So, the tally of people in my life

So, the tally of people in my life with mental illness rises to four. I hate thinking of them as numbers but it helps me to distance myself a bit, allows me a bit of perspective.

Mum’s pretty cool, as far as Mum’s go. She’s smart, reads a lot, I think of her as a walking dictionary/thesaurus. She wears appropriate clothing for a woman of her age (no daggy grandma clothes and no mini skirts). She’s generally quiet and well-spoken and she’s damn good job of raising three girls.

She’s also been a stay-at-home Mum for nearly twenty-two years. She’s obsessed to the point of potential OCD about cleaning the house. Little happens in the day-to-day business of the house anymore, not since Chelsea (the youngest) started high school. The friends that she has made over the years have moved away and the closest family we have are in Sydney or Melbourne.

I’ve always viewed Mum as somewhat timid, like a mouse. Non-assertive, introverted, shy. Some of my friends said they thought she was snobby; but she’s just quiet. So, she hasn’t held a job for twenty-two years, leaving Ba as the bread-winner for the family. And for the most part it’s been rough financially but we’re a pretty happy family, as they say.

About a fortnight ago, one of Mum’s fillings came out and she needed a bit of dental work done. One dodgy dentist and $250 later, she’s out and in excruciating pain. Back to the dentist, a different tooth out, another $250, more pain. Unbearable. Worse than childbirth, she said. Back to dentist, original problem tooth out. Later that night, she fainted from the pain and I took her to hospital. So she’s home, still in pain but with sleeping pills, so all’s well that ends well according to the stupid dentist.

The first week was the most stressful week I think I’ve ever had. No one was really taking Mum seriously. So I took time off work and uni to take her to and from the dentist and to look after her and cook and clean and do house stuff. Talk about role reversal. I was cleaning up her vomit, sponging her brow, feeding her soup. After she had the first tooth out I desperately needed help so I asked Monique to come home from her boyfriend’s, which, fortunately, she did. It wasn’t until I took her to the hospital that Ba finally realised that it was serious. He’s hell-bent on going to Vietnam and he’s got a notoriously one-track mind. Part of Mum’s distress was that we do not have the money to spend on expensive dental work. She also said that she felt embarrassed about having to tell people all the time that we couldn’t afford things.

So Ba finally took a day off work, they treated Mum for dry socket, I’m up-to-date on uni work and the house is all in order. We’re all together and I think we’re stronger for it.

However, Ba just announced that Mum wasn’t coping and that he was going to take her to a GP and have her referred to a psychologist. I can honestly say, it’s been a long time coming. As much as I think I know what she’s thinking and how she’s feeling, I’ll have to wait until the morning to have a chat. I suppose this isn’t uncommon, feeling depressed when your children grow up and don’t need as much support as usual? Or feeling depressed after an unusually traumatic experience? But the thing is, we’d be pretty lost without her. Her help has meant that we get focus on our futures, that we actually get a shot at a better future than what her and Ba got. Should I tell her that we need her or is that just going to put more pressure on her? And I think I should be supporting Ba through this too. I can see a lot of me in him; he wants to be up-beat and keep everything together but you can see he’s tired. It’s starting to get too much…I don’t really like being an adult.

P.S. I got nominated for a couple of awards by the ladies at depressionscollateraldamage but because I’m a lazy bum I didn’t get around to fulfilling the requirements. Thanks anyway, it means so much to me

Love, Steph



In December 2011, an Adelaide bus driver who was accused of abusing seven intellectually-disabled children walked free without a trial because prosecutors were concerned the victims could not adequately communicate what happened to them.

Too angry for words…you’ll have to read it yourself…

Although, one of the women interviewed (who had cerebral palsy) said something along the lines of “people with physical or mental disabilities walk around with a red flashing light above their heads that says to potential predators ‘if you’re going to abuse someone you might as well abuse me because you’re more likely to get away with it'”. 



Ok, so, my boyfriend, my sister and now my best friend are living with mental illness. It is becoming of increasing importance for me to be able to support the people closest to me. I’m a woman on a mission!

My best friend is my best friend for a reason. She was voted ‘Nicest Person’ in some high school thingy once upon a time. And it’s true, she is a nice person. She’s very selfless, caring, smart, funny…but lately, those reasons were starting to fade.

She dated a guy on and off for two years. This guy was a devout Catholic, did not believe in sex before marriage and hence wanted to marry her. At 18. Which suits some people but not my friend. So they broke up and she made a pact with herself that she would start ‘living her life’.

‘Good for you’, I told her…until I realised that ‘living her life’ involved getting drunk every weekend, sleeping with strangers, trying drugs, spending all her money and letting her grades fall (she’s studying to be a psychologist; how ironic). This went on for at least eighteen months.

About a year ago now, she admitted to me that she was on antidepressants for symptoms of depression and anxiety. She’d been to see a psychologist and a psychiatrist who said that her actions were typical of someone that has had a manic episode.

So, in the last twelve months the medication has stabilised her somewhat: she no longer has the extreme mania, she got into honours for psychology and she seems to have her life back on track. She’s been a wealth of knowledge about the ‘mechanics’ of depression and how I can support Mitch and my sister and in return I lend her an ear and a shoulder when she needs it and we drink tea. I think whatever medication she’s taking makes her a little aloof, a little ‘out-of-it’ so I find I’m regularly reminding her of common sense things, like bringing a rain coat and water bottle to Bluesfest (more on that in another post) or turning her car lights off, or not spending a hundred dollars on a pair of shoes. I feel a bit like her mum sometimes…

In fact, that’s how I feel in relation to most of the people in my life these days. Which is nice in some ways, I get to help them but, as any mum can testify, it is very taxing.

Soldier on,

Love, Steph.


I am currently reading ‘The Silver Linings Playbook’ by Matthew Quick. I haven’t quite finished it yet but a word of advice: GO AND GET YOURSELF A COPY. RIGHT NOW. Some of the traits of the main character are so uncannily like my Mitch that I can’t help fall in love with him. Anyway, I won’t spoil it but do yourself a favour and have a read.

I had an epiphany in the shower the other night (where the best epiphanies occur, I think). I’d had lunch with a friend that day; said friend is in the throes of a worsening relationship which she wants to get out of. But she kept saying, ‘I love him though’. I asked her why she loved him and without any consideration she said ‘Because he loves me’.

I considered this as I shampooed my hair and thought, if the only reason why you love your partner is because of what they give you in return, isn’t that a little counterproductive? In other words, we love them for ourselves.

I verbalised this to Mitch saying something along the lines of ‘I don’t love you only because you love me, I don’t love you for myself, for personal want or gain. I love you because of who you are and your own personal traits, intricacies, triumphs and obstacles’. And that is the truth. For me at least.

Another excellent quote I found: ‘The key to succeeding in a relationship is not finding the right person…

it is learning to love the person you found.’

So, so true. Gee, if Mitch and I had given up as soon as the going got tough, we’d have been separated ages ago. As it is, I want Mitch in my life because I love him despite his mental illness. Love for us is a decision not just a feeling, we have to work on it each day.

And the pay off is life-long companionship, someone who has always got your back no matter what. It’s worth it for me,

Love, Steph.


An incredibly courageous woman interviewing her husband about his mental illness…

creating sacred communities


I have many friends who have a spouse who struggles with depression. We share that story. I asked my husband, if I could interview him, with the hope that we could be of some support to those couples who are in the midst of “the black dog.”


How old were you when you first remember having depression?

For many people vulnerable to depression, a stressful incident called a “trigger” causes what is referred to as an “episode.” The terms “trigger” and “episode” are used by mental health professionals and they’re also user-friendly to the public.

I was 20 and in college when I had my first episode. The university that I attended had an active student government, and I was serving in one of the top five positions elected by the student body. Back then, I was pretty cocksure—I thought of myself as just being very confident, but I’m…

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Comforting words for those who love someone with a mental illness…

Depression's Collateral Damage

How does depression affect a relationship?  How can someone else’s depression affect me? How do you survive when someone you love is depressed?

These are questions Bernadette and I deal with all the time.  We discuss it with each other, as our own two-person support group.  We discuss it with others, in workshops, presentations, and support groups.  And most of the time the response we get is along the lines of “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe someone else is having the same experiences and feelings I’m dealing with.  I thought I was the only one.”

As with most issues involving mental illness, fear and stigma tend to rule the day.  No one wants to talk about what’s going on at home when what’s going on at home involves a loved one collapsing into tears at the drop of a hat, sleeping all day or never, growling constantly, hyperventilating due to…

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It has been a long time since Mitch’s fish died and consequently, a lot of stuff has happened; it’s been a roller-coaster of events, thoughts and emotions.

We did end up visiting my Ba Noi. And all she wanted to do was make sure that I was happy. You know what? Despite my constant reassurances that yes, Mitch does make me happy, she saw right through it. ‘I not sure he make you happy’, she said in her halting English. What does she know anyway? I asked myself and until now I’ve pushed it out of my mind.

It seems to be a recurring question that people ask of people in relationships: ‘do they make you happy?’ What the hell is happiness anyway? Am I supposed to keep a tally along the lines of, ‘right, on Monday he made me a cup of tea but he also got grumpy at me for being late and on Tuesday he had a bad day which made me unhappy but he got over it so in the end I’m happy…I guess’? 

If I’m honest with myself (which I always try to be despite my suspicions that I’m living in a state of denial), Mitch’s mental illness makes me unhappy. He is the only one that can truly bring me down. Like I’ve said before, I’m a naturally positive, happy person and I can deal with everything logically and with reason. But when Mitch is down, I try and try and try with all might, everything that I can think, I pull out all the stops, I try EVERYTHING (and here I am crying with frustration at the moment) and it’s still not good enough. Hours and hours later maybe, just maybe, I’ll have gotten through to him. I don’t have time for that. I don’t have the energy anymore. And now I’m in constant fear of becoming desensitised, of not caring anymore. I don’t want that to happen.

Now, more than ever, I’m consciously aware of the times where I think of my Mitch, the one who will grab me around the waist and hug me and kiss my neck, the one that makes me laugh a real, belly-chuckle laugh and who genuinely cares about me. He’s getting harder and harder to find.

This ties in well with the following blog which has some honest but hard-hitting words:

Love, Steph.


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