Hello, my name is Ashleigh Blok, and I am from Strathtulloh, Victoria. I graduated from Monash University and worked as a Mental Health Nurse for 6 years until my disability rendered me unable to work. I am a crazy cat lady with a dual citizenship with the Netherlands and avid Richmond Tigers supporter.  So when I was 23 I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder and PTSD.

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Schizoaffective Disorder

Schizoaffective disorder is a mental illness that combines both symptoms of schizophrenia such as hallucination, delusions and thought disorder with a mood component such as mania and/or depression. 

My treatment

Although my treatment regime, which was a combination of therapy and medication, began at the age of 23, reflectively my symptoms began between the ages of 14-16. My treatment had also included over 20 public acute psychiatric admissions, two PARC admissions and case management from Youth and adult psychiatric clinics. My treatment will be lifelong.

The complications and dangers

The complications from my illnesses have caused me to have to give away paid work and rely on the disability pension. For 3 years I had to live in supported accommodation which was very dangerous and infact exacerbated my illness as I was living amongst drug addicts, sex offenders, paedophiles, violent offenders and at times had to physically fight to protect myself.

The bleak feeling in my recovery came when I was unable to afford safe accommodation and unfortunately once you live in social housing or supported accommodation due to the reputation of the typical person who would live in there it made it very difficult for my partner and I to find suitable accommodation. But perseverance and the pandemic actually helped us and we finally have our 4 bedroom home with our two cats (working on adding to my cat collection).

What I’ve learnt

I have learnt that I am tougher than I thought, and there are many charitable services out there when you are stuck to help with accommodation, gift cards, therapeutic services including yoga, and also community houses to join in activities with other like minded people often in similar circumstances.

A message to those who cared for me

For the teams involved in my care, I want to thank them for not giving up on me and for the help and encouragement I have received. I also thank those who picked me up and helped me in really critical times such as when in an episode but also homelessness and isolation.

Please speak to someone if you need help, reach out, and don’t be deterred if the first person you speak to isn’t helpful there are many others out there and you must take that initiative to find someone who can help you better as you are important and deserve to have your needs met. After my first hospital admissions, my perspective did change and I felt I was able to assist patients more effectively because I knew how it felt to be on the other side.

I encourage nurses to really delve into a psychiatric patients history with childhood issues and family dynamics, and what is going on presently. And also be interested in their long term goals. Help them to even come up with more or new goals.

I actually once had a case manager that was a social worker make fun of me to my fiance, to tell him ‘oh here she goes again everyone is after her’.

What the patient is going through is not a joke and is real for them, please do not minimise their feelings.

Psychosis is real.

If you have a story to share please get in touch by emailing hello@thenursebreak.org