Help me create a mentally healthier world
On the 12th October this year, I’m lacing up my walking shoes and taking on a half marathon for the Black Dog Institute
I’m raising funds to help change these statistics:
- 1 in 5 Australians experience a mental illness each year
- 65% of those do not seek help
- Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged 15-45
The leading cause of death! That’s unbelievable and it needs to change.
Together, we can remove the stigma around mental illness and create a mentally healthier world. Feel free to read my story and please donate today!
My black dog.
I had been battling with depression, anxiety and an unknown disorder for a good 20 years on my own before things really got tricky.
In early 2016 I landed a new job as an office manager. My partner Jerome and I had a house on the coast and life was travelling along. Despite this, I started to feel the signs of another depressive cycle coming so I headed to the doctors and was given antidepressants and told to see a psychologist. Within weeks of seeing the doctor Jerome fell very sick, spending 3 weeks in intensive care and requiring 3 surgeries. During this time my father had a heart attack and passed away in London. I was his next of kin. Leaving my husband in hospital I flew home to arrange his funeral and pack up his house. I brought dads ashes back home with me and went straight back into full time work to try and repay the debt I had suddenly incurred. I didn’t give myself the time I needed to accept what had happened that year, and the can of worms that it had opened. Over the next 6 months major anxiety set in alongside the depression and eventually I suffered a breakdown and lost my job. I was unable to look, let alone speak to people and even simple tasks like washing up dishes or listening to Jerome whilst he spoke to me were too much. I felt trapped inside my own home, I wasn’t comfortable anywhere. After undergoing a psychological assessment, I was diagnosed with depression, anxiety and borderline personality disorder. That was a blow to me, and I couldn’t accept that something was very wrong. I couldn’t accept a lot of things that had happened - I had always been the steady person who could be relied on. Where had I gone?
For the next 2 years I cycled through starting to work, feeling good, taking too much on and eventually burning out. I was emotionally unstable and incredibly volitile. Every 6 months I would breakdown and become a hermit in our house. Those close to me were either my absolute rock or my worst enemy depending on what stage I was in. Everything I did was to excess. I had no sense of myself – who I was. It is a very difficult feeling to put into words. I had no idea who I was, where I was going, what I stood for or how to just live. Every single moment felt like a struggle. I started to disassociate (a mental process of disconnecting from one's thoughts, feelings, memories or sense of identity). I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t want to live either.
I was desperate to get back to the old Jess, and thought that the harder I worked, the quicker it would come. I must be doing something wrong, If I just worked harder all the bad stuff would go away. I started my own little care business, a course in bookkeeping and set a wedding date with Jerome. I worked hard and within 3 weeks of our wedding at home, I started to get very ill. Eventually I checked myself into a psychiatric ward. They gave me Valium and anti-anxiety meds and I convinced them to let me out for our wedding. Unfortunately the mix of medications did not work for me and I unknowingly experienced Serotonin Syndrome (A toxic state caused mainly by excess serotonin resulting in a variety of mental, autonomic and neuromuscular changes, which can range in severity from mild to life-threatening). Basically, I went into a psychotic state. I was unable to determine what was real and what was not. Somehow I made it through our wedding. Jerome was a real hero. On our honeymoon I got worse and started fevering. I ended up at the top of a cliff in a catatonic state and Jerome called the police and ambulance. I was restrained and sedated before being taken to a psychiatric ward where I was detained and sectioned under the mental health act. I spent a week in there absolutely scared for my life. I heard voices, saw signals, fevered and regressed into a child like state. My room was big enough for a bed, with a metal door and a cut-out panel for observation. Eventually I was told they had found a bed for me in a private mental health ward nearby and within an hour I literally was checked out onto the street. I was still psychotic and somehow got into a taxi which took me to the next hospital. There, I started to get the help that I needed. I was assessed by a panel of psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and nurses. They took me off my meds and over a week I started to detox, dipping in and out of sanity. As I came back to the world I was in a huge amount of emotional pain. My husband and family were traumatised by what had happened, and I couldn’t explain it. I was put into group therapy and day programs and after 10 days I started to speak and slowly began recovery. I spent over a month there and was eventually discharged into Jerome’s care. I began taking on simple chores such as cooking and laundry. We started to work things out and I committed to outpatient group therapy and weekly doctor and psychologist sessions. I walked, went to the gym and did yoga. My mother-in-law showed me how to raise a veggie patch and I bought geese and ducks to keep me outside. Therapy was amazing, they practiced mindfulness, dialectical behavioural therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy, emotional regulation, acceptance and commitment therapy, and distress tolerance. I was able to continue my studies and after a year I finished my qualification and group therapy. Every day I looked after myself and stayed in the present. I began a rehabilitation programme into work and recently started full time in the office again. I’ve been steady for 18 months now, which is huge. I now have the emotional toolkit to navigate through life. My diagnosis will always be there, there is no ultimate cure, but to put it simply, my black dog is well trained, on a lead and I am the master. Without my husband, my family, friends and professional mental health services I would not be in the world today. Thanks for reading this. It’s hard to share such a private thing but I’m proud of my journey. I'm not ashamed any more and if it helps just one person to know that they are not alone, I’m happy! Please show your support and donate toward my cause, Jess
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Thank you to my Sponsors
Sandhya Lama Tamang
John, Tanya, Lily, Chase
Naomi & Alex