I started getting symptoms when I was 19 years old. I was studying journalism at Charles Sturt University and for the life of me I couldn’t get an assessment done. I was trying to do my best with the course. I had been HD’ing all my assessments and suddenly couldn’t do this one. I found myself breaking into tears every time I talked about it, I couldn’t think straight, couldn’t plan, communicate and could barely organise myself to put together my belongings and come home from University.
I spent several months at home getting myself back together and I saved enough money to go travelling in the United States and Canada. I bought a ticket for Greyhound buses, which allowed me to take unlimited bus trips for 2 months. I travelled all over the states. One of my most profound experiences was meeting a homeless man in Seattle. It was thanksgiving. I was in the centre of town and everywhere was closed. I was cold and hungry and looking for something to eat. I saw a homeless man. He was hungry too and I saw a Macdonald’s in the distance. I said we would go there, but even it was closed. The man knew about a diner which would be open. I was a little bit worried walking with him by myself, but we came to the diner. I bought him everything on the menu. Pancakes with maple syrup and bacon and eggs. He was so cold his hands were shaking as he picked up his coffee and drank. He told me that he heard God speaking to him. That he had given this man powers and that he could hear the electricity running through the walls. I asked him if he had family and he said that he had, but he didn’t get to see them very often because they wouldn’t have much to do with him and the costs for his illness were too high. It made me think how lucky we are to live in Australia where people can get access to support.
I had a great time travelling through Canada and the US. I came back to University and worked my tail off in journalism. I started my own radio show and then got a job working for the ABC.
I wish I could tell you that life went well from there, but it didn’t. The depression didn’t go away. The hardest part about it was watching all my dreams slowly vanish before my eyes. Journalism is competitive and mental illness has a stigma. Depression made it hard to sleep and wake up at 4am.
It’s taken me several years to get my life together and truly deal with the depression. It’s not easy. Exercising every day helps, taking medication helps, sleeping enough helps and depression is all about momentum. You have to force yourself to keep going, keep running every day. You must never give up.