I tell this story for the very first time, it is about a young married woman, who I know very well, as I am that woman! At the time of this story, I was working full time running my own successful Registered Training Organisation (RTO). My husband and I had three children, 6yrs, 15yrs & 16yrs at the time. You may well ask why I have not told this story before? The answer is simple the FEAR of STIGMA!
I was living with severe depression, constant and debilitating panic attacks, which I believe started with the miscarriage of my third child and undiagnosed post-natal depression after my last child.
I was taking anti-depressants, which left me extremely lethargic and very, very tired. However, I am a very determined and strong woman, so I wore an iron clad mask! Very, very few people knew what was really going on under the surface in my life.
This story relates to just one small snippet of the bigger journey and demonstrates the disempowering nature of STIGMA. My youngest child was in Grade Two and I was struggling.
My daughter was late for school every day for months and at one stage her teacher made an off the cuff comment to me, that the school should give me a discount on my daughter’s school fees because she had been late for school every day for weeks.
She did not ask me why, or what was happening to cause my daughter to be late every day.
My family and I were reasonably well known at the school and in our community. My fear relating to the impact and risk associated with my situation was huge and always on my mind. The fear of STIGMA was real! In fact, fear of stigma often prevents people from seeking help and/or speaking out.
The only professional help I finally sought was from my GP, who prescribed anti-depression medication and eventually referred me to a psychiatrist and psychologist. I only attended one session with the psychologist, most likely due to my inability to take off my mask.
My point in telling this story is because it was the support from my husband, older children (young teenagers, who did not know that I was struggling with poor mental health, but knew that I needed support), my mother and two very dear and close friends.
The reality is on the surface everything looked just fine to the outside world!!
My journey out of the dense fog was due to my relationships with and unconditional support of my husband, children, mother and two wonderful friends coupled with my sheer determination not to give in.
My survival and healing came from my research, education, acceptance, and sheer determination to learn about myself so that I could take responsibility for making better choices to help me meet my needs and quality world pictures.
My training in Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory, Reality Therapy and Lead Management gave me an in depth understanding of who I was and the tools I needed to make needs satisfying choices. I came to realise that the only thing the I can control is my own behaviour.
As a result, I not only survived but I grew spiritually and emotionally as a person and I developed a passion and commitment to address mental ill health, wellbeing, and stigma.
Sadly, for me the issue of STIGMA was overwhelming, and “silence” was golden.
Sadly, as a nation we have a long way to go in terms of reducing STIGMA surrounding mental distress and ill health, but we must never give up!
Consultant, Mentor, Speaker.