As I grew older, my depression worsened and I began having thoughts of self-harm. There were times when I got so anxious I had seizures. The first time it happened, I was terrified.
I felt like I no longer had control over my mind or body. I became too nervous to leave the house without my mum Sue, who was also my carer.
Finally, at 25, I had an answer. ‘You’re suffering from a range of mental illnesses,’ the GP told me. I was diagnosed with rapid cycling bipolar disorder, psychotic depression, claustrophobia and anxiety, and was given medication.
Mum suggested we also get a dog to help lift my spirits.
After phoning around, we found Bubba, an Australian wire terrier, who was being neglected.
The day we picked her up, I was actually excited. She licked my hand as I patted her. This is just what I needed, I smiled.
But my happiness soon faded when Mum was diagnosed with lung cancer. Determined to find other support for me, she contacted mindDog – an organisation that helps train and accredit psychiatric assistance dogs.
Before long, I was teaching Bubba basic commands. At last, I felt like I had something to live for! On bad days, when Bubba senses my mood, she makes me hug her, as if to say ‘you’re not alone.’
Sadly, Mum lost her battle with cancer last year, but I have Bubba and my cousin Debbie, 50, who is now my carer, to support me.
While I try to take each day as it comes, I am so thankful to have Bubba in my life. I may have saved her, but she saved me too!
➜ In Australia, it is estimated
that 45 per cent of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime.
➜ Anxiety is the most common mental health condition in Australia, affecting one in four people while depression will affect one in six.
➜ Both conditions have minor
and severe symptoms.
➜ There are a range of treatments and professionals who can help people get on the road to recovery.
If you’ve been affected by issues in this story, help is available at Lifeline on 13 11 14.