When I was diagnosed with Schizophrenia at 18, I thought that I’d be sitting in a room for the rest of my life. I thought that I wasn’t going to be able to do anything I wanted to do. I felt so hopeless and like everyone around me was giving up on me too, like nobody expected me to get better. People think that if someone’s really unwell at one point, they can never recover from that. But, they can. I’m living proof of that. Still, I often feel like I’m taking one step forward, ten steps back, but when I take a step back at look at the big picture, I can see how far I’ve come. A bit over a year ago, I couldn’t even really go outside by myself, and now I’m doing things I never thought I could ever be capable of. I almost can’t believe it. It’s hard to look at myself positively, but if someone else were me, I’d think they were amazing. My battle with my mental health started in high school. I struggled with depression and anxiety, but towards the end of school, I started experiencing something different. I didn’t really know what it was, and I thought that I could just ignore it. I moved out of home and started uni. I thought that I could leave everything that happened during high school behind me – that if I could just ignore everything going on in my head and try to push through, it would be ok. But it didn’t turn out that way. I’d never lived out of home before. I felt isolated and alone, and I just couldn’t handle the stress alongside everything else going on in my head. That’s when things really took a turn for the worst, and I experienced my first episode of psychosis. I felt like I was being watched all the time. I thought that someone was watching me through a camera in the air conditioning. I was completely paranoid. I couldn’t focus on anything or do my uni work. I heard voices saying that everyone hated me, they didn’t want me around and they wanted me to die. I became totally isolated. I knew that I needed help – and on one level I did want help – but I also felt like I didn’t deserve it. I remember the day when they told me I had schizophrenia. I didn’t know much about it at the time. I just knew all the stereotypes surrounding it. I was thinking ‘Does that mean I’m dangerous? Does it mean that they’re going to lock me away’. They just said it like it was nothing. But for me it was this huge, life altering thing. There’s just not enough understanding, and so much stigmatisation surrounding this illness. People get all their ideas from horror movies. They can be really flippant, calling people ‘psycho’ or ‘schizo’. It’s a pretty scary illness , but it doesn’t make the people who have it scary people. We’re human, just like everyone else. We all want the same things. I still experience psychosis, but I can manage it a lot better than I used to be able to. I understand what it is now and why it’s happening. I’ve learnt ways to help manage it, and I know how important it is to talk to people about what I’m dealing with, rather than keeping it all to myself. I’m so passionate about sharing my story now, because if people understand what Schizophrenia is, it will make it easier for people to get help early. I want my story to show others that it’s not the end of your life if you’re diagnosed with schizophrenia. I’m living proof that you can keep going and live a full life.