Shane has been a regular at Flourish Australia’s Day2Day Living Centre in Nowra for a while now. After enduring a traumatic time in school and being repeatedly put through the gauntlet of our public mental health system, Shane is finally learning to take control of his life (with a little help). Now, he’s getting closer to his goals with each new day…
SHANE: I want to take a couple of minutes of your time so I can share my story with you and, hopefully, inspire you. Most of all, I want to remind you that recovering from mental health issues is possible.
When I was in school, all the way from Kindergarten to Year 12, I was constantly bullied every day. No matter what I did, I just couldn’t seem to fit in. This might have played a part in why I was diagnosed with depression and clinical anxiety at 10 years of age. As I grew older, I also began to have outbursts. Due to the bullying and other hardships, by the time I reached the age of 17 I was a mental and emotional mess, and I secretly began to cut myself. My self-harm issues have been a problem ever since.
I moved out of home when I turned 26 so I could start up and manage my own computer repair business over at Huskisson. This went fine for a year or so, but the stress of working so hard eventually got on top of me. In addition to my mental health issues my shop wasn’t making enough money to stay open, and so I had to close it down for good. This was a particularly low point in my life, and after I told a GP how I was feeling they thought it was best if I spent a little time in a mental health facility. My first admission was in the Mirrabook Unit at Shellharbour Hospital as a voluntarily patient. I was a bit scared to begin with, as I’d never even heard of this place, and I had no idea what to expect. I was put onto medication during my stay, and I got a little better. Unfortunately, after being discharged it was only a short period before I became unwell again, and I was hospitalised a second time. This cycle added up to 20 admissions over a four-year period. I remember that at one point not only was I hearing voices, but I was also hallucinating that the Mafia and the Police were following me around and pointing guns at me. You could only imagine how terrifying that would be.
By the time I was referred to the Day2Day Living Centre at the Nowra branch of Flourish Australia, I had pretty much given up on going anywhere in life. I felt very damaged, I didn’t know how to accept help, and I was at the end of my tether. Thankfully, Flourish helped me to turn things around by providing me with a lot of support, like having one of their workers accompany me when I had to see mental health clinicians. They also assisted with my practical needs, and the Day2Day Living Centre was a good place to meet new friends who had similar life experiences to my own. Flourish provided me with these things through a “HASI High” package, and I’d say that this was the point where I truly began my recovery journey. My HASI High package gives me up to 35 hours of support per week, and I can use their assistance for anything that I find challenging or that I don’t feel confident to do on my own. They do encourage me to be as independent as I can, though.
It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. I’ve been hospitalised 2 or 3 times since receiving my HASI package, but this was because I’m still trying to learn how to stop being reliant on the mental health system. Change can be hard! But with a lot of help from Flourish I’ve been able to stay out of hospital recently, and my dependence on being admitted is going away with time. As I write this, today marks 15 months without an admission. I’m also in the process of learning how to give up self-harm. Some of the techniques I use include setting specific goals of not cutting, using distraction methods, and talking to my support people.
I’m 30 years old now, and life still isn’t easy. I have maybe 3 good days each week, but this is slowly getting better. On a bad day my mood will be so down that I’m barely able to leave bed. It’s often a challenge to get up before 11am, but things are improving. A good technique I use to get motivated is to set specific goals that I want to achieve each day. My bird, James, helps out by waking me up at 6:30am every morning. He won’t stop making noise until I go out to the lounge room to see him!
I don’t think that I could have recovered to where I am now if it wasn’t for the support I’ve had. In addition to Flourish Australia, I’ve also had a lot of help from my Mum and my family members, and even my friends have pitched in to help me to succeed at my goals. All of these people have encouraged me become stronger just by being there for me and supporting me emotionally.
I’m currently doing a Certificate IV in Mental Health, and I’m planning to work in the field one day.
The moral of this story is that there is hope for all of us. My advice is to accept all the assistance you can, try really hard to stay optimistic, and never give up.
Thanks to Karina Lindsay, the Senior Mental Health Worker at Nowra, who put us in contact with Shane.
Flourish Australia Day2Day Living Centre, 47 Worrigee St, NOWRA, NSW 2541
(02) 9393 9535
Open 8am – 6pm