Welcome to MENTAL

A collection of stories ON mental health experiences

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“To this day, being with horses is the one thing that can allow my brain to rest and simply focus on what I am doing in the moment.”

I was 12 and home alone the first time I sat with a sharp knife thinking of cutting myself. I was bawling. As was commonplace from about the age of nine, I was relentlessly bullied at school. It was only by boys. I was popular amongst the girls and a bright student and good netballer. It was these years that I began to hate myself.

I am fat, ugly, stupid and disgusting.

I have felt this way since about age 10.

At the time of the first knife incident, my mum had been living in a psychiatric hospital for a few months due to a mental breakdown involving anxiety, severe postnatal depression and post traumatic stress. Mum lived away from us for just over a year. Myself, my older sister and two younger brothers were cared for by two nannies, and very occasionally my step-father, who is the father of my brothers. Mine and my sister’s father does not have a relationship with us.

A divorce happened, high school happened, we moved house to a distant suburb. Mum’s weed-smoking, bipolar boyfriend she met in the psych ward lived with us. I barely spoke to him over the 18 months, at the end of which mum had cut ties with him.

Money was tight. I remember being at home alone when my brothers were at their father’s house for the weekend, and my sister was at her best friends place for the weekend. The power was off because the bill hadn’t been paid. I don't know where mum was. My older sister and I were treated more like flatmates than teenagers when my younger brothers weren't home. My sister escaped to her friend’s house. At age 13 I could sufficiently use the city bus system to get anywhere. Even at 10pm on a Friday night - when I had the late basketball game.

I was in top classes at school, the top netball and volleyball team, and rode horses at a high competitive level. One morning in year ten, I was ready to go to school, but had an overwhelming sense of dread and fear at leaving the house. I couldn't go to school that day. Instead mum took me to the Psychiatric Emergency Services. I was evaluated, saw a psychiatrist and was prescribed Prozac. I was to have a follow up referral at a later date.

About four weeks after this, I overdosed on Panadol and Prozac. The mental health nurse I saw at A&E told me he thought suicide was very selfish. All I felt was relief, that I was at the hospital and now people were looking after me. On another occasion after an overdose, the doctor at A&E made me drink a bag of charcoal and scolded that I was being a dramatic teenager.

More appointments with psychiatrists and psychologists happened. My medication was changed. I was lucky enough to have a wonderful psychiatric nurse and counsellor who I saw weekly or fortnightly through Youth Specialty Services until I was 18. The next three years were interspersed with overdoses, cutting, and lots of Saturday night binge drinking.

At age 16 in term two of Year 12, I had to change schools, as we couldn't afford to keep me at the school I was at. Only one of my friends from that first school remained in contact. I often didn't attend school from then on, choosing to ride my horse instead. I left at school at the end of Year 12, ditching any of the aspirations I had to attend university. To this day, being with horses is the one thing that can allow my brain to rest and simply focus on what I am doing in the moment.

From age 17 to now, age 31, I have worked in the horse racing industry.

I deal with anxiety on a daily basis and when it spirals out of control, a bout of depression descends.

Psychologist sessions get me through these, and I have resigned myself to being on antidepressants for life. I call these episodes black dogs, or feeling “black doggy”. When these happen, I tend to hibernate in my spare time. I am highly sensitive and sometimes even being touched - a simple hug - is extremely stressful for me. I also can't cope with loud noises; having the stereo on in the car is too much. I am aware that I will constantly need to work to maintain reasonable mental health. And I am tired. I wish someone could make it all stop forever. I wish I could enjoy things instead of just coping with things

I have run my own business and been successful doing so. I am very good at what I do for a living. I have moved cities and even countries.

I got married at age 30. I am loved by my family and I love them.  My husband and I own a house and have a pet dog. I love them. We go on holidays and do fun things together.

I am of average height and weight. I have good friends who love me.

But I still hate myself. I hate every inch of my body and face. I avoid looking at myself in the mirror. I never take selfies. I avoid photos as much as possible. I don't like clothes shopping because that means looking at myself in a mirror.

I think I will feel like this forever.


If the content on this website is distressing or triggering, or, if you are worried about your or someone else's mental health, we have provided in contact details below for you to speak with a professional. If you or someone else is in danger or endangering others, call the police immediately on 111.

• NEED TO TALK? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor (available 24/7)
• LIFELINE: 0800 543 354 (available 24/7)
• SUICIDE CRISIS HELPLINE: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO) (available 24/7)
• YOUTHLINE: 0800 376 633
• KIDSLINE: 0800 543 754 (available 24/7)
•WHATSUP: 0800 942 8787 (1pm to 11pm)

“I would like to give a massive pat on the back to everyone who suffers with any type of mental illness. You are so strong, and please be gentle with yourself.”

“My work is amazing at supporting me during these bad times and my clients actually help put a smile on my face.”