Today is my 1oth anniversary of immigrating to Australia from Canada.
I know the feeling of being frozen by anxiety, tortured by depression and humiliated by psychosis. Fortunately, change is a normal part of life.
Ten years ago, I was in a 3-year relationship with an Australian woman and it is safe to say that I wasn’t the best company in the world. At that time, I did not think that I would ever be able to work again. I dreaded the thought of being poor and all of its imagined consequences; and the future appeared daunting and hopeless from all angles.
In addition, I was ashamed of my uncharacteristic behaviour in Toronto in 1996 after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. And I was afraid that people would discover that I had a severe mental illness and learn about my past. I was tormented and in a state of self-loathing related to the emotional suffering that had resulted to the people in my life as a consequence of my poor mental health. Moreover, I had lost my sense of identity, including that of being a social activist in Canada.
In short, a decade ago I thought that I would never enjoy life again.
But I was wrong.
Today, I am enjoying a more productive and satisfying life more than ever before.
I am qualified as a professional social worker; a member of the Australian Association of Social Workers; and employed full-time in community mental health by Woden Community Service in Canberra, helping other people with mental health problems to rebuild their lives.
A central part of the transformation is that I am no longer afraid of people finding out that I have been diagnosed with a severe mental illness. In fact, I publicly share parts of my personal story to try to raise awareness of mental health recovery (Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 14 September 2011).
Once again, I am a social activist. And as a result, I am developing a mental health community development initiative Mentalympians.
However, I am no longer in a 3-year relationship with an Australia woman. I am now in a 13-year relationship with the same person.
As addressed, change is a normal part of life.