Looking back now I think mental health issues affected me from a young age, only it was misconceived as me being a brat or a naughty teenager. Growing up I was surrounded by struggles and toxic relationships from very early in life. I struggled with a sense of belonging and always felt like the misfit.

By my late teens I found my escape. Drugs. It was my place away from reality.

After a 10 year addiction around being a mum, a wife, running a business and having a home I reached a point I wanted my life to change. But with change came something I always believed I was invincible from. In fact I was hit with something I never even believed was real.

A deep crippling depression that pushed me to wanting to end my life. A world of confusion and despair. I had no idea what was going on with my head or my body and I was terrified. I know to this day I had moments of psychotic episodes but I was too afraid to speak in case my kids were taken away. The stigma and fear of judgement kept me silent. Probably the biggest mistake I made as it made recovery so much harder.

Some days fighting through the thoughts was so unbelievably draining that walking from my bed to my shower, a whole 3 metres, was too exhausting I had to crawl. A world of complete contradiction when your mind is saying to keep holding but just 5 seconds later it says I cant hold on any more and then having to fight that thought. This was all day every day and I was lost.

The thought of suicide became my new escape. In fact I actually fantasised about leaving and ending all my pain. The only thing that ever kept me holding on was my two children.

But then my turning point. The day I had thoughts of taking my babies too. A thought than can still fill me with guilt more than 12 years later. How can I possibly have thought that about the most important people in my life.
That was the day I turned to help. I finally gave in to the idea of medication and extensive counselling. Counselling that made me realise that thought was out of love, if I wasn’t here to defend and look after my babies then they had to come with me.

When you give up an addiction, that’s not all you need to give up.
You need to give up every feeling, emotion, escape and thought you attached to that addiction. You need to face what ever you felt was missing to start in the first place.

For me it was an innocence that was taken from me before I was even 4 years old. It was so much anger that I held on to over years of abuse that made me see the world very different. It was resentment that I didn’t get to just be a normal kid with normal memories. I was robbed of the happy feelings around relationships and talks with my friends growing up because I had no choices to make. It was already taken.

But I had two choices…. Let it beat me and take me from my kids or I beat it.
During my own struggles, I also had some of my dearest family have theirs. I lost my closest cousin, one of the biggest losses I have felt to date, to what they call postnatal psychosis.

Then at the age of just 9 my own son made a few attempts on his life. Struggling with the family break up he had put an immense pressure on himself and struggled with his emotions.

When those we love struggle this way we are overwhelmed with guilt. A guilt that will eat you to your core, especially when its your own children who are your everything.

Both addiction and mental illness do not discriminate. They are selfish, they are toxic and they are life altering. I made many mistakes along the way and got stuck in toxic cycles.

But I choose to stay raw and honest about my struggles as it puts me back in control. I have been able to detach any emotions around it in order to take my power back over what has been my journey so far.

It also helps others know that they can turn to me without fear of judgement or feeling like I would not understand. The fact is I do understand.
I am deeply passionate about helping others know their worth and believe in themselves. I believe if I knew my worth growing up many of my choices would have been very different.

Had I not gone through such mental struggles I may never have found my own strength to live my purpose and help others through theirs.
I have seen and felt first hand how important it is to have team support, coaches and mentors help us through some of our toughest days.

My new escapes are music, mindfulness and constant learning so I can be part of a positive change in what is an outdated stigma. It took me 36 years to find and stay true to myself. And in some crazy small way a part of me is grateful for my struggles as it has finally led me to a better and more understanding future.

Written by Amy Cochrane / OTLR Community Ambassador