By Martina from Moree
Nowadays I feel well for the first time. I have learned that being in relationships that are controlling can make you unwell. By giving me support when I needed it, the people at Flourish Australia have helped me gain a sense of hope for the future.
I have also learned to be very aware and mindful of the signs that you are becoming unwell. When this happens, you need to be proactive and get help straight away. This can save you going to hospital.
The family background
Many, many members of my family had mental health issues. Family on my mother’s side were in and out of hospital on a regular basis. It was on my father’s side too, but none of this was ever spoken of in our family.
I was the eldest of five children. My mother was very controlling and had mental health issues of her own. She strongly believed that her way was the right way. If any of the children misbehaved she would scream, flog and humiliate us. We were terrified of her.
My father didn’t stand up for the children. As the eldest, I was often put in charge of the others when mum was busy, and this is where I discovered my nurturing nature.
I had been an A grade, model student, but from 15 years of age everything changed: I wagged school, started smoking, didn’t care about things, and this just continued.
When I turned 17 I started working in a bank, against my mother’s wishes.
Later, I found myself with young children of my own, but in a controlling marriage. My husband was not sympathetic to the situation and I hated living and wanted to die.
My mum spoke to my husband and told him this was serious, and that he couldn’t brush it aside. She rang the women’s hospital in Sydney and made an appointment for me. It was here that I was told I had major post natal depression and furthermore I’d had depression most of my life. A psychiatrist then diagnosed me with bipolar disorder.
It was like a light bulb had been switched on and as I read about it, I began to see the pattern throughout my own life.
For the next few years I traveled from the country to the city to see my psychiatrist, and learn more.
In my mid thirties, my marriage broke up. I realised all of my partners had been controlling in either a verbal or physically abusive way. I suppose I didn’t know love any other way.
My last hospital inpatient stay was in 2012 for depression. Prior to this I would have episodes of depression lasting most of the year and my last episode of mania was in 2010.
The recovery journey
The last time I was discharged from the hospital inpatient unit I became involved with the Community Mental Health Team in Moree.
I joined Flourish Australia in 2013, and I feel this, in combination with a change to a better medication helped me find further traction in my recovery.
One of my first recovery goals was increasing socialisation. Even though I sometimes didn’t feel like it, I knew I had to make the effort, because it makes a difference and really picks you up!
I’ve grown very aware through my recovery. I know what my triggers are: stress and pressure, physical illness, negative relationships, overcommitting to things.
From time to time I still experience things like sleep disturbance, no appetite, becoming clumsy, having tremors and lack of concentration as well as emotional lows. But at least I see it coming now.
The main things that helps alleviate the downward spiral for me are healthy relationships, medication, music and reading. My faith in God has also had a significant positive impact on me.
As told to Evonne Geluk
Photo by Jim Booth