" My Story"
Let me introduce myself, My name is Sharlene you can call me Shar. I have faced many challenges from being a child to growing into the adult I am today. There have been many things I have been exposed to that were completely out of my control, domestic violence, childhood bullying from both adults and children at school, being raised by my mother a single parent with a disability, and a father who wasn't around because he was so unwell with mental illness he was unable to be a father. When I became a teenager I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety.
I experienced suicidal thoughts and started taking the much-needed medicine to help keep me out of deep dark episodes of depression. Although it helped, it never completely took my depression away. Growing up with safety being in question and the inability to feel safe affected me as when triggered the vulnerable and distressing emotions come right back.
When reaching young adulthood at the age of 21 I had to come to terms with my mortality which played on my mind as the uncertainty rearose and played havoc on my emotions and feelings of safety, I was diagnosed with Non- Hodgkin's lymphoma, a tennis ball-sized tumor on my left lung. When when I reached 32 and had my first child, I experienced frightening panic attacks and the nurse within the maternity ward was nasty toward me saying it "was all in my head" and proceeded to ask " what I normally did when attacks occurred" I had no idea it was a panic attack but having a resting heart rate of 112 bpm and given tramadol 3 x a day it became very obvious I was been made sick with all these medicines.
Only 4 weeks later I was told my foot may need to be amputated because I developed arterial clots that travelled down my leg into my foot and it was lacking oxygen supply. So my dark friend came back to haunt me, the haunting feelings of lacking safety.
There have been several times I experienced bullying and unfair treatment from employers within government organisations and the non-profit sector that I worked for, one of which dismissed me when I had very recently finished my chemo treatment, their reason being while being paid full-time work for part-time work - I asked a college to come for a walk with me to focus on becoming well again. I was accused of being dishonest telling them I could only manage part-time hours as I was still recovering from the 12 cycles of chemo and 20 sessions of radiotherapy.
It was horrible being confronted by HR Managers to be told I would be escorted out of the building. It took more than 2 years to resolve my personal grievance with my lawyer earning 40% of what I was awarded. "Being a victim to my own emotions and insecurities was something familiar to me although it was far from something I could ever get used to." Working within mental health as an advocate for those suffering distress and mental illness was something I was good at.
I could see people for who they were, with much more challenging things to deal with in their lives. I very soon learned so much from them and became inspired just by how strong the human spirit really is and also how destructive emotions can really feel at the time. I really empathised with individuals who shared their suffering with me and felt safe sharing these things with me. I knew I was in the right job.
The manager was unsafe for me to work with so I quickly needed to decide to leave knowing of the repercussions on my family doing so. I've learned that people get through the most horrendous ordeals just by feeling safe, by talking and sharing their experiences.
In my life I have been portrayed by the many holes in the systems this country has and although we have come a long way in mental illness within the hospital, it still showed signs of institutionalization and mistreatment of people vulnerable and sick.
Depression is very real it is so much more than sadness, "it is like grief in a way, It sucks me in and suffocates me" and "I have no control over it", "it is like an intense surrealism, like I'm possessed, a presence that won't leave my body and had no consent to be in there" and when it happens, I just have to wait it out till it decides to leave me"
This is why I have chosen to help as many as I can. With the hope to save a life in the process. It takes a long time to see a doctor, or a therapist and some may not have the strength to wait on the phone line for hours to be able to talk. "I can help ask the right questions in situations to ensure you are cared for and I can help educate others you reach out to on how it feels to suffer a Mental Illness from another perspective."
Collaborating with you to ensure you are well-supported is something every person deserves, feeling safe is a right that all should feel when distressed and this needs to be as easy to reach out as possible.