Mental illness is ever present in New Zealand and in every part of society.
It doesn’t seem to discriminate.
It is an epidemic – an unseen illness that is devastating families.
All of us know someone who is affected: a friend, a family member or a colleague.
The stakes can be really high.
Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, and the new government, have made a promise to review mental health and addiction services to identify gaps.
New Zealand media’s outlets have been highlighting some of the terrifying and tragic stories of those who are affected by mental illness.
The Daily Encourager acknowledges and praises the media for doing this important work.
Our vision is to bring hope to those who suffer with mental illness and we would like to do this by sharing encouraging stories.
Below is a story from one of our readers. We have published it anonymously at the reader’s request …
My husband and I had been married a short time when he started talking about this unshakable dread he felt deep within himself. He described it as a black hole in the pit of his stomach.
I didn’t really understand depression or anxiety at the time and I kept telling him to change his mind set, to be grateful for what he had in his life.
I made it my mission to help turn things around.
We adopted two dogs and two cats, we went surfing, we had long walks by the ocean.
He tried counselling, exercising, adjusting his diet, taking supplements, nothing seemed to lift it from him.
I felt powerless. My beautiful husband was suffering and there was nothing I could do. It was like a black cloud following us around.
After trying hard on his own for a long time, he sought the help from the public mental health services.
He saw four psychiatrists and tried six different medications and none of the medications worked for him. A change in psychiatrists made things worse and he became suspicious of their motives and their diagnoses.
When I made suggestions he became suspicious of me.
He left me and then came back.
He crashed his brand new car.
He got so drunk he didn’t know what he was doing.
I left, went to my mother’s, and he threatened to burn the house down. I phoned the police and they detained him under the Mental Health Act 1992. The experience further traumatised both him and me.
We hit rock bottom. We went and visited another psychiatrist and this time he was given the diagnosis of bi-polar.
Everything made sense then.
Most of the time my wonderful husband was kind, considerate and loving; some of the time I felt like I didn’t know him.
Slowly things started to turn around.
We have battled through the illness together for nearly seven years.
Sometimes I wanted to give up, but I’m glad I didn’t.
I am so grateful we are now in a good healthy place – so what made the difference?
Family and friends – our community
Our family and friends were supportive, but not intrusive. We were able to hang out with them with no expectations and total acceptance and love.
They cried with us and loved us. They prayed for us or encouraged us to keep going. Importantly – they didn’t judge.
Having something for me
Mental illness can be all consuming for both the person it is happening to and those around them. Having something for yourself gives you a break from the intensity of the situation. I would go to the gym with my friend or a walk with the dog and my husband did an art course.
We both found exercise in our natural environment really helpful. We both enjoy surfing or swimming in the ocean and walking through the bush. When we are around nature we become aware of how small we are and there is a sense of contentment. Recently, I watched a wonderful documentary about wounded US war veterans who surfed their way back to good mental health.
I believe doing something creative can really help people with mental illness. My husband found it calmed his soul.
My husband gave up coffee and began drinking green tea and making smoothies with super-greens. He believes this made a huge difference to him.
It took us some time to find the right people to help, but when we did their help was really valuable. We couldn’t have got there without our GP, the psychiatrists, social workers and psychologists.
Animals are amazing. Animals + sick people = happier people. If you don’t have pets there are lots of ways to get a dose of animal therapy for example visit the SPCA or spend time with friends and neighbours pets.
Many people have different views about medication. When we started on our journey we didn’t like the idea of taking medication, but we took the advice of the doctors and my husband took the pills they gave him. It took a long time to find the right drugs and at times we hated them. Today we acknowledge our gratefulness for the option, and I hope one day there will be no need for them.
Having a life of meaning and purpose
At our first appointment the psychologist told us something that helps her clients with depression is to live a life of purpose and meaning. I believe we all have our own interpretation of that but, for us, it was helping others and having a faith. My husband helps others in a very practical way and I help others by being a listening ear. I think life without purpose and meaning can feel quite empty.
A combination of all of these things helped my husband to become functional again. Everyone’s journey is different and what works for one person doesn’t work for someone else. We looked at different mental health websites, blogs and through various medical studies. We asked everyone who had been in a similar position for an opinion.
Finally, if you are reading this and you or someone you love is struggling with a mental illness, ask for help. Keep asking and don’t give up, there is a solution just around the corner that you haven’t thought of yet! At times I found it really hard to ask, but if things are going to change then we can’t do it alone.
Here is a link to some places that want to help you and they want to hear from you.