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My life with schizophrenia: 'I’m here to do my best and make the most of my life.'

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SANE Peer Ambassador Greg Ralls is a professional engineer, husband, father and author, who lives with schizophrenia. He shares some of his experiences in this Q&A guest blog.

When were you diagnosed with schizophrenia and what was your first reaction?

A psychiatrist made the diagnosis in 2005. It was a while coming, as the symptoms first surfaced in 1997 and my first-episode of psychosis happened in 2000, during which time I found myself deeply in crisis.

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Managing your mental health during COVID

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In SANE's COVID mental health series, Anita shares her thoughts on managing your mental health during the pandemic.

Anita is a SANE Peer Ambassador who lives with bipolar 1. She is a wife, mum, small animal vet, writer and mental health advocate. She took some time out to answer a few questions for us.

Q. What concerns you most about the impact COVID will have on your mental health?

A:  If I didn’t have access to the medication that keeps me well, that would be a concern. But at this stage, I think that’s unlikely to happen. I’m acutely aware of my privilege and am fortunate to have access to high quality, consistent mental health care. So, I’m not that worried about myself. I’m also nearly 14 years into my experience with my bipolar 1 disorder, so I have a lot of insight and know when to seek help.

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Has COVID created a new understanding of complex mental health issues?

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In SANE's COVID mental health series, Lisa talks about living with depression and anxiety. She shares her thoughts on how conversations have changed during the pandemic.

Has there been another topic of conversation over the past few weeks besides COVID? Gone is the simple “Hey, how are you?” replaced by “How are you coping?” and “Are you staying sane?”. It’s that last one that gets me. And I’m just as guilty as others because I’ve heard myself ask a version of that very question: “How are you dealing, in amongst the crazy?”. 

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When the carer needs care during COVID

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In SANE's COVID mental health series, Sarah reminds carers to take time to care for themselves. Here, she shares some of her own self-care tips.

It’s 3 am and I can’t sleep. At the moment, I’m busily trying to juggle my work as a psychologist with family commitments, assisting my parents to care for my brothers (who both have schizophrenia diagnoses), and staying fit and well myself. It's challenging, but I'm grateful that I have family and friends who provide me with regular, unconditional support. 

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Fight/Flight/Freeze: How I'm living through COVID-19 as a trauma survivor

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I know I am not alone in saying that the COVID-19 situation has triggered pervasive feelings of powerlessness, entrapment and uncertainty. I also know that I am not alone when I say that, as someone with a history of trauma, these feelings are very familiar and extremely difficult to tolerate.

In working through my trauma, I have learned that when we’re confronted with situations that remind us of our trauma, or where there is any sense that we are in danger, our fight or flight system kicks in. For me, this manifests as extremely high anxiety levels, excessive nervous energy, and frantic efforts to gain control.

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Managing BPD during the COVID shake-up

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In SANE's COVID mental health series, Carissa shares her experience of living with BPD. The COVID shake-up reminded her how far she'd come and that she would be ok.

Oh dear. I thought it was all coming back. The panic attacks were present again. The periods of dissociation throughout the day. The trembling crying. The isolation. COVID really had thrown a spanner in the works for someone like me.

When you have lived experience of borderline personality disorder (BPD), it’s so easy to jump back to the mindset of defining yourself when old symptoms start to show. My brain was slowly trying to convince me that I was sick again.

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How to make working from home work for you - Our top tips

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The last few weeks have been a rollercoaster for all of us. The COVID pandemic has left us with no choice but to quickly adapt to major changes in our routine. One of these changes has been remote working.

Kitchen tables are now makeshift desks, team meetings are held from balconies, plugs and leads are strewn across sitting rooms – and small people climb on us or furry friends race around our feet.

If you’ve found yourself having to work from home right now, it might be quite an adjustment. There are some great work from home tips available across the internet, but we wanted to find some unique ideas to share with you.

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Caring for yourself and others during COVID

You are not alone

In SANE's COVID mental health series, SANE counsellor Tanya talks about the pandemic's impact on people living with complex mental health issues. She shares her tips on how to care for ourselves and others.

The COVID crisis is an unprecedented challenge for all of us. And if you're finding it confusing and worrying, you're not alone – it has caused increased stress, anxiety and fear for many.

For people already living with complex mental health issues, the impact of a pandemic like this can be significant.   

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Anxiety: New book from SANE Board Director Dr Mark Cross

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"When the idea for this book was mooted, I was excited. During the first conversation with my publisher, I was already working out the layout in my head and making a list of people I'd interview. That was before my anxiety kicked in ..."

Consultant psychiatrist Dr Mark Cross knows a lot about anxiety. Many of his patients experience it, which is hardly surprising given anxiety is the most common mental health issue in Australia.

But Mark also knows about anxiety from another perspective, because he too has lived with it all his life.

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How to set boundaries with someone you love

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Boundaries are an essential part of engaging in healthy connections with others.

They allow us to be clear about our own needs, about what feels comfortable for us, so we can connect with others in ways that feel safe and respectful.

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