Tamara finally found her tribe — people that could understand what was going on in her own head — at Hearing Voices Network WA support group.
“With a mental illness, it is hard to explain to someone who doesn’t know anything about it. (There) I feel very much wanted and needed,” Tamara says of the group she attends weekly with her case worker, Rodney Goodrick, from The Salvation Army’s homelessness facility The Beacon.
Tamara, who has schizophrenia, says the group helped her realise she “wasn’t the only one”.
“We talk about our feelings, where we are at, and where we have come from. Just basically building up each other’s egos,” she explains.
After her third child was born, Tamara developed postnatal depression, and later schizophrenia. She lived with mental illness for a decade raising her children. When they left home, Tamara only had herself to contend with, and the illness overcame her.
After moving homes and spending time at a backpackers, she came to The Beacon where she spent four months, navigating the centre’s courses in an effort to put together the pieces of her life.
“Just talking to someone here in counselling was really helpful because I couldn’t really grasp it all in my head. I had bits and pieces but I couldn’t put them together,” Tamara says.
In a note to me, Tamara explains what mental illness means: “To some, it means everything, losing family, friends, even your job.”
But she also writes of her journey after finding help: “I learnt to accept the condition, slowly took hold of it, started healing inside and out. Every day gets better.”
Tamara is now part of The Beacon’s community living program, where she joins in activities once a week, getting together with friends. Community, says Mr Goodrick, is essential.
“Beacon provide a restorative lifestyle program with a series of different classes — wellbeing, art and craft, music.
“Those are really important… not just because they educate, stimulate and motivate but they also provide a community… which is really important for someone’s recovery,” he says.
“We are finding in our community living program… the activities are a great opportunity for all our clients to get together and talk about how they are doing, but also for us to participate in an activity where we can have fun,” he says, as Tamara chimes in that it is also a time where she doesn’t feel judged and criticised.
Now with the right backing, Tamara is hopeful for the future.
“Eventually, I hope to put all those pieces back together, get a job, be independent, have my family around me,” she says.