Telling my story lets young people know “they’re not alone”

19 August 2019, Tamworth, NSW – batyr regional lived experience speaker Amy Deverell shares her personal story with mental ill-health and her recovery journey.

When I was 4, my Dad won a pretty significant amount of money on the lottery. I was very lucky, as an only child, that this afforded my parents and I a comfortable living. I have always been a very curious kind of person that loves learning so I took well to school, involving myself in extra-curricular activities, sports, and had an amazing close group of friends by the time I reached high school. 

I was first diagnosed with and medicated for depression around age 14, when I noticed that I didn’t experience life the way my friends did. I had progressively withdrawn from sports, extra-curricular commitments, and eventually my friends and family. At the time, I didn’t believe seeing a counsellor or psychologist would help me – I had it pretty good, what would I talk about?

At the age of 16, tragedy befell my family. One day while I was at school, and my Dad was out camping, my Mum was killed. I discovered this when I finally made it home after she had failed to pick me up from school. 

The next few months and, ultimately, years of my life were consumed with guilt – was there something I could have done to stop this happening? Could I have saved her if I get home earlier? – and with the grief of loss. I started to experience paranoia, panic attacks and night terrors, each relating to something bad happening to myself, my Dad, or others who I was very close to.

I also fell into a deep depression, caught up in what we had lost and what I would never have. What happened to Mum also left Dad and I with no income – which meant that we would sometimes go weeks at a time without doing groceries and things like the internet and electricity got cut off, and eventually we lost the house. Although I did access psychology as a victim of crime, over the following 5 years, I contemplated – and sometimes planned – to end my life. Because of this, I was hospitalised multiple times for my mental health and for my own safety.

These hospital admissions led me to the support of headspace Tamworth. There, I started seeing a caseworker and the GP quite regularly, and engaging with groups and therapy. I credit these things to me being here today. Today I still live alongside my diagnosis of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, and insomnia – but they are well managed. I work full time, study and volunteer at the headspace Youth Reference Group.

Why is it important to tell my story and why do I champion ‘Being Herd’?

One of the key things I felt after everything that happened was loneliness – this kind of thing doesn’t happen often; there was no one else who had been through what I had. For me, telling my story is a way of letting other young people know that they aren’t alone, no matter what they are going through, and that seeking help and support is completely okay; that there is always support out there if they ask for it.

Being Herd, for me, was such an empowering experience. It was the first time that my experience with mental health felt valid, and acknowledged, in all its complexities. I felt as though I could shape my awful experience into something powerful and positive.

Ultimately, taking part in the ‘Being Herd’ workshop is one of the defining features of my recovery. I learned to own my story – and to take control of it.

There are still a few spots for ‘Being Herd’ in Armidale on 22-23 June.

If you’re interested in learning how to safely share your story, consider attending a ‘Being Herd’ workshop.

You can check out the batyr website for any upcoming dates in Armidale, Tamworth and the wider Central West region and sign up from there.

batyr is continually looking to expand their programs into regional locations.