genres: fiction, memoir, self-help
In 1983, I graduated with a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Sydney. In this capacity, I worked with the most disempowered groups in our society and I advocated strongly for my clients.
Following an intense period of personal trauma, I discovered that being a professional does not make one immune from mental health issues. Being on the other side of the fence is an eye opening experience and I was horrified to discover, lurking under my proactive professional persona, attitudes that shocked and challenged me.
I was fearful and ashamed that I was ill. This sense of shame and fear of what others, friends and professionals might think surprised me, and shook my world. I was unable to apply the views that I had always advocated as a social worker, to my own situation. The place I found myself in was lonely and isolated, and I desperately wanted to be invisible. My personal hypocrisy profoundly surprised me, and my shame became twofold. I was easily able to apply the prescription of stigma to myself in an efficient and disabling manner.
Writing this book has been one of the most frightening and confronting experiences that I have encountered in life. One night, after waking from a nightmare of physical and mental extremity, I retrieved an exercise book from my desk and just started to write. I wonder now whether that action stemmed from a desperate need to feel that I still had some control over events occurring in my life. I was a prisoner of fear and a gut wrenching sadness that immobilised and paralysed my patterns of thought. I no longer recognised myself. It is highly likely that the random act of picking up that pen saved my life.
It is with these thoughts and insights that I present to you Running Over a Chinaman, an anecdotal story of mental illness and recovery.