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.
Supporting someone living with a mental illness can be a stressful experience. And it certainly doesn't come with an instruction manual.
For some carers, supporting someone means endless internal dialogue about the health and wellbeing of their loved one. Did they take their medication? Are they out of bed? Have they eaten? Showered? Where are they right now?
Functional neurological disorder – formerly called conversion disorder – is more common than multiple sclerosis yet remains a little-known condition in both the medical community and the general population.
Many people living with mental illness use medication to help manage their symptoms. While it can help, medication can also cause side effects.
Trial and error, hot flushes, dry mouth and weight gain are real hurdles people face. But, depending on the illness, benefits include reduced anxiety, clarity of thought, reduced hallucinations, stability and relief.
So how do people balance the pros and the cons?
For some people, being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder (DID) is a huge shock.
It's frightening to find out you have 'personalities' in your head and they've been there for years, or there are alters present and you haven't known about them.
Mindfulness is a self-care tool that can help us slow down and manage our thoughts. But, it can be a hard activity to approach when your mind is overwhelmed or racing.
Do you find it hard to be mindful with a mind that's full? It's certainly a challenge I can relate to. Yet, it's possible to overcome this challenge by breaking the process into small, achievable steps.
It's not only the mood swings, delusions and hallucinations that Sarah has had to fight in her 15 year battle with schizoaffective disorder, she's also had to tackle stigma, misunderstanding and negative reactions.
She discusses how she's learnt to live with the symptoms and the public perception.