I have been lying in bed with the weight of the world on my shoulders again, finding myself back in the place where doing the washing seems an insurmountable task.

But if there’s one thing that being a peer worker has shown me, it’s that I’m not the only person who experiences pain in this world.

Though I have returned to pain once felt, I’m aware that things seem a little different this time around. Being low reminds me of a time when it was all encompassing and I was lost in how unbearable my life was.

These memories are also associated with months of hospitalisation. Although the pain, heaviness and feeling overwhelmed is familiar, the suffering doesn’t hold the intensity of the past.

There’s a sense that control is being lost right now, and I’m not sure I’ll make it through this round without becoming significantly unwell. But there’s also a quiet whisper in the dark saying, “Jesse, you might be ok this time”. This voice isn’t new, but I’m not used to trusting that it might be right.

I can acknowledge that my efforts to improve my quality of life by working, furthering my education, becoming more socially connected, doing exercise, practising mindfulness and consistently taking medication – mean that I can get through lows more easily.

That I’ve been through lows before and have come out the other side also means I can be more confident that in the future I will make it through.

Now that I’ve made it clear that I’m in a place of pain, I want to talk about how the suffering affects my life. Because it isn’t as strong these days, I’m much better placed to maintain my day-to-day life.

The questions arise, would it actually be beneficial to seek all available supports now, or are there challenges that I’m already in control of? By accepting the pain and continuing to go on throughout the day I can build trust in myself, which gives me self-respect and improves my self-esteem. I have put in the hard years to learn what does and doesn’t work for me.

Being a peer worker, it sometimes seems everyone knows what’s happening in my life and if I’m managing my mental health well. This might be because I’m a former participant of the program I now work for. During the seven years of my involvement, staff have been tremendously supportive, encouraging and accepting of me.

I am coming closer to being able to contribute at work during these times of pain, without always disclosing how feel. Of course, if I was concerned my feelings would impact on my performance I’d seek support. To know support is available brings a sense of calm.

I’m coming to accept that although I still experience mental illness, it doesn’t always significantly impact on my life. This growing sense of freedom wouldn’t have been possible without the support from Wellways, and the doctors, hospitals, family and friends along the way. Coming from the perspective of having transitioned away from complete dependency upon others, into independence and becoming a peer worker, I can say there is no better feeling than being empowered.

Jesse Bryl
Peer Worker
Canberra