This blog post is part of an interview series for mental health awareness week. In this series, different people give their perspective on living with a mental health condition.
In certain cases as with the interview below, people have had the courage to reveal their identity. This is brave, as it can be difficult and daunting. Congratulations to them!
Who are you, and why did you decide to share your story?
I’m a thirty-year-old professional based in Brisbane, Australia, working across Asia Pacific for one of the world’s largest integrated communications firms. In addition to my professional work, I also have a career as a musician, performance artist and theatre-maker.
I’m sharing my story because I believe that, through being open and transparent in my experiences with mental illnesses, I can help others better understand their own.
When was the first time you became aware you were suffering from a mental health issue?
I experienced suicidal urges from the age of 13. However, I didn’t seek formal treatment until I was 21. I didn’t receive a formal diagnosis until I was 24 – a Major Depressive Disorder.
What were you feeling/what did you experience that made you aware of it?
I had significant mood problems (anxiety and depression), self-destructive urges, obsessive compulsive behaviours and a recurring sense of being disconnected from reality.
What did you do about it?
Originally, I did nothing. I thought it was normal for teenagers to experience these feelings. When a family member decided to try therapy, I told my parents I wanted therapy as well. It started with counselling at university. Then, I tried seeing a psychologist. Five or so years later, I went on medication. I still see the psychologist.
How do you feel now? How did taking those steps make you feel, and have they helped?
The difference in my life pre- and post-treatment cannot be overstated. Before medication, I was on a disability pension and incapable of working full time. I was earning 10’000 Australian Dollars a year and fighting multiple suicidal episodes a year.
Now, I live by myself. I earn enough to live comfortably and help others. I work full-time. I haven’t had a suicidal episode in 18 months.
What are your lessons learned with regards to mental health, and work?
Many. But probably the most pertinent one, is that there’s ultimately no separating one’s work wellbeing from one’s overall wellbeing. There’s a popular idea that you can grit your teeth in a workplace and find happiness elsewhere.
But if you’re in an environment that isn’t conducive to good mental health, it will impact all aspects of your life. As such, a supportive workplace is essential to sustaining long term health and wellbeing.
What are you doing today, to actively manage your mental health?
One of the biggest steps I’ve taken is to transition genders. I realised at age 28 that I was transgender. Once I started to transition, my life improved immeasurably. I still live with anxiety and depression and I still struggle – but the scale of the experiences has completely changed.
What are your next steps?
My biggest commitment and struggle for now is to build and sustain a long-lasting, stable community of meaningful relationships. Trauma and illness have left me having lots of casual connections and being very self-sufficient. But, now that I’m stable and healthier in my life, I’m working on connecting more deeply with those around me.
What would you like to say to someone who is suffering in silence from a mental health issue?
People will surprise you. If you think nobody cares, you’ll be surprised. And, if people let you down, there are always better people around the corner.
Where can people find you?
Author’s note: please do not contact this person if you have negative intentions or to share hate messages. This person has been brave in sharing their story and my intent is to spread messages of hope and positivity.
Please be respectful of all the people who shared their story. I will not tolerate any negative behaviour or actions and will report this via the platform you use.