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Senior Contributor

Smooth or rocky roads?

A psych once told my wife- "you'll have trouble differentiating between his MI and his personality".


A great wise statement that was. How do you divide the two? As you get older it becomes worse as memory loss becomes a factor confused with worsening mental illness symptoms.


So this poses more questions than answers. Our lives with mental illness seems from our viewpoint a real struggle, as we battle against challenges time and time again. The road never seems to smooth out for us, compared to others lives. Is that true? I dont think so, let me explain.


Lets take "normal" Freddie. He has a home and works full time, wife working casual, two kids, mortgage $1000/mth, two cars one new one old, $2000 in the bank and is just ok in life in these regards. Looks like a case of a smooth road doesnt it? They have a combined income of say $80,000.


"Billy" has a mental illness. He is on Disability Support Pension, his wife his carer. She works casual and they have a combined income of $45,000. They rent at $1200 per month in a country town.


If Billy is feeling like they are struggling his depression isnt helping. He feels jealous of Freddie as they have just purchased a newish car and Freddie works full time. Billy knows Freddie will get a nice superannuation package in about 10 years time when he retires and Freddie mentions that day when they'll buy a 4X4 and large caravan and tour Australia. Freddie looks like he is "normal" and living the dream.


Let's dissect this a little.


Freddie and his wife pay $15,000 in tax annually, $2000 in doctors and med bills after some rebate, $7000 in fuel to and from work, $3000 car maintenance, $3000 in employment insurance and $6000 private health insurance. Total $36,000. Thats a very rough estimate of extra expenses when Freddie works. Freddie and his wife now has a take home net wage of $44,000 minus mortgage.


Billy, although ill, has free health, free medication beyond a certain expendature, various discounts on things like public transport and doesnt have to rise at 6am 5 days a week. Freddie puts up with work colleagues, bosses and in fact he is always worried about being retrenched which will leave him with his wife's casual income and that will financially cripple them in a short time unless he can a/ get another job real quick (unlikely) or apply for hardship with his superannuation fund - a temporary fix. In fact Freddie is a teacher and his contract isnt being renewed. He frantically looks for work at other schools. To attend interviews he has to take time off work. He stresses and finally has a breakdown himself. Freddie consults Billy over a beer one night.


Billy thinks Freddie will boast about retiring and his round Oz trip. Not so. Freddie has just been approved workers compensation for anxiety and depression work related. Freddie is asking Billy how he has coped over the years with MI.


Mental illness, the struggles of being on a rocky road is one step away for many. These "normal" people have their own struggles, often either easily handled or very well disguised. Dont be fooled that your life with a MI is an unlucky one. When we can watch the bees inside a flower, see the colour of the sky and taste the muffins from our oven...we are as unlucky as the guy next door...or luckier.


We would trade our illness for a working life any day. But the smooth happy roads we think others drive on aren't as great as they seem.


Tags (1)

Re: Smooth or rocky roads?

Hi @Whiteknight
I think comparisons can be a little bit tricky in some ways comparing ourselves to others can sharpen our pain if we are feeling as though others have it easier/better etc (grass is greener etc) But we can also minimise our pain in an unhelpful way as well. I'm not as good with words as many here when I'm trying to explain things... gah! Sometimes comparing is just unhelpful full stop. our own path is our own path, someone else's pain doesn't make ours less or more, it just is. I guess it comes back to acceptance of ourselves and looking forwards...
take care

Re: Smooth or rocky roads?

Yes, @lisajane thats what I'm getting at, depression does some irritating things to our thinking . You explained it well.


Re: Smooth or rocky roads?

Hi @Whiteknight


You really do write some interesting things and I enjoy reading them - and the truth is that I battled for years as a full pensioner and now my situation is much easier I find I still have a lot of the same problems - and the same attitude - I know I will be okay -


And that's the bottom line for me - I will be okay and the change in my circumstances which isn't huge has made some things easier and given me choices but - I don't want to go into detail for personal reasons but I will jump to a rather one-sided conversation I had with a taxi-driver


I told him that money doesn't make anyone happier - my opinion - I am happy with it - this guy was so overcome with his opinion however - telling me that somewhere inside one of the pyramids there was some secret about happiness - he actually left me in the wrong street and I could hardly wait to get out of the cab and alas - that day I had left my phone at home 


Bad moment


I really enjoyed working - I liked being an accountant - a lot of people wouldn't - I had to take early retirement - and during my working life and the years on disabiltity that followed I found the same things I enjoyed still pleased me - and now - still a part pensioner I find I have even more things to enjoy - 


And I still have my disability - chronic pain syndrome - and my son died a long time ago and there are times I grieve again - this time it's the anniversary


So - whatever my circumstances - the great stuff and the sorrow are still there


As @lisajane says - comparison can sharpen our pain - there will always be someone worse off and someone better off.


Going through it mathematically (says my accountant's brain) is pretty futile because we can't reckon our losses and gains - our joy and our sorrow - our love and hate. Sums will not work it out. I can look at my bills and my bank statement and my possessions and add these but I mighy feel my sorrow deeply but how does that match a great sunset or a sky full of stars or the love of my daughter and the kindness of my forum friends?


It doesn't - we have to move from logic to understanding


You write an excellent point - the good things in life can make us more comfortable - that's true - but I dount they can make us really happy


Except for retail therapy - that's another subject


Thanks WK - interesting thoughts



Re: Smooth or rocky roads?

Hi @Dec


Thankyou for your response. 

I'm not an anniversary person. I know (again logically) that an anniversary is the position where the earth is, to the sun. Dates, months etc are man made.


This means to me that my grief for others falls when it falls. Comes and goes. 

-to @Dec .........-




The wind goes by

To my left, to my right

And those days it rests

On cold and frosty night


Then like ones greatest loss

A skeleton of sorts

When sadness overcomes

And happiness aborts


To stand on hollow ground

No one around to miss my boy, just free

That wind...grief

Goes right through me...


Ps So sorry for your loss.


Re: Smooth or rocky roads?

Wow @Whiteknight - that is some poem!!!!


I wrote a lot of poetry before and after my son died - some was published - 


That last stanza - about the son being free and the wind cutting right through us - yes - that is so true - so close to me in my memories and today with a usual winter serve of bleak icy wind


Humankind gave the season's names - some human invented weeks but the moon's phases are about a week and a month is a whole set of phases, the seasons  match the solstices and equinoxes and the sum of these is the year - we just made up the names for them - and for the hunter-gatherers and the first agrarian peoples it was vital to know these things - and they had one person - the shaman - to keep track of it all - it was so important


And the winter blows right through me - the wind comes up of Port Phillip Bay and really bites.


I don't know if you are writing about your son or mine - it really does fit though - everyone else ran away and stayed away - that was their choice and they had to live with it - for me though - I have chosen to go on loving him regardless of the weather


Thanks WK





Re: Smooth or rocky roads?

Lovely words @Dec


No, that poem's was spontaneous for you. I can  only write poetry when emotional. Glad you liked it.

You might also get something out of the following - google


- youtube Maharaji Prem Rawat sunset 

-Youtube Maharaji prem rawat the perfect instrument 

Interesting about the origin of weeks


Regards WK


Re: Smooth or rocky roads?


I agree with what you have written that we never really know what someone else's life is truly like.  


I have been on the pension and then also worked full time and I think being on the pension was much easier (didn't have to get up at 6:30am, buy work clothes, dress a certain way, sit in long traffic delays, work with difficult people etc).  I think there needs to be more support for people who work.  I personally was much better off on the pension, both emotionally and financially, as I got lots of financial discounts and rebates and support and didn't have to pay for anything work related.  Working can be very hard and working with any time of illness, mental or physical, can be very tough and many people don't understand that.   This needs to be recognised more by our society and we should support people who work a bit more, by giving them more emotional support. 

Re: Smooth or rocky roads?

Yes @girl99


This also means partnets/carers that work full time need our support.

One of the best actions we can do when they walk in the door is pamper them. A drink, chat, etc. Then if you arent feeling well you cam head back to bed. I like to start the slow cooker up during the day amd have our dinner ready. Its really appreciated.


Re: Smooth or rocky roads?

Thanks @Whiteknight


I really appreciate the poem - I will treasure that


Aand @girl99


Wow - when I was on the Disability Support Pension I was told it was a life-giving pension because it enabled people who were not well or had injuries to get out into the community and volunteer their skills in the community - which I did - without the pressure of having to work when I was not able to commit myself


One thing I felt was unfair was the situation when I went to nightschool when I was a teenager - my father wanted to know what I was doing with my money and I had to explain that I earned 75% the young men where I worked and we all went to nightschool and I paid the same for my books, fees and fares - also I needed more clothes than they did - the dress code was pretty stiff then.


Things are easier for women now with assistance for childcare - and there are rostered days off, mental heath days and shorter hours - I don't know about pay now after being retired for so long but it seems easier for people than it did


But still - there are the Higher Education Fees - and it must be so hard for people who have chosen education and then need to repay that debt at a time when they (and possibly their partner) are trying to save for a house and are paying rent.


It does seem that things work against those trying to get ahead - maybe they can only sink or swim. You are right -  there does need to be more understanding at a political level. 



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