Written by a past consumer of the Children’s Health Queensland, Child and Youth Mental Health Service
When I was 10 years old, I got very physically sick and nearly lost my life. I soon found out that I had Type 1 Diabetes. Everyone around me was so busy worrying about my physical health that no one thought about the impact that a lifelong, incurable disease would have on my mental health.
After I was diagnosed as a diabetic, my life became all about food – when to eat, what to eat and it was difficult to understand at first. There was this constant need for management and observation of my food intake. All the fuss made me not want to eat in front of people. By the time I was 12, I was going whole days at school without eating. I was 13 when I was first diagnosed with depression, social anxiety and a borderline eating disorder. It didn’t happen overnight – I had been struggling with my mental health for a while by the time I was diagnosed.
The transition to high school also influenced my mental health. I was irritable, emotional and so tired that some days I could barely get out of bed. My attendance plummeted and it was easier to avoid going to school than to face catching up on all the work I missed. My friends became more surprised when I came to school than when I didn’t. Along with that came feelings of loneliness, hopelessness and self-loathing… all I wanted to do was lock myself up and sleep.
My parents were the ones who got me help. I had been seeing a psychologist when I saw my doctor for diabetes, but that was only every three months. After a few private psychologists couldn’t help me, my parents took me to my GP who recommended the Child and Youth Mental Health Service. I was then treated with a mix of medication and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.
My case worker and I worked on a treatment plan together, addressing all the things I wanted to improve. We often reviewed my treatment plan and it was incredible to see how much my mental health had improved. It gave me such a great sense of accomplishment! My case worker organised for me to be a part of a social anxiety group with other people my age. In this group we did exposure tasks and I could address my fear of eating in front of people and public speaking. I then went on to do an oral presentation in English class at school and got an A!
Along with my accomplishments, there were also many lows in my journey, including backslides and hospitalisations. Unfortunately, I was not able to finish high school because of the problems I’d had with my physical and mental health. I didn’t let this stop me though – I obtained a ranking and now study Psychology at the University of Queensland.
When I was first diagnosed with mental health issues I never thought I would drive, move out, have a job or a successful relationship. However, I have achieved each one of these things, and much more! I now have my own car and a loving boyfriend of three years who is extremely supportive. When I’m not at uni or working casually at a florist, I work with a youth advisory group, Beautiful Minds, to fight the stigma around mental health. I have gone from someone who couldn’t speak in front of 20 students to giving speeches about mental health to more than 1,000 kids at a high school.
Some advice I would give other young people struggling is to be honest and get help. A big problem for me was not asking for help. I’m lucky enough that my loved ones can recognise when I am struggling and we have been able to put a plan into place so they know what to do. Having a plan and being brave enough to get the help I need has been a life saver for me and something I think everyone should have in place – even if it’s just someone sending an email or text message to check up on you every couple of months.
t: 13 11 14
t: 1300 22 4636
Kids Help Line www.kidshelpline.com.au
t: 1800 55 1800
Suicide Call Back Service www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au
t: 1300 659 467