The streets in residential Glen Iris are quiet at night. Even on a Friday. It’s empty of both cars and pedestrians.
Despite this, it probably wasn’t an ideal place for me to be alone, having a mental breakdown.
I was years into my relationship with mental illness. It was about a year and a half after I had first had a mental health treatment plan created by a GP. Since then I had seen two psychologists. It was six months after my first antidepressant prescription (I was now trying my third). And it was two weeks after my grandfather passed away.
Grief had pushed me over the edge; I was no longer coping.
I was used to mornings spent trying and failing to move my body out of bed. My brain ruining all nice things (showers, spotify playlists, any kind of party). Enjoying life seemed impossible; surviving it was hard enough.
But now, I had more difficult things to think about. I was spaced-out to the max. There’s no better term for it really: everything seemed too far away, too saturated, not real. I was confused. I couldn’t tell how much time had passed. I was begging myself to go inside and go to sleep, but the dark was making it worse.
I was absolutely terrified. I wanted to not be inside my brain anymore.
(What I was experiencing was severe derealisation/dissociation. It took months for me to feel normal again.)
The next morning my best friend drove me to the emergency department, after we were told to by the CAT Team we called. In the car, I couldn’t speak through my tears. She held my hand between changing gears.
After a long talk with a mental health social worker, we decided that staying in hospital wouldn’t help my confused brain, and instead I should take some time off of placement and get daily visits from my local CAT Team.
I am sharing this story because I have shared most parts of my story (only leaving out the gory details that wouldn’t help anyone), except for this. Because on the way to the hospital, I couldn’t believe what was happening.
When I was first prescribed antidepressants, I cried, because I couldn’t believe what was happening.
Hallmarks of severity scare me: I always feel that mental illness is okay, as long as you can show you are only getting better. But the reality is that there is a monster in my brain that I have been fighting for years. Today, it is lying weakly in a small cage in a corner of my brain I don’t explore anymore. I have fought it with all the ammunition I have. But it doesn’t ever really go away, and sometimes it gets stronger, and bad days still happen, but I’m still here, fighting, and I always will be.
My point is this: whatever help you need, whatever ammunition you require, it’s all okay. Whether it’s your first GP appointment, your tenth medication, a new type of therapy, a visit or admission to hospital, a year of intermission: there is no shame in reaching out. We fight the good fight so tomorrow we might be better. And that, to me, is everything.
If you identify with any part of this story, I am so sorry that you are going through what you are going through. But don’t be afraid to reach out. To a friend, a family member, to me. There are always people to help. And you won’t feel this way forever.
Grace Scolyer, Monash University MBBS, Year 3 (2018)