Mental health issues go beyond normal suffering, they go to your core – it’s like your soul is hurt.
I have been visiting Hornsby Ku-ring-gai Hospital’s Mental Health Centre since I was 15 years old – I am 30 years old now and eternally grateful. I am sharing my story with you because I want to show people that there is life and light at the end of the tunnel and that access to the right support and services makes this possible.
Growing up I had a difficult upbringing and family situation which impacted my education and ultimately, my mental health. It didn’t help that my Dad was trying to work through his own mental health issues at the same time. Eventually, I fell into the wrong crowd who introduced me to cigarettes, marijuana and street crime. Even though I knew it was wrong, and that it was not good for me, I wanted to feel like I belonged and was connected.
Over time things got worse and I realised I was beginning to lose touch with reality. I never felt so scared and alone. Eventually, I sought help and was diagnosed with schizophrenia. It came as a shock. It felt like I broke my arm, but it was my soul, the very core of me, that was broken and needed time to mend. This diagnosis brought on heavy episodes of depression and crippling anxiety. It was so bad it made me physically unwell and I was unable to function.
Things finally started to turn around for me when I was admitted to Hornsby Hospital – I started to heal.
Still, it wasn’t an easy journey – I had many admissions during my late teens and early twenties. At 25, I decided that I no longer wanted to feel this way and needed further help. My family and case manager intervened, held me accountable and helped me take steps to undertake drug rehabilitation. This was 12 years ago and I am proud to say that I haven’t touched drugs since, and I have also quit smoking. Their support helped me get my life back.
The service I received at Hornsby Mental Health Centre is far better than at any other NSW ward I’ve experienced. That place is more like a community than a hospital – it felt like turning on aeroplane mode on your life.
It allowed me to take time out from life in a safe and supportive space. They made me feel less alone, and it felt good knowing that I was in safe hands with the mental healthcare workers who understood my needs and were always there when I needed support.
The experience made me realise that in addition to high-quality medical care, the environment I was in and the culture that was fostered were crucial to my recovery. The service does the best with what it has but it is clearly hard. Generous community donations funded music therapy, meditation sessions, social BBQs and exercise therapy – all of which helped make my experience so positive.
It was about more than just social skills though – I also had the opportunity to relearn important life skills like cooking, cleaning and connecting with others on a meaningful level. I now consider some of the other patients life-long friends. The Hornsby Mental Health Centre team also ensured I had the right support to allow a smooth transition back into my life in the community by connecting me with other services like case managers, housing and disability support.
I am so grateful to the fantastic team at Hornsby’s Mental Health Centre. Thanks to them, my bad mental health days are all in the past.