Mark talks about the Big Issues
SAMHC Featured Blogger:
Big Issue Seller
I’ve always been a happy-go-lucky sort of bloke, but when I was 32 I had a stressful job and my brain burnt out. I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder and OCD. So that’s been a hard struggle the past 10 years.
In 2009, I was living in Queensland, at the time I was married and in the end, because of my problems, I lost my job, house and wife. It was a pretty dark time there for a while.
I moved back to South Australia in 2011 because I just couldn’t be around things that reminded me of what I had lost. So I came back here, where I grew up in the Barossa to be closer to family who could help me.
My dad has been a bit difficult though, he doesn’t understand mental illness, but the rest of the family have been helpful. I have said to my dad to please Google or read about mental illness – I think just getting people to educate themselves is important.
I’ve found that the most important thing with mental illness, for a man especially, is to recognise that you’re sick because it took me a month or so to acknowledge it and in that month at work, I just got worse and more burnt out. A big part of getting better is acknowledging you’re sick in the first place; a lot of men won’t do that.
My mother has helped me a lot, she suffers anxiety and depression and her mother did too. Initially, I went to all sorts of doctors: a GP, a psychologist and a psychiatrist and I found the psychiatrist was good because he got me on the right medication. I’ve had a number of psychologists though and it’s very hard to find a good one.
I’m most thankful for my mother because she saw how disconnected I was and recommended I sign up to work as a vendor for The Big Issue.
I followed her advice and now I sell The Big Issue in Adelaide and through this job I’ve surprised myself because I thought I’d get too anxious out in public, but it’s actually been the opposite. It’s built my confidence back up. I’ve met hundreds of different people who are regular customers and who talk to me – some don’t even buy the magazine, they just stop for a chat and check up on me, and it’s got me back into society.
I’m still not completely happy, but even just talking about my feelings has helped; talking about what happened to me and sharing experiences with other people is important.
The first six months I was ill, I was house-bound and the OCD especially was really bad – I had all these rituals, where I’d check stuff and I couldn’t have a conversation without sitting there an hour later going over everything I said. I was housebound for six months and The Big Issue has changed that. I know people from the most down and out homeless person, to the former premier of South Australia Jay Weatherill, who is a customer as well – you know people from all walks of life when you do something like the Big Issue.
It’s definitely important to be occupied, and to feel valuable which I’ve found it possible from having a job and even volunteering.
It helps in a number of ways, financially, but also having that purpose, having something to do during the day gives you good self-esteem and it makes you feel valuable again.
Big Issue Seller
The Big Issue magazine is a fortnightly, independent magazine that’s sold by homeless, marginalised and disadvantaged people. Since its inception in Australia in 1996, more than 11 million magazines have been sold. Vendors buy copies of the magazine for $4.50 and sell them for $9.
If you wish to read more about The Big Issue, go to www.thebigissue.org.au/the-big-issue-magazine/about/
SAMHC Featured Bloggers
The SAMHC presents our series of guest featured bloggers who generously share their personal thoughts and experiences of mental health and wellbeing.