A podcast sharing stories of lived experience with mental illness
My Story Part 2 of having a single mother with Bipolar and my Nine News National Story

May 23, 2022

My Story Part 2 of having a single mother with Bipolar and my Nine News National Story
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In this episode, I share Part 2 of my story about growing up with a mother with Bipolar disorder and I also talk about my recent nine news National story about my first lived experience with foster care. I find that sharing details about my lived experience helps me heal and I believe that if you have a similar situation, sharing your lived experience will help you also.

In this episode, I share Part 2 of my story about growing up with a mother with Bipolar disorder and I also talk about my recent nine news National story about my first lived experience with foster care. I find that sharing details about my lived experience helps me heal and I believe that if you have a similar situation, sharing your lived experience will help you also.

If you can relate to my story, please tell others about the podcast as that really helps promote more awareness around this issue for young people who are currently experiencing this.

A huge thank you to Emily McPherson from Nine News and also Tess Lazarus for arranging the story.

If you would like to Part 1 of my story, please scroll back through the previous episodes.

If you have a story, please feel free to share it on my podcast and contact me at joel@livedexperiencepodcast.com

You can read the story here - https://www.9news.com.au/national/growing-up-with-mental-illness-joel-was-suddenly-thrust-into-a-foster-care-home-at-seven/39f440b4-8f14-45fb-8463-8c8b23cb17c3

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Joel Kleber 

Welcome to the lived experience podcast. I'm your host, Joel Kleber. And if you're a first time listener, welcome. This podcast is all about sharing people's lived experience, whether it's been a serious mental health issue in the family, or other mental health related topics that aren't quite often covered as much as they should be. On today's episode, I'm gonna share part two of my story about growing up with a single mother who had bipolar. And I hope you take a lot out of this show. And if you can relate, please send me an email, check in the show notes for those details. Until next time, I hope you have a great week. So I want to do this episode, because I had a article released today on the Nine News website, which has a very high authority ranking website. And it was it was really, it was really special to be featured on the national news cover. And I think it was the top story for the whole day that was with the election and all that sort of stuff to see my little picture of myself and my mum next to Scott Morrison, and Albanese was was quite a was quite experienced. But big thank you to Emily and McPherson and a test Lazarus as well for giving me the opportunity to share my story and, and to hopefully reach a few more people and get more out there. And, and the reason why, if you haven't seen it, I'll put a link to it in these in these notes here. But as I said, you know, for anyone who's listened to previous episodes, and if you haven't, and your first time listening, please go through and listen to some of them just so you can get what the sense of we're trying to do here. And it's all about, you know, as I say in the intro, just about sharing stories that aren't quite caught aren't quite often covered by the mental health, let's say press or the the normal mental health press, which mainly concentrates on just depression and anxiety. And we know that there's a large amount of kids and young people and older people like myself in Australia who have a parent with a center with serious mental illness and all the challenges that come with it. So it's just really about just trying to get more stories out there and sharing a lot and that so that more funding and awareness can go to charities into organizations to support people. And then I'll give you two prime examples, I've got an episode coming out with, with Maddie from little dreamers, it's just it, which is an organization that that helps young carers, and that's young carers of all types, not just mental health, it's people with them either parent with cancer and other things like that. And also satellite Foundation, which we'll talk about a lot, and the people who start these organizations that dunstone For love and care, and they get pretty much no support, until, let's say 10 years or seven years in Mary's case, I think 10 years in rows case from satellite, until they start getting some government funding, and they don't do because they expect funding. But you know, it'd be nice for these, for anyone who works in this space, you know, to try and get them more funding quicker when they do such great work because because as I say in the article, if you have a read of it, like you know, you can go to two ways when you have this experience, you can either use it as an excuse and play the victim and to not achieve anything in life, which is what I did for a very long time. Or you can really use it and harness your experiences and create something good for your life and especially with Maddie who's going to be on the podcast this week and release the episode. Like just what a remarkable person when you hear a story to she she's got an order of Australian metal I think and all this water from the Queen, all this sort of stuff. And this because a young person, he had a really, really tough situation at school and saw a gap. For for for there was no support for young kids in a situation when he created this organization now helps others and it's a really fantastic story. And that's the only reason why I share my story I get I get told all the time, you know, you know people send me all your inspiration or, you know, you're you're brave sharing your story, but I don't really think that at all. And you know, it's more about I feel there's an obligation because my whole thing is, you know, if you do listen to this podcast, my the Mental Health Awareness movement is fantastic. It's great that it's getting out there. But there's still a lot of stigma is in areas like bipolar, schizophrenia, young carers, and whereas it's not in areas maybe as depression or anxiety, yet those areas get all the focus, whereas young carers bipolar schizophrenia seem to be ignored by the, let's say, the mainstream or the the normal, typical media that covers mental health. So we just need to get more stories in this area. Because I know that I can make a really big significant impact in young people's lives. And those organizations like satellite and little dreamers are doing so. So if we can have more fun to them, and more people doing organizations like that, it really does seriously change a kid's or young person's life to be positive, as opposed to, let's say, not going on to do anything with their future. And also the statistics and report show that kids who grew up in those situations do worse in a far lot of metrics. And we need to reduce that number because you can't choose your parents yet. You're you're in these situations by no fault of your own. Now I want to share my story regarding part two. So in the story that they did in the Nine News piece, they basically talked about you know that I spoke to the lady for about half an hour and we went over the experience where you know, one day we sort of went to school you know, happy as Larry sort of thing you know, you know your mom you got your, your house, all that sort of stuff. And basically at school, you know, we get pulled into the principal's office and it's and police and things like that and we're whisked off to a local Human Services Office because we had no family. In Perth that was at The time and that they had to been placed into foster care. So I do do a part one, which if you scroll down in the podcast episodes, you can hear part one, where I sort of go into detail on that. But I want to follow on from that. So part two really is about what happened after and what that involves, and I'm quite happy to share it. So once once he won't go into the foster care system, you know, it's not a big scary place, you see the American movies where you go to a bigger orphanage and you're in a whole bunch of rooms with other kids get picked on and things like that. What are the How would have dealt that, to be honest, you know, but we we stay with a nice lady and had a room and all that sort of thing. And she took us in and we're pretty much left on our own. Then, a couple of days later, if we had a day of school, and I've got a couple of days later, we had to go back to school and just go back to normal. And I can't remember exactly at the time if there was any care from our teachers, but I don't think maybe besides the principal, I don't really no, that any teachers really gave us any consideration anyway, I'm not saying they should. But I just don't think from a school's point of view, especially back then. I think that was early 90s, they would have known what to do with it. So we had no real consideration of the schools. And that that would have been the case for many other people and just go back to normal. And then yeah, there was no sort of counseling that I know that we were offered, we think we might have had like some sort of social worker come and try to talk us but will that closed off, because you know, our mom was pretty much just ripped away from us. And with not much explanation, we didn't know what was going on. And then basically you shut down as a kid or as you're protected mitad mechanism, I don't know who these strangers are trying to talk to me, the only person of comfort that we really had was each other my my younger sister and I and, and believe it or not, I was very religious back then. So I had Jesus to pray. So I'm the complete opposite. Now I'm pretty much an atheist, but I had Jesus to pray to and cry to every night. And that was the comfort and it was extremely traumatic. And this is why I'm really passionate about these, this support for young people who have these situations, and not just mental health, with people with parents and things, but other situations, because those childhood traumas are very significant. And I don't think we'd really ever learn how to deal with them properly. And especially, and then and then that shapes who you grew up become as a person, right, so as a seven year old, as a six year old, or as an eight year old, when I was talking to Lady Day, last week gonna listen to episode about her, you have this traumatic experience, and you just not as you're not really provided much context around it or any help on how to process it. And then you've got to figure this stuff out as an early age. And, and that's a really big issue. Childhood Trauma is a really big issue, whether it be sexual assault, whether it be mental health or other traumatic events in people's lives, and young as young kids were not made or our brains aren't equipped to process. And yet, were not provided much support while I was in anyway, in regards to how to deal with this, and it can really stuff up or eff up your life moving forward. You know, these unresolved traumas from childhood can then come back and present and wait many years things might be excessive drinking drug taking risk taking behavior, or using as an excuse or not, you know, you might have a real big fear of getting outside your comfort zone. And then you know, pursue pursue things and all that sort of stuff. So it's a, it's a really big issue. And it's significant issues in people's lives. And we don't, we don't resolve with them and childhood trauma that's unresolved. You know, people in general, if you are listening, and you have one of these, you need to take it seriously. Because there'll be things in your life that you do or behaviors, you'd be going, why do I do this, and pretty much if you went to a psychologist, you could probably trace it back to that traumatic event that's never been really processed properly with propolis. Proper. So process properly. Try saying that quick. And you know, it's affecting your life. You know, many times some people might say, Well, you shouldn't use that as an excuse. Well, you probably shouldn't. But that's not how the brain works. And before I go on, I'm not a psychologist, obviously, this is just my opinion, from my lived experience, but I'm just talking about how this affected me. And you know, when I look back on it now, as a 34 year old man, my childhood trauma, you I didn't really acknowledge it, because it was my upbringing, right? It was, that was my mom, that was my normal, my normal. So it was traumatic about my normal with my loving parent. But when you look back on it, there's a lot of a lot of trauma and things like that a lot of unresolved traumatic issues that resulted in various behaviors, which I won't go into. But you can say if it's just me talking about this, this the 1000s, or 10s of 1000s, or hundreds of 1000s of not millions of people who have had these or unresolved traumas, especially about a parent with a serious mental illness, and we don't do anything about it. So if you are listening and you do have one of these, please try and do something about it and with with the recent you know, the election with labor getting in with many mental health and Medicare or fast what's going to happen on the Greens want to do that. That would be a massive win for the economy because I think the more productive people we can have, I'm not trying to enter politics at all. But the better the better it is for every one and the happier lives we can have for everyone. Now that part two of the story so basically what happens is after the foster home, you know, it will not after the first time during the foster home, you know, we had to get taken into the psych psychiatric ward to visit a mom, you know, and you want to do it because I want to, you want to see your mom and you don't care where she is you just want to go to her. So took us to another country, it was a couple of weeks, or the exact timeframe, but we'll take it to see her by the social worker, or the lady or whoever it was, you were provided with much context at all, I think my style of giving mum electric convulsive therapy, which is AC t, what an AC t is, is huge ebct are probably I'd love to talk to a doctor about that, because I've got my opinions on that. But I'm saying I think she had some AC t so seeing her after AC T definitely wasn't good. You know, they're just a completely different person. There's a bit of drool and stuff coming out of their face, and they're just talking flat out well, my mum was anyway, not making a lot of sense. But you know, we don't care. That's our mum, and we're there. And we were there with her problem with your parent having a serious mental illness is usually believe everything they say. So when you're a young kid, you believe everything your parent tells you, right? So you believe in Santa Claus, if they say believe in this, you generally believe because it's your parent. And the problem if someone will bipolar anyway, from my lived experience was that I just believed everything she said. So everything she would say, Well, it'd be the devil's after her or some sort of conspiracy theory that is going to come and kidnap us from over here, and blah, blah, blah, all this sort of stuff you believe it. And it wasn't till as a little bit older till I started to realize, well, that's the honest talking, it's not true. But at that time, you believe all this sort of stuff, and you have a really warped worldview, because that's your your primary care given the person you love telling you that I remember inside the psychiatric quarters remember how much of a sterile place it was, there's obviously not much glass because of people being smashed and cut themselves. The backyard where she took us, she was only able to go to backyard we had basically a cage. So there was a backyard, which we'll say three was like really thick mesh, and it's called Great lands in Perth, this this psychiatric ward and, and then you can sit out there. But our mom was so friendly, she would just basically drag us around to meet all the new friends because she's very friendly. She was a very friendly lady. In the psychiatric wards we're meeting people who were just pretty much sunk their mind, or they're just really scary people with tattoos on their forearms and cuts and burns or just not really friendly looking people. And our mum basically forced us to go and shake hands and meet all these people, as you know, six and seven year old kids. And that was that was very traumatic, but they let us they let them they let her do that. Right. So there was no real intervention, or what I would kill call appropriate care for our well being when doing these sorts of things. And so it's a fine balance, because you're the patient. Well, my mom would have been saying I want to see my kids want to see my kid so they'd bring the kids in. But you gotta remember there's a detrimental effect to us, even though we want to see our mom, is that the best thing to see her after shock treatment? Or should we wait until you know two months as much as as much as it would have been bloody hard? What's the actual better thing long term. So when they treat people with a mental illness, they need to start. I don't know if this is the case still. But they need to start looking well hang on, if there's kids involved, how's this treatment of this person going to affect the kids because then that might delay them going to buddy electric shock treatments that straightaway. Maybe there might take some more time to try and mess around the meds to try and bring her down. Otherwise, instead of just going shock treatment, shock treatment shock treatment, which is what they do. So yeah, that psychiatric ward, I can't remember the exact length of this day, the first time. I'm sure there was times before that, because I don't think she would have been well for a period of six to seven years. But that's the first time I can remember it. And I think she was maybe in there for three months or two months, it felt like a lifetime, you know, when you're a young kid I feel is fairly slow. So that felt like an absolute longing to lifetime but I think it was, I think it was two months or it was lose three months. But that was some of the longest times and the most traumatic times in my life. And it would be for many others if you can relate to this experience, let me know. But um, you know, every night you would cry, you know, I would I would personally just pray to Jesus, because that was my only comfort. And I can see why people use religion because it's something that's very comfortable to him that I would pray, pray to Jesus every night. And that gave me the comfort and I don't know what it would have done without that. And, and Touchwood I was very lucky at school, I was pretty popular kid in primary school, so I wasn't bullied or anything like that. So that really helped. But I could only imagine if a young kid was bullied and had this issue as well, just the amount of trauma and stress that would cause that person. So, you know, once you got the psychiatric ward, it was sort of back to being a happy family again. And then we were never really told or explained much why or what had happened. But you know, our mom basically made the promise to us that she would never go back in the hospital again. She'd never get back in the hospital again. And what happened a couple of years later, she goes back into hospital again. And that really disappoints and hurts you as a kid because you know when you're you want to believe your parents so, so much and when they say that we'll never get it. We're never gonna go in the hospital again. And they go in the hospital again, just really breaks your trust and you just don't understand anything. During that time when she was out from the psychiatric ward, you would have thought that we would have had maybe more support from services. I Do No, I'm pretty, pretty sure remember a social worker of some kind, but it was more from my mom than May, my sister and I think she went back to working a job in some capacity, which was the worst thing she could do because because Mum work for her, unfortunately was one of his stresses, and then she would have a relapse again. So with the psychiatric ward, she would come out, and then basically, you know, be hunky dory wouldn't, we would have been told much about what happened or why happened, et cetera, what bipolar was all these sorts of things, instead of just expected to go back to being a normal person. And when you think of it, from her perspective, she's just a normal person in oil in her mind, right, except for this mental illness. So she just wanted to go back to being normal again, and taking us to the footy and things like that. And because our dad was working overseas at the time in Saudi Arabia, that was also very hard to take, because we he didn't come back to look after us. So you sort of going, he's sort of going well, you know, we've got to pay the bills and pay the mortgage, but you've also just abandoned your kids, when they need you the most, you could take a job at Hungry Jack's for for all we know. So that was very disappointing. And it's still a very disappointing thing and a hard thing to get over. When your, your, your dad or your father wouldn't have had a good relationship with but he was supposed to come protect his kids. And I just put myself in that position. And like, you know, for one, if that was me in that position, the first thing I'd be doing back doesn't matter where I'm flying back from where I am, to come in, to see my kids and to stay with them, not just maybe come back and see him and then Nick off again, I'm staying there because I have left the kids, my children with a with a with a mother who's a very caring and loving mother, but who has a serious mental health condition. And that's not a safe thing to do. So, you know, that's something we have to go through and contend with as well. And, you know, it's, it's something I still find hard to this day to reconcile but I'm trying to understand from his position, more and more and more, I do think that the way I look at it now, it would be very hard for for anyone to love a person who has a serious mental illness to stay in that relationship long term. I'm not saying they don't please don't say that's not true. I know there are people who have many long term, you know, partners who have bipolar and other mental illnesses, and it's not a it's not much of a problem for them. And I really respect that. But I think you know, with my dad it is obviously too much. And I'm sure it's too much for a lot of other people and then when there's kids involved, that makes it even worse so but you know, my mum, you know went back to doing her normal things and trying to be the best mother cuz she good. You know, the one thing with my mom that was, you know, she was really, really lovely lady. And we're going to upload a few things in in a couple of weeks and check out the blog lived experience podcast.com to read the about for more about her. But you know, the one thing she she would always really do first, you really tried to educate educators, so she'd buy us a lot of books, she would take us to the museum, she would take us to do exploring, they were always doing an activity all the time because she just wanted to be very busy and kept us very busy, which was fantastic. But that also led to a lot of stress. So my mum went back into the psychiatric ward again, I can't remember the actually I do remember the incident for this one. The incident for this one was when she I think I don't know how this happened. But we lived in a colder sac in Perth and the neighbors when I looked back in there, they must have known there's something up with my mum because someone's called the police on us. So if you're in your home and you got two kids, you must be doing some pretty drastic for the kids for so for the police to be called. So police would call the ambulance was called. And I just remember my mum being locked in my sister's room for whatever reason and wouldn't come out and the police were there trying to knock on the door to get her out. And then we'll basically in the Divi Vanda police were really really good at all, of all the people I've dealt with, regarding my mum, I think the police have always been the best medical professionals I think don't want to deal with people with mental health issues, and ambos and that's just for my lived experience with dealing with these people. But the police were really really, really caring to me in that situation. And I think I had to break the door down in the because she was refusing to let herself out. I just can't remember what triggered this whole thing. But someone had called the cops on us and then basically she was taking away I think to the hospital then would have been put in involuntary integrate lands psychiatric ward again. And you know, and once again, you're I can't remember where we went that night must have been to another foster family or some sort of emergency care, but that was in the middle of the night. So imagine 10 o'clock at night, nine o'clock at night. You've just got yourself and your younger sister and then your mums locked in a room for whatever reason and police come knocking down the door so they happen again and then once again, you know there's not much debrief, you know, you're put in a strange person's home nice people or be it. That same thing again, you're exposed to a lot of trauma, you don't have much debriefing and you're expected to go on normal and then you know within a day or two you're back at school and you're trying to you put it out of your mind as best as you can which which I was very good at for whatever reason, I could just get back on with it being with To my mates in and staying out causing trouble that, um, you know, you never really had any debrief or how to deal with that issue. And that was because it was just our normal, I think with a lot of people. In that situation, if you're listening to this, with a sad scenario, it was your normal, right? It's our mind normal, it was your normal. And when you look back in it, you don't realize how absurd or how unusual your upbringing was compared to a lot of other people. And it's still something now like I don't, I had a lot of really good times growing up with my mom, I really did. But you know, when these when these mental health issues come up, they were really traumatic and really hard to deal with. And there's a lot of other people who go through this as well, which is why you're probably listening to this. But all I can say is that, that it was just disappointing that this the psychiatric ward for itself, and the mental health professionals around my mom just didn't consider the kids at all. And I had when I had a lot of your day on to talk about that she said she felt forgotten about in the system. And that didn't really speak to her. So and that's, that's a common thing. I think, you know, the psyche, the psychiatrists, and psychologists for whatever reason, just don't consider the children. And I don't know if this is the case now. So I could be wrong. But this is just from my lived experience. And I'm 34 years old, there might be older people that might be young to others. But it wasn't that long ago when I was in these in these positions. And I've seen firsthand how mental health professionals treated kids with a lack of respect, when it comes to their parents, especially in treatment. Now treatment is something I want to get a psychiatrist on to talk about, because I've got a lot of bones to pick with how treatment is done with people with bipolar, you know, and even up to my mom's death with palliative care. The psychologist that was dealing with it was just it was just an embarrassment. Like, you know, she's in palliative care there for weeks about to die, and the psychiatrist is there stuffing around their medication still and all this sort of stuff. And it's just like taking blood tests a week before she passed away to check levels and things Lynch's like still they there is no common sense sometimes with the medical mental health professionals, but I'm going to have some mental health professionals on especially psychiatrists to talk about bipolar and it from their experience, I really want to get to the bottom of why all this could be wrong, why they don't include the child, regardless of age, when they're talking about the treatment for their parent, when they when they're making medical decisions about their parent, which really affect their lives later on. Because the psychiatrist His job is to get the person in and out as quick as possible. But with any methods, they can see fit, right. And a lot of the time, they just go straight to shock treatment. And we know long term Well, I know long term from my experience, I could be completely wrong on the science and I probably am. But my life experience and lived experience of this is that my mom had excessive amounts of AC T for more than 40 years. And she ended up developing a rare brain disorder called progressive Supranuclear palsy, which is just a rare brain disorder. And she died from it within five months from diagnosis pretty much. And I have no other reasons to believe she would have had that condition. If it wasn't for the AC T. And the treatment over the years, there's no other reason if she didn't have Bipolar, she wouldn't have that condition, in my opinion. And if AC T wasn't used as much, who knows, she might not develop that brain disorder. And I just know how much it impacted me it was a very insidious disease. And, you know, we hear about, let's say, M and D and all these sorts of things, but M and D you can you know, I don't know, I don't know how long it goes. But you know, you can go for seven years, 10 years with him and do. Um, I got diagnosed with PSP and was passed away within five months. You know, it's a very bad disorder. And I know, you know, I hate to say the word blame, but I do hold a bit of blame with how she was treated by mental health professionals before the treatments and all the stuff over the years and, and you know, a beautiful person does not deserve to die the way she did. And I do hold the system partly to blame for that. I don't hold the system part to blame at all for what my sister and myself experienced because that's just the way it was, you know, but we the real reason why I do this podcast and tell you these in these personal stories is because I hope that encourages you and other people to start sharing your own because as I said, at the very start of this, the Mental Health Awareness movement is fantastic. And we've got hotlines up to Azu. But we need to get into these root issues to support these young carers, and to actually change how psychiatrists start treating children and young people when it comes to a parent who has a mental health or mental illness. It's a really important issue to me, and many others. And I really think I know that if I had a mental health professional treatment respects with my mum growing up, I probably would have got a lot more help for myself personally, to deal with childhood trauma and to deal with various other things from a very early age from a younger age. I've got a really good version to psychiatrists and psychologists and mental health professionals just because of the lack of respect they treated me with my sister and I know that they've treated other kids with as well. Don't want to be like that. But I know there's a lot of people who are like that, and it puts off and puts other people at risk when I get into adulthood. And it's a half the reason why I share this stuff with you. So that's enough for me. I'll share more of my story later on. If you are a first time listener, and hang and hang around to the end, thank you very much. And please make sure you leave a review or rating on the show. I'd love to share your story. So make sure you use the link in my bio if you are interested in coming on. And once again thank you to Emily Emily McPherson and to test Lazarus as well for doing that piece. I really do appreciate it and if you have listened to the end, thank you for your support. And I hope you have a great weekend. We've got another episode on Sunday and probably going to release with Maddie from little dreamers it's a fantastic episode. She's a special person and I really do hope you tune in for that one. So until then I hope you have a great week? So there you have it. The Jim Penman, the founder of Jim's mowing, you seem to bucket hat you see everywhere if you are listening Sid Australia's pool of Australia's most famous entrepreneurs and I'm very lucky to call him a friend and I have a regular contact with him daily. So I know him pretty well but it was very kind of him to give me that platform and we first started doing the podcast just basically talking for 25 minutes about the challenges and my real experience with having a bipolar mother. I just think it's important to get this message out there regarding children with parents who have serious Minoans because it's something that's not often talked about enough. As you know, if you do listen to this podcast, I'm really big on that because I think there's a lot of awareness has been raised for depression and anxiety, and not so much in regards to this space. So if you did stay to the end, really, really appreciate it. Please feel free to leave me a review on iTunes or just follow the podcast or you can find me at the with experience online as well. I have people send me occasional messages. Don't feel bad. If you do that. You want to reach out to me, please do that. And I hope you enjoyed the show. And we'll see you next week.

Joel KleberProfile Photo

Joel Kleber


Host of the lived experience podcast which started from my frustration about the lack of content there is around children who have a parent with a mental illness. Mental health awareness is limited to depression and anxiety, my podcast goes beyond that.