JLO’s Story

I can still clearly remember the day I had my first panic attack. I was 15 years old. Of course at that time, I had no idea what it was, but it changed my life forever. Gradually, I became fearful of both small and large places. I hid the behaviour well, mainly because I felt embarrassed. I didn’t understand what was happening to me.

I became very disruptive at school and begun cutting myself. I was punishing myself, because in my mind I had convinced myself that I was ugly and worthless. These destructive thoughts and the behaviour I displayed controlled my life. I’d also become extremely orderly and disciplined with this life and it became normal behaviour for me.

As I grew older I left home to try and make a life on my own. I was 18. Two very violent relationships later, I realised I was wasting my life away. I had reached the age of 23 and achieved very little, apart from being tortured and bashed every day. I knew if I did not escape the second relationship I soon would be dead.

Fortunately I found the courage to leave, and just over 12 months later, married and had two beautiful children. After the birth of my second child my mental health deteriorated. I became very highly strung, paranoid, convinced I was no good and everyone and everything was out to get me.

I was put on medication, which controlled the mood swings and depression, but it did not control my extremely orderly behaviour, everything had to be clean and perfectly in place.

After 6 years, my husband and I separated. He kept the kids, on the grounds of my state of mental health.

I went downhill fast. Drinking heavily, taking drugs, (I had gone off my prescribed medication by this stage), I was out of control from one day to the next, all the while convincing myself that I deserved punishment. My mind and thought pattern were so distorted, I didn’t know reality from non-reality.

Finally, through Centrelink counselling I began to get my life on track. Through counselling sessions and regression, I understood that my behaviour and depression began when I was a child, being molested by my step grandfather. A lot of this happened in front of my parents, who ignored it and would never talk about it.

I’m now 44 years old. My step grandfather passed away in 1995, then my Dad in 2005 and Mum in 2007. I will always live with this torment, but I have learnt to move on. I am back on medication, this time for life. One thing I realised, you should never go off your medication without your doctor’s say so. I learnt the hard way.

There used to be a self-help support group in Townsville, but when that group closed down some of the group members realised that apart from professional mental health services in the local area, there were no other mental health support groups left in Townsville.

This group of people formed their own unique self-help support group called HAND UP, which helps adults with depression and anxiety understand their illness and provides strategies to deal with their feelings.

Today, I still deal everyday with my thought patterns. I can distinguish reality from non-reality. I will always deal with my depression/anxiety, agoraphobia, panic attacks and obsessive compulsive disorder, but now I have the support of a wonderful husband. My second marriage is a blessing.