxiety my whole life. From a medical point of view, I was officially diagnosed with post natal depression after nearly twelve month of becoming a mother. That’s sixteen years ago. My battle for my life began in January 2011. Over several months my mental health declined to a point I needed an admission into Belmont Hospital. This would be the first of many.
I was in the grips of a very dark and spiraling depression. Medication wasn’t helping. Talking to my psychiatrist, mental health nurse, psychologist and attending every type of program on offer was not helping. My decline saw me locked up on suicide watch.
Now the timeline for this is mixed up. I can’t really remember the order but during this time I had many cycles of ECT. Electric Convulsive Therapy. Or shock treatment as it’s commonly known. I was sedated and unaware during the brief treatment. But after about 21 cycles. Yes that’s 21 shock treatments, my brain rebooted and I started to rebuild my life.
Over this time all the clinical staff who treated me were trying to help me get to the root of the depression. At the time they asked lots of questions and I really had no answers. One day, and this was at least a year or two into my treatment I flippantly said to my mental health nurse that I was sexually molested around the age of 4 or 5. Her reaction felt over the top. I said to her I think it was only once and I can’t see how this would be the cause of a truly catastrophic time in not just my life but my family’s life also.
She said to me it most certainly could have been a trigger. That my daughter being approximately the same age as myself when this happened could well have created such devastating havoc with my mental health.
I HAVE NEVER PUBLICLY WRITTEN ABOUT THIS TRIGGER. I WILL NOT REVEAL ANY FURTHER DETAILS. The people who need to know, do.
I spent six years having many admissions into Belmont. Attending day programs twice a week when not in Belmont. I was very fragile. I had no belief in myself. I was broken and struggling to rebuild.
At this point I would like to insert that I am now also a newly diagnosed autistic middle aged woman. I think this information eight years ago would have been very helpful. After all, a life time of masking and having no understanding of how my brain worked and why certain things were a struggle, most certainly would have changed the landscape of my treatment. It still doesn’t negate the damage done to the pre-school me but I think together this information would have been beneficial.
So what changed? Let me clarify one thing. I still have a mental illness. I will always have a mental illness. I will be medicated for my mental illness for the rest of my life. I will be vigilant for the signs of decline and I will need ongoing treatment and possibly future admissions. Does that mean I can’t contribute and have a life of purpose? Most certainly not!
I think being a mother and having to be fierce helped me. Yes it was a massive metamorphosis for me. It feels like it happened overnight.
In the space of a year (2018)
- I started Clay’s business
- I completed a Cert IV in Small Business Management
- I completed a six month course called Parent Leadership Training Institute
- I pitched my first abstract and was invited to speak at a national conference
- I presented at a research conference
- I was invited to join an advocacy group
- I presented a one minute pitch at TEDxBrisbane
- I networked my butt off
- I started a social group for autistic kids and their families
- I met with some highly places public servants and asked difficult questions they had no answers for
I did all that. All that with a mental illness. I struggled a lot. I suffered imposter syndrome constantly. I also had a lot of support from many corners.
This year is not over and I can’t list all my achievements as there are more to come. HEAPS MORE! And I have had two admissions into Belmont this year.
So stigma! Guess what? Off you must fuck! You’re wrong. You’re judgmental. You make unfair assumptions. You limit myself and my capacity to thrive and succeed.
Mental illness is not to be feared. We need to talk openly and freely about an illness that while silent, is pervasive and destroys lives and tears apart families. Get on board.