‘Mental illness will not control my life’
FOR three years Warwick woman Corina Graham merely - and just barely - existed.
Hidden behind the four walls of her bedroom, she ventured from the prison her mental illness constructed for two reasons; to visit the doctor or alcohol.
Self-medicating to drown the demons of abuse that had tortured her from childhood, drinking was her only defence against the post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, agoraphobia and bi-polar that made her life a nightmare.
Convinced her mere presence was destroying her young daughters' lives, suicide plagued her thoughts.
"During those three years I had to have medications, scissors and knives locked away and that's not me.
"I don't believe in suicide but I honestly thought my children would be better off without me.
"You think you're poison to your children; you think you're disgusting and toxic and it's like it comes out of your pores and they're going to catch it if you hug them.
"It is a black hole of negativity - there's no joy and nothing made me happy."
During her darkest days, Corina said her daughters would lay by their mother's side and lovingly stroke her hair. Although she had given up on herself, the little girls were not giving up on their mummy.
"My husband hated my drinking and I remember my daughter saying 'At least she is out of the bedroom'," Corina said.
In one six-week period over Christmas, Corina was taken to hospital and endured 11 rounds of electric shock therapy, or ECTs.
Initial anger at being admitted has now turned to gratitude to a friend for watching out for her.
"When I was there someone asked me how I ended up there and I said 'my supposed friend called the ambulance'," Corina said. "They looked at me and said 'wow, that is a good friend'. I couldn't believe they didn't agree with me but then I thought about it and I am so thankful."
Leaving the house during the peaks of her illness was frightening and when Corina was taken to an art class two years ago, she lasted 30 seconds before fleeing in a panic.
But she faced the problem and went back and soon she could stay for five minutes.
Then 10 minutes.
Before long the anxiety passed and Corina enjoyed being out of her home.
For the first time in a long time, she had a passion.
"I found out I had a talent for art and five months later, here I was opening my very first art exhibition," she said. "This is someone who had to have someone to hold their hand to go to the toilet a few months earlier."
Corina attributes the art group being the reason she is still alive and has since formed her own group, the Demented Artists Group, members of which affectionately call themselves DAGs.
Now happy and well, Corina wants to help other people find the strength and happiness she found through art groups.
"Yes, this happened and it was painful but maybe I will be able to help someone else. I feel it is my role to help others now," she said.
"I still have sadness and issues - that doesn't go away but I choose not to let it control me."
If you or someone you know is considering suicide, ask for help.
Phone Beyondblue on 1300 224 636, 24hrs/a day, 7 days a week
or chat online at http://www.beyondblue.org.au.