"I’m 23 and I live on the South Coast. I struggled a little with anxiety and depression through my teenage years as I got bullied a lot at school. I finished Year 10, and then started doing commercial cookery at TAFE. When I was 17 my mum got diagnosed with emphysema and I had to stop going so I could take care of her.
When I was 20, dad got sick as well with lung cancer and emphysema. He'd been sick for a long time, so when he was diagnosed there was pretty much nothing they could do to help him... I was caring for mum, and she was struggling and having panic attacks really frequently... She ended up being taken to an early retirement centre that also took care of people who are sick and I became a full-time carer for dad...
It was a really daunting thing, and because I was falling apart I didn’t realise that my depression had escalated... I wouldn’t leave the house, and I gained social phobia because I was terrified of leaving him. Both my parents got into a very depressed stage and got angry and bitter. I didn’t get help for myself because I thought they were worse than me...
My dad died then five days after we buried him, my mum died too. It just happened in one blow. When my parents died, a couple of workers [from a mental health organisation] came around a few times and took me out of the house to make sure I was okay. I also spoke with a counsellor from the mental health team over the phone... I didn’t see them for very long as I didn’t want to talk...
I secluded myself. I would stay up all night with bad thoughts, and then sleep all day. I was so suicidal, and I was self-harming. It’s like you’re in a very dark hole and you don’t necessarily want to get out... I was very close with my dad, and I didn’t care about anybody else. I just wanted to be with him, even if that meant death. My sister-in-law realised something was wrong, and that I might be thinking of ending my life. Friends also noticed I was breaking down and crying a lot.
I went to see my doctor who did a test and said I had major depression and anxiety. She put me on anti-depressants and gave me a mental health care plan to see a psychologist. My doctor did that all really well, and she knew straight away that I needed grief counselling first, and then to focus on stuff from my past that I haven’t really gone into... I think grief counselling will help, but it won’t cure it. It’s never going to go away, that pain, but to have better control of it is what I am aiming for. I have good and bad days... I do a lot of activities with a mental health service including groups, art therapy, an anxiety workshop, and I also work with an exercise physiologist.
I see my GP every two weeks and we talk about my mental health and my physical health... My own journey with mental health has made me want to work with other people with mental illnesses. I had been a carer for so long with my parents and dealing with the stuff with mental health that I turned around and it’s like 'I can do that'. I can actually help someone."
To read Kelly's full story or to download a copy, click here.
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