Serbia

Decorative

 

"Well it was not an easy recovery it came slowly, slowly. I don’t know if this was good or bad but somehow I knew it would be all right in the end, but it needed time...."

 

My culture
Adapting to Australia
At the beginning
Effects of the illness on my family
Getting help
Professional supports
How I started to feel better
The hardest things
The journey
A piece of advice to others
Download a PDF version of Branka's Story here (100.2KB)


My Culture

I came from Serbia to Australia 38 years ago in 1969. We came as a family group, my husband, my two sons and myself. We lived all together.

Return to top


Adapting to Australia

I adapted to live with two cultures very well. I don’t think Australians understood much about my Serbian cultural background at the time. Some Australians are more tolerant. We explained our cultural background to some of my Australian friends and I did not have any problems. I was pregnant; I had a baby and was busy looking after my baby.

Return to top


At the beginning - “Not knowing what was wrong”

Our family members were supportive but we were not very aware about mental illness. I didn’t know what was wrong at first. We did not talk about these issues. I did not know how to sit down and just relax, I couldn’t even sit down and watch TV, and do anything else, and it was really hard for me. I had fear and anxiety. I had depression, I always cried, and had no energy, I could not do anything. I even found it hard to clean the house. I couldn’t do anything.

At this time I was working in a big biscuit factory, which I enjoyed. At the biscuit factory I did all sorts of things. I pushed myself to do all sorts of things. I worked in the biscuit factory for 28 years. My children were at school. At that time my husband didn’t work, he stayed at home to look after our children. Because I was an experienced worker and I liked to work. I wanted to have money. I needed the steady income to support my family. Another thing was that I found my work had given me a sense of belonging. I liked that enjoyment. At the beginning of my career, I was well; only later I got sick. But my boss was quite supportive; he let me take one year on sick leave. After I took one-year sick leave I could not concentrate, and didn’t feel I was getting better; I had to stop working. I felt I had to finish my career and so I resigned from my job. Luckily I was financially all right. I had sickness benefits and the pension and I did have some savings. I was given access to my super funds as well. It did not affect me very much. I was sick, my health was more important, the job I did not care about so much.

Return to top


Decorative

Effects of the illness on my family

My family and my son’s mother-in-law were all worried about me. My son got married in 1998 and in that year another son went to Wagga Wagga to teach. Four days after my son’s wedding, I got Bell’s Palsy (this is a condition in which you have paralysis on one side of your face) when my son was on honeymoon in Fiji. The doctor gave medication. I was right for two years. But I was getting sick, I was quite anxious, and had fears. They were all supportive, but they did not know what to do. Initially they did not think that my illness was that bad, they thought that I was exaggerating my symptoms. They used to ask me why was I sitting at home, why didn’t I go out. I told them how I felt. My son’s mother-in-law was supportive, she kept looking for ways to help me. She tried the hospital and other places and eventually a nurse referred her to the Women’s Health Centre when they got to know each other. My son’s mother-in-law is the same age as me. She did not have much knowledge about mental illness, but she is very supportive and very open.

Return to top


Getting help

It was because of this referral that a women’s health nurse came to visit me and talked with me. Her name is Nalie. She was a great help. She was very gentle. She started checking my blood pressure, my sugar levels; I was very skinny, because I could not eat. She seemed to understand me. I also went to see my GP. My GP referred me to see a psychiatrist and then my son’s mother-in-law took me to see him. The psychiatrist prescribed me many medications.

I think my GP also helped me more so than the psychiatrist. I had faith in my GP because I have been with him for a long time. The GP prescribed medication that I feel did work for me, because slowly, slowly I’m getting better. As I said, Nalie the nurse from the Women’s Health Centre; she encouraged me to go to the groups run at Fairfield Rehab. Service. Here I met other people with disabilities, got to study a computer course, and went out on outings with other people.

My family went through hell too, but they really helped me. My son’s mother- in-law helped me greatly. She is Greek and she is really proud of me. I did all sorts of tests, head scans, such as a CAT scan but the doctors did not find anything physically wrong. Actually I knew I had fear and anxiety, it was depression.

Return to top


Professional supports

Everything that I heard from the nurse, her visiting me and going along to rehab, these sorts of things I think probably helped me the most. My GP was also a very great help. He is very understanding because he deals with women a lot. He also spoke Serbian, and he could explain things to me. I knew him for a long time, even though he is a GP I think he probably understood me better than my psychiatrist. I never tried traditional things like herbs, I just took medication.

Seroquel was prescribed for me. Seroquel is an anti-psychotic medication usually used for people with schizophrenia and it has helped too. I have not had any real medication side-effects with Seroquel. I had many other medications but not any lasting side-effects. Cepermeal is another antidepressant I took. It helped to reduce my depression. I don’t have any side-effects from any medication.

My family were all very worried, as you can imagine. They went through hell, like I did. They tried a lot to help me and supported me in many different ways. They took me to the doctors, to the hospital, took me shopping, even cooked meals for me. I was drinking some alcohol but I only drank a little, but I gave this up. They were telling me to go out not just sit there by myself. But, to tell you the truth, I never got any help from my own community, as the stigma was there. I did not go out because I was not well. It was not because of the stigma. At that time I was not thinking of these things at all. Mainly, because I was not well.

I didn’t like to see my family worry about me, so distressed about me. That was very important to me, so I started to go to the groups. My doctors, my nurse, my OT and attending rehab activities and TAFE courses all helped me with things I could use to get better.

Return to top


How I started to tell that I am better….

I went out with rehab groups and enjoyed going on all the outings, as I had not been going out much in my life. Then when I heard about other people’s problems, this helped me as well. Being in the WRAP program, which was run by the health services also was good. At that time I was getting better, the WRAP course showed me there were other people like me. It made me feel safe to talk about my illness. It gave me the ideas to seek help if I get sick again, and the ways of how to prevent relapse. The course also gave me something to do in a routine life.
The OT at rehab then introduced me to a TAFE computer course. I enjoyed participating in this so I also attended some other computer courses. The volunteering work was something I also enjoyed. I did volunteer work at a local girls high school. I helped the librarians to put the books back on the shelves or printed the labels for books. It made me feel useful and helpful. They really appreciated my work. 

I had a friend; I went out with her too. I had been in hospital and seen the psychiatrist, but they did not help me very much. When my husband died, I admitted myself to the psychiatric hospital. The hospital was too boring. There was nothing to do, just smoke every hour. I stayed there for about two weeks. It was not helpful.

Return to top


The hardest things…

My family gave me strength; I don’t want to see them worried and miserable. Well it was not an easy recovery; it came slowly, slowly. I don’t know if this was good or bad but somehow I knew it would be all right in the end, but it needed time. I was initially negative but as I was getting better I knew I needed to be more positive. When I started to feel different, to be feeling a little more positive I started to do all the things at the rehab program. It was not a hard thing, as I was already showing the signs of recovery. Not everybody has friends, it is good to be together with other people and to be able to share things, and this was good for me.

Return to top


The journey

You know, I feel I was fortunate, as I didn’t really have any problems with the people I knew. It was not difficult when I wanted to explain and talk about my condition. Losing my ability to work didn’t worry me much as I was still able to be independent, as I had savings and was financially okay. I also did not worry very much about losing connections as my relatives, my family, other rehab groups that I was part of were very supportive.
Previously so many politicians hid their problems, but now it is getting better that even they are talking about depression and people know such problems can now be treated. I am feeling very positive and happy about telling my own story as this may help others and other people’s families to know about nurses like my Nalie and how they can help you with getting you into rehab. Rehab is a chance or possibility for people to think positively, not negatively. I am happy to tell my own story as to start with I too never dreamt that I would become this well.

Return to top


A piece of advice to others….

Take your recovery slowly step by step. Be positive, try to do things you like, that make you feel good, don’t worry about what other people say or other people think. Don’t be embarrassed to talk about your condition. Join the rehab groups with people who have similar problems. You are treated as a person, for who you are, after 38 years in Australia I feel good. If my story can help others it will make me feel very good.

 

Download a PDF version of Branka's Story here (PDF 100.2KB)

Return to top