Cveta's mental health story

Cvetas story"I moved from Macedonia to Port Kembla in NSW when I was 15. When I was 19 years old, I started getting my first symptoms. I wasn’t able to eat or sleep, sometimes for days, and I had hallucinations and paranoia. But life continued... and I married my first husband, and had our first son.

I had a nervous breakdown on my oldest son’s 4th birthday. I was 24 at the time... and for me everything was going too fast. The music was too fast, the people around me, everything... My husband and I were smoking marijuana, and I believe that’s how I got sick.

My father-in-law took me to emergency in Port Kembla hospital. There was a psychiatric ward back then. I was very sick, and I lost a lot of weight... I was in hospital for three weeks. I was in a different world, and it was very strange. I was put on a lot of tablets and I had to go for regular check-ups after I got out. I saw three doctors, and two years after the nervous breakdown I was diagnosed with Bipolar.

I’ve been in hospital ten times since then, mostly with depression, but sometimes with mania... You’re looked after, but in my shoes, being in hospital is the worst experience. It’s awful to be in hospital if you ask me; it’s an awful place to be. It’s restrictive, you can’t be at home, and you’re locked up like gaol...

I did go to a psychiatrist though, a bit after I got out of hospital... I still see him, 19 years later - the same psychiatrist. He’s a very good man. He’s been my mentor and looking out for me for years, like a father...

“It’s awful to be in hospital if you ask me; it’s an awful place to be. It’s restrictive, you can’t be at home, and you’re locked up like gaol.”

My experience in a traditional Macedonian marriage was that you don’t get very supported... They always emphasised that I was the sick one, even when we were with company. They were not supportive at all, and that was very sad. It’s also sad for my kids to be growing up in that kind of environment. That’s when my marriage came to an end. I got divorced in 2002 and it was very difficult... I have had less hospital admissions since the divorce, I am more out of the cultural things and there’s not as much stigma...

I’m married again now, for six years to Hina who isn’t Macedonian. He’s got kids, and we’ve had a baby unexpectedly. The pregnancy was scary, and it was difficult. I had gestational diabetes, blood clots, and I had to have needles... It was a hard pregnancy mentally and physically... I went into the Pregnancy Unit at Wollongong hospital, and I was in hospital two times when I was pregnant... Because I was still on some medications, it took three days in the hospital for the medication to clear the baby’s system...

I got very sick when my son was two months. I had to go to a special place in Sydney called Mums and Kids Matter. They helped me nurse the baby, and I lived there for a few weeks... I liked it but I left too early. I was apart from Hina and that was hard... I got sick again, manic this time, and I was hospitalised in Wollongong for another five weeks. My baby wasn’t able to come with me. Every time in hospital it’s trauma, but this was the worst being away from him...

I have had lots of support from different places, it’s been good. My psychiatrist has given me the most support... Though now it’s getting very difficult to see him and more often appointments are rare. I see GPs, but they don’t stay here for very long, as they are often changing in the medical centre... Hina and I have a very good relationship now, and he is a very good father. I’m stable now, and the baby is doing well. What I want to say to other people who are ill is don’t be withdrawn and ashamed because you have an illness, like I was for years. Don’t blame yourself."

To read Cveta's full story or to download a copy, click here.

*Names and photograph changed to protect privacy. The views and opinions in these stories do not necessarily reflect or represent the views of COORDINARE – South Eastern NSW PHN, and is not advice that is provided, or information that is endorsed, by COORDINARE. COORDINARE is not responsible for negligence or otherwise for any damage however arising from the use of or reliance on the information provided in these stories.