Decorative

Thailand

"Sometimes I did not know how to differentiate the real and unreal things; feeling down and lower than others or not equal to everyone. As a result I often isolated myself and made my situation worse."

My cultural background

At the beginning
Dealing with it
Doctors, hospitals and others
Getting better
The hardest things
Thanks to
A piece of advice to others
Download a PDF version of Cholladda's story here (121.4KB).

 


 

My cultural background

I grew up in Thailand in a big family with five sisters and four brothers. I am the youngest one in the family. We lived in Buriram, my hometown, it is close to Cambodia. My mother passed away when I was ten and my father died because of his diabetic illness and liver disease when I was 15. At that time of my birth, my mother was 47 years old and she was taking a lot of alcohol as medication believing that would make the baby and herself to be healthier. Until now, I am still not sure if this had affected my health in an ongoing way.

I worked as a librarian in Bangkok at the Chulabhorn Research Institute Library.

I arrived in Australia on a visitor visa in September 2000 during the Olympic Games in Sydney. After a few months, I met my husband at the club, and he is an Australian. We got married about six months after we met and now I have a permanent visa.

In Australia I worked at a few places as a kitchen hand in Thai restaurants and some other hostels. Now I have to take care for my husband, who has an early Alzheimer problem, so I live on a carer benefit from Centrelink.

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Decorative

At the beginning

My illness started in 1988, when I was about 30 years old when I was studying for a master’s degree at the Chulalongkorn University.

I learnt that I had problems. I avoided eye contact when talking to people, and I lost of my mind, I could not concentrate enough when doing things. I used to go to a lot of temples in Thailand, I remember one day while at the temple I lost control of reality and I thought I was a Buddha. At this time I believed I was better than anyone, I did not want to talk to anyone, and started to do strange things which upset my family.

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Dealing with it

After this incident, my family sent me to the mental hospital in Nakorn Ratchasrima. I stayed there for a week and they gave me the injection to calm me down and make me to sleep. The staff in the hospital also tied my hands so I could not harm myself and to prevent me to run away from the hospital. I was told I had chronic schizophrenia.

When I returned to Bangkok to continue my masters degree, I saw the psychiatrist at the Chulalongkorn hospital, the biggest and oldest hospital in Bangkok. I was given a medication which was very strong and I had side effects from this. My hands would shake, and my eyes could not see properly. At this time, I could not do anything so I only stayed at home and as a consequence, I lost my job. Then the psychiatrist tried to reduce the amount of the medication until I had the right amount. It took me about six months to adjust to the medication.

At first, I thought that I could not finish my study because of the mental illness. However, with the help from medication and my family, I managed to finish in five years. Then I began working in a few different places. My last job before leaving Thailand for Australia was at the Chullabhorn Research Institute Library.

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Doctors, hospitals and other supports

In Thailand, I was only able to see the psychiatrist every three months due to the high cost. When I was in the hospital, I had a chance to join a support group. The group members talked, and shared their own experiences about how they felt and coped with the mental illness. I just listened and learnt from them. The nurses also came in and helped the group to organise leisure activities e.g. making flowers, purses, and other craft activities.

When I arrived in Australia, my medication from Thailand ran out. I was referred to a psychiatrist here. He prescribed me some new medication (Risperdal) together with sleeping pills, which I needed. I found these helped.

A helpful thing was that I found a GP who can speak and counsel me in Thai. I can also talk to my psychiatrist. In addition, I have a supportive and understanding husband. He has a little knowledge about the mental illness, but when I felt low or had negative thinking, he tries to support me and give me good advice and care for me.

I often see my counsellor, who has helped me to build my self-esteem and confidence and to integrate into a multicultural society.

My teacher too has helped me to improve my English language skills. Before I could not understand or communicate with my husband or my friends in English. Tthat made me feel down and my mental illness became worse. Now I can communicate in English, which makes me feel more confident. I remember I usually used to ask for a Thai worker from Centrelink when I needed help before but now I am able to talk to any staff there in English. However, when I have to see the psychiatrist or specialist I still need assistance from the interpreter so that I don’t miss out on important information, especially medical terms.

I still like to go to the temple to practice meditation; it helps me to relax. I believe in Karma and try to do good things so I will have fewer problems in life.

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Getting better

I noticed that when I am getting better, I can concentrate more and I like to talk to other people and feel happier. I like to study very much and at the moment I am doing a hospitality course and it will be finished this year. Next year, I will study English certificate 4 at the TAFE College.

I try to think positively and to get help from my GP, friends, family and monks when having problems. I like to do activities such as knitting, reading books, listening to CDs, or watching DVDs about life and happiness to understand why we were born and suffer. I also try to keep myself busy; not to let myself become down and keep my mind calm. I have learnt to accept my mental illness and adapt to life.

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The hardest things

During the time when I was mentally ill, the hardest thing for me was I did not understand how serious the problem was, and how to recover. When I began to feel better I used to stop the medication so I went back to being mentally ill again. I relapsed two times. My GP and psychiatrist advised me that I should take the medication until I am fully recovered.

Other difficult things have been that sometimes I did not know how to differentiate real and unreal things or feeling down and lower than others or not equal to everyone. As a result I often isolated myself and made my situation worse.

There was a time I found sometimes it is hard and too much for me, as I was not fully recovered (just about 80%) but I had to take care of my husband when he was not well and had a problem with urinary system and also has a mild Alzheimer problem. Luckily now he still recognises me, he can take the bus to go the club or gets home by himself by getting a club bus. His urinary problem had been also resolved after the operation. That was much relief for my husband and me.

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Thanks to:

My Thai GP; my psychiatrist; my counsellor for prescribing medication for me and giving advice, counselling, and helping me build my self-esteem and confidence; and my husband for providing support, understanding and care for me. Finally I would like to thank my teachers at TAFE College for understanding me and helping me to develop English language and employment skills.

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A piece of advice to others

Mental illness is the big issue, which we cannot see or touch. It can affect our body and our mind; sometimes we do not know what is real or unreal. Therefore, we need to talk to knowledgeable people about mental illness, we need to attend training or workshops in order to understand more about the sickness, and we need to have a good sleep because lack of sleep sometimes causes the problem.

Medication can be addicted; we should take the right amount and when we need it. My GP trusts me and prescribes medication for me. She believes that I always take a correct right amount of medicine so my condition is getting better now and I do not need to see my psychiatrist for the medication like before. I only see my psychiatrist every three months for a chat getting some advice about my mental health. I believe that my mental health is better than some other patients because now I can work and study as well.


Download a PDF version of Cholladda's story here (121.4KB).

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