Our story is a photography exhibition published online and on social media platforms, of survivors of mental illness, abuse & assault to raise well needed awareness and support of all individuals suffering in silence.
One way or another, all survivors have experienced something we can relate back to each other. Here we have a support network for our stories shared. Our story is a non-for profit photo session created by T R Imagery to raise awareness and share the stories of survivors and the impact our story has taken on our lives. This series will be promoted over social media to reach thousands of individuals. My aim in the future is an exhibition in the local community of the Snowy Mountains and the A.C.T.
This to me isn’t just any photo shoot, this is a place where we can be vulnerable and ourselves - as I have been assaulted, abused and have suffered with mental illness for almost 10 years. This is something that I do not want anyone to feel alone in, as we aren’t alone, we have each other and that’s important as we can all relate in our similar ways. Now created, this series is one that I hope will continue on for a long time with more and more people joining us and sharing their story with the world as it’s not something that needs to be hidden anymore. Our stories are what we’ve lived through and SURVIVED, these events are what have shaped us as individuals we are today and no one can take that away from us.
Episode 1~ Teyarnea
“Adam’s gone to Heaven”. At 9 years old, those aren’t the words you’d ever expect to hear at around 10pm on a school night. At 9 years old you’d never even think of losing your older brother. 11th of August 2009, I heard the most heartbreaking four words.. “Adam’s gone to Heaven”. I don’t remember much at all from the rest of 2009, and the next 3 years were a blur. I didn’t show how much I struggled because when the rest of the family were struggling we needed someone to be strong, right? I took on that role, that someone was me. It wasn’t until high school when I finally had a break down in front of a school teacher. There were kids telling the principal I was self harming in the toilets, and that’s when it was clear I needed help. I then took an overdose during year 8. This is what it took for the public health system to finally admit a “very distressed and unstable teen” into an acute psychiatric facility 5 hours away from home. It was the worst but best experience of my life. But the story doesn’t end there. The thing they don’t tell you, is how to grow on the outside; away from the facilities and full time care. I’ll admit, I was petrified to come back to reality because I didn’t have the protection of white walls, security doors, and bars around the outside area. They let me back into society because we thought I was better and stronger. Lets just say, I fell down again..and I fell down hard! School was a major factor which lead to me leaving in year 10. The self harm continued, I was smoking endlessly, and in all honesty, I didn’t give a shit what happened to me or what anyone thought of me. Everyone already thought I was a “freak”, so I stopped trying. The idea of suicide became very real again; to the point it lead me to another week in an acute psychiatric facility, while they got my medication sorted. After this, I felt safe again. The last year of school was the worst; multiple trips to emergency due to self harm, and handfuls of pills because I just didn’t give a fuck. I lost my sense of worth and want/need to be around. Add five years and things have still been rough. I was in 2 abusive relationships that really fucked with me mentally. March 2018 I tried to commit suicide. I was selfish, I just wanted it to end. It meant I was in control. As soon as I took all those pills, I was in a state of instant regret. I struggle now to remember doing this. I was in a blur. I didn’t know what I was doing, and that is the scary part about all of this. It was a major eye opener. I almost lost my battle to this illness due to an overdose that had me rushed to Canberra Hospital. This was the wake up I needed to really work on myself and receive all the support and help I needed and continue to need. I did this not only for myself, but for everyone else around me. It’s not only a struggle for me, but my friends and family rode it with me, every single step of the way. It affects them as much as it does me. There is light on the other side. Remember, we all have our rough days; but it’s okay not to be okay. Seek help from a loved one or your local GP.
Episode 2~ Millie
My story starts at the tender age of 5. It was November 1997\. A day that is imprinted in my mind so very clearly since. Being pulled out of school was something very unusual, for myself and my brother. It had not happened before. As kids we were just excited to be getting out of school early! A family friend came to pick us up, she then proceeded to take us to the lolly shop and brought us some treats. How exciting! Or so we thought... We then continued on home to what seemed to be an empty house but dad's car was there. Something wasn't right. Maybe mum was a little bit sicker than yesterday? I dumped my school bag and went racing to mum and dad's bedroom before anyone had realised. As I approached the room there was mum, dad kneeling on the floor in a mess with the pastor from our local church standing with a hand on his shoulder. It was at that moment I had realized mum was gone. I had no control over the outburst that followed as I was being dragged away by our family friend away from this horrible site. She tried her best to explain everything gently but what good is that to a child who has lost their mum..? I remember the day we said our final goodbyes. Most people assume a 5 year old wouldn't understand a funeral. I understood very well. I remember sitting up the front of the church staring at a box through my swollen tear filled eyes, knowing that we were saying goodbye to my beautiful mum. Then the moment came to bury her, oh what a horrible time this was! I threw a picture I had drawn for her in her favorite colour and some bark, as I was told it was time to go. “Say one last goodbye, Millie", dad said as he scooped up his shattered daughter. I could not contain any emotions at that point still and continued to wail for my mum! A very vivid traumatic memory for me to share but something that plays through my mind nearly on a daily basis. I struggled all my life allowing anyone to become too close to me since. I have lost some amazing people in my life due to this, family included. This is a subconscious protection mechanism that I have developed to protect myself from either hurt or harm. As a teenager I took up a lot of self-destructive habits. The first being self-harm. Self-harm was a go to when I wasn't feeling anything. It had allowed me to feel. Silly you may think but when you become so numb inside what else to you do to prove to yourself that you are still human and alive? My self harm habits become quite addicting and continued down some very dangerous paths. I managed to stop damaging my body by choice or so I had thought... Alcohol was a dear friend of mine through-out my late teenage years and early 20's. This in turn was causing me some quite strong blackouts where my self-harm would continue from that state. Nothing scarier than the first time you awake in the morning to find large amounts of blood, poorly cleaned up and cuts up your arms. I thought I was done with this!? How can I control something that is happening when I am drinking, to cope? Stop drinking was the only option. Obviously. After the drinking had stopped, the blackouts continued. I was in a very poor mental state which needed serious intervention. I had attempted multiple times to take my life with little success. This involved a number of stays between Bega and Goulburn phsyciatric facilities. Alot went on behind the walls of those facilities most of which has become quite a blur to me now. Things improved for a little while and life seemed to be getting back on track after countless hospital stays, medication changes, the multiple stays in Phsyc units and being picked up by the police in a psychotic state. There is a lot more I could include but it simply came down to the fact that I was a complete danger to myself and at times to others as well. The self hate I had for myself was so extreme! My life became quite out of control. To the point where I had lost control again to blackouts. My mind would switch itself into auto-pilot as things would become too much and then there was no telling what was going to happen. I became very sick from very extreme self-harm, which I cannot go into detail about as the details are lost to me. I was released from a 4 month stay which was between a psychiatric hospital and a rehab facility. I had come home with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Dissorder and Post Traumatic Stress disorder. This was hard enough to grasp..On top of that being institutionalized for that amount of time as a 20 year old was very tough, coming home and having control over my life again was awesome and was also a little daunting! I was lucky enough to have a loving home to return to, even though my mental health had tried so very hard to push them away! Things were going so well! No self-harm, I feel pretty good. I have found a really special man. So I stop taking all my medications within 6 months of coming home from rehab. This didn't seem to be the worst idea. I still felt ok off my medications. I fell pregnant with our beautiful little girl in 2016\. Being pregnant was amazing for my general health and my mental health. I had never felt so normal, so happy! Our daughter Lucy was born 27/6/2017 we were so in love. Such a tiny little human all of our own to love and care for! How scary and amazing all at once! To say I coped well as a new mum would be a lie. I really, really struggled to build an attachment to our little girl and struggled with the fact that I need to step up for little Lucy, I am not sure I am good enough. She deserves so much better than what I can give. Slowly but surely though things snowballed out of control once more. Here I go again pushing away the people in my life that I need the most! Working became nearly impossible, living daily life seemed nearly impossible! Fast approaching mum's 21st anniversary and the year that I out live her, I just fell apart. Nothing made sense. How can I be a mother when I just out lived mine? Why do I deserve to live any longer? My mind raced day in day out. Can I keep going? It caused my anxiety to peak to a point where it caused my mind to switch to auto pilot and take control for me because my head once more. I could not handle anything, not even basic life. This happened when I drank but i have not been drinking heavily since leaving rehab 7 years ago. I could count the amount of drinks I had had in that time on one hand. So why am I blacking out again? This is scary, I have an 18month old. I am not well enough to be her mum right now. So, with a lot of love and support from my partner, we decided it was safest for me to be admitted for extra help. This was in late 2018, not long before Christmas. I stayed away from my baby and my life for another week. That was one extremely difficult week but it helped me realise how much I do love my little girl. It made me realise that if I stop taking my medications that were WORKING then everything will fall apart and I will end up heading back to where I started. It also made me realise that it is ok to fall apart sometimes but build up supports and not push them away. We are all trying our hardest and sometimes we just can't keep up. My story is ongoing from here, a daily battle that I am slowly learning to manage and cope with better. All my supports are my foundation to staying strong. I must remember to keep these people close.
Episode 3~ Tyson
Episode 4~ Kylie
My story begin in 2011 when I was 19 years old I met a guy I thought was great although there were many red flags I didn't notice or was blind to them, six months into the relationship I was pregnant with our first child and that is when the physical abuse started which included hitting, kicking, choking and sexual abuse, I was isolated from my friends and I did my best to hide it from my family - on my due date I was choked that badly I passed out and was kicked in the legs and stomach multiple times- I did luckily have a healthy baby a week later, the abuse continued after the birth the worst of it was my lips being pulled apart to the point it tore all the skin and my lips are now permanently scared - the pain was worse then any beating and at that point I called the police - he was jailed for 6 months but upon his release I believed or fell for his lies that he had changed and let him into my life again, through assault I had another pregnancy and luckily another healthy baby - when I had my 2nd child while in hospital this man emptied my bank account and my oldest child's account which destroyed me but still I stayed, the abuse continued and the beatings got extreme when he started using the drug ice resulting in wrist injuries and injuries in my mouth which I will have for the rest of my life, the final straw was when he put a knife to my throat and was pushing it against me and punching me in the stomach and he threatened to burn my children alive, that night I was one of the lucky ones and was able to get to the police - he was jailed for close to two years within that time my father passed away and I knew I had to fully leave which took so much strength, upon his release I was stalked and had my house broken into and my photos stolen he was jailed again, It happened for three years. I'm publicly sharing my story in the hope other women or men get out before its to late it took my father dying for me to gain the strength my mother had just buried my father she did not need to bury her daughter which she feared daily, people ask why I didn't leave- I feared shame and was scared he would hurt my family or friends, I now suffer PTSD (Post traumatic Stress Disorder) and night terrors but with help I cope well and my children are safe and loved Once a victim, always a survivor
Episode 6~ Amiee
Depression has effected me since year 6, the swallowing feelings have come and gone. Events throughout my life have caused it to build up like the tragic car accident at that age which triggered the depression. The person who lost their life was a positive male role model in my life and I started self harm from the age of 12 after the traumatic funeral. Hiding sharp objects and cuts on my arms and wrists from my mum and dad wasn’t really emotionally present. Age 13 starting high school, a completely different dynamic, making new friends and coming into a new town meant I only had one close friend at the time. Girls that I thought were friends; stabbed me in the back not literally just school yard bullies that ridiculed me for being different. I was going through hormonal changes and rarely got along with my dad. What I really needed was a positive role model who would understand my scenario and the feelings that I was going through but coming home there would just be explosive arguments, physical and emotional abuse, which made home life difficult. To have someone there to care about me would of helped with my depression but I felt there was no one to help which seemed like I was on my own. No one to talk to or feel comfortable to freely expressing my emotions and feelings. The physical and emotional abuse I suffered over the next 3 years impacted me negatively to the point of developing anxiety and PTSD. When i was pushed to run away from home at age 14. I hadn't seen any of my friends in weeks after a family holiday and wanted to sleep over at a friends house which lead to an argument with my mum. When i walked out the front door my dad told me "good don''t fucking come back". My heart sank and I began running, tears streaming down my face thinking they don't want me in there life. I stayed at a friends house that night and the following afternoon the police arrived, my friends told me I had to go. I had half a mind telling me to run and jump over the back fence and never look back. Out the front Dad instantly told me to get in the car. The events that followed when I returned home that day were brutal, a kick up the ass whilst walking up the stairs being told to go to my room. Several blows to the stomach in the bedroom I still live in, whilst my mother stood and watched, followed by being told "if you ever do that again ill kill you". I was told I was grounded for five months and so with that I hurt and I cried and I shut myself in my room. Being forced to eat dinner at the family table as if nothing had happened and I didn't have sore guts and despise the pair of them. I would walk to and from school everyday without ever spending extra time outside with friends for months. I wasn't even allowed to return back to my casual job, let alone call them to tell them I cannot work anymore. At the age of 15 I met my first boyfriend. I finally had a good reason to ask to leave the house on the weekend. After he broke up with me I sent him a message on Facebook and his new girlfriend started to bully me at school. Getting pushed and shoved and told i'm a slut and to stay away from him. Several incidences happened along these lines where I was unknowingly stepping on toes and I got punched in the face on school grounds and bashed on my way home from school. I no longer felt safe at home or at school and felt even more alone then I already was. Years of untreated stress, anxiety and depression went by and I began to have outburst of anger, when my mum asked me if I needed professional help. From here I saw my first psychologist and when I started a new relationship I stopped therapy, i thought I was happy. After we broke up years later, at the age of 18, my life began to spiral out of control with reckless lovers and substance abuse I was constantly trying to escape my hurtful reality and running from a traumatic home where my feelings were constantly invalidated and ridiculed for being overly emotional. At this point I went back into therapy where I was diagnosed but not treated for Borderline Personality Disorder. I wasn't told a lot about my condition and how to cope let alone be medicated for it. More years went by of whirl-wind relationships running from one abusive guy to the next suffering from severe malnutrition, several concussions, emergency hand surgery and a car accident and I still couldn't control my own anger. I started to self harm again with serious suicidal tendances. In 2018 at age 22 I had my first admission to the psychiatric ward due to fibromyalgia, severe stress and adrenal fatigue. My boyfriend at the time left me alone the night after I was released and once again feeling abandoned I tried to take my own life. An ambulance was called and I went straight back to hospital for yet another month of therapy. Here Is where my healing journey finally begun. I got the right medication, treatment and learnt how to cope with my condition. Several admissions later and I'm still getting stronger, battling addiction and suicidal thoughts. Today I have forgiven those who have done wrong by me however I'm still haunted by PSTD and manic urges. My parents are now my biggest supporters and although home life is still difficult its getting better with time and communication. I have a wonderful psychologist through victim services who treats me whilst I go through Dialectical Behavioral Therapy which I am lucky enough to receive through a private hospital. And I finally found a guy I actually like and can take my time with, who treats me with respect and the only pain he causes me is my cheeks when I smile. The words I couldn’t say; Yesterday is history, Tomorrow is a mystery, Today is a Gift that’s why it’s called Present. “Uncle George has passed away” Age 7
Episode 7~ Sarah
When I first met him he was very charming. First came the isolation from friends and family. Then came the control. Then the belittling and gaslighting. Last came the physical violence. By the end of our relationship I was not allowed to eat dinners, not allowed to sleep more than a few hours a night, not allowed to shower or bath for more than a few minutes. I’d had blood flicked deliberately across my face, he’d threatened to throttle me if I cleared my throat, he’d used his forearm against the side of my head to body slam me into a wall and pointed a loaded rifle at me and threatened to blow my leg off. When I finally managed to gather together what was left of myself and leave him, I reported the abuse to the police. The first time I tried, the policeman was dismissive. “So, he didn’t actually assault you?”. Yes he did. “No, I mean, you weren’t actually hurt.” I was bruised, terrified and traumatised. Isn’t that hurt enough? The second time I reported it I went to a different station and the policeman took the complaint seriously. He was charged with 11 offences. He paid the best criminal barrister in the city $50,000. I was cross examined for 6 hours. The prosecutor did her best, but she was clearly unfamiliar with the facts, didn’t ask the questions she should have, didn’t put the material in front of the judge. Why not? I assume because she was overworked. I know that she didn’t put one tenth of the hours into the matter that his lawyers did. How could she? She does hundreds of these cases every year. He was found not guilty and the AVO was dropped. It is my understanding that his firearms were returned to him. The legal system was as traumatic for me as the abuse. It put my recovery back months. I refuse to be silenced. I know what he did. I was there. The judge was not. I am a survivor.
Episode 8 ~Shelby
My name is Shelby Grace Holland, and I am an 18-year-old, year 12 student. In 2013 (age 12), I started having intense stomach pain that nobody could find a cause for. I visited doctors for years and had many tests before they found the cause. When I was 13, I found the self-harm Tumblr and Instagram pages and became obsessed. Towards the end of the year, I started to self-harm, and it became something like an addiction. I developed depression at this time and anxiety from trying to hide the cuts on my legs. I had my first relationship at the end of that year, and we both weren’t ready for it. We both were immature, didn’t know how to properly coexist together, and I was selfishly paranoid, but this did eventually cease my self harming. For two and a half years, we both stayed in an unhealthy and unhappy relationship until he made the call in April 2017. 2017 was both my best and worst year. I met people that would go on to be some of my closest friends, I rejoined the theatre (something I hadn’t done in years), started going to church and grew closer and closer to my best friend. My downfall came during the winter of that year when I was sexually assaulted by someone I had known for years in a place that was meant to be considered safe. I reported this to the police but took no further action, scared that a court case would only make things worse. I spiraled downwards during that time and took a term off of school. Rumors circulated about why I had left, which made me scared to go back to school. I eventually returned sometime during term 4. During term 4, I was indecently assaulted by the same person, but I dealt with it better this time, not wanting to repeat the cycle of the previous term and stayed at school. I changed schools in year 11, in a way to refresh myself and start again. I didn’t realize that my depression and anxiety had increased and formed into PTSD, which then manifested in the form of depersonalization. During 2018 I spent a week in the mental health ward, where I was finally put on anti-depressants, and I was forced to see a psychologist (something I had refused to do beforehand). At the end of the year, I was diagnosed with Endometriosis. Which explained my mood changes (due to the extra hormones) and the pain I had been dealing with since I was younger. I had surgery at the start of this year to remove it. Throughout the years, there have been three people who have stuck by me. My current boyfriend, who I started dating in 2018 who has helped and supported me with all his patience and love. My best friend who was there for me during everything that has happened and who has tirelessly cared for me and made sure I’m alright, and my mother who has spent all of her time, effort and money to try and make me better and has only ever done what’s right for me, even if I don’t agree with it at the time.