By SANE AUSTRALIA
‘My son was so ashamed, he wouldn’t come home. We almost lost him… ‘ explains Dianne Bellette, mother of John.
Five years ago Dianne was at her wits end. Her son, then in his late thirties and back home again, was spending up to 20 hours a day sleeping. He was incontinent and dribbled. He weighed close to 150 kilos.
Since being diagnosed with schizophrenia at the age of 21, John had drifted through life, living for a while in regional Victoria. His illness, and the stigma associated with it, led him to attempt to take his life on several occasions.
‘After years isolated, John came home. Initially, the medication took away that trauma of the psychotic illness, but it was his physical health that concerned me so much. His beautiful sister Andrea said to me, “Mum you’ve got to do something, he’s going to die.” It wasn’t that he was going to die from his mental illness, he was physically so unwell. It took two of us to get him to the family GP because he was so incapable and unmotivated to do anything,’ Dianne explains.
The doctor asked Dianne if she knew what medications John was on. ‘I said “not really.” I know there’s six different ones – He’s on medication for his OCD, he’s got something else for the side effects of that. He’s got something for his psychotic episodes and he’s got something for those side effects… the list was just hideous.’
The GP recommended a neurologist, then a psychologist and over the ensuing months John’s life began to turn around. His medication was reviewed and drastically reduced. John began going to various support groups. He started eating a good diet and exercising.
‘Exercise was crucial. I would take John for walks on the beach. Little me, with this big, obese guy! I’d say “come on John we’ve gotta walk. Come on John.” And then, one day after three months, he said, “Come on Mum, I’m leaving you behind.”’
‘John realised that regular exercise and his better diet, were changing his life. He was starting to lose weight and from that point, he took charge of his recovery. He was able to start making decisions for himself. He still lives with his illness, he still has his moments, but the turnaround is magic.’ Says Diane, smiling.
John began training for a half marathon with his brother-in-law Jason and in 2010, they completed a run in Melbourne together. The family was there when they crossed the finish line. ‘It was such a joy to see John that day. I was so proud of him,’ Dianne says.