On the surface, Katie was getting a new look to cheer herself up, but deep down she was trying to do something else.
“I was trying to change me… I figured if I changed how I looked, I guess I might just change too,” she says.
Since 2009, Katie has been living with the diagnosis of bipolar disorder after years of being treated for what doctors thought was depression.
Staying well is a challenge
“I won’t lie and say it’s easy. It’s always a little bit over the place,” Katie says.
That said, having a plan is a great help. For years Katie has been talking about studying, now she’s signed up for environmental science at university and that helps her focus.
Katie is familiar with her triggers and has developed coping mechanisms for when she gets too low or too high, eg, she likes to draw or write. But when life gets overwhelming, she knows it’s time to talk to someone – a friend or professional.
Amazing family support
Katie, who lives with family in Wellington, says she’s lucky to have family and friends who support her. It’s really important loved ones learn about mental illness and understand symptoms, she says.
“A lot of the time, when someone is really ill, they say things they don’t mean. Just try to be understanding. The worst thing you can say, when someone is in a down phase is: have you taken your medication today?”
Katie suggests instead: “hey, what’s up? You seem down today.”
Education the best medicine
Katie believes education is important; people sometimes say to her she must be insane when they hear her diagnosis. So she likes how Mental Health Foundation (MHF) not only provides support to those with mental illness and their families, but also educates about mental illness.
“I went onto the website and was reading the stories and I decided I wanted to raise money for these guys.”
Inspired by a colleague who was doing Shave for a Cure, Katie shaved her head too and raised almost $1000 for the MHF.
“I guess shaving my head is taking away what I had used to desperately try to change so many times. Let’s let my natural hair colour come back and just be Katie again.”