When I was 20, I lost the ability to write.
I sat down to write my Uni essays and no words came out. My thoughts were jumbled, as though they were in another language. I’d sit in front of a blank computer screen and have debilitating panic attacks. Since I was five I’d been a writer. That’s how I expressed myself and it was a major pillar of my identity. Out of nowhere, I just couldn’t do it.
Well, it wasn’t completely out of nowhere. I’d struggled with bouts of anxiety and depression since childhood. I remember saying to my sister when I was in Year 4, “It feels like for the last six months I’ve been stuck in a bad dream. I can’t feel anything and all the days just run into each other. Do you ever get that?” It turned out she did.
But at 20, it hit me like never before. Some days I didn’t get out of bed. Other days I would, but only to lie under my bed in a state of terror. I hated myself, I hated the world and everything was grey. I felt like an absolute fraud, entirely undeserving of a place at Uni.
After sitting in front of a computer for eight or so hours, desperately trying to get a word out, I’d attempt to email the lecturer to tell them the work would be late. But I couldn’t even type out an email. Words and letters came out in the wrong order, and nothing I wrote seemed to make any sense.
Sydney University provided an excellent counselling service, at the cost of $10 a session, to which I owe the completion of my degree.
Graduating from Sydney Uni. Image supplied.
But at 23, when I'd finished uni and thought my mental health issues were behind me, they came creeping back.
It was the feeling in the pit of my stomach that something really, really bad was about to happen. I was plagued by unexplained guilt. I was convinced there was nothing to look forward to and I was in a cycle of perpetual bad luck.
I felt physically sick due to the constant pounding in my chest and churning in my stomach. I had returned to hell and it was even scarier than the first time.
But this time I wasn't enrolled in university. In fact, I was in that horrible limbo stage between finishing Uni and looking for a job. I had hardly any money in my bank account.
I went to the doctor who referred me to a psychologist. I then made an appointment and went along. The 50 minute session cost me $140. I could claim some of it on Medicare, but not much. I didn't have private health insurance because I was virtually unemployed.
These are the signs that mean you should seek help for your mental health. Post continues below.
I remember walking out of that appointment and feeling really angry. I couldn't afford those sessions. And I couldn't get a job until I got better. I was stuck. I was so angry with the system that I thought, "Do I need to walk in front of a bus to make my point?"
That's when I found headspace, the national youth mental health foundation. And it unequivocally changed the course of my life.
I couldn't count how many sessions I've had, but every single one contributed to me becoming a healthier, happier and more productive member of society. For generations our family has suffered from depression and anxiety, and I am the first to have this kind of access to treatment.
The help that headspace provided extended far beyond a psychologist. When I expressed that I was having issues with my medication, I was referred to a headspace psychiatrist. Free. When I explained the fatigue and stomach issues I was suffering, I was referred to a headspace GP. Free. When I voiced my anxiety about getting a job, I was offered a session with a careers adviser. Again, free.