Content warning: this blog addresses the traumatic impact of mental health issues, including psychosis, schizophrenia and manslaughter. If any of these topics distress or trigger you in any way please support yourself by calling Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyondblue on 1300 224 636 or Blue Knot on 1300 657 380.
I originally wrote a blog for One Eighty last year. I wanted to share the lows that I had hit throughout my life, and how I overcame them, in a bid to encourage others to push through tough times. I’m not entirely sure how to start this, but a few weeks after finishing my blog, I was hit with an entirely new level of pain that I’d never felt before. I decided not to share my first blog as I wanted to push through this new pain like I’d done in the past and write about what I’d learned.
It’s difficult writing about my time as a 16 to 18 year old struggling with depression and anxiety. Not because it hurts to think about it, but because I can recall that during that time, it felt impossible to escape the way I was feeling. I remember having an extremely debilitating mind set. I was young and these emotions were new to me. I didn't have any experience or understanding about why I had no energy and felt so sad. The anxiety was very physical. I had difficulty breathing, muscle aches and was only getting a minimal amount of sleep, which in some cases would lead to panic attacks. My thought processes became very deluded and irrational, and basic conversations or interactions with people left me convinced that they disliked me. These thoughts led me to the point of wanting to end it all. It’s a tiring and dark place being trapped in your mind all day, with a rollercoaster of negative thoughts. It’s hard reaching out for help when you’re in that state of mind. The mentality behind your thinking is distorted and often people struggling with mental illness believe that others don't want to hear their problems. In other cases, they wouldn't know where to start, or they still haven't figured out why they feel the way they do.
I look back now and regret not getting help sooner. My counsellor helped me to break down my negative thoughts and made me realise that I was encapsulated in a world that I was making up. My anxiety began to fade and my happiness slowly returned. I realised how much I was taking for granted; I had a closed off mindset and made my world revolve around the negatives. It was only when I started looking at the positives around me that the world became brighter. I started thinking of three things that I am grateful for everyday, and trying to do at least one thing each day that makes me happy. Start off small and push yourself to do bigger and better. I started off trying to watch the sunrise each morning, which turned into morning swims and now I try to do a few activities before work.
It’s easier said than done. I was recently put to the test and had to overcome a pretty intense and confusing life event. As many of you may know, unfortunately my beautiful family started mixing with drugs a long time ago. From there, my mum and brothers went from the casual joint to experimenting with more sinister drugs, which eventually led to a very violent and toxic environment. There’s no doubt in my mind that it contributed or led to the development of my depression and anxiety when I was younger. My brother began to exhibit psychotic behaviours and I was often asked to stay home from school or work to ensure he wouldn’t hurt himself. There were many periods when he spent weeks or months in a psychiatric ward, only for him to escape and come home. It was painful to watch his mental health deteriorate and to see how psychosis played tricks on his mind. As time went by, his psychosis turned into a diagnosis of schizophrenia, a mental disorder which I had no understanding of and consequently didn’t take very seriously. His schizophrenia escalated, and one day, his mind snapped into a psychotic episode, which resulted in him ending my mum’s life.
A year after my mums passing, I wrote my first blog for One Eighty. However, a few weeks after finishing it I found out my brother’s court hearing would be starting soon. The court hearing lasted a few days and during that period we had doctors and lawyers explain my brother’s condition and why he behaved the way he did. The gut wrenching pain and guilt I felt after the doctors spoke about the experience of ‘chronic paranoid schizophrenia’ that my brother had been going through for such a long time made me feel sick. I felt like I hadn’t put in enough effort to help him. It was during this period that I learned a new life lesson and it’s an important lesson that I believe others should also be aware of. I learned that I can choose to dwell on the feeling of guilt about not being there for my brother when he needed me, or I can use this experience to help others. Now I feel like I’ll know what to do next time. Next time someone isn't acting themselves, I’ll ask them if they’re okay. Next time someone tells me they’re not okay, I’ll make sure I listen and try my best to be by their side whenever they need me.
All of these moments of anger, sadness, confusion, and pain have come with a life lesson. I overcame these moments to grow, learn, and become a stronger and wiser version of who I was before. The point of all this is to make you realise that your mental health is important. One day you may find yourself in the confusing world of mental illness and I want you to remember that you are brave and capable of overcoming it. The road may seem never ending, dark and lonely, but it doesn't have to be. Remember that there is help all around you and that you are loved. And to the others, let’s educate ourselves about how we can better understand and support those around us fighting mental illness.
Written by Bek Crawford
Any information on this blog is not a substitute for professional advice. It is written from personal experience and research only. If you are in crisis, go to your nearest emergency room, call lifeline on 13 11 14 or dial 000.