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Hart Psychologists have many success stories from clients we've helped with anxiety and depression. Unfortunately, due to restrictions by the Australian Psychological Society, we're unable to promote or display testimonials or success stories from our actual clients. This stands for all psychologists.

However, we know that success stories are a powerful way to show people suffering from anxiety or depression that there is hope. Therefore, these success stories have been shared and republished with permission from beyondblue and belong solely to beyondblue. They are shared here to provide inspiration and optimism.

Depression Stories

  • KATRINA: 'I will be your legacy, I will be your voice. You live on in me, so I have made a choice. To honour your life by living again.'

    There are seminal moments, defining moments in life. And when they occur life is defined by them - what life was before that moment, what life was after that moment.

    My sons suicide on the 20/3/2012 was my defining moment. That fateful day forever changed my life.  After his death I was in shock  and drowning in grief and despair. I descended into depression and suffered post traumatic shock. My family could not deal with my grief and mental issues and withdrew from me. I was alone in my despair. I lost my joy  and security. I felt there was no hope and everyone would be better off without me. I wanted to take my own life.

    Thankfully I reached out to professionals and the TCF. This group gave me hope and valuable guidance. I saw psychologists, bereavement counsellors and started medication.

    I found focus in my sons legacy, saving lives and making a difference, giving mental health presentations in schools. I still carry my pain  but  have learned to live around it.

    This poem says it all; "I will be your legacy, I will be your voice. You live on in me, so I have made a choice. To honour your life by living again. I love you, I miss you, I will see you again."

  • SHANNON: 'They walked me home, tucked me into bed and let me sleep it off.'

    In the beginning of 2016 I was in the darkest place I have been for many years. I had no motivation, no energy, and couldn't care about anything least of all myself. I hated my job, I was pushing all of my friends away, I stopped going to the gym - it was a nasty cycle.

    One thing I did enjoy was going out on the weekends and writing myself off with alcohol. Being on medication, drinking is not the best thing to do, but I didn't care. I drank until I couldn't even walk properly, was falling over and not able to speak clearly. I didn't care how much of a mess I was, just as long as I could stop the pain.

    There was one main occasion where I had suicidal thoughts. I had nothing left in me and I was officially done. It was only that I tripped and fell that I snapped out of it. I immediately contacted my friends who I'd left behind in a rush of emotion, told them what had happened and they came to find me. They walked me home, tucked me into bed and let me sleep it off. The next morning I knew that they'd had enough of my ordeals and that I needed professional help. 6 months on and I am no longer receiving help, no longer having suicidal thoughts and feeling the best I've ever felt in many many years!

  • SALLY: 'It was such a simply action on his behalf and I don’t think he will ever know how much it meant. He pulls me from the floor into him arms and cried.'

    I had everything a girl could ever want, the perfect life. I had just moved out of home in with my boyfriend who was the perfect man. He bought me flowers every week and supported me in everything I did. I was studying at University, had a wonderful family and went out with my friends every other night. But I was broken inside. I felt like it all meant nothing, that the pain was going to eat me up.

    It wasn’t that I wanted to be dead, but more that I didn’t want to continue living. It was such a complicated feeling that followed me everywhere I went, hanging over every move I made. So I started pulling away from my friends, family and boyfriend. I couldn’t go out anymore because I simply didn’t see the point.

    Eventually, I stopped leaving the house at all. One night my boyfriend went out to work and I couldn’t deal with the loneliness anymore, so I pulled out a bottle of wine and drank the whole lot. Then I hurt myself. He found me on the floor. It was such a simply action on his behalf and I don’t think he will ever know how much it meant. He pulls me from the floor into him arms and cried. He cried because he felt my pain just as much as I did, I just hadn’t realised that he could see it. I thought I was doing such a great job of holding it all together, of hiding my pain, but really he was sharing it with me.

    I would love to say everything was easy from that point on, but I would be lying. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been worth it. I realised I had people around me. I realised there will one day be light again. I realised that I was loved and supported, that I wasn’t alone. I learnt the hard way that even the most beautiful rose has its thorn, and that it is OK to have problems. I got the help I needed and I have never looked back since.

    Everyday is still hard and some days I still feel alone, but I now know that help is there when I need it and that there is always another way out.

  • CHRIS: ``I hope that by sharing my story, I can show that there is hope and that it is possible to achieve amazing things, even when living with depression.``

    I am a 54 year old male and I have suffered from depression since my teens and was in active alcohol addiction from the age of 15 until I was 51. I have now been sober for over 31 months. I was a civil engineer for over 30 years, but lost my job on medical grounds in 2014 whilst I was in rehab. In addition to the clinical depression, upon completing the rehab programme, I learnt that I needed both of my hips replaced due to osteoarthritis.

    The surgeries were carried out last year. On the weekend of 5-6 March 2016, I completed the CBR100 Challenge (a 100km walk around Canberra) in 27 hours 26 min. This was the first of a series of events that I am planning to do this year to raise funds for beyondblue, which may include the Canberra Times 10km run in September and the Sydney to the Gong Bike a Ride in November.

    I have created a group which is aimed at getting persons with lived experience (or their carers) involved in exercise. I have found that exercise has been my default recovery mechanism since my teens and was important during my time in rehab.

    I am a consumer representative on three committees and involved in a local Health Consumer Network. I have recently completed a Cert IV in Mental Health/Drug & Alcohol studies. I am currently studying for a Cert IV in Fitness and hope to take personal training into rehab centres to help facilitate recovery. I intend to then study for a Diploma in either Drug & Alcohol or Mental Health Studies and (hopefully) a degree in psychology, but I need a job first! I currently receive salary continuance insurance but I am very fearful of returning to the workforce and suffering a relapse and losing all income! My hope is to get work in a rehab facility and to use my fitness training experience to facilitate recovery. I recently completed workplace experience in a mental health service and exercise played a major role in their programme.

    I hope that by sharing my story, I can show that there is hope and that it is possible to achieve amazing things, even when living with depression.

  • ISABELLE: ``You are special, you are unique, you cannot be replaced.``

    When I think of good mental health I think of being able to look at myself in the mirror everyday and say I'm proud of who I am. I'm happy in my skin and I'm positive about who I am and what I say and do.

    How easy do you think it is to be happy? Can we simply choose to be happy?  What happens when big life events happen? These events could be being bullied or someone you love being sick or dying or.....and this is the BIG one.....Donald Trump becoming president.

    So what are some things that can go wrong with mental health?  Imagine waking up every day feeling like you can't live with yourself. Picture having no motivation or interest in anything. This is the reality for too many.

    According to the White Cloud foundation currently over 3 million Australians suffer from mental illness. 10,000 of these are young people.                                                      

    The World Health organisation reports that over 350 million people suffer from depression. This is a more than serious issue. I am your youth, here is my voice and it is up to us to educate ourselves, protect ourselves and support others.

    I feel passionately about this subject. My cousin Lisa suffered from mental illness that started when she was my age. She fought her depression every day for 8 years. She looked after herself, she exercised, she sought medical treatment.

    She battled long and hard on a quest to be at peace with herself and to be well. Unfortunately when she was 20 Lisa could fight no longer and she took her life.

    As I get older and see more things I think about how brave she was and how desperate she was. It makes me want to scream and yell.                                                 

    My well-loved uncle Glenn was Lisa's father. After she had taken her life he couldn't live with her loss and the fact that he couldn't help her and he too ended his life a year ago.

    I was 10 when that happened and it had more of an impact on me as I was older and I loved him. I felt like he was pretty quiet and I didn't get to know him as I wanted to. Depression is a thief it robbed me of him.

    Both my cousin and uncle were young, had families that loved them, had all the support in the world and had so much to live for. They and so many others see no other way out.    

    However, my voice is here to say that for anyone out there who suffers with a mental illness that this doesn't have to be the outcome. Is there hope? Absolutely! Does sadness mean you are going to die?  Of course not! There is help out there and help has been given to many.

    So what can we do to look after our mental health? Things like exercise, eating right, medication and talking to someone can help you feel better.

    It might be a long journey but remember it never should end that way. The impacts on those left behind are huge.

    There are lots of organisations such as beyondblue, The Black Dog Institute and Suicide Prevention Australia. That have a lot of tools to help you.

    We need to tackle this problem early and often.

    Grown-ups….I beg you to educate yourselves. No family is immune. It doesn’t always happen to other people. We can't run away from this problem. We need to face it head on.

    I wanted to talk to you about this topic today because it is very dear to my heart. I don't want the same thing to happen to your family as what's happened to mine.

    Once it is done it is done. You are special, you are unique, you cannot be replaced. Join me in the fight to look after our mental health and stop suicide. And finally, in the words of Donald Trump. ‘Depression!....You're fired.’

  • STEPH: 'I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.'

    I have two black dogs. Sometimes I only have one. But once I see him, I know the other one will shortly follow. I don’t always have the black dogs with me. Some days I feel completely weightless, like I’m not carrying a burden. I’m so used to the black dogs being around. I feel guilty not having them. I worry if they are not with me they are with someone else. But when they are there I want them to leave. I wish they would die and never return. But they can not be killed.

    The black dogs names are depression and anxiety. You never know when they are going to come back to their master. Although I am their master I have no control over them. They are constantly barking. Confusing me. I can’t think with them barking so loudly. The shame of owning these black dogs is real. You feel like they are a sign of weakness. You don’t want anyone knowing you have these black dogs. Especially dogs you can’t control. When you see friends, you put the music on loud, so they can’t hear the black dogs. You pull the curtain so they can’t see the black dogs. You’re so busy worrying about people seeing the black dogs, so worried the black dogs will escape and bite someone that you give up trying. You isolate yourself, wanting to be alone with them.

    The dogs soon take over everything in your life. They take up all your time.  People who come over, you push away because you don’t want them to see the real side of you, the pain and shame you are feeling. If people see the dogs get defensive. You reassure people that “that they are OK” and “I have them trained and under control”. But you (alone) can never get control over them.

    All the things you used to enjoy are now pointless. The dogs distract you and ruin everything surrounding you. You don’t want anyone to be affect by you having the dogs. This is why you hide. When you finally admit to yourself that you need to get a trainer to help train the black dogs, they leave. You think the worst is over. They won’t come back.  But (for me) they always come back. They can come back at any time and who knows, the dogs maybe bigger and more viscous next time.

    Some days I just want to end it all, I have tried once, but luckily it was unsuccessful. I just want to have a day without the black dogs, or a day when I can fully control them. I am glad I am now getting help, because everyday it is getting better, and I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

  • BILL: 'That man simply talked to me about his life and what had happened for him.'

    I have been affected by depression and anxiety for around twenty years. That was when I suffered a total mental breakdown and lost everything I had including my wife, my children, my business and my mind. I ended up in a caravan park where I was “living on the gutters edge”.  I would hide inside the van for most of the day being too afraid to go outside in case I had to talk to people. My brain simply stopped working. I couldn’t even get it together to make a cup of cup of coffee let alone make a meal.  It was so bad I hated waking up in the morning and often wished that I hadn’t.

    I constantly had emotions of anxiety, fear, guilt, sadness and terror welling up from inside of me. It was the gut wrenching feeling from my stomach and ache in my heart I dreaded the most. Many times I thought about committing suicide and tried to figure out ways to do it.  On a day when it was really bad, I was seriously considering it when the phone rang and the voice simply said, “How are your going?”  “Terrible” I replied – and I’m sure the person could hear the despair in my voice.  “Where are you?” he said – “Stay there, don’t go anywhere else”.

    About ten minutes later, there was a knock on the caravan door. I went to open it and there was a stranger standing there. “Can I come in?” was all he said. That man simply talked to me about his life and what had happened for him. He told me how it took a long time to overcome his problem step-by-step and having faith and the belief that he would some day become well. I could see the similarities in my life and began to accept myself as being one of the many people that suffers from a mental condition. The stranger inspired me in two ways. Firstly, that if he could re-build his life it was proof that I could also get my life back together again. Secondly and more important, was that this man valued me sufficiently enough for him to leave work and come to see me.

    This meant I must have been of some value to another person and I didn’t have the right to end my life. And it doesn’t stop there. People suffering from mental conditions need support and encouragement to keep working on themselves. I’ve been using pressure points on myself to make the feelings of depression go away within a few minutes and I no longer have thoughts of suicide.

  • JEANETTE:'...show them that you care and that you will go with them to get the help that they need.'

    To say that my life has been a upward challenge for the last 25 years would be a complete understatement.

    I dealt with depression for the last few years which I am trying to cope with.
    So on a beautiful spring day Sept 1991 was supposed to be the most perfect day of my life. But unfortunately that’s when it first started. My depression worsened  over the next few years. I turned to the person that was supposed to support you and love you but had to deal with depression on my own.

    It was a struggle for me so I told my GP what I was going through. She then wrote me out a script for antidepressants. I thought I was brave and powerful that I could deal with it on my own, so I didn’t take the medication. How wrong I was if only I took those antidepressants I wouldn’t of attempted my suicide in 2006.

    After an argument with my ex husband in 2006 I stormed out of work and said I could not bear this anymore. I grabbed my keys and took off. Not knowing what I was doing I texted my best friend to look after my children. I wrote a suicide note and then attempted to take my life. I was found two days later. I then spent the next three months on life support. Then doctors wanted to turn the machine off because they said that there was no way I could live and if I do, I’d be a complete vegetable all my life. I would never walk or be independent again. My best friend yelled at the doctors and said ‘NO’ she’s a fighter. Well I definitely proved the doctors wrong, because my friend had seen a flicker in my eye. I then started to breath for myself.

    It has been a real struggle for me to try and get better and the next few years I know I have to get better for my faith and for my four children I have now.

    One in three people actually suffer with depression. It could even be the person sitting next to you. If you see a person acting strange, depressed and or anxious, try to interact with them.

    A very close friend would go up to them and ask them out for a nice cup of coffee hoping they will spill the beans on what’s going on and show them that you care and that you will go with them to get the help that they need.

    If we all put our heads together and be more loving and thoughtful towards each other, we can help tackle depression and suicide.

  • DANIEL: 'Thankfully I found myself some encouraging friends and family who eventually started asking if I was OK, which I wasn't...'

    I struggled with depression from a very early age. Due to circumstances out of my control my world felt like it was coming out from underneath me, I was constantly bullied at school, I was shy so I could never express how I was feeling and I could never see an end. The only end I could see was ending myself. I dealt with Suicidal thoughts through out my high school years.

    Thankfully I found myself some encouraging friends and family who eventually started asking if I was OK, which I wasn't but it opened a door to express how I was feeling. I later went to a health professional and got some practical advise along with spending more time around encouraging influences. Now I'm feeling more encouraged every day and aim to help others and show that there is a way out of the dark tunnel.

  • CHARLES: 'Who stepped in to help me? I did.'

    I was 12 years of age when I first tried to complete suicide. Lying in my bed wanting to hurt myself. I realised that I couldn't go through with it. I never told anyone in my family of what I had done. I believed that no one cared - I had lost the three most important people to me - My birth mum, left one day and just didn't come back. My grandparents both had passed away - Nanny, my grandmother when I was five years old and Dadda, my grandfather, when I was 12 - they had been the only three people that had shown any kind of love for me. When Dadda died, I wanted to join him and Nanny in heaven.

    In my neighborhood back in the 70s, 80s and even the 90s, we didn't talk about depression or anxiety or stress, we just focused on the "effects". We saw the alcoholism, drug-addiction, domestic violence and we would get angry at the people rather than addressing the cause underneath it all. In our society we are addicted to just looking at the effects of things, and not the causes of things. Pills and potions for everything, and for some they work, but for many of us they don't.

    It took me 20 odd years to find the right help for me, but first I had to recognise, for myself, why I needed the help in the first place. You see, for all the years I had hated on myself, and I hated that I hated on myself, all I was doing was creating a negative feedback-loop of self-hatred and attachment to that limiting belief. I had to recognise that there's no fault and no blame but there is responsibility.

    Who stepped in to help me?  I did. It had to come from me, first...I sincerely desire, optimal health and well-being, and that's what I am out to get. I have, since I was 12, thought of completing suicide, a few times - I'll be honest - there have been some tough times, and sometimes what doesn't kill us doesn't make us stronger it can weaken us - until we learn how to step-up and stand-up for ourselves against these limiting beliefs floating about in our heads.

    I have felt like less of a man, for being so weak of mind that I would even consider taking my own life...but for anyone that has genuinely wanted to kill themselves, you'll know that in those dark moments, anything is possible... And, that also includes the possibility of... Hope, loving-kindness and compassion. I know that these words are over-used these days and to some they have lost there meaning, but to be truly kind in the face of adversity, is gritty and raw. Its not for weaklings.

    It takes courage to be hopeful, especially with the way the world can get at times. It takes great bravery to show compassion and to be compassionate. And they are what have and continue to help me, these days. Kindness from strangers and from those that are dear to me. Compassion - the type of compassion that looks like a cuppa-tea with a friend or sharing a meal with loved ones. And hopefulness - it's my choice to live my life the way I wanna... some may call me naive but from the inside looking out, I know that hope for a brighter, happier tomorrow, keeps a smile on my dial!

    I hope that in sharing this story I may be able to help others to see that all is not lost, even when we are feeling totally down and out.

  • ANDREW: 'You have to have hope that it will get better and if you keep trying it can and will.'

    I was experiencing severe depression and anxiety as well as drug and alcohol issues over the past few years. I had lost all my support networks and had felt quite lost for a long period of time and that’s when the thoughts of suicide started to occur. I had started self-harming to cope and searching for a way out of the low. I started planning how I could kill myself. I have attempted suicide on a number of occasions but fortunately I am here to share my story.

    My story relates to the message of recovery as I have turned my life around and have almost completely overcome my depression and anxiety. I am now studying at university, I am off drugs and alcohol, I work a number of jobs, and am actively engaged with my community and I now have a strong support network to get me through any troubles I may face in the future.

    I think the story of my recovery really highlights the messages of hope and resilience and the importance of holding onto life and trying to get help. I found that it is too difficult to tackle these things by yourself and it is important to seek help and keep trying to overcome the obstacles that are in your way. The most important message is that you have to have hope that it will get better and if you keep trying it can and will.

    The most valuable advice I can offer from my experience for someone who might be thinking of suicide is to building a support network of people you can trust. This is often difficult but it is always good to start with family or friends. The next biggest thing is to seek professional help. If it is too difficult for you to seek help face to face it is important to try on the phone or try online services.

    I think the biggest thing that helped me was people just reassuring me that they were there for me and offering a shoulder to cry on and offering me an opportunity to talk things out.

  • JOHN: 'I’ve learned so much about myself and crystallised my values through recovery.'

    I was undiagnosed with severe depression and anxiety for a long time. The untreated condition caused a lot of conflict at home and under-performance at work. I felt like I was a problem at work and at home and started to believe that to solve everyone’s problem I had to disappear. I believed my wife would move on, the kids would get a better Dad, work would simply hire someone else and everyone would be better off.

    This just built up and in desperation I went bush, out of contact, to plan my death. My dilemma was I didn’t want my kids to think their Dad gave up on them. Ironically, depression was affecting my cognition to such a degree that I couldn’t think clearly enough to pull it off. In a light bulb moment I thought “normal people don’t google how to kill themselves” and figured there was something wrong with me. So I googled beyondblue and took an online survey and realised with some relief that I had depression.

    It has been a long journey to wellness, getting the right help and support that I needed, and still need, but now every day is a gift. I’ve learned so much about myself and crystallised my values through recovery. I’ve learned coping strategies and am able to pass them onto my kids. I could have lost it all and missed out on all of this. Recovery is an amazing and enriching journey.

    We all need to make sure we learn the signs and symptoms and how to have conversations around suicide and thoughts of death. It’s good to have an action/safety plan that can be used when things start getting bad. Understanding recovery and how to be a support to someone is really important.

    For people who might be thinking of suicide, the people you would leave behind probably won’t ever get over it. They will most likely experience the pain of your death every birthday, Christmas, anniversary. Help is available; there are services that can support you.

    I share my story at suicide prevention forums and work as a mental health support worker and run men’s groups now because I believe that in sharing my story, I have the potential to save lives.

  • AMANDA: 'Something needed to be done, I couldn't live like this'

    I was diagnosed with depression in my first year of university. I just couldn't seem to cope with the study, lacked motivation, and just wanted to sleep. That was the beginning. I have lived through ups and downs ever since - trialling different medications, trying to come off medications, when it was simply decided that I had a chemical imbalance and may be on medications for the rest of my life. I actually felt better knowing that. I had a wonderful doctor who cared and most importantly was educated in mental illness. I trusted his judgement.

    In 2008 after getting married and experiencing my first episodes of panic attacks prior to the wedding, I became pregnant. Looking back, I think I was the happiest and healthiest I'd ever been. After experiencing a long traumatic birth ending in emergency caesarean, I had a little boy to look after. This is when things started to unwind for me.

    Apart from experiencing the emotional wave of having a new baby, the lack of sleep which I dealt with initially ended up becoming a very dark cloud hanging over me. I thought if only I could get some sleep, I would feel better mentally. But this went on for thirteen months. I was a wreck, lost and feeling numb and feeling alone in my own thoughts. I was still on medication, as I had throughout the pregnancy: but I just didn't seem happy anymore, each day was a struggle. Once my son started sleeping, things didn't seem to lift for me; I continued to visit my doctor and we again played around with medications. My husband was wonderful as were my parents, but I was living in my own private hell. I was barely functioning in my job as a nurse and this was when I decided something needed to be done. I couldn't live like this.

    I saw my doctor and through the tears stated I wanted to see a psychiatrist. My doctor was a great doctor but I felt I now felt I needed an expert opinion. I then waited for several months to see a psychiatrist and on meeting her I finally felt that someone knew exactly how my mind was working. It's like she knew everything about me. We have changed my medications, and although it was the worst week of my life, I can now say I feel better most days rather than less. I still have moments of anxiety, and self doubt but I am in the process of seeing a psychologist because changing and upping medications isn't always going to solve the problem completely. I now enjoy my son, and look forward to giving him a brother or sister no matter how scary it seems. Writing this is my way of rehabilitating, and saying it's OK, I will get through it.

  • KERRYN: 'I couldn’t function. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me'

    About two years ago, I imploded. I couldn't sleep – spending nights tossing, turning, and staring into space. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically, and I couldn't think straight. I could barely bring in the mail, let alone open it. The mail piled up, as did the weeks' newspapers. I didn't have the energy to face any of it.

    I thought I had some unspecified infection so I took a day or two off work (a few times). I spent the days hiding in bed, unable to face the world or fight this infection. When I did make it to work, even just outside the house, I was so stressed by every sight and sound, I couldn't function. I didn't understand what was wrong with me.

    I battled on for a month or more before seeking help from my doctor. I wasn't honest about what I was going through – I thought she'd think I was crazy – but I did agree to see a psychologist. I thought if I saw the psych once, maybe twice, everything would be alright.

    It wasn't, not immediately, but the talking certainly helped. I soon realised I'd been running from my demons my whole life, using sex, drugs, food – and years of workaholism – to escape. But I'd become so trapped in my emotional prison that I couldn't function.

    The psychologist diagnosed depression and anxiety, plus borderline personality disorder. I was shocked. How could I have been so highly functioning for so long with all this wrong with me? I felt broken. I felt like a freak.

    At first things got worse before they got better. The sleeplessness and exhaustion continued. I drank too much. I swung wildly between eating too much and too little. I came close to ending it all.

    Eventually I saw the doctor about medication. She didn't think I was “crazy”. The antidepressants helped. I still don't like to admit that but now see that if you can't think, then you can't recover.

    Gradually things improved. I found myself able to open the mail and read the newspaper again. I started making bigger changes, too. Things I never thought I'd do – like disclosing to friends, taking a holiday, changing jobs, tackling long-standing health issues and, recently, group therapy.

    I'm much better, but I still fall over from time to time. Now, though, I don't fall as hard, and it doesn't take me as long to get back up again.

    I'm grateful for the support of my psychologist. With her help I'm learning to think differently and to live differently.

    Despite the horrors, living with mental illness has changed my life in positive ways: I've rediscovered hope; I'm learning to be good to and look after myself; I'm less judgmental and more compassionate; my relationships are richer; I'm becoming more confident again; and I'm discovering things that make me truly happy. Perhaps best of all, I don't feel like a freak anymore.

    I wouldn't give these things away for anything.

Anxiety Stories

  • STEPH: 'I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.'

    I have two black dogs. Sometimes I only have one. But once I see him, I know the other one will shortly follow. I don’t always have the black dogs with me. Some days I feel completely weightless, like I’m not carrying a burden. I’m so used to the black dogs being around. I feel guilty not having them. I worry if they are not with me they are with someone else. But when they are there I want them to leave. I wish they would die and never return. But they can not be killed.

    The black dogs names are depression and anxiety. You never know when they are going to come back to their master. Although I am their master I have no control over them. They are constantly barking. Confusing me. I can’t think with them barking so loudly. The shame of owning these black dogs is real. You feel like they are a sign of weakness. You don’t want anyone knowing you have these black dogs. Especially dogs you can’t control. When you see friends, you put the music on loud, so they can’t hear the black dogs. You pull the curtain so they can’t see the black dogs. You’re so busy worrying about people seeing the black dogs, so worried the black dogs will escape and bite someone that you give up trying. You isolate yourself, wanting to be alone with them.

    The dogs soon take over everything in your life. They take up all your time.  People who come over, you push away because you don’t want them to see the real side of you, the pain and shame you are feeling. If people see the dogs get defensive. You reassure people that “that they are OK” and “I have them trained and under control”. But you (alone) can never get control over them.

    All the things you used to enjoy are now pointless. The dogs distract you and ruin everything surrounding you. You don’t want anyone to be affect by you having the dogs. This is why you hide. When you finally admit to yourself that you need to get a trainer to help train the black dogs, they leave. You think the worst is over. They won’t come back.  But (for me) they always come back. They can come back at any time and who knows, the dogs maybe bigger and more viscous next time.

    Some days I just want to end it all, I have tried once, but luckily it was unsuccessful. I just want to have a day without the black dogs, or a day when I can fully control them. I am glad I am now getting help, because everyday it is getting better, and I am beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

  • BIANCA: 'Anxiety for me came out of nowhere and hit me like a ton of bricks.'

    It's a long story but it does have a happy ending. I've never shared it before but I'm ready to now.

    Anxiety for me came out of nowhere and hit me like a ton of bricks. It just started with a jitteriness and loss of appetite, constantly sweaty palms and an elevated heart rate I could feel. I started throwing up in the morning at the thought of going to work. I didn't know about anxiety then and when I tried to explain it I would say I was a bit sick. My work was a pretty high pressure sales job and sick days weren't really a thing so I just got on with it.

    I was losing weight fast too, but I had some weight to lose so I wasn't worried.

    Then the panic attacks started. For me everything centred around my heart. It would beat super-fast without any trigger and that alone would scare me into a nasty cycle.

    The second time it happened I was scared and I called an ambulance. They took me to the ER as my heart was at 180bpm resting and that was the first time I encountered something I think is a massive problem...  I don't even know with what, society, body image, medical attitude whatever. I saw the ER doctor who dismissed my concerns and I was sent home.

    The anxiety got worse, now I was terrified of another panic attack. Within a week I quit my job, too scared I'd have another attack while driving. (This was to be the only period I was unemployed since I was old enough to work until I went into labour with my little boy) so I lost the independence driving allows too. I lost another 10kg. My family were whispering about eating disorders. I overheard my husband telling them "she's throwing up again" my parents neighbour approached me to tell me I was worrying them and they'd told him they "just couldn't get me to eat."

    I went to my GP. The first thing he told me was how great I looked. I was by this point underweight. I told him what had been happening and how I felt and he said "but you look so good, you look like a supermodel" again I was apparently being ungrateful for the ‘gift’ I'd been given.

    After some pressure from my husband he took some blood and sent me on my way. He later called to tell me I didn't seem dangerously malnourished and my thyroid function was fine and I should take some vitamins. Still nobody had mentioned anxiety, I felt like some kind of fraud because I wasn't malnourished must mean I was exaggerating not being able to eat. I was broken. I thought that was it. I was just going to feel like this forever.

    My uncle said he knew a doctor that would at least "give me something for it" and he took me there. He was right. The doctor didn't say much, it was pretty clear he thought I was drug seeking but he was OK with that so he gave me medication and sent me on my way. They didn't do very much. I never remember feeling normal again while I took them.

    I lost more weight and people were making comments about how my bones stuck out and I'd gone too far. People would stare and make comments to each other if I was ever out and I get why. I looked like a junky. My hair was thin, my bones stuck out through my clothes, I had dark stressed eyes and I was jittery. This had been going on for around six months now and by now it had taken my independence, my career, my health and a lot of my friendships.

    Then one night I decided to drink some wine and I got a bit drunk and for the first time I actually felt relaxed. It was so good that the next day I had some more and it worked again and again and again. What followed was a downward spiral that would last about three years. During that time my marriage ended and so did most of my relationships. No one had signed up for this. I was an absolute mess making one bad choice after another.

    I finally went to a walk-in GP to try and get help for my drinking problem and was finally put into therapy. That is where I learnt about anxiety and panic attacks and managed to break my dependence on alcohol. I also got the coping techniques to get my anxiety under control naturally.

    That all happened almost 10 years ago and my life now is blessed with a very good man and a beautiful boy. I got some of my old friendships back on track and I made some new ones. For where I am now I'm thankful my life took me here but no one should have to go through all that. Most of it didn't need to happen and I still don't trust doctors even now.

    Anyway if you've made it this far thank you for taking the time to let me tell you my story. I'm sure it's not unique but it is mine and I've never told it before so thank you.

  • AMANDA: 'Now, I’m doing much better and have been able to break my alcohol dependency.'

    Seeking support for depression and anxiety is a big step, but for me it was just the first in a long journey to recovery, which included some really challenging nights.

    It was when I began constantly thinking about taking my own life that I first reached out for help. At the time, I was working a high-pressured job on a major IT project, which was nearing its deadline, and I’d just separated from a partner after purchasing a house together.

    The ongoing stress I was feeling developed into anxiety, particularly panic attacks. The worst attack happened in a meeting. I was shaking uncontrollably and it felt my whole body was numb. I kept thinking about how much easier it would be to end my life.
    Not long after, I saw a GP who diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. They prescribed me some medication and recommended I see a psychologist. I found one I liked and things were looking up.

    A couple of months later, I moved interstate for a new job. I was still seeing a psychologist, but was also drinking heavily at night to cope. Every day for around two months, I would drink at least a bottle of champagne, which was affecting my work.
    Seeing a psychologist regularly was helpful, but it was hard at night when I struggled and when she wasn’t available. This is why I started contacting beyondblue’s Support Service, using the online chat room which is open until midnight.

    Through the chat function, I would speak with mental health professionals about how I was feeling. They would listen and offer strategies to help me break unhelpful patterns, like becoming aware of my triggers and practising mindfulness when my mind started racing.

    I was often taken aback at how the people I spoke to at the service really seemed to care about me. Once when I mentioned I was tired, the person asked about the medications I’d used and checked with the drug and alcohol authorities if the dosage was a problem. Thankfully it wasn’t, but I felt valued knowing they’d gone to that length to check.

    Now, I’m doing much better and have been able to break my alcohol dependency. I’m so extremely grateful that the Support Service was around when my usual supporters weren’t available, help keeping me afloat when my recovery was wavering.

  • ANDREW: 'You have to have hope that it will get better and if you keep trying it can and will.'

    I was experiencing severe depression and anxiety as well as drug and alcohol issues over the past few years. I had lost all my support networks and had felt quite lost for a long period of time and that’s when the thoughts of suicide started to occur. I had started self-harming to cope and searching for a way out of the low. I started planning how I could kill myself. I have attempted suicide on a number of occasions but fortunately I am here to share my story.

    My story relates to the message of recovery as I have turned my life around and have almost completely overcome my depression and anxiety. I am now studying at university, I am off drugs and alcohol, I work a number of jobs, and am actively engaged with my community and I now have a strong support network to get me through any troubles I may face in the future.

    I think the story of my recovery really highlights the messages of hope and resilience and the importance of holding onto life and trying to get help. I found that it is too difficult to tackle these things by yourself and it is important to seek help and keep trying to overcome the obstacles that are in your way. The most important message is that you have to have hope that it will get better and if you keep trying it can and will.

    The most valuable advice I can offer from my experience for someone who might be thinking of suicide is to building a support network of people you can trust. This is often difficult but it is always good to start with family or friends. The next biggest thing is to seek professional help. If it is too difficult for you to seek help face to face it is important to try on the phone or try online services.

    I think the biggest thing that helped me was people just reassuring me that they were there for me and offering a shoulder to cry on and offering me an opportunity to talk things out.

  • JASON: 'I finally sought help for my issues and it's completely rejuvenated my life.'

    My battles with anxiety, depression and OCD commenced some 10 years ago at the age of 21. It came on suddenly – after a night out with my mates, I simply woke up the next day and thought I was going to die for absolutely no reason. The panic associated with this feeling completely overwhelmed me and dogged me persistently for a few weeks. While my condition improved slightly after seeing my GP (who diagnosed me with a generalised anxiety disorder) I remained anxious, tense and experienced panic attacks regularly.

    I sought opinions from a couple of additional GP's who all concluded that I was indeed in the grips of an anxiety disorder. These diagnoses, I simply could not fathom or accept. I wondered how a bloke who has always been fit, energetic and socially adept could suddenly become reasonably fragile and socially awkward – afraid to leave the comfort zone of my girlfriend (who along with my close family was the only person who knew of my battles) and close friends. In an attempt to try and 'feel normal again', I began to turn to a pastime I enjoyed, gambling on the races, more and more frequently. While this did take my mind of my issues while I was actively engaged in it, it also led to financial troubles, a break down in relationships and further anxiety/panic when I was not gambling.

    I had begun to manage my condition slightly better after six to nine months (employing relaxation techniques such as deep, controlled breathing to good effect); however a family tragedy then took a severe toll on my mindset. My sister, just 32, died suddenly of an undiagnosed heart condition. I was dumbfounded, severely upset and began to fear again for my own safety. "This could happen to me at any minute", was a thought I could not shake. I began to obsess about my own personal welfare. I needed to be constantly reassured that I was fine – that I didn't have any unexplained cuts or scratches on my body, that I wasn't going to obtain any nasty disease that might prematurely have me meet my demise. I was suddenly a nervous, obsessive wreck and I experienced troubles with simple tasks such as driving (fearing I would cause an accident that might kill me or send me to jail) and shopping (being surrounded by so many people caused me fear). Despite these severe conditions I refused to believe I was 'mentally ill' – I viewed that as inconceivable; as weak and something that surely could not have become me. I wouldn't get help – instead, I further turned to gambling and began to gamble heavily in the following months... and for five to six years after that.

    This inability to accept my mental condition and seek help had a severe impact on my life. I isolated those close to me, lost my girlfriend of seven years and made some horrendous, immoral financial decisions that have, deservingly, sent me to my current location – prison. All wanted was to feel normal, to stop feeling like I was living on auto-pilot and to stop the intense loathing I had for myself (knowing the lengths I was going to fund my gambling had me despising myself – ultimately, to feel like 'the old me', unaffected by mental illness. However, in my search, I lost complete sense of all reality. My actions were selfish, impulsive and somewhat deluded.

    Unfortunately, this is the impact that mental illness can have. During the darkest days of my gambling addiction and mental health battles I simply felt like a shell of my former self. I cringed when people would call me a good bloke; hated getting up in the morning to see the reflection of someone I barely knew. I never thought I would come out the other side. But despite being here (prison) now, I have realised that I'm on my way to doing that. I finally sought help for my issues and it's completely rejuvenated my life. That's not to say I don't still have down days – it's impossible not to given my environment, but I can manage my feelings and mindset far better.

    To manage my illnesses, I have to be diligent in my behaviours. I am precise with taking my daily anxiety medication, I exercise regularly, and I read, study and write a lot. I keep busy and can now sense when I am feeling 'off’. This didn't just occur however, it's taken at least two years to achieve an appropriate 'balance', and it's taken a lot of hard work and patience.

    Perhaps the one thing that has helped me most though, is talking. Being open about my problems (still present tense as mental health is not an issue that simply improves then completely disappears) to everyone has made me so more at ease with myself. I know now that I am not alone in the fight against this silent burden and discussing my issues, and those of others in similar positions, has inspired me to want to make a difference – I cannot wait to actively contribute to this cause upon my release.

    I have been incredibly touched by the support of beyondblue and from my amazing family, friends and support networks. I hope my story can in some small way assist others who are in the grips of diminished mental health (and other resulting and associated illnesses) and I urge anyone who is experiencing any such issues to embrace the moment (discover the amazing depths of your fighting spirit and, inner strength today), learn from it and talk about it and most importantly, to assist the fight against this insidious disease.

  • JESS: 'The most important thing is to focus on all the things I can do and not on the things I have trouble doing.'

    I am a 25 year old female and I have been dealing with anxiety and related depression for over 10 years now.

    My first encounter with panic happened in high school, after I began being bullied. I used to pretend I was sick so that I could leave school early. These ‘sick’ episodes began as a conscious effort to get out of a situation, but as I became more anxious these episodes developed into panic attacks.

    I am lucky to have a great mother, who supported me and made me get help through doctors and a psychologist who helped me understand that anxiety is a very common mental illness that can be managed and lived with.

    The last ten years have been very difficult; with periods of uncertainty, different medications and psychologists and a great deal of depression. I learnt that I am my own worst enemy, when I have a panic attack I immediately begin to berate myself, telling myself that I should be stronger or better or happier.

    Sometimes, in the height of my anxiety I mistakenly believe suicide is the only way out. It’s difficult to let go of these emotions, to give myself space to heal and relax. Meditation and yoga help, but it is very hard to make myself do these things when I am upset. Focusing on my work, my boyfriend and my hobby helps get me through and realise that the anxiety feeling does dissipate after a while.

    Anxiety has been passed down through the females in my family for over three generations. Depression is also a family trait and most recently my beautiful cousin Natasha suicided at the age of 18. I know there is more to mental illness than genetics, but I still worry about passing it onto my children.

    For the past four years I have been on anti-anxiety/depression medication, which has helped me live my life without daily anxiety. It took me a long time to realise that taking anti-depressant medication does not mean I am giving up or giving in to anxiety, but instead I’m taking an active step towards getting well. I am still learning about anxiety and trying to be encouraging to myself. The most important thing is to focus on all the things I can do and not on the things I have trouble doing.

    Please, if you are suffering from a mental illness, know that there is help available and it does get better. This year I am donating my birthday to beyondblue, especially in memory of my beautiful cousin Natasha. I want to help make sure everyone who needs it knows there is help available and can access it. Instead of presents, I have asked my family and friends to donate to beyondblue.

  • SCOTT: 'You don’t have to feel alone, get help'

    Hi my name is Scott. I'm 42 yrs old, married with 2 children and have suffered from anxiety/panic disorder since 1994 and major/clinical depression for the last 2 yrs but probably longer undiagnosed.

    In 1994 I was 25 yrs of age, a fit strong and outgoing person with lots of friends with not a worry in the world (so I thought). I was on holiday at Lakes Entrance with my wife and son for the Christmas holidays. We had planned something different to do each day. Visiting the Buchan Caves was on our list of things to see. That was the day my life took a major turn into mental illness. We woke up early to a bright warm summer's day. We had our breakfast and left early as our tour started at 10:15am. We arrived by 10am and proceeded over to the entrance of the caves and waited for our tour guide. As he arrived we were all gathered in front of a big steel doorway that leads down to the caves. He gave us a briefing on what to expect to see such as stalagmites and stalactites. The big steel door opened and, we all walked in looking down a very long staircase going deep underground, the slam of the door echoing in the distance. At this point in time I started to feel a sense of anxiety which I had never felt before. The walk down to the bottom felt like it took forever. My anxiety soon started to turn to panic, my whole body started to burn with fear and I didn't know why this was happening. I just froze with fear and insisted that the guide take me out immediately. I felt trapped. The guide, after some convincing, agreed to take me out while the rest of the group waited for him to return. I struggled to analyse what had just happened to me. I just broke down in tears.

    This was the beginning of my anxiety/panic disorder, feeling full of fear everyday for 15 debilitating years. I never got help. Major/clinical depression developed 2 yrs ago after I was made redundant from a job I'd held for 15 yrs. The depression grew worse after I had a motorbike accident in December 2009. I needed to get help so I sought out a GP, psychiatrist and psychologist. I've had 4 visits to hospital - 1 for alcohol substance abuse and 3 for depression. I have been treated with medication such as antidepressants, mood stabilizers and lots of group therapy. I have read a multitude of self help books. For me avoidance was an important part of my recovery process.

    Anxiety/panic controlled my life for too long. Fight and flight. I used avoidance exposure and medication and relaxation therapy to desensitise my fears and reclaim my life. Now I am able to wake up in the morning confident that I can do most things without fear of anxiety any more.

    You don't have to feel alone, get help.

  • MICHELLE: 'I was embarrassed to admit how much panic attacks were actually affecting me'

    It took me a long time to recognise that I do actually have an anxiety disorder. I was embarrassed to admit how much panic attacks were actually affecting me. I'd been taught to pretend to be OK through the negative body language I received when I was sad as a child, or simply told to stop worrying. My father abused my mother in front of me – I was frequently exposed to violence.

    I was considered shy as a child. As I grew up I faced these issues, cried about them, spoke to close friends. I thought I was over it, I became outspoken. I gained a degree of fame in a local music scene as an artist and an eccentric, which opened me up to both criticism and obsessive love. Eventually I couldn't handle the strange messages, and weird people approaching me. I stopped being social – I had constant fights with friends. As a result of the small amount of fame I acquired, my fights with my band friends became public. Eventually I had my first panic attack after a particularly bad fight. I ended up crying, unable to breathe – I didn't even know where I was.

    I tried to talk about it on a local forum and was criticised by older women who were jealous of me. I didn't want to talk about it again. For five years I suffered alone from constant fear. I got into a bad relationship – he was emotionally abusive and controlling. He isolated me. When it ended I was stuck in a remote town and he would stalk me. I worked in a high stress environment, the town was violent – and several times I was threatened with knives and constant verbal abuse. Some hooligans tried to run myself and my partner down, and a dog tried to attack us. Once I moved and left my job it felt like I'd escaped from hell.

    At first I felt like I was just taking some time out. I stayed in, didn't do much. Then I realised I was afraid to go outside – afraid of cars, dogs and people. I always had trouble overcoming my social fears to hold down jobs, but then it was impossible. My panic attacks increased, I felt fear even when checking emails. I felt like I had no independence. The way people talked down to me, implying a pretty girl with experience should have no trouble getting jobs made me more depressed. Eventually I sought help after a close friend moved in and revealed she had an anxiety disorder. I felt less alone, less crazy. I'm on medication at the moment. It seems to help me sleep and the anxiety has decreased to a degree where I don't cry every time I have to leave the house by myself. I'm beginning to recover. Much is due to having someone who can relate, who has been through the same thing, and having a supportive partner.

  • KYAH: 'don't ignore what you feel, seek help, have someone that you can talk to'

    I had suffered extreme chest pains, loss of breathe and numbing in my mouth, hands and feet. I would always end up screaming and crying and going up to the hospital thinking that I was going to die from a heart attack, and seeking help was hard for me cause I was ashamed and embarrassed about myself, but… this happened a lot and I always got sent home from them not being able to pick anything up on a heart scan.

    I felt disgusted about myself, and was eventually isolating myself and crying myself to sleep when I could sleep, not eating properly cause of thinking that it might be triggered by food or anything else I was doing, and this was over a time between 17-18 yrs old.

    On one of the last times I went to hospital over the chest pains I had a wonderful doctor that actually sat there and talked to me and told me to tell him when I had another chest pain. After 15 mins talking and one chest pain he had found out what no other doctor had thought of was my anxiety and depression. I could not tell myself what was happening or understand what he was trying to explain to me. He sent for a health professional then and there for me to talk to (on a Sunday as well) and the other doctor sat me down and explained what I was going through, and then I understood. I got referred to a psychologist and I started to feel better by talking to someone that wanted to help me, since I got no support from my partner. I didn’t want to take any medication since I had an anxiety attack every time I even thought of taking a tablet. So she taught me how to control my breathing and that telling myself that I was going to be ok. I still have to cope but I have a wonderful GP that I can rely on to talk to ask for help and not be embarrassed.

    My final message is:

    Don't ignore what you feel, seek help, have someone that you can talk to and that will try to understand I got a doctor that I had never seen before and who understood me, its the best feeling in the world.

  • KERRYN: 'I couldn’t function. I didn’t understand what was wrong with me'

    About two years ago, I imploded. I couldn't sleep – spending nights tossing, turning, and staring into space. I was exhausted, emotionally and physically, and I couldn't think straight. I could barely bring in the mail, let alone open it. The mail piled up, as did the weeks' newspapers. I didn't have the energy to face any of it.

    I thought I had some unspecified infection so I took a day or two off work (a few times). I spent the days hiding in bed, unable to face the world or fight this infection. When I did make it to work, even just outside the house, I was so stressed by every sight and sound, I couldn't function. I didn't understand what was wrong with me.

    I battled on for a month or more before seeking help from my doctor. I wasn't honest about what I was going through – I thought she'd think I was crazy – but I did agree to see a psychologist. I thought if I saw the psych once, maybe twice, everything would be alright.

    It wasn't, not immediately, but the talking certainly helped. I soon realised I'd been running from my demons my whole life, using sex, drugs, food – and years of workaholism – to escape. But I'd become so trapped in my emotional prison that I couldn't function.

    The psychologist diagnosed depression and anxiety, plus borderline personality disorder. I was shocked. How could I have been so highly functioning for so long with all this wrong with me? I felt broken. I felt like a freak.

    At first things got worse before they got better. The sleeplessness and exhaustion continued. I drank too much. I swung wildly between eating too much and too little. I came close to ending it all.

    Eventually I saw the doctor about medication. She didn't think I was “crazy”. The antidepressants helped. I still don't like to admit that but now see that if you can't think, then you can't recover.

    Gradually things improved. I found myself able to open the mail and read the newspaper again. I started making bigger changes, too. Things I never thought I'd do – like disclosing to friends, taking a holiday, changing jobs, tackling long-standing health issues and, recently, group therapy.

    I'm much better, but I still fall over from time to time. Now, though, I don't fall as hard, and it doesn't take me as long to get back up again.

    I'm grateful for the support of my psychologist. With her help I'm learning to think differently and to live differently.

    Despite the horrors, living with mental illness has changed my life in positive ways: I've rediscovered hope; I'm learning to be good to and look after myself; I'm less judgmental and more compassionate; my relationships are richer; I'm becoming more confident again; and I'm discovering things that make me truly happy. Perhaps best of all, I don't feel like a freak anymore.

    I wouldn't give these things away for anything.

  • KATE: 'Doing the most basic everyday tasks became completely overwhelming and stressful'

    I had been feeling light headed and short of breath for a few weeks and had started having really dark thoughts, imagining that I was dying. I had been under a lot of stress at work and I had been feeling extremely fatigued. But I thought these were just normal symptoms of having a busy life as a mum, wife and an over worked employee.

    It all accumulated one night when I suddenly had the overwhelming feeling that I was being crushed by despair, hopelessness and panic. I went to my husband and completely broke down. I couldn't breathe properly and I was racked by deep sobs that I couldn't control. I just wanted him to hold me while I was riding through the waves of panic. I didn't know what was happening to me - I thought I was having a nervous breakdown.

    Days afterwards my whole view of the world had changed. Doing the most basic everyday tasks became completely overwhelming and stressful. I became bed ridden from exhaustion. Fortunately I have an amazing support network in my husband and family who immediately stepped in to pick up the pieces. I took a week off work and my mum stayed for a few nights to help look after our four-year-old daughter. It locked me in a time warp, my movements, words and thoughts all slowed down to a 90 year olds pace. Going to the supermarket became a threatening, scary experience from fear of having a panic attack in front of everyone and looking like an idiot. I was really scared that I would never feel normal again and wondered why I couldn't cope with doing the most basic things by myself.

    Luckily, I was familiar with the symptoms of panic attacks as my sister had suffered from them and had recovered, so talking to her was a great source of comfort. My sister gave me the book ‚ Living with It by Bev Aisbett, a light hearted but completely resonating account of panic disorder. I immediately made an appointment with my GP and a psychologist. My GP diagnosed a general anxiety disorder and gave me a mental health plan. I actually felt relieved when she put a name to it. I saw a psychologist who specialised in cognitive behavioural therapy, which focuses on techniques for retraining your thoughts.

    Along with psychological treatment I have also been using alternative therapy. I enrolled in a meditation and yoga course and have also been exercising regularly. Meditation quietens the mind, focusing on the breath, deep relaxation and yoga poses. I also find that good cardio exercise really helps, even just a brisk walk around the block.

    I still have occasional episodes of anxiety during times of stress or grief but it is much more manageable now. The utter white fear of anxiety has dissipated and if I deal with it immediately it goes away. You don't have to feel this way and there is help out there.

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