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The Caring Together Art Journal Project

Mental health carers as partners in recovery

Stories from mental health carers, families and support people

Thank you to the families, carers, friends and support people who contributed their stories, poetry and artwork to this website over many years. As this website is moving to a historical collection that will no longer sit behind a login, stories will only be shared here with refreshed permission from the author. This is a work in progress, and more will be released over 2020 and 2021 as permission is received. Some authors have chosen to stay anonymous and that will continue to be respected.

Stories have been separated into three sections, acknowledging that some discuss difficult emotions and experiences that can be triggering.

 

Learning to cope – self care and coping strategies

Learning to sit with things I cannot change (2012)

“I’m a fixer. That’s what I do.”  We were talking about how  hard it was to just let things “sit”.  Especially when you just want to be able to jump up and DO something. To fix things …

Pyjama Day Rules (2012)

I regularly hear my daughter announce “But I can’t get dressed – today is Pyjama Day!” Clearly, Pyjama Day is not some annual public holiday. However I do call a halt when Pyjama Day threatens to become Pyjama Week …

Bend like the wind, flow like the water (2012)

One of my friends used to talk about her father saying “Bend like the wind. Flow like the water.” So when my art group sat down with pile of fairly smelly fish it inspired me to draw …

The pause button (2013)

Do you ever feel you have been through the same conversation a thousand times? And had exactly the same outcome? Who would have thought it was so hard to stop for a moment before reacting? Or is that just me …

Pay it forward - a free poster (2012)

There have been some incredible kindnesses shown to me during difficult times. I have been sent beautifully wrapped care packages from friends overseas. I have been invited out to dinners …

When life deals you lemons go out and draw them (2013)

I was being a bit of a sook one day, and I decided that I really needed to start doing what I preach (and which I know works for me) … namely get my pencils out …

Lunch therapy (2011)

We get together regularly to eat, to make gingerbread, to create felt scarves. Any excuse will do, really, to meet with this group of incredibly strong women who understand absolutely how things are. Those long lunches are a time when …

Looking for my Mojo (2011)

I had to get out there and find something for myself again, because if I didn’t I wouldn’t be any use to anyone. I needed to find my “Mojo” again – not Austin Powers style, but just a bit of zest to keep me going. I needed to reclaim “me” …

Holders of Hope (2013)

Holders of hope … holders of hope … holders of hope ….  I’ve been repeating those words to myself recently, just letting them roll around on my tongue a bit, because they seem so perfectly right. So positive. So inspiring …

Difficult emotions and experiences in caring

Please note that some of these stories may be triggering to some people.

Video: I’m a carer. I don’t want to complain. I just want to be heard (2011)

In 2011 Austin Health Mental Health Services  commissioned this video as part of a statewide complaints management project. It has been widely used in Australia and presented internationally.

Not just any 21st birthday (2013)

There was no big party for this 21st, no crowds and no great fuss. Certainly no balloons or childhood friends and yet, I was so excited, anxious and emotional. My youngest child was turning 21 …

Drained (2011)

Nothing much else to add to this really.  This is where I’m at this week. It will change. I know it will. But at the moment I have nothing left to offer. I am drained …

Wild lands. Poetry (2014)

Your pain screams across your body, black noise in your head, I call in the light, while you battle in the shadows. I thought I knew you but realise … I know nothing. This body that I nursed… bathed…grew … is a wild land …

The blame game (2013)

There are times when I feel I just can’t get anything right at all. That as a mother I must somehow be responsible for my child’s problems, no matter what I do. If I turn one way then I’m wrong. If I turn the other way then I’m wrong too …

Holders of Hope (2013)

Holders of hope … holders of hope … holders of hope …. I’ve been repeating those words to myself recently, just letting them roll around on my tongue a bit, because they seem so perfectly right. So positive. So inspiring …

Taking criticism on the chin - or not ... (2010)

It wasn’t constructive criticism. It wasn’t helpful. It didn’t offer a solution. It just made me feel bad. It filled me with guilt, and made me believe that I had caused all of my child’s problems …

"Self combusting" (2010)

I don’t know that “crying” really describes this. I’m not sobbing, not wailing, not dripping dainty little tears. There is no heaving chest, no noise. It’s silent, this flood of wet stuff that flies out of my eyes. It’s like my body is saying “ENOUGH!!” …

Video: Pat's story (2012)

Pat is from Broken Hill in remote New South Wales. She shares her experience caring for a much loved daughter diagnosed with schizophrenia.  "Mostly I like to laugh - it makes me feel good, I can forget about things for a second"

Navigating mental health services

Challenges families and carers can experience in navigating mental health services, and ways they might be overcome. The aim is to promote family friendly practice and the inclusion of carers as partners in recovery. Please note that some of these stories may be triggering. 

Video: I’m a carer. I don’t want to complain. I just want to be heard (2011)

In 2011 Austin Health Mental Health Services  commissioned this video as part of a statewide complaints management project. It has been widely used in Australia and presented internationally.

It takes courage to ask for help - free poster (2015)

Seeking help takes strength and a great deal of courage. It is something we should celebrate and respond to. Above all, we need to show respect to those who have made that leap of faith by asking for help …

Welcome - free poster (2015)

I hope my latest poster might help identify safe places to go, and services with a culture of respect. It’s about welcoming those who seek help with a positive attitude … Caring. Without judgment …

I don't know what to ask (2011)

“Do you have any questions?” Why do I panic when I am given this opportunity? Quite bluntly, it’s because I just don’t know what to ask. I don’t know where to start. I don’t know what I don’t know …

Confidentiality and information sharing (2011)

I do not want to know what is said in therapy! There HAS to be privacy, honesty and trust in therapy or it won’t work. And it goes both ways – I count on confidentiality for myself too …

The blame game (2013)

There are times when I feel I just can’t get anything right at all. That as a mother I must somehow be responsible for my child’s problems, no matter what I do. If I turn one way then I’m wrong. If I turn the other way then I’m wrong too …

The No Blame Campaign - and free poster (2013)

Join our No Blame Campaign and put this poster on your walls. It’s a message to everyone that blame, scapegoating and guilt are not welcome and that you will actively fight them …

Please walk with me (2013)

Recently I was made aware that mental health staff were having trouble communicating with me. I was making them upset, I was giving too much detail and was heightened when notifying them of declining behaviour …