“I love being able to break down the stigma on mental health. I want to show people that no matter who you are as a person you could still experience a mental illness at some point in your life. It's so important to take care of your mental health and look out for warning signs."
I first realised that I was experiencing mental illness when I was constantly feeling like everything I did wasn’t good enough. Initially, I found it overwhelming to find support because I felt like I had to take every step to getting better at once. In hindsight, every step counts, no matter how small it might feel, and each step could be taken in my own time, at my own pace.
The first step I took was reaching out to a few close friends. After a few weeks I decided that I did not want to feel like a burden them anymore, although they assured me I wasn’t, so I chose to seek professional support through the school psychologist.
I was first diagnosed with Depression and Generalised Anxiety Disorder when I was 15 years old in Year 10. A year later, I was also diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
I felt relieved when I got my initial diagnosis because I felt as though I could finally work towards managing my mental health. However, I was angry and frustrated after my diagnosis of PTSD. I had been working hard for a year getting my depression and anxiety under control and I was making progress, so it felt like a step backwards.
My health professionals recommended for me to do behavioural therapy which involved keeping a journal to help work through my anxious feelings and help change my thought processes. For me personally, journaling wasn't useful because it seemed to make the problems larger in my head.
What really worked was when I started to meditate. Often, I was caught up in my head and meditating gave me a chance to not focus on anything but what was happening right then and there – to be present.
During the year after my initial diagnosis, I was working tremendously hard to try and manage my mental health. That year though, I had a traumatic experience which caused my symptoms to come back stronger than ever.
It took me 6 months after the experience to finally tell someone what had happened, which led to my diagnosis of PTSD. I felt like it was the end of the world, but of course it wasn't. I thought to myself, what's the point in working hard to manage my mental health if an event that I can't control can just send me spiralling down again? I know now that even when you've spiralled down it's okay to take time and work your way back up at whatever pace you need.
To stay well, I meditate as much as I can. I cannot recommend it enough! Talking through my feelings with my psychologist, practicing being grateful, and volunteering has really helped too. I volunteer at 7 different organisations because it keeps me part of the community, gives me a sense of purpose and makes me grateful for the things that I have.
I learned about the Black Dog Institute through a volunteering website and decided it was such an amazing opportunity to hopefully help someone out there. I've only been a mental health youth presenter for about 2 months, but I feel so fulfilled in the role already! My first presentation was in Esperance and I told my story to about 300 kids over 3 talks in only one day. It was an unforgettable experience and I am so very grateful to have had that opportunity.
I love being able to break down the stigma on mental health. I want to show people that no matter who you are as a person you could still experience a mental illness at some point in your life. It's so important to take care of your mental health and look out for warning signs.
I feel like my diagnosis will always be a part of me but don't think of it as something that defines me anymore. Rather, it is something that has happened in my life like many other things, good and bad. It’s all part of my journey.
For others who might be experiencing a similar situation I’d recommend seeking support. Mental health can be difficult to manage at times, but if you ask for help it suddenly becomes a little bit easier.
The biggest thing I have learned is that there are many symptoms of mental illness, but they are not personality traits. I feel as though some people assume those who experience a mental illness are shy and withdrawn, where that was not the case for me. I know a lot of people who have felt as though they can’t talk about their mental health because others view them as carefree, bubbly and outgoing so they can’t possibly experience problems with their mental health. You can still be outgoing and have anxiety. You can still be bubbly and have depression. Mental illness does not discriminate but you are not defined by your diagnosis.