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I can’t believe I started this post in October of last year. That’s how fucked our life has been…

I cannot believe we are in 2014 and there are still people completely clueless about mental health. Seriously… and this is why I’m surprised…. In August 2009 the government released a brochure titled “What is mental illness?”. Why? well it must have been that the Australian government felt that is was needed. A series of brochures were funded by the government under the National Mental Health Strategy…

YES – The Australian Government felt it was necessary to, not only have a strategy specifically for mental health, but to also fund something for the strategy. It’s a words on paper strategy, but it’s a strategy none the less. Anyway, back on track, they released a series of brochures which included general information on mental health but also specifically on anxiety, bipolar, depression, eating disorders, Personality and schizophrenia. Could it be because Australian’s are SO NAIVE when it comes to mental health or because there’s so much stupidity surrounding mental health? Pick your favourite because they are probably both right so let’s try to change that shall we?

Sorry Australian Government but I’m borrowing your words, – *ahem* What is Mental Illness? Mental illness is a general term that refers to a group of illnesses. – Got that? General mental illness affects a GROUP of illnesses. Not everyone is batshit crazy. A mental illness is a health problem that affects how a person feels, thinks, behaves and interacts with other people. A mental health problem also interferes with how a person thinks, feels and behaves, but to a lesser extent than a mental illness. Hang on – yes I just gave you the same information twice… Why?

The day he broke.

The day he broke.

Mental health problems are actually quite common. Think of when you are really stressed at work, or when you are nervous because a cop just pulled you over (and you forgot to pay your rego last week) – a VALID mental health problem – anxiety – temporarily felt as a reaction to everyday life but does not necessarily mean that you have mental illness. AND according to Doctors at WHO – no, not Doctor Who, but doctors at the World Health Organisation – Depression (you know the one where you cry alot) will be one of the biggest health problems of the world by 2020…. That’s less than 6 years away… I know I know – so much information but honestly keep reading… spread the word – we have to stamp out the bullshit…. The most common mental illnesses are anxiety and depression. Let me just repeat that for you… the most common mental illnesses are anxiety (that’s the one where you worry) and depression (the one where you cry). Everyone experiences strong feelings at times but a mental illness is present when these feelings become so disturbing and overwhelming that people have great difficulty coping with day to day activities such as work, enjoying leisure time and maintaining relationships.

This one is Kall helping Alfie make me feel better.

This one is Kall helping Alfie make me feel better.

Hmmmm…. that sounds like someone I know. Let’s keep reading shall we? At their most extreme, people with a depressive disorder may not be able to get out of bed or care for themselves physically. People with certain types of anxiety disorder may not be able to leave the house, or may have compulsive rituals to help them alleviate their fears. – Sounds pretty bloody dangerous to me… can’t get out of bed, can’t leave the house. Wow, terrifying. So how does this affect my life and why am I so mad?

Life before Mental Health

Life before Mental Health

In January 2013 I started caring for my boyfriend. Why? Because he was sick. Still is. But what actually happened? Well that’s a long story… you see we went into hospital because Kall had chest pain. Chest pain which couldn’t be explained. And then we were back the next week… and the week after… Kall couldn’t go to university, I struggled to attend university – I nearly failed my first trimester. Pretty serious shit… They tested and tested him but nothing major came up…. Then it wasn’t until May (four MONTHS later) we were told Kall has generalised anxiety… in addition to his other mental health issues… Essentially it means that Kall worries… all the time. It’s absolutely crippling at times – Kall can’t leave the house some days and his anxiety causes him serious health issues.

special cuddles I will always cherish

special cuddles I will always cherish

Just last year my family tried an intervention – On me. I’m still attempting to figure out why. They claim it’s because I’m addicted to Kall’s prescription medication – a pretty serious accusation considering the government has entrusted me with not only Kall’s medication but effectively his life. Addicted… to a non-addictive anti-depressant and Seroquel – one of the most horrible medications I’ve ever heard Kall speak of. No thank you – I’ll pass on that thanks.

We are now in November and Kall is still struggling along. Our journey thus far has been riddled with challenges, which we should not have had to face, and we’ve had to do some things that we are just not proud of. We’ve had police escort us from our home, our families turn against us and lost some people we thought were friends and we are still not finished.

Last year we were made homeless because apparently that’s better for us… How that’s the case, I have no idea, but that’s what we were told. The way that we have been treated as a couple, the way Kall has been treated as a person, it completely unacceptable – not only for someone with mental health issues, but unacceptable for anyone. No one should be treated with disrespect just because they have a mental illness.

It’s not Kall’s fault he got sick – he just started to worry one day and couldn’t stop. I, myself, have been diagnosed with anxiety, but I’m in denial apparently. I keep saying that I don’t have anxiety but the fact of the matter is that I do. My every day life is stressful and as a result I have a mental health problem – anxiety. But I don’t have a mental illness – there’s the difference. I can control my worry, my fear and my emotional state – Kall, however, cannot. So what’s the solution? Well you would be freaking surprised. For the last 9 months we’ve been told the same thing – Go home, take these pills, talk to these people and watch a funny dvd. That’s it. That’s the complexity of the solution. Anti-depressants, therapy and amusing dvds. Since then, he’s been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder as well...

SO WHY THE FUCK IS IT SO GOD DAMN HARD?!?!? That’s a good damn question. The answer is because people do not understand mental health. There are so many myths, misunderstanding and negative stereotypes surrounding mental illness. It took us 13 weeks to find somewhere to live. 13 weeks – just because Kall has a mental illness and no one would rent to us. A perfect example of the discrimination and isolation of people with mental illness and me, as his carer. And we’re just about to move again, though 12 months on it’s been a little easier.

So what can we do about the stigma of mental illness? First of all – sign up for Odd socks day and get behind it – http://www.oddsocksday.org.au – Start by wearing odd socks and breaking the stigma of mental illness.

What can you do to help break the stigma of mental health?

  • Think about mental illness like any other illness or health condition and bring them into the open.
  • Talk about mental illness openly with everyone you meet – It is surprising how many people are affected by mental illness, particularly the highly prevalent disorders of depression and anxiety.
  • Educate the community to overcome negative stereotypes based on misconceptions.
  • Promote mental health and healthy attitudes through childhood and adult life.
  • Support the development of resilience: learn ways to deal with stress in relationships, situations and events.
  • Assist friends and family with a mental illness to obtain care and treatment as early as possible.
  • Ensure high quality support and treatment services are provided to people with mental illness to promote recovery.
  • Actively support the families and carers of people who have mental illness, who also experience the confusion, distress and stigma that can accompany mental illness.
  • Address discrimination in every area of life, including employment, education, and the provision of goods, services and facilities.
  • Encourage research into mental illness to assist understanding of how these illnesses affect people and can be prevented and/or effectively treated.

Why can’t people just leave Kall alone to recover? I don’t actually know. Perhaps they think they know what is better for Kall… which is funny because the SWAT Team of medical professionals currently annoying the crap out of Kall seem to think that all he needs is to be left alone. In fact, that’s exactly what they ask me when they see me – “Has Kall been taking his pills?” Yes he most certainly has. “Has he been going to therapy?” Yes he most certainly has. “Has he watched amusing DVD’s and thought happy thoughts?” Well, I’d love to say yes but sadly no. Rather than spending his time trying to craft and recover, Kall and I have spent weeks battling people who think they know better.. We’ve been homeless, had someone try to [unsuccessfully] hospitalise Kall and spent way too much time and effort holding back the bullshit, instead of sorting out our life and getting Kall better.     So where to from here? Well it’s clear that I can’t work while caring for Kall which is interesting because I’m fairly certain that the world revolves around money – I mean seriously, have you ever tried picking up your medication without money…. And it’s pretty clear that Kall won’t be working until he is better… so how do we survive? How will we pay rent, buy food and get Kall better? With perseverance!

a perfect fit, but hats really don't work for me.

a perfect fit, but hats really don’t work for me.

As part of Kall’s recovery we have learned that he has a knack for craft, in specific – yarn. What started with a loom, a latch hook and some yarn has now become a past time for Kall – Check out the beanie he made me :o)   So this is how we are going to survive – from the help of complete strangers. Everything Kall makes, he wants to sell so we started this blog called Anxious Accessories where you can purchase anything that Kall makes, request a custom piece or donate to our cause. Every piece sold will directly help Kall and I to survive through his recovery.

What are you waiting for? Help Kall on his road to recovery – Let’s craft our way to positive mental health!