I lived with anxiety for a while before things snowballed in my life.
Being a type A personality where I do things and do them well, I juggled working and raising a family even when I wasn’t feeling well.
Suffering from irritable bowel and other symptoms, I finally broke down around the same time my kids were leaving school. The change in my role as a Mum seemed to have triggered this.
It was the perfect storm as I managed to [just] keep putting one foot in front of the other.
At the time, my family was heavily involved in a church. It started off nice but derailed as my husband was elevated to elder status and started giving a lot of our money to the church. We were also expected to give our time to the church, and after a while it started to conflict with my values as I didn’t agree with some of the things they were saying and I felt like my family were missing out.
It was like a toxic work environment
There was politics and with a narcissist at the helm it conflicted with my values.
I decided to leave the church whilst my husband and kids remained involved. This was hard as I lost friendships and was the ‘mad woman who had left the church’. My husband and our kids have undergone their own journey, with my husband leaving the church six months after I did, and our kids six months after that.
I ended up in Perth Clinic for about ten days, following which I started searching for something more than what I was currently doing – which was mostly exercise and medication. That was when I found GROW, which turned out to be the catalyst for my getting my voice back.
GROW is why I believe in peer support so much. I would take my problems to the group, and they would listen, understand, and validate me. I finally felt heard! Completing the Wellways Building a Future course and becoming a course facilitator with MFIWA also really brought things home for me.
As I got better, I started to question a lot of things
There were a lot of stresses in my life and in hindsight I am not surprised I was anxious. In looking at my family background, I noticed there was a biological predisposition to anxiety, and then there were the stresses of being married to a man who did everything to the extreme.
I met my husband when I was 14, and I loved the fun and excitement of being with him when I was younger. He was a real risk-taker and go-getter who also had ADHD, and we were always moving to a new house and doing exciting stuff. I went along with it but as time went on I wasn’t coping.
I didn’t have the ability to reign my husband in as he believed it was normal behaviour. As I was unwell, I didn’t have the energy to stand up to him, nor the support of my family and my friends as they were all in the same network and believed we were doing the right thing – even when it came to giving the church hundreds of thousands of dollars. My husband and I also worked in the same industry, and so I would step in whenever there were issues to help when I could. It was like I was there to catch him. I have really had to train myself to stop as I’ve realised it’s not good for his growth.
When my son became addicted to meth, I dropped everything to support him – and I don’t regret it for a second. I got him the help he needed, he was diagnosed with ADD, and he recovered. He is incredibly grateful for that. During which time, my husband and I declared bankruptcy and found ourselves in the position where we needed to start our lives from scratch.
After walking alongside my son on his journey, I encouraged my husband to attend a talk with Heath Black, the footballer, following which he was also diagnosed with ADD. Since then, he has come a long way – he has become a manager at work, and they have supported him with a lot of development that has really helped him. Today, I feel like I can step back as I know he’s loving his new role and he is soaring. We are also in a good place as a couple and as a family and it feels like we are moving forward.
Surviving COVID-19 lockdown
The COVID-19 pandemic was tough.
I lost my job during the first lockdown, and when you pull that away, well, I think it is the first time I’ve actually felt depressed. Being at home with no job and not being able to visit anyone, I felt like I had lost my identity. Fortunately, my husband and I get on well now and we have a good communication style so we could talk about what we were going through.
I facilitated a Wellways course for MIFWA via Zoom over that period, and it is what kept me sane and helped me to get through. I loved doing it and I felt like that was as a gift to keep me going.
Zoom was a bit harder to manage over face-to-face delivery as you’re not in a room with the group and you can’t gauge how everyone is at the start. It was like looking at the Brady Bunch at the beginning, with people’s facial expressions flat and stressed and understandably so. However, by the end of the course you could just see the hope, optimism, and connection shine through. We could even joke about the little things. It was a wonderful experience as people switched from focusing on the person they were caring for to themselves.
We are all on a journey
I feel I am like an onion and I’m peeling off the layers.
I thought I had already peeled off a lot of layers and I was in a good place, however now I feel raw again because I’m in a new job and industry where I’m supporting others as a peer support worker. I can see there are more layers of me that need to be peeled away. I want to keep growing, and that keeps me accountable and motivated to keep meditating, exercising, and working.
I’ve also started seeing a psychologist to help me work through this next phase. They have pointed out I have mentioned a few of times that I had felt I was a passenger in my life, and I think that’s the thing. My anxiety has allowed me to be a passenger yet today I feel I am in the driver’s seat and am starting to do things my way and for myself.
My purpose was once wrapped up in other people’s – in helping them, in supporting my husband in his job, in supporting my son in his grief, and in supporting my daughter in her career and with her kids. So much so I had left myself behind and had no idea what I really wanted to do.
I feel I have a purpose now.
At the age of 55 I have allowed myself to step back and to not be there for them all the time. It’s time to focus on me.