What I See with Peter Fiorenza: On the road to recovery after nervous breakdown

Peter FiorenzaGeraldton Guardian
Geraldton Guardian columnist Peter Fiorenza has opened up about his recent mental health battles.
Camera IconGeraldton Guardian columnist Peter Fiorenza has opened up about his recent mental health battles. Credit: Supplied

Up until a few months ago I was aware of mental health issues, but you could say I merely paid lip service to it.

All the recent media coverage of mental health had me thinking it was something that happened to someone else.

I believed I was in complete control of my mind.

Today, though, my outlook is a whole lot different.

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During the later months of last year my life started to become somewhat unstuck. I was starting to wake up each morning feeling a bit dazed, like a lingering hangover and this was accompanied by erratic mood swings.

On top of this, I started to get all these things wrong with me and was frequently visiting the doctor.

In fact, I sent the doc crazy trying to placate me, suggesting there were no signs of my perceived illnesses.

Eventually we came to the conclusion that my issue was anxiety.

The doctor prescribed some medication, but it just wasn’t kicking in fast enough and I was dangerously spiralling rapidly into a depressed state of mind.

I even decided to move into my parents’ home, because I literally could not look after myself.

I started waking in the early hours of the morning with terrible, outrageous thoughts in my head and crying like a kid who had just had an awful nightmare.

Yep, this was indeed scary stuff.

And I believed my thoughts were actually reality. I later found out this happens with people who suffer severe anxiety.

The sheer fact of the matter was I was having a nervous breakdown and needed help, not just for me but for my poor family who were beside themselves with worry.

Through the support of community mental health and my GP I was admitted to hospital and within days arrived in Perth at a facility designed for such a purpose.

I cannot even explain the complicated diagnosis I was given, but it was a combination of severe anxiety and depression.

To be quite honest, I was pretty scared, and don’t even remember the first couple of weeks, but through the efforts of a psychiatrist, group therapy and some TLC, I started to get on top of things.

I also had to take some specific medicine to assist with my recovery, and that, at first, was not a pleasant experience, but in time things have settled.

I have had anxiety all my life and just tried to cope with it.

As one nurse put it: “Your body has tried to deal with this on its own for more than 50 years, now it is getting some help and change takes time.”

Six weeks down the track, I have recovered remarkedly, but have been reminded this mental health issue will be with me all my life and I need to take care of myself.

My experiences over the past couple of months have highlighted that I am not alone.

Too many if us get so wrapped up in the hurly-burly of life, that we forget about ourselves.

For me, I was trying to be everything to everyone and the mind was simply over it.

Another thing that has emerged is the love of family and friends, who were there when it counted.

Mental health is real.

Lifeline: 13 11 14

Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636

Kids Helpline: 1800 551 800

Rurallink: 1800 552 002

Helping Minds: 1800 811 747

Peter Fiorenza is a teacher, radio presenter and former councillor who has decided to resume his regular column with the Geraldton Guardian.

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