I have just received Anna Mitchell’s story from Mind Australia. As a young woman who has lived with mental ill health and is now an ‘Ambassador of Hope’ Anna has begun speaking about her experiences, with the goal of early recognition/intervention in the lives of other young members of our community.
Mind supports recovery from mental illness and helps break the cycle of homelessness.
Mind’s role is to encourage individual solutions that help people take control of their lives, foster self-belief and connect people with the community. It does this through a holistic approach that helps people to:
* Set goals and achieve them
* Manage their mental and physical health
* Develop a clearer sense of personal identity
* Develop trusting and supportive relationships
* Get back to work, school or tertiary studies
* Develop skills to live independently in the community
FULL STEAM AHEAD TO DESTRUCTION THEN..ON TO LIFE’S AMAZING ADVENTURE
Without Mind’s residential program, Denham House, and the outreach support of Sandridge, I most likely wouldn’t be around today.
Let me rewind. I grew up in upper middle-class Hawthorn. I went to private schools, had tennis and swimming lessons, watched Foxtel and did homework on my laptop. I was lucky in many ways, but behind the scenes I was a broken mirror, ready to shatter.
Most of my life basically revolved around my middle sister. She unfortunately has autism, epilepsy and an intellectual disability.
At 19 she has the intellectual capacity of a child.
So while most teenagers acted out; I, on the other hand, acted in. My world was in constant chaos and the result was mental illness, in fact several.
As time ticked on I spiralled down. I had lost what felt like the only ally I had in this fight for my life, that instinctual need to survive, and once it’s lost it’s difficult to recover. My family tried their best to help, but there are some problems parental love can’t fix. So I was then chewed up and subsequently spat out by the public and private mental health systems, until I entered Mind. I moved into Denham House in 2006. It was literally a 10-minute walk from my parents’ house. I had been diagnosed with several mental illnesses and stomach/food issues. I wasn’t their usual psychotic.
I was going full steam ahead on my self-destruction mission and waiting for Denham House staff, like everyone else in my life, to give up on me. Enter my second key worker, Stuart, who caught me every time I fell.
Stuart supported me in every decision, trusted me with my life and held the hope for me when I wasn’t strong enough to carry it. Suddenly, in my never-ending darkness, there appeared stars, but it must be said that it is truly only darkest just before the day dawns.
Don’t get me wrong: I never got to see the light or go down as far as humanly possible. Nor did I have some spellbinding epiphany – God, that would have been so much easier. No, I was unfortunately lucky enough to survive the hard and somewhat painful way: small changes and miniscule victories.
It took three years but I finished VCE and took my first four-day holiday to Sydney with friends. Even more importantly, I haven’t hurt myself in more than two years and I haven’t attempted to take my own life in more than 20 months.
I moved out of Denham House after 2 1/2 years and am living in my own flat in Richmond and see a Mind outreach worker weekly.
I am 21, I am alive, exceeding expectations and living. Now I am experiencing the amazing adventure that is my life while noticing, with a little too much insight, the depth of the shadows all around us.
I do still see those shadows. I often feel like I’m still standing in them, but I’m not permanently stuck in them any more. Without a shadow of a doubt that is the greatest gift Mind could have ever given me – a future.
Mind operates in Victoria, ring 03 9455 7900 and
South Australia, ring 08 8368 7800.
Let’s do something about mental illness NOT being a life sentence