When patients face complex conditions, everyday tasks can be difficult. Maintaining a routine was a huge step for Jess, diagnosed with bipolar disorder and anxiety. After being treated through the Brain and Mind Centre, Jess is gaining more independence in her life.
Mental health remains a stigmatised subject that is not often talked about. It can affect every part of a person’s life and often makes working, studying and socialising impossible. This was certainly the case for Jess, who lived with mental illness for much of her life. “I was definitely severely depressed and had constant battles with anxiety from a young age,” Jess recalls. “I was misdiagnosed by my first doctor and never had any sustained success with treatment. It really was an extremely awful few years.”
Jess was incorrectly diagnosed with depression and anxiety in 2010. In the years that followed, Jess and her family became desperate. Simple daily tasks like eating, sleeping and showering had become unbearable. Graduating school seemed impossible, let alone university. Eventually, Jess was forced to leave high school. She couldn’t be in public without experiencing severe anxiety and struggled with self-harm and suicidal thoughts.
It was a chance meeting between Jess’s mother and a headspace psychiatrist working with the Brain and Mind Centre that really sparked change for Jess. “That was the beginning of a more positive journey to where I am now,” Jess says.
She took part in a research program organised by the Brain and Mind Centre involving cognitive studies, MRI scans and sleep research. She also started treatment with headspace, which Jess credits as having the biggest effect on her recovery. “The Brain and Mind Centre is pretty much the reason I am here today,” Jess says.
Jess is now in her final year of university, after finishing TAFE. She works part time and maintains strong, loving relationships with her family and partner. She even got her driver’s licence on her first attempt.
Importantly, now Jess allows herself to be defined by more than just her illness. “I started to break away from the constant years I had been referring to and believing myself to be a mental illness and nothing more,” Jess says.
Based on her experience, Jess is now passionate about de-stigmatising mental health. “My condition is no different to any other medical condition and it should be treated so,” she says.
Jess has gone on to become an advocate in national news campaigns. She even met with the Prime Minister to discuss mental health, an experience she says “was the icing on the cake” in her long list of achievements. This may not have been possible without the help of headspace and Brain and Mind Centre. “Thankfully I met them, trusted their expertise and am on the path I am today with them by my side,” Jess says.
By getting the treatment and support she needed, Jess defied her own expectations and can now live a life that is defined by her achievements, not her illness.
Days, months, years, ups and downs, relapses, patterns, changes in mood and other symptoms, routine, education, support and treatment - these are all part of managing a condition such as mine. Through the help of such amazing professionals I have been able to see different perspectives to help and treatment, and learnt to embrace them.