by Amy Stringer
TW: death, mental illness
“Just because you don’t understand it doesn’t mean it isn’t so.”— Lemony Snicket
I want to share my mental health story. Those close to me will know most of this already but I think it’s time to open up and start a conversation around trauma/poor mental health and the effects it can have on a person.
This blog, at least for now, is not about what happened, but rather about what’s happened since. That being said, I think it may be important to provide at least some background.
In October 2016 I witnessed my bus driver get set on fire by a delusional and paranoid schizophrenic. He died instantly and the resulting smoke and flames almost killed me and around 12 other people. I have a distinct memory of looking down the corridor of the bus and thinking “that’s it, I’m going to die today.” Fortunately, and I am forever in his debt, a man who lived in the area managed to kick open the back door and let us all out.
Many of you know about this already, I haven’t exactly kept it a secret, but what may be less known is the effect that it’s had and what I now cope with on a daily basis.
What’s happened since (the short version)
For almost 4 years now I’ve been recovering from this attack and in the process I’ve been diagnosed with 3 separate, and quite different, mental disorders that I deal with concurrently on a daily basis. I never thought this would happen to me.
I’ve given them names, and I use this as a way to help distinguish between these disorders and who I am as a person. Reader, I would like to introduce you to Pete (PTSD), Po (bipolar disorder) and Ed (eating disorder). These three disorders have had a profound impact on my life, and living with them has been, and continues to be, very difficult.
The PTSD came as no real surprise but the other two shocked me. I had no idea that mental trauma could set off something that seemed so… physical. This is one major point I want to discuss. I was shocked because I didn’t know that trauma could cause anything outside of PTSD and depression. I thought bipolar was always hereditary, and therefore couldn’t affect me, and that eating disorders only affected young girls, or people with a history of eating disorders. I was naive and I was wrong.
It turns out that these things can have other causes… and one major, common cause for all of these things is intense emotional trauma. I intend to document my journey to approximate mental stability in a series of posts aimed at anyone who is willing to listen and engage: friends, colleagues, people who follow me on social media and like all my shit but don’t really speak to me, family, everyone.
What to expect from this blog
Expect it to be dark sometimes, expect it to be heavy. I want to talk about a lot of things, and I will not sugar coat them. I aim to be frank, because honestly, that is how I cope. I want to talk about getting a diagnosis, but also putting off getting a diagnosis simply because you don’t want anymore diagnoses. I want to talk through each of my disorders in detail, and the symptoms I deal with every day. I want to talk about what it’s like to not feel sick enough for a diagnosis, but also what’s its like to be someone who people compare themselves to when they say things like “oh but nothing like that ever happened to me” as a way to discredit the way that they feel. I want to talk about the fact that no one needs a visible reason to have a mental illness, peoples suffering does not need to be obvious, and all suffering should be supported and/or treated. I want to make it explicitly clear that if you think you might be suffering, that there is help available.
Most of the time, when I tell a new person what I witnessed, they don’t know what to say, and I get it, it’s hard. You want to ask questions, but you don’t want to ask too many, or ask the wrong questions. We all think this will never happen to us, or someone we know, but the fact of the matter is that 1/5 Australians aged 16-85 will experience mental illness in their lifetime (black dog institute), traumatised or not. We NEED to be a able to talk this. By making this blog, I’m telling you, now it’s okay to ask questions, it’s okay to check in, and it’s okay not to be okay.
If this seems like something you would like to read about, then tune in. It’s going to be a time. I intend to make posts whenever I damn well feel up to it, but let’s be honest, it’ll probably be when I’m manic.
Next in line: Introducing Pete.
If you are seeking help, follow the link below for a list of Australian resources