Neil is exactly who you’d want in your corner during a mental health crisis. He’s kind, compassionate and most importantly, he gets it – having experienced the extreme highs and lows of his own mental health journey.
“My diagnosis has changed over the years, from psychosis to schizophrenia to schizoaffective disorder, due to the addition of depression and suicidal thoughts. My mood goes up and down, but the voices in my head are constant. I am happy to say I’ve been well for a while now, but it took a good six years to get my life back on track.”
Like many others, Neil struggled greatly with his new reality of living with mental illness. Opting to push the pain down with drugs and alcohol, he says he was ‘very unwell, very angry and had no direction in life’.
Neil says he simply did not have the tools he needed to turn his life around at that point in time. Managing the only way he knew how, Neil was stuck in a spiral of self-destruction. What he really needed was support – and once he found that, everything changed.
“Neami National came along and taught me so much. I learnt about positive thinking, and how small steps can lead to reaching your goals. I learnt about personal values and what makes me tick. I was encouraged to participate in group activities, and started practicing acceptance, mindfulness and meditation. I can’t tell you the difference it’s made in my life.”
Buoyed by his newfound confidence and encouraging words from those around him, Neil started considering a new career.
“People kept telling me I’d be a good support worker, but I didn’t seriously think about it for a while. I like helping people and thought my life experiences could come in handy, but I didn’t think I knew enough about psychology. I sat around for a while doing nothing, but then I started thinking about what people said. I started a Certificate III in Individual Support and got my dream job at RFQ straight out of the gate.”
Neil loves his role as a NDIS support worker, helping others overcome their hardships by discovering the tools that work for them.
“I’ll always remember the analogy of weaving your parachute – all the tools and techniques we learn become our parachute. Every trip to the psychologist, every time you meditate, every moment of mindfulness – they become the parachute that will catch you if you fall. You might not need the parachute in that moment, but you’ve built it and it’s there if you need it.”
These days, a world away from his previous struggles, Neil doesn’t take anything for granted. He takes pride in the fact that pure grit and determination have led him to this point – a story he hopes others can learn from.
“I tell my clients all about my downward spiral – about how I did nothing for ages and got nowhere. But once I had the tools and started embracing new ideas and concepts, I was on my way. You’ve got to do the work, I won’t deny that. But if you keep working at it, you will get better. There is always hope.”