“I am living proof”: Survivor shares how her mental health was rescued in western Sydney

For as long as she can remember, Tracey Quinn has suffered from severe depression.

Tracey is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and on many occasions recalls not being able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But now, thanks to the help of Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD), the Merrylands resident is sharing her story of recovery, hope and progress this Mental Health Month.

Survivor Tracey Quinn

“For a very long time, I couldn’t even recognise how I was feeling. I was so withdrawn from everything and everyone that I could not recognise if I was happy or sad. Everything was numb,” Tracey said.

“I would continue to isolate myself when things were bad. I didn’t have friends, and I just felt extremely alone in this world.”

It wasn’t until she was admitted to Cumberland Hospital in 2017 that Tracey knew she wanted to make a change.

“I was in my 50s and honestly could not see my life continuing at the rate I was going. I was obese as a result of emotional eating, had high blood pressure and was on multiple anti-depressant medications.

“I wanted to make a change. I wanted to take control and really get on top of my mental illness.”

WSLHD Mental Health Service runs the comprehensive dialectical behaviour therapy (DBT) program, working with patients suffering from mood disorders, suicidal ideation, and for change in behavioural patterns such as self-harm and substance use.

Tracey entered the program shortly after being discharged from Cumberland Hospital and described the experience as “lifesaving”.

“I tried medication, I tried counselling, and nothing seemed to work. I would get over it for a little while and then crash again,” she recalled.

“When I first joined the DBT program, I was quite shy, but I started to notice small changes.

“When I started to realise things were improving, I wanted more. I decided I would put everything into this course, and it turns out, the more you put in, the more you get out.

“After 18 months, there was such a profound difference. I went from severe depression to practically normal.

“This course taught me a lot of practical skills that are now part of my daily life and help me to keep my depression under control.”

The DBT program is a practical course based on mindfulness principles with participants attending weekly group and individual therapy sessions.

Group sessions focus on learning skills to tolerate distress, regulate emotions and to navigate relationships effectively, while individual sessions focus on helping participants understand their reactions and personal values better, and then apply these with their newly acquired skills in everyday life.

Since completing the course, Tracey has dropped one of her anti-depressant medications, got her blood pressure back to normal and is enjoying every moment of life with her adopted grandkids.

“I don’t have children of my own but two of my closest friends are like family to me. We all consider each other family and I spoil those boys like they are my own.” Tracey said.

“It amazes me that I am enjoying life… I can’t remember the last time I did.”

Tracey said she is feeling positive and has not gone backwards in her mental health progress despite lockdown.

“Of course, some days are hard, but I remind myself of how far I’ve come and where I don’t want to be,” she said.

“I am in a singles-bubble with my grandson and enjoy doing crafts and sitting out in the sun. I used to spend my days running away but now I am sitting here enjoying every ounce of the joy life has to give me.

“If I hadn’t done this course, I would have been back in Cumberland Hospital. I want everyone to know that anything is possible if you set your mind to it. No matter how dark it is, there is always light at the end of the tunnel. Trust me – I am living proof.”

The NSW Mental Health Line is a state-wide 24-hour mental health telephone access service – 1800 011 511.

Anyone with a mental health issue can use the Mental Health Line to speak with a mental health professional and be directed to the right care for them – including DBT.

In a crisis, please contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or triple zero (000) in a life-threatening scenario.