Maria Breene. Photo: John Gass / Daily News
Maria Breene. Photo: John Gass / Daily News John Gass

Maria's mission to normalise mental health

IT used to be known as manic depression.

Whatever the name, bi polar disease can cripple a person mentally.

Along with depression, it is fast becoming a major hurdle keeping many people from living a so-called normal life.

But what is normal?

"I tend to think of 'normal' as a function of the washing machine," laughs Maria Breene.

Maria has just organised the most successful fun day for mental health awareness at Jack Evans Boat Harbour with over 2000 people attending the event.

Today is World Mental Health Day and Ms Breene is telling her story to help dissolve the stigma attached to mental illness.

The high achiever said the road to recovery for anyone suffering mental health issues is made easier through validation.

"Having someone listen to you and recognise your need is crucial,' she said.

Her involvement in community events is part of her recovery and she has come a long way in the last 10 years.

"I have had every kind of depression since I was a teenager, reaching severe depths at times," she said.

"With bi polar, the fluctuations can be extreme, from mania, where I am incredibly productive and perfectionist to feelings of worthlessness.

"The spiral upwards with mania can make you take unnecessary risks as you seek heightened adrenaline hits."

She has juggled motherhood, part time work where she worked far beyond expectations and suffered from domestic violence.

She knew something was wrong when suicidal thoughts just wouldn't go away.

In a manic state of high achievement she suffered a fractured skull when a rescue boat tipped over as she stretched her limits once again as a recognised lifesaver of the year.

She soon realised something was wrong.

"I needed to change my life,' she said.

She reached a stage where she slept 18 hours a day and her seven and eight-year-old children became carers, helping her to "get out and have fun."

She is on four different medications.

"I still have my moments," she said.

But she has almost completed a Certificate 4 as a Mental Health Peer Support worker with the help of the Lived Experience Project with the promise of employment.

If last week's fun day is anything to go by, Ms Breene has a brilliant career ahead of her.

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