In Iraq my mother looked after me and my brother. She worked very hard to buy my expensive medicine. Mum also encouraged me to study. If she wasn’t my Mum, I don’t know what would have happened to me.
When my mother and I came to Australia 8 years ago I didn’t know any English. I had to mime what I wanted. I studied English and I started a business administration course.
My teachers and the staff at Tafe were wonderful. The staff at the Tafe’s disability office always told me to keep my head up and to be proud of myself because I am an intelligent and kind person. I became proud of myself and was no longer embarrassed of my disability. Now I talk to people face to face and I don’t feel shy.
One day I realised Mum was acting strangely. She couldn’t sleep at all and she hid under the bed like she was afraid of something. I felt scared and afraid because this was the first time I saw her like acting strangely. I told my GP was something was wrong with my Mum and that is when I found out she might have Schizophrenia.
My GP and I searched for mental health specialist that could speak Arabic. We found a specialist and he gave her a lot of medication that didn’t work. He suggested she went to the hospital. But I said ‘No. I will look after her.’ I left Tafe because I had to watch her all the time. I became a Mum for her. Now she looks after me, and I look after her.
Today, Mum has improved a little bit and she is stable.
The hard part was when I was a child. The worst part was when I found out my Mum had schizophrenia. Everything I had built came crashing down and life became hard again. I promised not to leave her because she didn’t leave me.
Because I can speak English I am the one who is taking care of her. I take her to her GP and to her mental health specialist. The responsibility of taking care of my Mum can be very hard because I have to deal with both my cerebral palsy and my Mum’s schizophrenia.
But I am lucky because we are both survivors. If we were in our country people would be ignoring us because of the stigma of mental illness in my community. In Australia we have services to help us. The Australian services that assist us respect me and my Mum. It is harder to deal with people I don’t know because they act a bit strange toward me.
My message to other people reading this story is if there is education on schizophrenia then go and learn about it. It is easier to care for someone if you understand their diagnosis. I would have preferred someone teach me about schizophrenia, rather than being alone.
*Not her real name