A bit about you:
I grew up in Sydney’s East with my mum, dad and little sister. I write and play music and would love to make it a career one day. I also work as a barista making coffee in a small café in Bondi.
What is your experience of depression and/or anxiety?
From an age of around 14, I suffered depression and anxiety as the result of issues I was having at home due to my father having a life-threatening illness, my parents also having a divorce and the deaths of friends and family around my.
Looking back, what were your first signs and symptoms?
Some of the first signs I was getting bad would be when I’d find myself sitting at home crying in my room for no apparent reason other then I just felt incredibly sad, and also the fact that I began to turn to self-harm as a way to make myself feel better.
Who was the first person you talked to about it?
It took me nearly four years before I opened up to anyone truly. I’d tried talking to friends at school, but going to an all-boys' school, I was seen as attention seeking and weak. Things changed when my Year 12 coordinator noticed some cuts on my body and took me to the school counsellor, who I eventually opened up to.
How did you go about getting help?
I was sent to the adolescent unit at Prince of Wales Hospital where I would have consultations three times a week and was also prescribed antidepressants.
What was important to your recovery?
The main thing that I found in my recovery was that things didn’t start to get better until I decided I wanted it to get better. As much as depression and anxiety is an illness, it can only truly be fought when the sufferer works hard on their recovery and sticks to certain strategies that have been put in place for their benefit, and fights to not fall into bad habits and old routines.
For me distraction was an incredible help and I turned to playing and writing music as a way of doing so. I found that sitting in my room playing guitar and singing was a much better way for me to stay out of trouble compared to other ways that had been suggested to me by doctors and my psychologist.
I guess that’s what it is though, the road to recovery is different for everyone and it's up to each person to find strategies that help them.
How do you keep healthy and active?
For me, keeping a regular routine is key. If I find that I’m always busy or working towards a goal I’ve set myself takes away from how I used to stress and over think every single situation. Also cutting out negativity from my life, whether it was certain people around me or a mindset I had about certain aspects of my life, the best thing I did was remove those from my life.
What’s your piece of advice to someone who is worried about their mental health or has just been diagnosed?
The main thing is not to be ashamed or to think to yourself that you are weak! That can be the most detrimental thing to someone with a mental health issue. There are so many people out there who are going through the same feelings as you even if your circumstances aren’t the same. Also not being afraid to open up to those around you, make it clear you aren’t feeling right and you need help.
How can I help a friend who I am worried about?
The best thing you can offer to a friend is your ear. Let them know you are willing to sit with them while they cry and express their issues. The main thing they will be worried about is if you are judging them negatively so always be open and comforting. Also asking them if they need someone to come along with them to counselling sessions and just giving them unending support.
Any final words:
Depression and anxiety is definitely something that can be fought and overcome. The key word in mental illness is 'illness'. The common cold is an illness and can be overcome; depression and anxiety is an illness and can be overcome. Even though it may take years of hard work and determination there will come a day when you realise you’ve overcome it.