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Navigating OCD during the COVID-19 lockdown - an update

Navigating OCD during the COVID-19 lockdown - an update

In SANE's COVID-19 mental health series, SANE staffer, Bronwyn reflects on life during the Melbourne lockdown and shares ways in which she is navigating her way through these challenging times.

Back in March 2020, I wrote a piece describing what it was like to navigate life during the emerging COVID-19 pandemic, alongside my longstanding diagnosis of obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

I decided to write a follow-up, to share my thoughts about how we’ve all banded together to get through the last twelve months, and also because I found it quite cathartic to get all of this down on paper.

I hope that my words resonate with some of you, or maybe you felt the exact opposite of how I did during the lockdown. Either way, we’re all human with valid fears, anxieties and troubles – and not a single person’s experience is lesser than anybody else’s.


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The reality of stigma surrounding mental health issues – Q&A with Jenni.

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Meet Jenni.

The reality of stigma surrounding mental health issues – Q&A with Jenni.

Jenni is a creative, positive person who believes that “the glass is always half full.” She enjoys sharing her mental health journey with professionals, carers, the general public and with others who have a lived experience of mental health issues.


Jenni is a SANE Australia Peer Ambassador. She has lived with a diagnosis of schizo-affective disorder for over 20 years. Schizo-affective disorder is a mental health condition marked by a combination of schizophrenia symptoms, such as hallucinations or delusions and mood disorder symptoms, such as depression or mania.

In this Q&A guest blog, Jenni shares some of her experiences about the everyday impact of stigma surrounding mental health issues and why she feels so strongly about changing attitudes and educating others about complex mental health issues.

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Real stories from the National Stigma Report Card

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Aaron Fornarino is a SANE Australia Peer Ambassador, who was first admitted to a mental health facility at the age of 14 and was eventually diagnosed with borderline personality disorder.

Reflecting on the findings of the Our Turn to Speak survey, which form the National Stigma Report Card, Aaron says he can relate to many of the experiences reflected in the data.

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Anxiety remains my friend, and not my foe.

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In SANE's COVID mental health series, Anita talks about living with anxiety. She shares her thoughts on the challenges facing healthcare workers during the pandemic and importance of self care.

Anxiety has been my friend in life, and at times, it has been my foe.

Anxiety is a normal and often healthy emotion. It allows us to focus and pay attention to detail, it motivates us to complete tasks well and to take action when we’re challenged. However, disproportionate levels of anxiety can lead to excessive nervousness, fear, apprehension and worry. Left unchecked, these symptoms can lead to panic attacks, characterised by feelings of impending doom, and physical symptoms which include heart palpitations, sweating, poor concentration, sleep disturbance, irritability and muscle tension.

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Living with OCD in the time of COVID

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In SANE's COVID mental health series, Bronwyn reflects on life with OCD. She offers some tips to help lower anxiety and cope in these challenging times.

Living with a diagnosis of obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD) means everyday life is often a challenge at the best of times.

I’m always wondering what the next ‘obsession’ will be. What will my brain decide to irrationally cling to this week? It never really goes away, even in my ‘clear’ weeks my brain is ticking away in the background prompting me to obsess over something. OCD is absolutely exhausting.

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Angie Kent chooses SANE as 'Dancing With the Stars' charity partner!

Jack Heath & Angie Kent Angie with SANE CEO Jack Heath

We're excited to announce that former Bachelorette star Angie Kent has chosen SANE as her nominated charity, as she gets ready to compete on Dancing with the Stars (DWTS).

A long time mental health and anti-bullying advocate, Angie was concerned about the mental health fallout of the bushfire crisis. In choosing which charity to support through her appearance on DWTS, she wanted to find an organisation that was committed to providing mental health support for those affected by the fires.

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"I'm one of the lucky ones" - how I got mental health support as a trans person

Finn

Guest blog by Peer Ambassador, Finn.

Being transgender, I am always hesitant to discuss my mental illness with others.

There’s this idea that being trans is a mental illness, and that any mental health issues we encounter would be resolved if we could “cure” our transness. In reality, many of us experience mental health concerns before we have even realised we are trans. A lot of these concerns are exacerbated if we are unwilling to accept we are trans.

I was raised in a family of 6, in semi-rural Queensland. My exposure to LGBT+ people was limited to mockery and the hatred of “delusional transgenders”.

My coming out to family was delayed because small actions, small statements here and there made me feel unsafe, to be honest. There were jokes about conversion therapy because I’m bisexual, comments of “what is THAT?” while pointing to a visibly trans person, the insistence that my boyfriend couldn’t possibly be a boy, because he looked too ‘feminine’ (he was 16, and unable to start hormones). These are only a few examples.

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"Lived experience cannot be gleaned from a book, it is a visceral knowledge."

People talking about mental health

"Nothing about us, without us" is a common request among people living with complex mental health issues. But all too often, systems and processes are designed without partnering with people with lived experience.

Ahead of a recent event hosted by the Parliamentary Friends of Mental Health, we asked our SANE Ambassadors three key questions about the mental health system in Australia - and let politicians in Canberra know what they said. Here* are some of their answers ...


Question 1: What have been some of the challenges you’ve faced in accessing formal support (i.e. from a health professional or community service) for your experience of complex mental health issues?

"The biggest one for me has been the financial challenges of accessing formal support. There is very little low-cost/no-cost accessible support for adults of the age of 25 with complex mental health issues. A few years ago, I found myself in a situation where I needed to leave full-time employment to focus on my mental health. This left me with a significant decrease in income, having gone from a full-time paycheck to unemployment benefits. My parents were not in a position to support me financially, and often my need for formal support was a lower priority to everyday living expenses such as rent, bills, food etc."

"Aged mental health is an issue I now face. Public facilities for those with a mental illness, and who are aging, are grim. They don't have rehabilitation as their goal and tend to see people through a negative lens. Older people with a chronic mental illness are not sexy, don't garner as much attention as young folk and are perceived as a nuisance."

"This is a very interesting question to me as I think the challenges can vary so dramatically depending on your life situation. I am in the very privileged position of having financial security, a supportive partner and network and even at my most unwell I am articulate and able to communicate my needs, opinions, etc. (except for a few episodes). And even I have found it challenging to find the right service or service provider.

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'More than the baby blues' - we could have died without private health insurance

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Guest blog by Anita Link, originally published on her blog, Thought Food.


Have you ever had a moment when your answer to a question determined whether your life imploded?

I have.

It came five days into parenthood. I was lying on the floor in my maternity hospital room crying because I was trying to outrun a jaguar chasing me towards a cliff. Things were starting to go very wrong in my brain.

In the following months, when my mind warped and writhed in the grip of psychosis and later catatonic depression, and when what started out as postnatal psychosis turned out to be a first episode of bipolar 1 disorder, I could not imagine things being worse.

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Poem: What was the best thing someone said or did to support you?

Aki

This poem was written by young ambassador, Aki, about her experience of being supported while dealing with complex mental health issues.


There was a time I believed, ‘No man is an island’

(except for me).

Said island floats in the depths of my mind,

It tethers me to the bed; I’m shackled and confined.

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