When it comes to rising above hurdles, Morgan Storrie is a dab hand. The 26-year-old is using her own personal challenges to raise awareness around positive mental health and wellbeing.
Known to her friends as Minnie, she first discovered that something wasn’t right when she came home from school, sat down on the floor and bawled her eyes out for no apparent reason.
“I remember thinking, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, why am I crying’? I had everything in life – a loving family, an education, friends, food on the table, a roof over my head. I didn’t have anything to be sad about,” she recalls.
“I was 18 years old and went from being a happy, outgoing teenager to not wanting to do anything.”
Fortunately for Morgan, her mum recognised that she may be experiencing depression so took her to the doctor.
“Mental illness runs in our family so, as weird as it sounds, I was lucky enough to have an amazing mum who could recognise the signs of depression and knew the action that needed to be done to get help for me”.
“I had a lovely GP who was great at talking about what was going on.”
Morgan underwent six counselling sessions that helped her identify and talk about things that had happened in her life that could be affecting her. She also started on a low dose of anti-depressants.
“My depression was kept at bay for a couple of years. But as many people do, I kept it to myself and didn’t say anything to anyone.”
Breakthrough in understanding
Morgan says she felt a sense of shame because she believed she had no right to be depressed, so she didn’t tell anyone.
“Nothing terrible happend in my life and there were people out there much worse off than me.”
She was feeling fine so stopped taking her medication.
“I felt okay for a couple of months then came crashing down. Back then I wasn’t so good at noticing the signs of depression like being snappy, irritable, and not eating properly or exercising.”
Morgan, a customs officer in Auckland, went back to her GP and had a breakthrough in her understanding of depression.
“We had a massive talk and looked into my family history of mental illness and she explained that my brain wasn’t producing the chemicals it needed… I realised then that I needed to take medication all the time.”
She says she was a little nervous seeking help initially.
“Admitting you need help can be a big thing but once you get over that initial fear, you walk out of the doctor’s feeling like your shoulders are a bit lighter.”
Talking is key
Her advice to people who may be feeling down, is to find somebody to talk to.
“Find a friend or somebody who will listen and support you in going to the doctor. The key is talking, to break down the stigma and start the ball rolling with getting help… I’m more accepting of my depression now. I’ll always have it but at the same time I don’t let it dictate my life.”
For Morgan, exercise and eating a healthy diet are crucial to feeling good. She took part in the Auckland Marathon last year and raised more than $4000 for the Mental Health Foundation. She’s also taking part in the Kilimanjaro Challenge in September to raise money and awareness for mental health.
“The more people talk and the more organisations like the Mental Health Foundation do amazing work and break down barriers, the better.
For the last eight years I have ridden the rollercoaster that is mental illness. It’s a funny old thing; I can go for months feeling on top of the world then for no apparent reason my world can come crashing down and getting out of bed seems like climbing Mount Everest. I am good at hiding it and putting on a brave face.
“For a long time, I felt like it was something I needed to deal with on my own. I guess I was almost ashamed as I have a really good life, so why should I be depressed.
“However the reality is I have lost friends, relationships and, at times, myself due to hiding the extent of my mental illness. I have now come to realise that hiding is the wrong approach. Mental health is something that needs to be spoken about. If you have a heart disease you talk about your diagnosis, your treatment, the specialist you are seeing; so why should mental health be any different?”
The Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand is a charity that works towards creating a society free from discrimination, where all people enjoy positive mental health and wellbeing.
The organisation provides free information and training, and advocates for policies and services that support people with experience of mental illness, and also their families/whānau and friends.
For more information around where to seek help, visit mentalhealth.org.nz
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