The reach and impact of mental illness is far greater than we often realise.
I know this from spending time in the SANE forums where anonymity gives rise to a rare honesty.
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.
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.
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 . . .
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?'.
'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.'
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.
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.
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.
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.