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How my mental illness really went

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Assumptions often govern our understanding of the world and those around us. We guess what it's like to be rich and famous, or the impact of travelling a long, rocky road due to disability or misfortune.

Many people start their journey living with a mental illness with little practical knowledge of the long-term effect their symptoms may have. They may not understand the battles they'll need to fight just to leave the house, visit family, go to work, or attend treatment.

To understand how the reality of mental illness and how it differs from first impressions, we asked nine SANE Peer Ambassadors to share their experiences.

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5

What would you tell your younger self?

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Wouldn't it be nice to turn back the clock, travel back in time and give some frank advice to your younger self?

We asked 11 SANE Peer Ambassadors what they'd tell their younger self to help them through their mental health journey. They said...

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4

DID and sleep (or lack of it)

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I always thought that after a few nights lying awake, sleep would eventually come. It would be the only option left. I thought staying awake repeatedly would mean the body and mind would crave sleep.

But it doesn't work like that. Something chronic insomniacs know all too well.

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25

Five things people get wrong about bipolar disorder

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Bipolar disorder involves periods of manic highs and depressive lows. No two people are the same and experiences ­– the length and intensity of the highs and the presence of depression – differ from person to person.

Bipolar affects more people than you think. As many as one in 50 people will experience it at some stage in their life. Yet, despite this prevalence it's common for people to make inaccurate assumptions about the disorder.

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25

How did receiving a diagnosis affect you?

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It can be a shock, or it can be a relief. It can be accurate, or it can be incorrect. It can be sought, or it can be forced upon you. It can open the door to better mental health, or it can represent the start of a long hard struggle.

Just like the symptoms of mental illness, everybody's response to a diagnosis is unique.

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6

Can my symptoms erase my memories?

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I am the woman you want on your trivia team. I have an obsessive memory for facts. I thrive at work because I can draw on obscure documents I read four years ago.

I remember the birthdays and phone numbers of people I went to primary school with. I learn things quickly. I rarely get lost because I can look at a map and it imprints on my mind.

But about ten years ago I noticed something.

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13

What's the biggest challenge people with mental illness face?

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What's the biggest day-to-day challenge people living with mental illness experience?

We asked 10 SANE Peer Ambassadors for the biggest challenge, fear or obstacle they face.

And they said their biggest challenge is . . .

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15

Can exercise help manage symptoms of bipolar disorder?

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Physical health is important for people living with a mental illness. Not only does it help reduce the risk of physical illness, it's also a good way to engage with others, get out in to the community and get the endorphins pumping.

SANE Peer Ambassador Ceris is a passionate advocate for using exercise as a way to help manage mental health symptoms, so we asked her 'can exercise be a form of medicine?'.

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1

What's in a name? Carer, supporter or something else?

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'I never considered myself to be a carer until another parent of a young person with a mental illness told me that I was eligible for a carer's allowance.

'At that moment I realised that what I was doing for my son was beyond normal mothering. Despite not pursuing the carer's allowance, I felt good about the fact that my efforts were worthy of recognition.'

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9

My lightbulb moment

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When I was in high school I visited my brother at university. I remember reading a sign that said, 'Feeling homesick? Feeling lonely?' and listed support services.

In my naivety I asked, 'How can you feel alone when you are surrounded by people?' Little did I know, three years later I would find out.

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