From Psychotic Patient to Mental Health Advocate

4As an initiative of Mental Health week, I was an invited guest of PA Hospital Brisbane, and had the opportunity to share my personal experiences with the patients and staff of the mental health wing, of how I manage my Bipolar Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

I arrived early, my heart pattering as I located the sign ‘Acute Psychiatric Facility’, and entered the door with a mix of excitement and anxiety.298329-princess-alexandra-hospitalAfter Hospital executives greeted me and shook my hand, I was ushered into a large shady courtyard where patients from three mental health wards were standing, sitting and wandering about. Patients introduced themselves to me, most were friendly, some were quiet and reserved, some agitated,  some had the glazed eyes of heavy medication.

I flash-backed to 2005 and 2006 when I was an inmate of a Brisbane mental health hospital where I was diagnosed with mania and psychosis , the result of  a year of harassment and bullying by parents at the school where I was teaching. I recalled with trepidation, my screaming night terrors and sleepless nights.

I had written the genesis of Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness during my hospital incarceration after weeks of interviewing doctors and patients, trying to make sense of what was happening to me.

ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness won Finalist in the Mental Health achievement awards in 2012 HERE

perf6.000x9.000.inddIt was time. I spoke from my heart to the patients and staff, sharing my mental health history. My hands trembled, my knees quivered …  my voice picked up speed. The recollections were so strong, I started to stammer.

“Slow down, take a deep breath,” Steve Tyrrell my carer and #1 supporter whispered from the sidelines.

I reminded myself- ‘I was once like these patients but … I have been well since 2006. I know I can help them break their own stress cycle, so they can begin their journey to recovery.’

I relaxed, and shared my story, how I recovered, how I developed daily coping skills, and referenced my self-help manual ME and Him: A Guide to Recovery...

KarenTyrrell-Me-And-Him-Cover-WebUse-Lge I touched on my recovery, wellness and resilience tips. I left them my wellness philosophy: a pro-active morning regime, understanding your triggers, having a support team, practicing mindfulness and mediation and a calming pre-sleep routine.

What was the BEST part?

Seeing some positive responses from the patients and meeting Stephanie Azri, social worker and counsellor who congratulated me on giving consumers hope.

photo 2

Karen Tyrrell & Stephanie Azri: social worker

How I’m celebrating Mental Health Week…

This Saturday I’m presenting my KIDS resilience books as FREE story telling sessions at the Brisbane City Council sponsored Sanity Fair at Musgrave Park, Brisbane. Read HERE

PLEASE come over and say hi… 

RH3STOP the Bully at 11:00 am Sharing bully prevention skills

Bailey Beats the Blah 12.30 pm Sharing Coping skills to prevent childhood anxiety and depression

Both Books come with FREE Teacher notes and Kids activities HERE

My Books are available on Amazon in print and eBook

Me and Her: A Memoir of Madness  

ME and Him: A Guide to Recovery 

Bailey Beats the Blah   Prevent childhood anxiety and depression

STOP the Bully   KIDS Bully prevention skills

Are you looking after your mental health?
How are you celebrating Mental Health week?

PLEASE Share, LIKE, tweet, Google plus,

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9 comments to From Psychotic Patient to Mental Health Advocate

  • Steve Tyrrell

    Although you do a lot of public speaking in libraries, schools, launches etc, I could tell you were unusually nervous in the midst of so many mentally ill people. It was obvious you could feel their pain, anxiety, fear and confusion, but the sharing of your situation and where you are now did resonate with many, and the fact that some patients had the courage to approach you and thank you , even as they were struggling , was a special moment. I believe you really helped people today. We don’t often have to bare our soul in public, well done to you honey, love Steve

  • Thanks Steve,
    I didn’t expect you to comment here.
    BIG hugs to you today for standing by me, supporting, whispering words of encouragement.
    The experience was definitely unsettling, a reminder of how far I’ve come.
    I’m hoping my words of HOPE will be remembered.
    Karen xx

  • You were amazing. You were nervous because this was a bigger ‘test’ than speaking to professionals or selling books. It was about connecting to the vulnerable and hope-less patients who needed your message of hope. And we all heard it loud and clear! It was genuine and touched many; patients and staff alike!

    Thank you so much for coming to celebrate mental health week with us. it was such an honour!!

  • Hi Stephanie,
    Tears are rolling as I read your words. It was a privilege to share my recovery story with your unit. Explaining how I manage my illness, only made my resolve stronger to continue to be an advocate … Karen 🙂

  • I saw your site on fb. I read everything that was on it. I also suffer from bipolar, ptsd, anxiety, night terrors. I take alot of medicines and I would like to learn more about this. i would like to somehow take less meds

  • Hi Dawn,
    Thanks for checking out my website. I’ve been well since 2006. I rely on my pro-active wellness plan and coping skills.
    Please check out my *5 STAR books, Reviewed by Mental Health CEOS and psychologists.
    ★★★★★ ME & HER: A Memoir of Madness: Teacher’s Recovery from #Bullying #PTSD #Bipolar MentalHealth AWARD
    http://www.amazon.com/Me-Her-Memoir-Madness-ebook/dp/B008219QQS

    ★★★★★ ME & HIM: A Guide to Recovery > Carers Role #depression #anxiety #bipolar #copingskills http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BMMQ036
    Many Thanks, Karen 🙂 🙂

  • Kristy

    Congratulations I think it’s very brave to visit an a Acute care unit having been an inpatient.
    I hope you had the opportunity to talk about the Recovery Orientated Care and the Official Visitor’s program so patients can complain in treated badly.I believe we need more beds in hospitals that feel Safe for patients and become healing places without fish bowls where staff watch patients through CCTV. We need to have our rights respected, I was hospitalised once for bipolar in 2003 due to a psychotic break and manic high. I have never been rehospitalised and the experience was not healing. People I know have been turned away when suicidal, denied their kindle and did not receive the therapy they needed.
    I hope the system in Queensland is better then it is in NSW.
    We need consumer workers and consumer advocates who can help people on non-linear recovery journies.

  • Hi Kristy,
    Thanks for leaving your thought-provoking comment here with your very valid experiences and questions.
    I can only speak of mine. Twice I stayed in a psyche ward for over 5 weeks. My recovery was not linear at all.
    I shared how I manage bipolar disorder and PTSD with coping skills … and how I prevent relapse … Karen 🙂
    PS I’m speaking to a large group of consumers, sharing my resilience tips next week.

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