Lilly’s Story

When I was a kid I never expected to reach the age of 20 years.  Now I’m 50!

I believe that I probably had adolescent depression, which the internet tells me 20% of Australian kids currently experience.  I can remember feeling overwhelmingly sad and without hope for many years.  I just did not want to be on this planet.  I was 15 years old when I first attempted suicide.  When I showed my mother what I had done, she yelled at me and walked away.  It used to make me feel sad when I thought about her reaction, but now I understand that she was probably frightened and didn’t know what to do. There was much less understanding about mental illness in those days.  She was having a pretty hard time herself then because our family was not an easy one to be living in.  She was virtually a sole parent of 4 young children, as my father, a soldier, had post traumatic stress disorder from his war experiences in Vietnam and needed a lot of care himself.

Turning 20 years old was not such a shock, but turning 30 brought about a breakdown and a second suicide attempt that hospitalized me for many weeks.  While being in hospital was not a pleasant experience, it did lead to me being diagnosed with severe depression and starting medication and therapy.

I have spent a lot of time and resources in therapy but am fortunate to have worked with some excellent therapists, whom I have no doubt helped save my life.  I now go on and off the medication and therapy as I need to.  I am grateful that I now understand that I can use treatment (medication and therapy) according to my needs.  I am in control.  My illness no longer controls me.

The turning point for me came when I stumbled upon an article about recovery from mental illness.  I now understand from personal experience that it is possible to live well while having a mental illness, to be happy and maintain a valued role in my community.

I was fortunate during my recovery journey that I was able to maintain full-time employment, despite being unwell and being addicted to alcohol for many years.  While working was difficult, it did keep me engaged with people.  Because I had to go to work everyday, I was not able to isolate myself in the house and become totally absorbed by my illness.  Work was also the one area of success I had in my life and it allowed me to hold onto some small level of self esteem during many dark years.

Today I am reunited with my family and am happy, despite having to be vigilant about doing the things that keep me well.  I exercise regularly, eat well, give myself time to sleep properly, work at jobs that give me satisfaction, keep a thought diary to challenge my negative thinking, mix only with people who treat me well, attend meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous and participate in the Hand Up group.

So although I cannot quite get my head around having turned 50, I have never been happier or more well at any other time in my life.  For the first time in my life, I am looking forward to the coming years and for that I am grateful.