by Bee Williamson
I suppose I write as a way to clarify ideas and say to others, through my own experience, what it’s like to have a chronic mental illness. I can’t shy away from it. It’s stuck with me. I was inspired to write a story for John Duthie’s project by Maribel Steel, who is inspiring me in her life and her challenge of vision impairment. To write to help others in similar situations is what it’s about. Because of my medications, I find it hard to read novels, but occasionally I do devour memoirs about mental illness. I’ve got quite a collection in my bookcase!
Like my work as a peer support worker on SMART, run by Swinburne University, to be able to normalise some things that happen to you when just living your life, is important. You can’t label everything you do in your life. And you don’t want to over scrutinise all your quirks. We’re all a bit odd, aren’t we? Say, for example, tossing clothes in soaking water with a kitchen spoon (stainless steel). I find that a bit odd….I don’t want bleach on my veggies. But, oh well, it is steel, so maybe it can be cleaned?
I’m living with OCD officially, but the people around me also have quirks. They don’t stigmatise themselves for these odd behaviours, so why should I? By putting my experiences forward, people can read them and make up their own minds. They can think about things like thought broadcasting and examine their own thoughts as well. We’re not living in a glass bubble. Things we say and do affect each other. Just because I have schizophrenia doesn’t mean I’m the only one who struggles. And when you connect with this “wild tribe”, as Heidi Everett says, you can feel not so alone.
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