My mental health

Lived experience

The hope of Recovery, and the attainment of a purposeful, meaningful life are within your reach!

Introduction

Hey, my name is Dave. I live in Australia. I have lived most of my life with mental ill health. I have worked in diverse area's from the justice system, business operator, management and in the mental health sector as a team leader and support worker.

I have used my own lived experience to assist and support people in the attainment of hope. I am living proof of recovery. I have my own dual diagnosis and co-morbidities. Through out my life I have been diagnosed with schizophrenia, psychotic depression, depression and anxiety, paranoid state and PTSD.

All these labels mean nothing to me now.

I was told I would never work again as the stress would be  to much of a trigger and breakdown was certain.

I'm in my 50's now I am working and I have learnt that diagnostic labels only hold you back. I am a man that at times in my life has been overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings and required a little time out, to manage them!

Like so many of you sharing this journey to recovery, I have struggled with low self-esteem/self- worth. I have made mistakes and been self destructive. I still have my challenging times and triggers, I need to be aware of, protect myself from and manage. It's all part of my journey!

As time moves on I will post, how I have moved forward in my life and continue to do so.

I will also post stories of advocacy, my frustrations and hope from within the mental health sector and more.

I hope my journey and impressions will inspire and challenge you..

HOLD ON TO HOPE

HOPE

My Story

Part 1:

My story starts as a young child. Supporting a mother that had undiagnosed mental health issues replacing an absent father. Mum regularly spoke to her voices, was depressed and struggled with emotional regulation and impulse  control. I had Two younger brothers I protected and an older brother with his own challenges. Life was tough, domestic violence neglect and fighting to survive the physical and emotional abuse we experienced. At school I  protected my older brother from bullies preying on him because he was different. As a five-year-old growing up in Sydney I probably had more fights then most people have in a life time. The fighting continued for many years, being a protector, I couldn’t walk past someone in trouble this carried me through to adulthood and to this day. My mother was physically abusive, but I saw her pain! Though my family was dysfunctional and there was physical and emotional abuse, I loved my parents, particularly my mother for all her faults, I always saw her as being vulnerable and she was. She attempted suicide several times, I remember knocking tablets out of her hands as a 9 year old and sitting with her on our lounge as she cried for my father and a better life. I prepared her glasses of wine, until she passed out. My father would return home in the early hours and accuse her of being an alcoholic and a neglectful mother, that’s the only support she would ever receive from him. I would attempt to tell him, that mum was sad, but he wouldn’t hear it. They fought a lot, almost every weekend of my life until mum was brave enough, after being a victim of physical abuse at the hands of my older brother and emotional abuse, for 21 years from my father.

She walked out into homelessness, with my two younger brothers. I was 15.

My father was a narcistic man, he still is. As mum walked out the door he had another woman walking in.

He used his intelligence to manipulate and control people, particularly his family. He would tell my older brother who was susceptible to his suggestion and control, to hit my mother. I would always fight for my mother in these situations as my brother was stronger. I would fight for my brother against his bullies as he was the weaker. We were in a traumatic, abusive and destructive roller coaster ride, that was always going to impact negatively on me at some stage in my life, but I wouldn't have had it any other way.

I was intelligent at school, but always under-achieved academically, though I was a high achiever in sport and athletics.

My thoughts were always distracted and disorganised, I couldn’t concentrate well and was very easily distracted. Looking at the situation, it’s really no surprise. I fought a lot at school, never without a reason. Bullies were my victims! I was caned a lot for this. I remember my masters stating they didn’t like doing it, as they knew I was a good kid, sticking up for other’s.

My situation at home had already started playing out in this behaviour at school and would continue too.

Come back for Part 2 of my journey soon!

My story

Part 2:

Entangled in all this were developing thoughts of terrible events occurring and visions in my mind – much like a movie. Scenes of myself fighting for my life playing over and over. The thoughts were explicit and traumatic. I never spoke to anyone about what I was struggling with.

I had several friends, I was popular at school particularly amongst those that were requiring support to fight against their bullies and I happily took this on.

I was quite popular with the girls and always respectful. I was looked at as being a safe male friend.

I loved boxing, Judo, Soccer and Rugby and was involved in clubs. All these things offered a distraction to my thoughts. I was living my life traumatised by my thoughts, delusions and a traumatic home life. I couldn’t talk to anyone at home, my mother wouldn’t have understood nor would she have been capable of supporting me, my father was dismissive about these things.

My first hallucination, reflecting back, was realistic and terrifying. I was around six (6) years old. Little goblin like beings, would come from under my bed at night and tickle me, until I couldn’t breathe. I would stay in bed and wet it, as I was too scared to get up at night. When I was around nine (9), I advised my father of this, other events and my thoughts, as I was terrified. Dad, being a believer in the spiritual world, believed I was having visions and advised me, to tell them to go away. After a while the impact the hallucinations had on me, became less. My father believed I was a boy prodigy, medium.

I learned to control my thoughts and hallucinations, believing I could, because I was advised this world was controllable. Hindsight tells me, though it wasn’t an accepted therapy, and I continued to have delusions and hallucinations, by distracting my thoughts and changing the way I thought about them and where they came from, meant they had less of a negative impact on me, as I was accepting them as a positive part of my life. (acceptance).

I battled somewhat to control the thoughts of impending doom, they were always there, but I taught myself to dismiss them as an insignificant interruption and nothing else. I did this for years.

I was Seventeen (17), when I was raped by my girlfriend’s mother. Having paralysis from a rugby injury, she came into my room one morning while I slept, straddled me and I wasn’t capable of fighting her off. She said she loved me. This event was the pre-curser/trigger to psychotic events that I couldn’t control.

I moved back to my father’s home and the next part of my journey began!

My story:

Part 3:

Losing control of my thoughts, experiencing more delusions, visual and auditory hallucination’s, depression and fear, lead to suicidal ideations. Dad was more interested in his women and unable to provide support or offer solutions.

I believed the only way to escape these dark spirits, that have been taunting me and get relief from my deep depression and fear was to end my life, I saw no other way. The final solution.

After driving my car into a tree at high speed and surviving without major injuries. I felt I needed another kind of escape.

If the Devil wants my soul where do I go, who do you turn too. I met a young lady who lead me to the church. Seven (7) years I spent at church. I used prayer and fellowship as my therapy to keep the darkness away.

The ideations, thoughts and delusions were still there, but I gathered control of them again and gained direction in my life. I married the young lady that I met earlier and had two (2) Children, who meant the world to me.

Things weren’t great, but I was managing.

Through my job I became involved in power lifting, body building and was introduced back to a Rugby club, where I played on Saturdays. Again, I had plenty to do to distract myself. These things were unfortunately, tools for argument with my wife, as she believed they took me away from the church. She didn't understand, I was looking for more therapeutic means, as the church and God weren't completely taking my thoughts and depression away. The thoughts were so frequent and relentless I couldn’t switch them off. Throw in a stressful career, surrounded by complex and violent individuals, witnessing and being part of violent confrontation and death threats, things started to spiral out of control.

My wife believed I should persevere with God’s healing power, as she believed I was possessed and being influenced by the devil due to my work environment.

I was living a persona of being a tough man, I had packed on over 30 kg of muscle, but inside I was still the nine (9) stone, compassionate, understanding and vulnerable young man, I was when I started this career. I was once able to switch in and out of these personalities, it got to the stage where the angry and aggressive, don’t mess with me, personality took over. this occured because of my fear and paranoia of being hurt. I couldn’t control my aggressive outbursts and fell into a deep depression culminating in the breakdown of my marriage, more guilt and suicidal ideations.

I was 27 years old and having another major breakdown. I was reacting violently to loud noises, people’s raised voices, body language and I was paranoid that unknown people were ‘out to get me’. I had several incidents in public. I was drinking more alcohol, my self thoughts and delusions were out of control and my feelings towards myself were extremely negative. I felt like I had nothing to offer in life, I was angry, wanted to hurt peole and die.

For the first time in my life I was referred to a private Psychiatrist and Psychologist. They along with a beautiful woman I met, helped me identify what was happening and my real journey to recovery started.

My story:

Part 4:

I took time out when I required it, in a private clinic referred by my Psychiatrist. Being claustrophobic and agoraphobic at the time, the environment became problematic and there was violent confrontation because of it. From then on, I recovered at home supported by my now wife.

This situation wasn't easy, I had made our house my prison. I was angry, delusional depressed and with no hope, thus leading to several aggressive outbursts ending in damaged walls and fists.

I continued to see my Psychologist, who was proving to be helpful. However, I was being impacted greatly by my workplace insurance department, who were using legislation to threaten me and departmental investigations into threats and assaults I had suffered, having to relive the events were traumatic. I was prescribed a host of different Anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medications. Having a low tolerance to some of these, they were problematic at times, some actually increasing my psychosis and suicidal ideations.

There were several violent altercations in this time leading to a conviction. The feeling of hopelessness after losing my livelihood because of this conviction was real. This led to suicide attempts. I don’t think I wanted to die, I just required time out from life! I was a terrible husband in this time. I was angry, on a disability pension and felt disempowered. I was unable to see a bright future. I was again battling with my internal demons of thought and voice, stuck in the darkness of depression. I was self destructive and dangerously aggressive at times.

l thank my wife for sticking by my side because it wasn’t easy for her!

I continued to see my psychologist and  a psychiatrist who supported the use of different non medical therapies, for PTSD and thought modification. This took time but assisted greatly to reduce my fear of people and to think differently about my situation and life. Add a small amount of medication to and I was on my way. Thinking clearer and armed with more knowledge, I learnt to distract my overwhelming thoughts and the voices. Introducing  more positive thoughts and some of the negativity started to reduce. It took time and commitment to want to get better and as time passed I could distract the delusion and hallucinations  and learnt  to accept them as part of me, but not as a controlling factor. With assistance I built my self-esteem and self-worth. All this CBT and DMT saw me starting to make changes in my life, my relationships and career direction.

I started to learn alot about myself, my strengths, my deficiencies, my triggers, the things that I enjoyed and what my future aspirations might be. I learnt a lot about my diagnosis and how to manage. I learned not to look at or idenitify myself by a label. I learned not to allow my thoughts, no matter how terrible to define who I was. I started to believe I was a good person. I began to work again- labouring for a time, studying and my own business. This led me to the Community services sector, where I am currently employed. It was tough and I still face challenges, but with hope that I could achieve this and with the support of good people I moved forward.

My Story:

Part 5:

Throughout this time we had two more children. I am a loving dad, though I always felt they were robbed of the best of me, when they were younger, but I was present and gave them everything I had.

I had my losses, my beautiful sister in law and a great mate took their own lives, another mate murdered and my mother recently passed away. These events impacted on me greatly, and I grieved like anyone would. I have learnt to  allow myself to do this, as it’s a normal part of life. I have learnt to normalise, so much about myself over time. To look at myself as a normal person who has had some challenging times, I've been in the darkness and found my way out, I sometimes have disrupted thought, been disorganised and lacked concentration. I don't look at this as being abnormal. It's me and I'm proud of me!

I've learnt not to live the labels the medical profession gave me. I am a human being with similar challenges and needs as most others.  I may think differently and have weird images and thoughts in my head, but I need hope, love and a purpose, like everyone else.

As time has moved on, I’ve learnt to accept who I am. Accept my past and slowly let go of my anger. I replaced negativity with a more positive outlook. Holding on to my past and fighting against my mental ill health was more destructive, to accept it as part of who I am, was empowering. I learnt to celebrate and embrace my journey, as it made me the empathetic and understanding man I am. It has also made me a strong advocate for others! Without it, I wouldn't be me!

I learnt to practice replacing negative thoughts with positive, disregarding the voices and thoughts within, as a part of me, but having no power over me.

I was determined to move on and cement a career in a sector where I could support people attain some hope in their life. I started to believe in myself and my ability, to formally educate myself and it was possible. I'm here! 

My family, supporting those in need, my beautiful property and pets are my purposeful and meaningful life.

I still have all the challenges of living a life, like everyone, but I accept that as being normal. Our differences are what make us interesting! Our journey can be inspiring to others even if you think it isn't. We are survivors, we are capable and able to move forward and be what we want to be!

You can do this too!

Don’t ever give up, hold on to the hope of attaining your own meaningful and purposeful life, no matter how deep in that darkness, you are, there is light and with perseverance you can start seeing bits of light shining through and after a while the hard work you have put in, will provide a bigger space, for more light to shine and you will slowly start to change your world.

 

REFLECTIONS

Seeking help and support. This was my Mt Everest. Without the resources, tools and insights,  I received from professional support, the barriers faced during my journey would have been more difficult to navigate, but at the end of the day it was up to me how I used this wisdom. It's a daily battle to want to survive! It is worth it when you can look back at it. Don't give up, don't take away the opportunity of looking back and celebrating your achievements. 

Doctor: it was important to me, that I had a general practitioner, psychologist and psychiatrist I could trust. This can take time. This is my journey and I need support people I can trust and be confident with.

Empower yourself! Use your voice. Communicate issues in your treatment and take control. We are the experts in our own recovery. You know how things are, be honest and disclose these issues!

My delusional thoughts and hallucinations couldn't hurt me they weren't and aren't real, they have no control or Power over me.

Power of positive thoughts = introducing positive thoughts, encourage more positive thoughts, leads to a more positive outlook and Hope!

Start with one positive thought a day and believe that negativity will only bring you down. This is challenging when you’re in your dark place, but is possible.

When I was stuck in the darkness of depression with assistance I made myself get out of bed, open the curtains, let the morning light shine in and started the day! This was very difficult at times and some days I failed. I kept trying because I knew from past experience I felt better for doing it.

Diary - I learnt to keep a diary to document my good days/hours and triggers. This provided me evidence that some happy times were occurring and triggers to avoid.

Set a goal, something attainable and start working on achieving it. Give yourself reasons to get up!

Find something attainable to aspire too, this will give you purpose! Look at someone you can aspire to and/or get inspiration from, believe if they can achieve things, you can and begin your journey.

It might be one step forward and two steps back for a while, but you are moving forward whether you feel that you are or not. Congratulate yourself for this, it’s a massive achievement, for you to be in this place!

Remember, only you can change the way you think! At the end of the day, you can talk to people and learn strategies, but you are the one, with the power to make the changes!

Exercise; exercise was important to me, but I didn't have the energy. Without it I was a mess. I needed it. I started with 5 minutes a day of moderate exercise- push ups and the like and slowly built it up. I still have periods where I lose energy and continue to use this strategy to reintroduce exercise.

Belief: Believe in yourself. Believe this is possible. Believe the evidence you see in other's!

# It's okay not to be okay, at times. Allow yourself your down days - everyone has them. Resist the feelings of guilt associated - this will only bring you further down. Accept these times and use them to reflect. Continue to talk with people, even if its to say you're not feeling like talking. Try hard, not to isolate yourself and push yourself to get up and do something! You will feel better after.

Trauma! Investigate historical events that may have contributed to your diagnosis. Psychiatry will assist with the medical component's of your ill health, via medication. Partner that with psychotherapy, to address the psychological components of your condition!

Stress! 

Learn to manage your stress levels. This is something most people fail to do. Don't feel down about this. I'm still learning this myself.

It is important to keep this very much, in the forefront of your well-being, as excessive stress will impact negatively on you, as it does me. Stress can be a trigger to further depressive episodes and anxiety etc. 

Take time out to manage and reduce your stress levels. This isn't your excuse to pull out of life though, remember there's stress around us all the time. Work on building your resilience via exposure, but be aware of your limits! You will build more resilience in time: Baby steps!

Don't live your diagnosis/label, eg; you're not a schizophrenic, you're a human being!

You will be, what you see yourself as being. Your thoughts and diagnosis don't need to define who you really are!

My story

part 6: coming soon

 

 

Look for something positive in each day even if you have to look harder some days!

Thinking positively will see positive things happen in your life!

Think and act your new life into existence

Note:

I'm not a Psychologist nor am I a Psychotherapist. I don't make any claim to be either of those. I am a person like you that has had my own journey to recovery. I still have my life drama's like any of you. This is an overview of my journey with some reflections from it and strategies I implimented a long the way and still do today. I don't profess to have the answers for you, because I don't. I am only attempting to inspire you to see that recovery and the attainment of a meaningful and purposeful life is possible and within reach. 

I hope this page has assisted you in some way.

I truly wish you all the very best with your Journey to attain hope and your meaningful life!

Cheers

Dave

Future post's

Stay tuned for hopefully more inspirational quotes and recovery stories.

I'm regularly updating and trying to improve this page..

Useful links

https://youtu.be/lIjNDpl2VBs

https://youtu.be/v7KQsS2kLM4

https://www.beyondblue.org.au

https://www.beyondblue.org.au/personal-best/pillar/supporting-others/10-ways-to-be-there-for-someone-you-re-worried-about?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=organic&utm_content=ten_ways

https://www.youthbeyondblue.org au

https://www.lifeline.org.au

http://www.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/mental-pubs-i-nongov-toc~mental-pubs-i-nongov-pri

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=https://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/content/CFA833CB8C1AA178CA257BF0001E7520/%24File/servpri.pdf&ved=2ahUKEwiZlYC5vvzgAhXLM48KHYF2AXwQFjAAegQIARAB&usg=AOvVaw2sdnzkh5WDFCnaFqVqNG33

https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&rct=j&url=http://theconversation.com/au/topics/mental-health-343&ved=2ahUKEwiNsYPgvvzgAhUZ7HMBHV6UBJ0QFjAAegQIARAB&usg=AOvVaw0F2C9kFQPx5jKjDBdorL-V

A new day

This week's Journey

20/4/19

Wow! Well the month of April has been a challenging one for me. I have had great support from my family when I needed it. My most recent work colleagues are distant! I am very passionate about my work and what i stand for, maninly because of my own journey. I am offended by people when I feel consumers are being disempowered or prejudiced in any way. This makes me a strong advocate, but I need to remain as centred as I can be. It got to the stage this month, that there were behaviours from work colleagues towards some of the consumers and pressures from management, that impacted on me greatly, working double shifts and resolving several work related crisis situations, with very little support from my work colleagues and no solutions from management for resolution. The lack of sleep and related symptoms saw me decide to resign from my leadership position. I was very depressed about this and felt like a failure, but I'm definitley not a failure. I needed to put my health first, so that I can continue to be healthy for my family and for the benefit of a prolonged career in this sector. I'm not a failure for putting myself first nor am I selfish, this is sensible and a necessary self preservation. I am no good to anyone, if I breakdown again. These are decisions that are sometimes hard to make, but at the end of the day, when you are managing mental ill health, whether you are in recovery or not, we need to continue to be aware of our triggers and identify when things are declining. The good news is, I have been able to pursue other opportunities, in less challenging more supportive and less frustrating environment. Just because you may work in a sector that has awareness of these things, doesn't necessarilly mean that you as an employee will be treated with the same empathy and understanding centred towards the consumers they support. This is an unfortunate truth! As we are still working with other individuals with there own values, biases, beliefs and opinions on where their priorities are focussed.

* Keep on moving forward and battling on, you can still attain your goals. You're not a failure for pulling out of something, if it's detrimental to your health. Focus on puttting yourself first, this is not being selfish, for you, it is necessary!