Battling with mental health struggles

Having a mental health issue can sometimes feel like having the weight of the world on your shoulders. Picture: Supplied.

*Mental illness trigger warning.

When we experience a physical illness, we’re encouraged to stay in bed and recover. Society, at times, responds differently to mental illness, though, and can imply that ‘more effort needs to be made’ for a person to recover.

For a physical illness, we’re encouraged to take time off to rest and recharge; however, the same approach isn’t always afforded to those with mental illness.

I’m one of the lucky ones because while I don’t experience a mental illness, I have an employer who’s incredibly supportive of those who do.

My husband and I also work to ensure the team in our small business is supported in fostering positive health and well-being.

A mental health challenge can sometimes be branded by society as ‘attention seeking’, yet if we support a physical illness, the support is abundant.

We encourage those around us to seek medical care and help before a physical illness gets worse, yet it is at times implied that a mental illness requires a person to ‘get over it’.

We know that healing from a physical illness takes time, yet a tolerance of time is often not afforded to those with a mental illness.

While I’ve been exposed to and surrounded by mental illness and drug and alcohol addiction for much of my life, nothing could quite prepare me for the events unfolding since March this year.

As a carer, it is easy to become frustrated, sad, angry and tired, to name a few of the emotions on the rollercoaster.

It is challenging to separate the person you know and love from the condition they’re experiencing.

Behavioural and character changes slowly begin to show themselves, and at first, it is just enough for you to realise something is not right but not enough to warrant action until an escalation and true emergency.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve sat in the emergency department, in the mental health ward and in service provider facilities, advocating for the person unknowingly inflicting abuse and hate on me and who succumbs to self-sabotage.

This journey sometimes feels like one step forward and ten steps backwards.

Not only are you confronting a mental illness, but the years of self-medication coping mechanisms too.

I often ponder what it must be like in another person’s shoes.

A person whose own mind is working against them.

A person who has managed to keep their challenges under wraps.

I look at addiction, and I don’t see how it happens.

No one sets out with a life goal of becoming an alcoholic or drug addict; it just happens.

I see pain, despair and desperation, and I wonder what living this way is like.

The only thing I can liken it to, which is a mild comparison in reality, is when some of us are carrying a few extra kilos and we know we need to eat certain foods and exercise a particular way to reduce our weight, yet we continue to make bad food choices and avoid physical activity.

The temptation of fast food and unhealthy snacks, coupled with a lack of physical activity, equals a less-than-ideal lifestyle from a health perspective.

As a carer, it can be exhausting to remain level-headed and not allow an immature response like frustration, hurt, and anger to let you walk away from the person who needs you but doesn’t realise it.

It’s exhausting having to battle a system that, in my opinion, sets people up to fail.

One of the attributes I pride myself on is the ability to remain level-headed, regardless of what comes my way.

There is no need to fly off the handle at a person or situation, and it’s important to remember that moment will pass, and you need to look back at your actions and be ok with your choices.

Remembering that we can have confronting and heated conversations with each other, but that they must remain respectful.

Over two months of this journey, I honestly share that every stage has been challenging to ensure adequate care.

At every turn, systems, processes and policies appear to have been created to prevent people from accessing timely and proper care and support.

What’s worse is when you encounter a service provider professional who cannot think outside the box or even recognise the limitations of the system they’re working within.

On the flipside, what’s incredible to experience is those who work in the profession of mental illness support and who are incredible assets.

While I recognise there are serious resourcing impacts in regional Queensland, it should never result in a vulnerable person being hung out to dry.

An inspirational person said to me recently that, “Every person is only a caring adult away from being a success story”.

While I love that reminder and read it often, it forces me to think about what happens to those who don’t have that caring adult…