My journey started in 1994. I was involved in a car accident, I don’t know why but I have been told by people that a tragedy like that can trigger off thoughts from the past. After the car accident my head just kept thinking of the past and the abuse I had from some family and other people. My mind couldn’t stop thinking about it, so I thought it must be time for me to work through these issues and I arranged to see my local GP who promptly sent me to a psychiatrist.
I was very naive about seeing a psychiatrist, I was working it out, because he didn’t bulk bill, how many times I could afford to go as at that time we were having financial difficulties too. So I thought five would be enough. I still laugh at that as I still go even today.
While talking to the psychiatrist he didn’t even get into my past that I originally went to see him about, he had decided that I was suffering major depression from my present life, through difficult life events. He wanted to see me every week for the present, but then added he would bulk bill me so that was a relief.
In February 1996 I had to leave work and be full time carer for my husband who suffered from back pain and severe depression, so that in itself was hard going from seeing a lot of people daily to being at home constantly with my husband. In the end, the stress of it all, I went from seeing the psychiatrist once a week to three times a week (It proves even then I could talk.) In September that year the government brought in a rule that if you were being bulked billed you could only see a psychiatrist 52 times a year or once a week. The stress was too much, so in October I was given my first admission into a psychiatric ward. I was there 6 months. The condition of me leaving was that I had to go to marriage counselling and get some advice from them. So I did along with my husband and my 10 year old son.
We went to see the counsellors, and we talked and answered many questions for a long time. They advised us that the marriage was no good for my health and I needed to leave him. I was devastated as this was my second marriage and I already felt a failure as the first ended in divorce. So I said that I wouldn’t and believe things can change and we could make it work. I didn’t know if I loved him but he was my best friend and he needed me. So I got out of hospital and went home.
Six months later I couldn’t take the stress of looking after him anymore and watching him slowly kill himself from his morphine addiction he now had as a result of the back pain.
So I said to him that we needed to separate, but I still wanted to see him. A few days after that, he was in the bathroom being sick (which happened quite often because of the pain and the medication), I went into the bedroom to tidy the bed and found a note under the pillow. It was a suicide note, so then I realised why he was being sick and rang the ambulance.
Shortly after that he moved into his own flat nearby. We saw each other daily but I was home after school so I could have much needed time with my son.
One morning after my appointment with my psychiatrist I caught the bus to his flat and when I opened the door that is when I saw him lying on the floor with a note near by saying he couldn’t take it anymore and that I would be better off without him and he was sorry.
So that started my five years of going in and out of hospital. A short stay for me would be a month. All together if you added up the time spent in and out of hospital over the five years, it works out to be 2 and half years. With about 30 ECT (Electro Convulsive Therapy) and a few stays in the lock up ward as they believed I would harm myself. I also overdosed about half a dozen times and self harmed quite regularly.
Through all that time I had a lot of diagnoses from major depression, post traumatic stress disorder, bi-polar, borderline personality disorder and obsessive compulsive order. The only diagnosis they haven’t used on me is schizophrenia and that is purely because I don’t tell them about the voices in my head.
You know for four years mental health services kept telling me there was nothing I could do it was a chemical imbalance, take your medication. It was hereditary, take your medication. You will be like that the rest of your life, take your medication. You will be in and out of hospital the rest of your life, take your medication. I believed them; I mean why would I not, they are the experts.
So what was the turning point? Firstly I had a psychiatrist who worked out I would be better just with one private psychiatrist (I had lost my original psychiatrist because I self harmed after he had said he would not see me again if I did). So I saw the public ones which meant a new doctor every three months; it was like starting again every three months, repeating my story. So she decided to see my privately and that helped a bit. She decided at one time to refer me to a psychologist even though when I had left Glenside they referred me to one but I was refused as they said it wouldn’t help. So she put the forms in and I was referred to the local hospital psychologist and he did his review and it came back to my doctor with a note saying, he wouldn’t work with me as he didn’t see that it would help me.
Again my psychiatrist was at a loss of what to do for me. She thought she would give it one more try and refer me to a psychologist in the Salisbury mental health office and see what happens. Well, to everyone’s amazement, she said yes. I always believed she liked challenges. And that was the day my life turned around.
The first meeting I had with her she said, she will only work with me if I was prepared to do the work as she didn’t have time for time wasters. She would do ten sessions with me and then review. I ended up working with her for 2 ½ years until I was discharged from mental health services.
So what did she do? She treated me like a normal person, talked to me like an equal. And from day one she never gave me the idea that I can’t do anything about my illness, that I was going to be like this for the rest of my life; she showed me I had options and consequences for my actions and that I could have a productive life if I worked hard enough. That’s what I did slowly; and slowly, one step forward and two steps back, then one step forward and one step back until I was moving forward more than back.
I had to learn that it was not my fault my husband killed himself; I did not give him the tablets one by one. I had to learn that yes I am the biggest sook in the world, but there are ways I can learn to communicate my feelings and desire and wants from people that I could manage. I learnt strategies to use when I felt down or suicidal, things to do when I was angry or overwhelmed; it was slow but it happened eventually.
When I first started seeing my psychologist I stayed at home most of the time only coming out to shop and pay bills once a fortnight, or go for any medical appointments. Other than that I lived in my house, my cave as I called it. She likened me to Miss Haversham from great expectations where she lived in her house for 30 years in her wedding dress because she was jilted on her wedding day.
So slowly I took baby steps to get out. My first major outings were I would walk to my local MacDonald’s and read the paper while having breakfast, so I was getting out of the house, just not spending time with people. Then I started op shopping; something I learned and l became to love and still love, then gradually doing a few social things with an organisation called GROW and then soon after attending GROW meetings and then working voluntary with the GROW fieldworker. My psychologist once told me just because I was on the pension didn’t mean I couldn’t work for it.
Since then I have grown an awful lot, when I think there was a stage in my life where my support system was regular visits to the psychologist, regular visits to my psychiatrist, a case worker from mental health, a lot of medication and frequent hospital admissions, to now I work part time, I see a psychiatrist once a month (as I am training her!!!) and very minimal medication, which through to things happening in my family life I have only just gone back on.
As I said at the beginning, this is my journey and it continues; I get stronger each day and learn new things. I appreciate what I have gone through because it has made me the person I am today. I believe a better person than I was.