Mental Health Journey || Megan, Oregon.

Megan, Oregon. Film photo taken by Birralee Hassen. 

Megan, Oregon. Film photo taken by Birralee Hassen. 

Tell me about your journey with mental health.


My brother is 35 now, he seemed all right when he was young.  It was in the eighties, so autism awareness didn’t really exist, it was maybe just a paragraph in the textbook. When I was doing research there’s something called ‘developmental delay’, I think that’s what he had. When he was younger he didn’t really show any signs, until he was about five and he just stopped talking.


The kindergarten teacher thought there was something up with him; we just thought he was extra shy and quiet.  We lived in a really small town and my mum was really overbearing. She had bad depression issues herself, I think she had some sort of paranoid schizophrenia, I’m not sure it was never diagnosed, just really paranoid. Anyway, throughout my brothers childhood days they just thought he was shy, they put him in special ed type classes for verbal skills, but that probably just made it worse.


But he got through to high school, and he got al little better because he made some friends. I think they got him on some medication, I don’t know. In the 90’s and 2000’s he was ok for a while until he had some breakdowns. After high school everyone split up and then he had no friends again. He really opened up and seemed way happier with friends.


Around thirty he would have breakdowns, where he would have these catatonic episodes, he’d go out and start walking, just go out for miles and hours. One night the neighbour rang and said, “he’s running out through those sticker bushes, just running”. There was something going on, but he couldn’t communicate what he was feeling or what he wanted very well, at all really, it depended on what was happening at the time. He would communicate by doing weird stuff. He also told my mum he was talking to the spirits, when he couldn’t sleep at all.


He would go into these states, where he would just run through the bushes, and then one time he did that and he ended up in someone else’s house, and they called the cops. That was the first time, and then the thing happened where he dropped a chandelier on the ground, at my parents’ house. They called the cops too, and they arrested him. He had to go to jail. My mum thought that was the only thing that she could do.


So he was in jail and I told my mum you need to get a mental health counsellor in there and do a psychiatric program, he was on these anti- depressants instead of looking at other things that may have been better for him.


After that they forced him with a probation thing to always go to a mental health worker and check in, and eventually he got in to a group home, and that’s where he is now.


How do you think that it’s affected you, having a brother with mental health issues, has it affected your own mental health at times?

For me personally, it set me on a journey to understand mental health. It made me want to learn as much as I could about these things. I went to community college; I couldn’t get in to a good college because I did not do well in school. But I took tons of psychology classes, and then I would read up as much as I could.


It made me more self-aware, and made me able to deal with the mental illness challenges that I have come up against. It’s so easy to fall into any kind of mind pattern, thought patterns, life patterns.


If you understand how your brain is working and you’re able to look at it from a higher perspective, you can separate yourself from your mind. I’ve realised that sometimes our thoughts are our worst enemies; our thoughts can deceive us a lot.


I think a lot of people with severe mental illnesses actually just think they are their thoughts. They don’t realise that there has to be another part of the mind thinking and then listening to those thoughts.


What my brothers health did, is really opened up my yearning for learning. I might write a poem about that. I get my serotonin and dopamine doses from learning new things, and from being in nature.


I try really hard to promote those things to people, let’s get together and experience the now, and each other, and actually connect. Let’s care about each other, and then we wouldn’t have so many of these problems with so many sad people. 

Birralee Hassen