By the time I was 23 I had been hospitalised for my condition three times, all two years apart around the same time of year- in between June and August. I don’t know why this time of year triggers me but it always seems to have, it is winter here and I don’t know if it has to do with the cold temperatures on not but each time I’ve been to hospital it has been around the same time of year, so you can imagine how absurd but real the fear is each year when winter comes around. Although I am now 31 and apart from my recent relapse last year I did go 7 years without any form of hospitalisation for my condition. That was a huge achievement for me !
Living with such things as mental illness are so hard to describe or explain to people who have never experienced it themselves or who have no idea what truly happens, I know and have heard some of the stigmas surrounding these areas of mental health and think it’s actually disgusting how some people respond to other situations and conditions of their mind. It’s not like we have a choice in the matter and if we did, we definitely would not choose this path. It’s such a hard road for many years which I walked alone. I didn’t think anyone in the world existed that had been through the same thing as me until many years after my first submission, because one thing most people probably don’t understand about mental illness is that although some people may be diagnosed with the same thing our symptoms, reactions, triggers, mind-set, attitudes, delusions are completely different. When I would try to explain to people what had happened to me most would laugh in my face because it seemed so out there and absurd. There were times in my 20’s that I couldn’t work or go to social gatherings because of the fear of being judged and criticised by everyone there..(hence the ongoing social anxiety I dealt with for years after). The thing I think people couldn’t understand most was that I “appeared” to be “well”. They would tell me things like “you don’t need medication” and “there isn’t anything even wrong with you”… hahahaha I laugh at this because these people were blind to the fact that psychosis is not something that can be seen all the time and just because I was having a “good day” doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. They were ignorant and but eventually saw the effects of my condition first hand.
Recently I was asked to be part of a Q & A for Beyond Blue where I was asked questions about depression, anxiety and mental illness. In one answer I compared having a mental illness to having a broken arm, something I have witnessed first hand, (I’m so proud that my statement has reached much further than I expected and hopefully in time will help shift the stigma). My statement was that people will rush over to sign your cast if you have a broken arm but avoid you if you have been diagnosed with some type of mental illness! How is this any different. We are both sick and need support, love, nurturing and care to get back to a healthy state of existence. Just like the broken arm in a cast, those of us with mental illness can’t fix ourselves properly without the right support.
Things are definitely moving forward in these areas compared to many years ago where people with my condition where left in dark rooms on their own, left to bleed out in baths, electroshock therapy and not to mention lobotomies. Therefore I guess those of us diagnosed with such conditions are lucky these days compared to the people of many moons ago, but there still needs to make a change, we need to stop rejecting and start accepting those who are different, who need different types of help and support in different ways. We need to stop laughing at people with psychosis, stop telling people with depression to just “be happy” and stop getting frustrated with people who have anxiety and stop telling them to just “get over it”. I have suffered all these conditions at some stage in my life and I can you you they don’t last forever, they come and go in phases and I believe that we can overcome anything we put our minds to. I know myself I’ve already come so far on this journey and I’ve been through many challenging times. But I’m not weak. In fact I’m strong, very capable and lovable and so is everybody else out there.
The Ghetto Mermaid xo