Recovery stories

'I'm very much an artist. I've had mental illness all my life. I was diagnosed when I was 17.

With the help of friends and family I've managed pretty well, until I had a massive breakdown three years ago due to something that happened to my daughter. I held it together for her for years and then ended up in hospital.

I was born in Muswellbrook, lived on Magnetic Island, met a guy up there, built a house, had my daughter, the marriage broke up and then I came back home. Most of my family are in Brisbane.  been in Newcastle 20 years, in this house for ten. It's my daughter's home.

When I had my breakdown I lost all my life skills, I couldn't cook, I couldn't keep the house clean, I'd been a wonderful cook all my life, I couldn't remember how to boil an egg. I was living in complete squalour because I didn't give a shit about myself.

And that's where Neami came in. They've been great. I find you can't get by without some sort of support. I've had great family support all my life, but I needed more than that.

I started out, taking me shopping, working out what I wanted, relearning those life skills, by gentle positive reinforcement, then you realise I wasn't doing this a month ago.

With the help of Neami, they are all so positive, like wow you can do this Judy and then I'm like wow I can do it. There's been lots of surprises. There were parts of Newcastle I couldn't even go into before, but now I can do it with confidence. My family think Neami is great. They've seen the difference.

Back then I didn't like going out, I didn't socialise, I had closed myself off completely. It was like a flower, I grew up slowly and now I am starting to bloom again.

Recovery, you have to want it. To get back to where you were. Or sometimes you can't get back, so you have to pick a point and get there instead.

I didn't think it was possible to recover this far. It's been a team effort, you don't do anything on your own really. You don't even buy your groceries on your own, there is a person that unpacks them, packs the shelves, puts them in your bag, sells them to you, you rely on people every day.

My daughter is now 24, for all those years she was the centre of my universe. She's just rented her first house together with her boyfriend, just two blocks down the road.

She's got aspergers so I wanted to raise her with as much social interaction as possible. My family has supported her and me, anything that she needed. Now she has a boyfriend and invites friends around for parties.

The children like to come over and look at all the pretty things in my house, it's kid heaven here because I'm just a big kid. My neighbours use my computer, like an internet cafe.

I've got that many projects lined up, you know, I've got lots of plans.'

‘I’m like a flower, I was buried deep and then I grew up slowly - and now I’m finally starting to bloom.’