Amanda's mother always encouraged her to consider her future goals, and to not give up on the idea of working again one day. Amanda felt she didn’t have the confidence to ever return to the nursing job she had loved, causing her much grief. She developed a desire to help others with mental illness in their journey, and she felt she had a lot to offer from her own experiences. Peer support work became an ideal fit. Being a Peer Support Worker has been a very fulfilling role, and Amanda particularly enjoys promoting that hope that is so easily lost – the hope of getting better one day; the hope of recovery.
Amanda is employed part-time as a Peer Support Worker with a not-for-profit mental health organisation in Melbourne. She is a qualified Registered Nurse, and completed her hospital based training in 1987. When she was 25 years old, Amanda was working as a registered nurse in the Paediatric Unit. Over a period of time, she gradually became unwell. At first, she thought she was just overworked and stressed; she found she was unable to switch off her thoughts, and started experiencing chronic anxiety, depression, and severe insomnia. Her manager noticed she was looking exhausted and seemed short-fused, which was different to the person she normally was. Amanda was a positive, compassionate, and assertive person. However, her illness robbed her of her confidence and caused her to think she was becoming incompetent.
It became harder and harder to attend work, and keep up with the demands of shift work. She normally loved her job, and had always been well respected as a dedicated, competent nurse. Exhausted, she eventually decided to try sleeping tablets and saw her GP. Fortunately her GP was able to read between the lines, and noted her anxiety, rapid thought pattern, and speech. A mental examination was done, and Amanda shared how she had been struggling for several months with her lack of confidence, anxiety, mood swings, and insomnia. She explained how she felt she was “falling apart”. She was unable to work at this point, and had to move back to her parents’ home, giving up her unit as she couldn’t afford the rent.
Amanda was referred to a psychiatrist for assessment. After several sessions, she was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and commenced on medication. She experienced the incredible challenge of being diagnosed with a serious mental illness and trying several different medications, in varying doses, over a period of months – the process of stabilisation was a rocky one. Two steps forward and one step back, until eventually a combination of three different medications seemed to be right for her. She was fortunate that her mother was also a nurse, and was able to be very supportive in caring for her at home, so at this point she wasn’t hospitalised.
The following four years presented a rollercoaster ride through periods of relative wellness, to periods of mania and suicidal ideation. Many visits to the psychiatrist were made to try to stabilise
the symptoms. Amanda gradually developed better self care strategies and became more consistently well, relying not only on medication but also relaxation techniques, exercise, yoga and
Her mother always encouraged her to consider her future goals, and to not give up on the idea of working again one day. Amanda felt she didn’t have the confidence to ever return to the nursing job she had loved, which caused her much grief. She developed a desire to help others with mental illness in their journey, and she felt she had much to offer from her own experiences: Peer support work became an ideal fit. Being a Peer Support Worker has been a very fulfilling role, and Amanda particularly enjoys promoting that hope that is so easily lost – the hope of getting better one day; the hope of recovery. She manages a caseload of five participants, providing encouragement, support, and options for psychosocial rehab. She is able to talk from her own experiences about the impact of medications, the side effects, the need to have good clinical management. She finds sharing her own experiences helps participants to believe she really does understand, and she believes this helps break down barriers to building rapport.
Amanda also helps facilitate several client groups. Her presence helps to make the clients feel more comfortable, in a social situation which is often very challenging. She is a valuable part of her team, and is often the eyes, ears and emotions for the clients she supports. Her input and role is greatly
valued by her team.
Amanda has regular fortnightly supervision with her Manager, and has also developed a Wellness/Crisis Plan should she experience a relapse during her employment. Her own self care is vital to her maintaining her mental and physical health, and she has a well developed set of strategies that help to maintain her wellness and resilience. She is fortunate that her Manager is very supportive and flexible in her approach, and if Amanda is not travelling so well she feels comfortable to talk to her Manager, and her work responsibilities are adjusted appropriately. She regularly visits her psychiatrist and psychologist for support to help ensure she remains well. She has completed a Certificate 4 in Mental Health and AOD, and is planning to undertake further studies part-time in the field of Mental Health Promotion.