It’s been nearly three years since I lost my mind.
I had told people in the past that I’d lost my mind, but I didn’t know what I was talking about.
I’d once danced on stage with the Flaming Lips while wearing a giant furry koala suit. I told people “It was amazing! I lost my mind!” But I didn’t know what I was talking about. I was just super excited, drunk and high.
No, the day I lost my mind was different.
I was living in California, right after the first season of The Bachelor Australia had finished shooting and we were unsure if the network would renew us. I was living on my savings trying to figure out what to do with my life.
I was edgy because I was in the ninth month without the anti-depressants that had reined in my anxiety disorder since 2007. Life on the meds was good, but I’d been doing pretty well and was fed up with the weight gain and zero sex drive - so my doctor and I decided to try life without them.
I wasn’t coping. I couldn’t sleep or stop the negative thinking. I’d go for a run to quieten everything down. It was on a run that it all became too much: stress about lack of work, a recent breakup, and news my dad in Australia was in ICU culminated in one horrible moment. It was as if the final Jenga block holding my teetering sanity was knocked out, and my brain burst open into white-hot, unstoppable, irrational fear.
The part of my brain that was able to rationalize the distorted thoughts had stopped working; every irrational fear became absolute fact. I descended rapidly into paranoid delusions, convinced the world was going to end that very day - and I was the only one who knew.
The thoughts came thick and fast, with jolts of physical pain that would make me grunt and flinch. I realised something was terribly wrong and I needed a doctor. When I turned to run home, I passed a homeless man; unshaven, barefoot and wearing only a pair of too-big jeans, he was younger than I was and shuffling along.
He was also grunting and flinching, lost in a similar unseen terror. It seemed the only real difference was that I knew something was wrong. I got to my doctor and started the long road back to sanity. Thanks to doctors, family, friends and my wife, I’m okay. I still live with anxiety and take medication.
I live with a mental illness, just like hundreds of thousands of Australians who need your understanding and compassion.
Osher Günsberg, SANE Australia.