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Five things nobody told me about living with a mental illness

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Since turning 18 I've actively sought and managed my own treatment, this includes seeing a raft of counsellors, psychologists, psychiatrists and health professionals.

I've had my share of hospital visits, undertaken a year of Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT), completed a 20 day inpatient Schema program and recently started an Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing program.

I also take medication and have found a lot of purpose through my work in the arts.

I've been through all this and I'm proud of my progress. But my journey would have been easier if someone mentioned, all those years ago, five simple facts about living with a mental illness.

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20

My coping strategies for living with DID

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Dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a highly dysfunctional, long term disabling and pervasive mental illness. It's exhausting, time consuming and frustrating, but I have developed techniques and strategies to help me exist on a daily basis.

While DID has affected my ability to work and socialise, my strategies help me get the most out of each day. I hope they can be of use to you or a loved one living with DID.

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17

Coming out with an eating disorder

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I'm gay, and I'm loud and proud. But it wasn't so long ago that I was hiding my truth from the world. The longer I held onto this secret, the heavier it seemed.

When you hide something as central to your identity as your gender or sexuality it can seem as though there is a vast chasm between you and the rest of the world, and it is a lonely and isolating existence.

I remember hearing an anecdote about the burdens we carry. It goes something like this.

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1

How you can help if I'm struggling

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It can be daunting when someone you know isn't quite right or is struggling with their mental health.

They may be experiencing mania, paranoia, anxiety, depression or any other symptom of mental illness. It's a distressing time for all involved.

A big question we're often asked by friends, family and supporters is, 'How can I help?'

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12

Breaking down the stigma, the final barrier

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Sandy Jeffs remembers her diagnosis of schizophrenia in 1976 as "an absolute death sentence".

"I thought, 'Where do I go from here?' It seemed there was no future, no hope. You were on the scrapheap."

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7

Four things people get wrong about schizophrenia

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When someone says schizophrenia what do you think?

Sadly, many people have little or no idea about what it's actually like living with schizophrenia. Instead their preconceptions about this illness come from movies and the media which, more often than not, can be inaccurate and sensationalised.

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14

Explaining the voices in my head

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I think I should feel fortunate when it comes to hearing voices. While I have the ever-curdling mixture of psychosis in the background of my thoughts, the voices I hear are still my own. 

It is still my own internal dialogue. It's just that most of the time, it's not there to help me.

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9

Five lies my OCD tells me

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Obsessive compulsive disorder tells lies which disguise themselves as truths. 

These lies add to the distress that obsessions cause, but once we are able to realise they aren't true, it makes dealing with OCD much easier. 

Here are some of the lies OCD tells:

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11

Outside the box of a diagnosis

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There was a girl. ​Her brain was set alight with the burn of silent agony but a smile was seared on her lips.

She was drowning, lost in a sea of confusion and distress. The waves of emotion washed her closer and closer to the shore of death, but she fought. Every day her mind and body grew weaker, her defences bruised and battered.

But she fought.

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4

Navigating the system

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As a mother and carer of a son with mental illness, I've spent years traversing the system seeking care and support.

Over the years I've tackled education, health care, family and community services, human resources and at times the legal system.

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