My mum divorced my dad a long time ago. She left the family and decided not to take care of us during my childhood because she had bi-polar disorder. It was hard because she was going crazy at night, and in the morning she wouldn’t want us to go to school. It was hard on my dad because he cooked and washed all the dishes and my mother didn’t – she was in and out of hospital. This started when I was a 3-year-old toddler.
I remember from the age of five to 11 years, we were part of a mental health group in Westmead. We had activities and group sessions and we would come together to talk about issues and how they impact on the way that you live with someone who has a mental illness.
One night, my mum left the house. The next night she came over in the middle of the night banging the door, using a brick to smash the door. I remember my younger brother panicking and I had to calm him down. He’s younger by a year or so.
My mum never lived with us again after that night. Dad didn’t want her impacting on our lives and education and things like that. So for the last ten years or so my mother has pretty much not been a part of our lives. A few years ago she took dad to court saying he was stopping us from seeing her but it’s always been our choice.
My brother’s been diagnosed with depression and anxiety. We found out two or three years ago. Besides my mum, that is the only case of mental illness in our family that we know of. My brother had issues with worry and anxiousness from people in school & some community agencies, and I think he may have got that from my mum
My brother was born prematurely and my dad has always been more worried about my brother. He’s always kept an eye on him to see if he’s healthy, whether he’s stuffing up his education – his mother had not been a good influence, telling him that he didn’t need to go to school and to just relax like her.
I am obviously very close to my brother. If I see him looking sad or worried or something going on at school, or something that’s threatening him, I talk to him about it. Right now he has issues with having friends and had have trouble at school before where he feel sick and ended up in hospital. Depression has hit him and he hasn’t been at school for months, he’s been in hospital twice. He would sometimes forget of what people had said to him and he also has an English impediment, so he has some speech problems.
My brother wants to get into Medicine but he’s struggling with his performance at the moment after dropping down due to his psychotic episodes and being in and out of hospital. He used to be really good with maths and using his logic to solve problems but that was two years ago.
There have been two episodes since then.
The first one happened in school; he started getting hot, his face going really red, and he couldn’t talk either. It was a Friday and we normally finish at one pm and I found out from a messenger that I had to go to the Deputy Manager’s office. When I got there he wasn’t showing any emotion, he wasn’t smiling or anything like this. I’d never seen this before. My dad’s phone was off so the school called the ambulance to take him to Westmead Hospital. We were there for hours and hours and I finally was able to get in contact with my dad through my neighbour and he rushed to my brother’s side.
When my brother needs someone to talk to he comes to me, when I need to talk to someone I go to the school counsellor most of the time. My dad doesn’t really talk to anyone as much. He didn’t really want to talk to the school councillor too deep about my brother or the family life.
For me it depends on who you talk to – some people really want to hear about an individual but there are some around who don’t really want to go into the metal health side; they don’t want to hear the story; they think that people with mental health issues are just crazy. I think that all people maybe should be aware of mental health.
The students in my year don’t look at me differently, and they are very supportive, helpful and friendly to me. I can’t really speak for my brother’s year. Some have come up to me to ask if he is alright. My brother didn’t want to tell what his situation is because he was scared he was going to lose his friends. He sometimes has some trouble with his language – he speaks very formal at times and sometimes he gets teased or loses friends.
One psychiatrist told us that he has a different bi-polar to my mother but I don’t think that’s official, but I think that he has depression and he’s on medication. Since he has been on his medication he has started to be really lazy. It’s become so hard to get him back on track and to be motivated.
Getting involved with ONFIRE !
I first met Nickolas Yu (ONFIRE ! founder) through Westmead Redbank Service. When I was 11 or 12 we heard that they were holding a camp and wanted to go but the other service that we were involved with as well were holding a camp as well - two camps on the same day. A little while later we had our first outing with ONFIRE !, my brother and I went to Luna Park. That was three to four years ago and I have been to places like the movies, museums and camps since then. When we are there we don’t talk too deeply with others about issues and the family, we just hang-out as friends.
I want to really study for the HSC, so I can achieve around 98 or 99 and get into law. I’m not really confident about it but I really want to get into law, otherwise I have an alternative path doing computer engineering or communication in Media & Sound as a movie editor. My motivation is to do well for my family and be the first in my family to get into university. My brother and I both like computers but we do differ when it comes to operating systems - he’s into Microsoft and I’m more into Apple.
I worry about the future, especially the next five years. If there is something that is wrong or happens to my brother then I would have to stop my study, if my Dad past away or something, and focus on taking care of my brother. I will have to time manage in order to take care of myself with my studies and to also look after my brother.
It’s hard to predict the future but I want to keep my brother on track. I liken his situation to a wall. A big brick wall has to be stacked up properly, so it can’t have any holes in it. If it does then it has to be built again and stacked properly to fix up the gaps. My brother has those gaps and his wall needs to be smashed down so we can rebuild it again. It’s not just me that would care and support him but Dad is also part of the family that will support him from now and the future.