Over the pharmacy counter and into wellness

Birds.jpg

By Cheryl Tang

Cheryl Tang is a regular at the Young Adult’s program at Flourish Australia’s Buck House. Here she discusses what she gets out of these groups, and the role they have played in helping her attain the life she wants.

I initially connected with the Young Adult’s program at Buckingham House in late July when my father forwarded an email about an open day BBQ they were hosting. After checking out what Buck House had to offer, it wasn’t long before I was attending the Young Adult’s program every Friday as a part of my weekly routine.

Having worthwhile activities in my routine is something I both need and enjoy. If I have something planned for my day, I find getting out of bed and running around very easy. However, if I have nothing planned for my day, I tend to have bad days where I spend a lot of time in bed doing nothing. 

So far, the staff at the Young Adult’s program have helped me to learn and improve on many essential life skills, such as cooking. I thoroughly enjoy making things in the kitchen, and whenever I learn a new recipe I’ll take it home and practise it. If the Young Adults program staff asked me what other skills I’d like them to teach me, it would have to be driving. My grandfather is too old to help me with this, and my father is, truthfully, probably not the best driving role model.

“I’ve found knitting and crocheting to be repetitive tasks that help me feel relaxed and mindful.”

Socially, this program has given me the opportunity to meet and interact with other people who have a personal understanding of mental health issues, and I’ve gotten along well with all of them. It helps to be reminded that I’m not the only one who is struggling with mental health issues. 

Creating

I enjoy expressing myself creatively by playing the piano. I find composing music is more relaxing than practicing a piece, because there are no “wrong” notes. When I want to impress people, I’ll play Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag” or “The Entertainer”, but when I’m feeling reflective, I’ll go with Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata”. I also play the guitar and the ukulele and sing.

Another way I express myself is through art, and I recently put together an artwork that I’m planning on submitting to a competition: it has many colourful butterflies and black paper spirals stuck onto a sky blue canvas. I call it Spiralling High With Flying Colours. I was aiming to create a visual portrayal of bipolar mania (see illustration this page).

I also really like learning languages (I know English, Mandarin and Japanese), playing sports (badminton and soccer), and writing. I’m sure to do all of these things regularly. At one point, I also enjoyed cosplay (dressing up as characters). I also like penning short rhymes. One rhyme I wrote in hospital goes like this…

Wake early, hear the birds,

They sing melodies without words. 

See them gather, see them scatter,

Hear their voices, their musical chatter. 

Things that give me meaning

I am a devout Christian. This gives me purpose in life and provides hope when I have dark moments. I find reading the Bible calming. Many of my close friends are involved with Church, Bible study and other Christian organisations, so serving alongside them keeps me occupied with doing worthwhile things while also staying socially connected. These friends and my family make up the core of my social network, but I try not to rely on them too heavily because I feel like it stresses them out. The Sydney University Pharmacy Intern Training Program has also been very supportive. 

Help from over the counter

I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Pharmacy from Sydney University. I have always liked science, and I excelled in biology and chemistry in High School. My next career goal is to get registered as a pharmacist. This would involve putting in all of my assignments and studying for the exams. I also need to find a supportive workplace where I can log more hours as an intern. I have worked for about five different pharmacies so far, including big name chains and independent pharmacies.

Recovery: what has and hasn’t worked for me

Receiving a diagnosis didn’t change my life much, but my recovery truly began on my first day in hospital. At this current point, I feel like I have fully recovered. 

I would describe recovery as a state of physical, mental, spiritual wellbeing where you are content with your current situation. My approach to care and recovery has been a holistic one (a recovery made up of many parts) with my medication regime and support network at the core. With medication, I’ve found that it can mean the difference between recovery and relapse, but I also think that the wrong medication can cause even MORE issues, and pills alone won’t do much to fix psychological problems or attitude problems.

“I have helped brainstorm ideas for drama exercises, and provided snacks for the group.”

However, I think most of all that my faith was the key to this holistic recovery, as it gives me hope. 

Life hasn’t always been easy, but thankfully I haven’t had any other obstacles as major as my mental health issues. Negative thinking and low motivation were two of my biggest obstacles, but meditating on the Bible guards against unhelpful thinking. Now, when I am having a tough time, I privately pray to God about the things that are on my mind. I often do this while soaking in the bathtub with relaxing music playing in the background. 

Mental health issues might slow you down, but this will only stop you from achieving your dreams if you let it. Even if you have recovered, you can and should continue to strive to make your life even better than it already is. 

Cheryl Tang graphic recovery story.jpg

Buckingham House

 43-45 Buckingham Street

SURRY HILLS NSW 2010 

1300 779 270

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