“My story starts in 2007, when I had paid for a flight, budgeted for a six week traverse across England and had booked myself onto a tour around Europe. I was to see Venice, Rome, Paris and other places beyond my wildest dreams. I was to travel by myself, as a single and independent woman.
“My reality had been slipping, though. It started with waking up one morning and not being able to get out of bed. I was to meet with a friend who was holding a gaming day at his house. After I hadn’t turned up for a couple of hours, he rang me. I have always been grateful that his first words were “Are you okay?” Informing him that I wasn’t okay was the first step in getting up from bed.
“But my reality unravelled even further with time until, two years later, I was finally rescued by my wonderful family.
“Walking into St John of God Hospital at Burwood with my uncle, I was introduced to nurses who wanted me to swallow a little yellow pill. Understanding that it was a drug, and having always avoided drugs, I strongly objected, snarling words at them, as well as trying to escape. My uncle looked on, concern on his face, but I was not able to connect as to the reason why. Fear coursed through me, as I thought I could no longer trust anyone in my life. People who I had known forever were plotting against me, trying to make me do things that were against my morals and all I stood for.
“On the day I was meant to be boarding the plane overseas for the first time, I was committed to Rozelle Hospital.
“There is much focus on the negatives around mental illness, but through my breakdown, as I call it now, I learnt so much that otherwise I would not have paid attention to. For the first time in my life, I was completely open. I didn’t have much of an ego left and all I could remember was what I had put my family and loved ones through…all those horrible hate-filled words and all those dreadful acts. The remarkable thing about all this is that no one judged me, and they were still there for me. So I swore I would never let that happen again. It’s 2013 now and I’ve still kept my promise.
“This world means too much to me for me to fail it. Obviously, my Angel thought that I was made of the stuff required to recover, and to not only live a better and more enlightened life, but one where I could inspire and motivate others to also grow from their experiences. You see, I may not have control over whether I have schizophrenia or not, but I do have control over how it impacts upon me and my life. Even when one cannot choose what will happen, one always has the choice over who they become because of the situation they have been through. This is where power lies, the deep power of your soul. It will challenge all stereotypes and rip the mask off illusion as long as you believe in it.
“Having been through it all, there are a couple of things I do to help myself. Firstly, my reality is a little questionable at times, so I use close friends, workers, trusted family and work colleagues as reality checks. If they let me know my ideas are a little crazy, I listen to them. I ride my bicycle around town so I get enough exercise and I use my attitude to overcome barriers. As far as I am concerned, I am an ambassador for people with schizophrenia, living and conducting myself in a way that breaks down the stigma. You see, I evolve and as I learn about my illness, I adjust my behaviour and understanding of the world to counter its effects on me.
“Keep positive, keep perspective, and always remember, schizophrenia is a part of you, therefore you are the one in control. You can decide who you will become because of it.”
How Elizabeth helps to keep herself well
- Making “reality checks” by listening to trusted friends, colleagues and family
- Getting physical exercise, such as bike riding
- Having a sense of personal responsibility
- Being an “ambassador” for people with mental health issues
- Continuing to learn and adapt.
Note: Panorama magazine is happy to report that Elizabeth did end up going overseas later on. Here is Elizabeth by the Spanish Steps in Rome (below)