My father was an addict, paranoid schizophrenic, chronic hoarder and a drug dealer. Life in his home was one of extreme boredom, regular physical and emotional neglect punctuated with occasional moments of terror.
The clientele my father supplied were desperate and volatile. They would pop in on a daily basis offering cash or barter in exchange for their next hit.
As a young boy, it fell on me to both mind my younger brother as well as keep them occupied whilst my father ‘got the stuff’. I remember this being my role all throughout my childhood and into my early teens. I have broken memories of sexual assaults (likely at the hands of my fathers clients) that are still troubling me to this day.
Life at my mother’s house had its own problems, so at 15 years old I moved out of home with my then girlfriend. We managed to complete high school by surviving off government support payments, part time work, and charity handouts.
Wherever possible we would use the school’s breakfast programs as well as attend free ‘how to cook’ classes. Not because we didn’t know how to cook, but rather because we got to eat the food afterwards.
I am 30 years old now, and I am still dealing with the mental health ramifications of my childhood. I have had ongoing issues with anxiety, depression and PTSD, as well as sporadic issues with self-harm, addiction and suicidal ideation.
Recovery has been a long and continuous process, one that is often two steps forward, one step backward. I approach my healing with a long term focus.
I make sure to look at the self-care options that work best for me, and then attempt to implement them into my life, making room for them where necessary.
Currently my functionality is a mixed bag. Whilst I am not able to maintain full time work (I am a secondary teacher by trade), I am able to work casually in many different roles.
I now find myself doing replacement teaching, disability support work, martial arts instruction, speaking engagements, life coaching, as well as writing and releasing books for sale. Whilst this isn’t the ‘traditional’ approach to work, it is the way that works for me.
I still suffer from the occasional breakdown. But thankfully they are increasingly less frequent, and less extreme.
There is no one thing that I can point to that keeps me on track, other than a continual drive for increased self-awareness. If I know myself, I will know what I am capable of, as well as what my limits are.
Professional therapy is a monthly must. After numerous false starts with different therapists, I have found a psychologist that has helped me to make tremendous progress forward.
Daily meditation has worked wonders on my focus and mental state in general. I am calmer overall, and my levels of extreme anxiety and depression have dropped. It has certainly helped me to deal with intrusive thoughts indicative of PTSD and panic attacks.
I have made a concerted effort to completely eliminate all intoxicants from my lifestyle, including alcohol and even sugar. A strong dedication to healthy living including daily exercise is both intrinsically motivating as well as rewarding. I have never been fitter or healthier in my life!
Finally, every day I will ‘free write’ as a form of self-expression. I write without editing or filtering my thoughts. This is highly cathartic. The page listens, it does not judge, and it has all the time in the world for me.
I am passionate about reducing the stigma of mental illness and trauma. I believe that it is only through open and honest discussion of our experiences that society at large will be in a place to understand and accept our conditions and subsequent needs.
This is why I now blog, vlog and podcast about my ongoing journey as well as that of others. You can find my work at zachary-phillips.com, or on my social @zacpphillips. I would love to connect with you.
If you’re struggling, check out our Get Help Page for services that can help you get through this.