We're taking on Sydney Coastrek!
On Friday 4 September, we will be taking part in Sydney Coastrek, the ultimate team trekking and fundraising challenge, proudly supporting Beyond Blue.
Did you know that three million people in Australia are living with anxiety and depression?
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My struggleTuesday 26th Nov
The first time I thought I needed to speak to someone was when I was in my first year of my undergraduate degree. I was having trouble focusing on assignments and uni work and had lost a lot of motivation in my day to day life. I was laughed out of the campus psychologist’s office for taking an appointment from someone in ‘real need’. I felt invalid, humiliated and embarrassed. It took me a long time to even consider speaking about my feelings again.
People didn’t know I was struggling. I didn’t even comprehend the extent to which I was struggling. I was studying full time in a degree that I was never fully invested in as it was always a means to an end. I was working three jobs on top of clinical placements to save money for an upcoming exchange year. I was living in a share house in which I was never really accepted, only tolerated. I thought being sad, lonely, stressed was a natural reaction to my personal circumstances.
Eventually I went to a GP. I didn’t go to my usual GP for fear of the same judgement. He told me I had depression and to see a psychologist. No mental health plan was completed, no discussion of my options was had. I was 19 at the time and had very little knowledge of how Medicare versus private insurance worked. I thought my only option was to pay for a psychologist in full. I quickly realized I would not be able to afford this. I finally had to call my Dad, and the next day I drove home to speak to my parents.
I’ve never been so scared to have a conversation in my life. My parents were, and still are, the most amazing people but up until this point all I had encountered was a feeling of complete condemnation when discussing how I was feeling. They actively created a plan for me, and I was finally able to access the treatment I so desperately needed. However, I was so ashamed it was even required. I like to think that my family is very open and sharing with each other, but I made my parents promise to keep my struggles a secret. It was years before my sisters found out anything.
Throughout the first few years I found the “mental health stigma” to be a very real, and very harmful thing. I’ve had to quit jobs because I faced discrimination after having to admit the reason that I couldn’t accept an overtime shift was because I had a psychology appointment. I’ve lost friends because while unwell I may have unintentionally acted in ways that were hurtful to them. I’ve lost partners because they couldn’t accept that I wasn’t just “sad” and telling me to “just be happy” wasn’t the solution. For years I hid in silence, trying to never burden anyone again with my problems.
I got through my undergraduate. I started a new full-time job. I was passively floating through life, not happy, not struggling but just existing. Through this new job I made new friends. Friends who are so vibrant in life that they were helping me heal without realizing. I found passion and purpose again. I was able to come off my medication. I thought I was cured. I went back to study in a purposeful step towards entering post graduate medicine. I dropped back to casual work to focus on my studies. I remember thinking, ‘this time will be different.’
It wasn’t. What was different, was the reactions I received from people around me. They never laughed at my circumstances, they never invalidated my diagnosis. When I would come to work nauseas for weeks straight because I’d recommenced my medication, my manager would ensure I was eating well. When I needed an extra day off to recover from my run of night shifts, my colleagues would swap shifts with me. I felt comfortable confiding in what I had been through, and how I felt. Instead of thinking I was being judged I felt I could be myself. I gained confidence and became happy again.
My biggest achievement was getting into medicine. Something I had wanted my whole life and had spent so many years thinking would never be a reality. Yet again, I thought depression and anxiety were behind me…. but they came back, this time with a vengeance. I was in a new state, in a new city away from the safety net I had developed over the years. The difference this time was that I knew what was going to happen, and how much I wanted to fight it.
The first ten months of this year, I slipped down a bad path and my behaviors and actions have not been me. But I was open and honest to friends who went above and beyond to help me, and to get me through. The same can be said with my university. The extent to which they went through behind the scenes to help me pass end of phase exams was insurmountable. Despite me constantly invalidating myself, they assured me that their job is to help me achieve the best of my ability.
The mental health stigma is harmful. It needs to change. Just because the symptoms of a mental health illness cannot be seen, does not mean that they are any less real and valid than a physical illness. So that’s why I’m here. To raise awareness about mental health. If I can help others choose empowerment over shame that’s enough for me. So, let’s be a collective voice in honesty, compassion and education – the qualities we need to face mental illness AND to fight stigma. No matter how you contribute, you can make a difference by knowing that mental health is no one’s fault. You can make a difference by being and living stigma free.
Thank you to my Sponsors
The Husskison Hotel
Tim And Terri Davis
Dorn And Jack Davis
Mi And Tanya Levi