Aimee's journey to a better life started with a conversation in the sunshine in a local park. Making a My Better Life® plan was part of Aimee's recovery program during her stay at a short-term residential mental health recovery support service in Mackay, known as a 'Step Up Step Down'. These services are an alternative to hospitalisation for people experiencing mental distress.
Opening up and talking about something as personal as your mental health can be difficult, but Aimee, a 32 year old student who has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, says it helped that her psychosocial support worker Clare was a young woman like her and that they had shared Asian heritage.
The My Better Life® plan includes scaled questions that ask participants to rank how they feel about a certain area of life from 'very dissatisfied' to 'very satisfied'. In that first conversation, Aimee ranked how she felt about both her physical health and study as 'dissatisfied'.
"Study is important to me and it's something that motivates me, but the stress of deadlines can get to me and I go through an emotional rollercoaster," Aimee explains.
"And at the time, physically, I didn't feel very fit and I was overweight. Personally, I felt like, if I'm not happy in my body, I don't have control over things."
Having chosen study and physical health as the key areas for improvement in her My Better Life® plan, with Clare's help Aimee began thinking of some strategies they could use to improve her satisfaction levels in these areas.
They started exercising together so Aimee was always accountable to someone else, and Clare identified new physical activities like badminton and Pilates that could work for Aimee - and Aimee still does both to this day. Clare also supported Aimee with her medical sonography studies, keeping her on track and focused.
Several months after the initial setting of her plan, Aimee has ranked her feelings towards her physical health and her studies as 'satisfied' - a notable improvement. More importantly, Aimee says the process has supported her mental health recovery, by giving her a clear formula for identifying and achieving goals, giving her a sense of control.
“My Better Life® has directly helped put what I want to achieve at the forefront of my mind. Having a greater goal is good, and it has been helpful to break down the steps I need to take to achieve those goals,” Aimee says.
Aimee’s My Better Life plan® is part of a larger program of recovery work Aimee is doing with Clare to learn skills to better manage her mental health.
“I feel like I’m learning about my highs and lows, and how they alternate,” Aimee says. “I’ve become more resilient so the highs aren’t as extreme, and I listen to my body so I know when those times are coming and I use my emergency action plan to keep me safe and so I don’t fall so hard.”
Aimee now regularly participates in public forums, such as local art exhibitions and community events, and talks openly about her lived experience of mental ill-health. It’s a monumental leap forward from her first conversation with Clare in the park.
Study is important to me and it's something that motivates me, but the stress of deadlines can get to me and I go through an emotional rollercoaster.