Former Yugoslavia

 

Man with arms outstretched in field of flowers close to village"The most difficult adjustment I had to make was dealing with stigma associated with Mental Illness."  

 

About my culture
At the beginning
Doctors, hospitals and other supports...
Getting better
The hardest things
A piece of advice to others
Download a PDF version of Andrej's story (PDF 111.2KB)


 

About my culture

 

I came from the former Yugoslavia’s capital, Belgrade, nineteen years ago. I studied at primary school there. I have one younger sister. We lived in a big community. My mother was an economist and my father was an architect. We lived in a very comfortable and financial situation there. My parents went to work and we went to school. My grandparents looked after us when we came back from school. My grandparents also lived with us. They were my mother’s father and mother. They loved us dearly.

When the financial situation was not good in Yugoslavia, my parents decided to migrate to Australia. They were migrated as skilled migrants. When we came here first, we settled at Cabramatta. I found life in Cabramatta was good.
I found that living as a person who has two cultures was quite easy. I had a good experience, being able to speak two languages, as I learnt English in my country before I came here.
Some of the things between two cultures are similar and some are different. For example, in our culture (Yugoslavia’s culture), children stay with their parents until they die. But with Australian culture children may leave home even when they are very young. I still live with my mother and her parents. My mother and my father are separated now. My mother is very vocal about our culture and she is always telling her co-workers about her culture. And they seem to understand.

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At the beginning

 

I went to university when I was 19 years old. One day, when I came home from university, there was a blackout at home. I had a strong feeling that it was me who caused the blackout. I got so distressed. I then went to the bathroom and took a razor and cut my wrists. After that I went to the hospital by myself. They put stitches on my wrists and sent me home. I felt even worse after I got home. I thought the pain on my mind would never go away. So I took an overdose of Panadol. But in hindsight I had been feeling unwell for at least two years before that.

My grandparents noticed and called the ambulance to take me to the hospital. They then transferred me to a mental health unit. In the first week I was there, the doctor diagnosed me with schizophrenia. They did a brain scan and they started me on tablets. The first one was Risperdal. I had very bad side-effects with it. I became completely stiff and that was the beginning of long road of changing my medications. In the beginning of my illness I displayed mainly negative symptoms of schizophrenia. I was changed to Clozapine. But I had epileptic fits. Then to Solian from which I had catatonic symptoms. Then I had been changed to take Seroquel. Decorative

In later stages I displayed several positive symptoms, which included heavy delusions of grandeur. I have been admitted to hospital over ten times. Sometimes it was for a period of more than 3 months. It was not better until I was put on Olanzapine then I went into remission for one and a half years now. My illness had a very strong impact on my family and they went through a lot of difficulties. They were suffering sometimes more than I was. Because of seeing me go through my illness made them feel hopeless. My family tried a range of traditional remedies such as herbs, prayer but they had too little effect. During my hospitalisation, my family visited me regularly. They brought me food and cigarettes. They made me feel better.

I found websites helpful. I looked at Beyond Blue and Schizophrenia Fellowship. I was able to understand English and because it is readily available I found this information by myself.

My case manager helped me a lot. Sometimes she drove me to the Community Mental Health Centre. She was like a friend. She supported me in getting the right medications. She helped me to speak out about my side-effects to the doctors. I think the hospital and nursing places are the best places to give out information about mental illness.

My illness has had an effect on my ability to study and work. I had to quit my university studies. It was hard to find a job when I did not work for a long time. I did not manage well.

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Doctors, hospitals and other supports…

 

My mum regularly received information from my doctors explaining my condition. She found that was useful. At the beginning she did not know what was going on.
The most helpful treatment I found was when I was put on a medication that suited me which was Olanzapine. The least helpful treatment was going for counselling with a psychologist.

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Getting better

 

I noticed that I started to feel better when I was being put on Olanzapine. I stopped feeling very paranoid and all my delusions went away. I began to enjoy life and even look for work. I began to go to the rehabilitation centre. I met a lot of people who recovered. I started to do volunteer work at Liverpool Hospital. My family life became pleasant and I was able to concentrate on daily tasks easily. I began to have faith in a positive higher power, which I was not able to do before.

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The hardest things…

 

The most difficult adjustment I had to make was dealing with stigma associated with mental illness. But friends and family were very supportive. That’s made a difference. Another difficulty was diet control as my medication made me unusually hungry. I went to see a dietician about my diet control. It was very helpful. I am getting there with controlling my weight. I am grateful to the medical and nursing staff members, who were consistent in supporting me, but without my family’s support I don’t believe that I would have gone to remission again. The most helpful was my mother supporting me even when I was very difficult to deal with. I found there is not much difference in how the illness affects both males and females.

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A piece of advice to others…

 

As advice to others, I would urge other consumers to persevere in their treatment, in particular with the consuming of medication because one might not recover immediately but eventually will.


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