This wellbeing column takes a deep bow to New Zealand’s Mental Health Awareness Week – an annual campaign that aims to help Kiwis understand what boosts their wellbeing and improves mental health.
We talked to courageous and truly inspiring young Hawke’s Bay author and poet, Catie Nettlingham, who is set to launch her first book, Her Patient Fight, in September. Catie’s book is a collection of poetry chronicling her journey over the last four years through mental illness.
It is a story of hope, change and inspiration.
When Catie left high school to go to university, the big change in lifestyle and pressures surrounding this caused Bi-polar to develop. The initial onset of anxiety and depression prompted her to seek treatment through the university GP. She was given medication without any follow through or offer of additional services. She kept returning to the GP as she knew she wasn’t feeling right until she eventually crashed and returned home to Hawke’s Bay.
Once back she was admitted into the mental health unit and that is when treatment and her recovery really started. “I feel I was very lucky to get a lot of support from the services available in Hawke’s Bay. The staff were so amazing, so kind and caring.”
She went on to talk about how underfunded the sector is, but also felt that there was not enough credit for what is happening. “I’m aware I’m one of the lucky ones who got the help they needed. Especially taking it back to my initial experience of falling through the system. But there is a lot of amazing work happening with people who have severe mental illness.”
Catie is an advocate for taking medication. “You can do therapy, mindfulness and lots of different things, but when you are severely unwell with a chemical imbalance, taking medication for me was the number one treatment.” She also praised the support she received from family, friends and community in Hawke’s Bay. “It was a huge help having that support system. It saved my life really.”
Catie also credits being open to talk about her own experiences with mental illness with her loved ones and people she felt comfortable with. “No one is going to help you if they don’t know you are struggling.”
She talked of the challenge of having to change tack in her life in order to put her health first. “It can be such a lonely experience as it is so individual for each person. Initially it can be hard to talk about as you don’t really understand it yourself. I thought people would judge me more than they did. I think I had a fear that people would misunderstand, but what I found was that while some people didn’t really understand, they were open to learning and listening. As I processed what happened to me I became more open to talking about it and people cared and listened.”
Catie’s passion going forward is to keep spreading hope and awareness around mental health and wellbeing. She wrote her book, Her Patient Fight, not only for her own processing but to inspire other people who might be in the thick of it. It gives an insight into mood disorders and anxiety and what it’s like from someone who has actually been there. It covers what helped her in recovery and finishes with inspiration and what keeps her going each day.
While Catie continues to take life one a day at a time prioritising her wellbeing, she is currently also working, caring for people with intellectual disabilities. She is planning on returning to studies. And meantime is preparing for her book launch on September the 9th.
Copies of Catie’s book can be ordered through www.catienwriting.com
Who to contact in a mental health crisis?
1. If there is an emergency phone 111 (if anyone is in immediate physical danger)
2. Or go to the nearest hospital emergency department (ED)
3. Phone your local DHB Mental Health Crisis Team (CARTT Team) Helpline 0800 611116
Need to talk to someone else?
• Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor
• Lifeline: 0800 543 354 (0800 LIFELINE) or free text 4357 (HELP)
• Suicide Crisis Helpline: 0508 828 865 (0508 TAUTOKO)
• Youthline: 0800 376 633, free text 234
• Samaritans:0800 726 666
Catie’s Wellbeing Wisdom
• Your health is the most important thing
• Stay connected
• Things in life don’t always have to be high pressure
• Take time to do what you enjoy.
• Set up good systems and healthy routines when you are well around exercise, diet, connection, sleep
• Notice when your routines are slipping and use this as a sign that you need to slow down and put more time into yourself
• Know your red flag to go get help and who you will reach out to
• Get in touch with GP and health professionals if you have concerns about your mental health
• Mental illness is treatable and it can be managed. Keep hold of that.
Kate McLeay is a mindfulness mentor, yoga teacher and retreat host based out at Cape South Country Estate and Wellness Retreat. www.katemcleay.com