October marks National Mental Health Month. The aim of this initiative is to advocate and raise awareness for mental health in Australia.
With 1 in 5 Australians currently experiencing a mental health illness, it is important to start non-judgemental discussions surrounding mental health.
In recognition of this month, EPIC will be releasing a mental health blog series. Each blog will be written by someone in our EPIC community who has a lived experience with mental health.
By reading different stories about various mental health journeys we hope that this demonstrates that mental health can affect anyone at any stage of life. Mental health isn’t something you should be ashamed of and there is no one right way to access support.
First, in the series, we have EPIC participant Rebecca who will be sharing her story about living with multiple mental health conditions and working as a paramedic.
“Mental health recovery is a journey, it takes time.” – Rebecca
Living with complex post-traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD), depression, anxiety and insomnia is hard. Many people that don’t live with a mental illness don’t understand that it is not a choice. I can’t for example ‘just get over it’, ‘just be happy’ or ‘just don’t let it affect me’. If it really were that easy, I would have done it by now.
My mental illness is not just like having a bad day, it’s more like having an ugly insidious cancer that can become all-consuming, rob you of living and leave you fighting for survival.
So, like any cancer survivor I’m going to fight, I’m going to do everything in my power, use every treatment, try every weird and wonderful self-care technique in the hope of beating this disease. I also know I need to be kind to myself and know I didn’t choose this.
I support my mental health in many ways. I’m currently working on eating well and exercising almost every day. I love spending time with my lovely Labradors, Zelda and Hunter, my family and friends. I have been reading books and podcasts on mental health and illness to continue to improve my quality of life and understand as much as possible on how to fight and overcome my mental illness. I’ve also just recently started using a positive affirmations app because self-belief is something I struggle with.
Having regular and meaningful work has also helped me improve and support my mental health. I have been working as a paramedic for the NSW Ambulance Service for two years.
What I love about my role is the humbling nature of the work. It is an honour to be trusted in such a unique way by the patients. I am always grateful and honoured to be able to help my community in this way. I also enjoy that I am challenged every day to be a better version of myself.
Working has given me a sense of purpose and meaning in life. Due to my mental illness studying, learning and improving my practice may have been made harder and taken longer than those around me but it didn’t make it impossible. Now when I’m struggling or being hard on myself for not doing things perfectly, I can remember how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned. I remind myself mental health recovery is a journey, it takes time.
My advice to people who are struggling with their own mental health is to remember seeking help for mental illness is a strength, not a weakness. It is not easy to make the change for a better life but in the long run, it’s harder if you don’t change.
I still struggle every day but just like my learning for my job, it’s a process. I’m not able to choose to ‘just get over it’ but I can choose to take the dogs for a walk, go to the gym or eat a healthy meal instead of McDonald’s. Take control of the choices you have, then you know you’re doing your best.
My final piece of advice would be don’t compare yourself to those around you. It’s like comparing apples with oranges, no one has had the same life experiences, struggles or triumphs. You can only compare yourself to who you were yesterday, last week or last year, that’s the only way you can gauge your progress.
National support lines
- Suicide Call Back Service: 1300 659 497
- Kids Helpline (up to 25 years): 1800 551 800
- Lifeline: 13 11 14
- Men’s Line Australia: 1300 789 978
- Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636
- Q-life LGBTQIA+: 1800 184 527
- Lifeline Text (6pm-12am): 0477 131 114
- GriefLine: 1300 845 745