Opinion | 27 May 2015

Lived experience


Naomi Fryers with her dog

Next to me, I have the baby monitor softly humming lullabies and I can watch my baby sleep in his cot. My dog Barlie is resting by my feet, sighing occasionally. He’s been a stoic friend and afforded me unconditional love when I was unable to afford it to myself. I commence writing a contribution for the Every Australian Counts website.

Tapping away on the keyboard, my wedding ring shines up from my fingers on the keyboard. It’s a time for reflection and, I can’t help but think how dramatically life has changed over the past five years. Just this morning I found myself, son-in-arms, dancing to the Wiggles and doing the “belt buckle shine”. I’m happy to be alive. Things were not always this way. I have a lived experience of mental illness. Five years ago the world could have swallowed me whole and I would have been relieved not to suffer another second. In fact, I would have willingly aided the possibility if I had the strength. I have suffered depression, anxiety, PTSD and a psychotic mental breakdown. While death scares many people, I found that being alive, and not wanting to live, was terrifying. Today I stand strong, having lived to tell the tale.

From an outsider’s point of view I probably look like a normal suburban Mum, which is fortunate. I was someone who once believed that the risks of child rearing, to my mental health, were too great to contemplate. Each day I awake to the sounds of, “Ma, ma, ma!” being shouted from my energetic twenty month-old in the next room. I go to retrieve him from his cot with cuddles and ‘good morning’ kisses. Each day I rejoice in the fact that it is just that, ‘a good morning’. It is another day of independence where I have full responsibility for myself and the joy of caring for my young son. He’s an angelic and joyous blessing, with a happy disposition and dimples when he smiles. He’s our world and my husband and I are his.

It’s been a journey to this point. I recall the day I found myself in hell and knew I had to keep moving. I’ve taken small steps each day since. Some days I’ve been knocked back down only to try again the following day. Fortunately, I’ve been blessed in my recovery by the tender loving care of strong family and friend networks. Doctors and other professionals and advocates have also played a crucial role in getting me to here, a picture of comparative ‘health’. I hope the NDIS will provide these community linkages and extra support for those who aren’t as fortunate as I have been. With the right support the chances of recovery are enhanced.

Today I marvel in the mindfulness associated with everyday activities. It reminds me that what’s mundane and routine to some, is particularly joyous to others. To be of sound enough mind to enjoy the landscape and take it in with every sense is such a blessing. To find solace in music, dancing, pets, employment, to feel the wind on one’s face and the ‘normality’ associated with good health is, in my opinion, too easily taken for granted. Everyone is something to someone, be it a parent, carer, friend, child, aunt or uncle. I look around my park and smell today, and then peer into the baby monitor once more- there’s so much to live for.

If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, get help immediately. Choose life not suicide. Call Lifeline 13 11 14 or 000 if your or someone else’s life is in danger.

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