Deborah Romero

When Deborah Romero participated in a Like Minds workshop in Waihi and shared her personal story with participants, her audience was blown away by her courage in coming forward.

The 44-year-old Coromandel Peninsula resident decided she wanted to discuss living with mental illness because she felt it would show others with lived experience that there is hope. She also wanted to highlight how important good support and education is on peoples’ journey to recovery.

“My mental unwellness has been part of me for most of my life, even though for many years I wasn’t even aware of what I was experiencing and living with,” she says.

“I grew up in a dysfunctional and abusive home and followed that pattern into dysfunctional and abusive relationships throughout my life.

“This sunk me even deeper into unwellness. I was a broken human being with a wounded soul. I experienced episodes of deep depression. I felt dead inside and was living with anxiety ruling my life. I was full of anger, had no identity, no self-worth and lacked confidence and self-esteem.”

When she was in her 30s, Deborah hit a turning point and realised she’d had enough and needed to change. She broke away from her dysfunctional patterns, started making choices to improve her life, and set goals and challenges she hoped would enhance her future.

“After being told I was ‘crazy’, ‘abnormal’ and ‘worthless’, I needed to start trusting and believing in myself and others, so I could live a more fulfilling, rewarding and deserving life.”

Finding people you can trust

Initially Deborah’s support came from a great counsellor, who was nonjudgemental and just accepted her for who she was.

“Having support on my journey was crucial,” she says. “Finding just one person who you can trust can be the beginning of a new, healthy journey. It created safety and provided me with practical help to keep moving forward.”

Knowing she had the support of her family was also fantastic. “Stuart, my partner, and my three children love me and accept my mental unwellness as something that is part of me,” she says.

Other support networks came from various agencies that connected her with “some great courses”. They gave her tools and knowledge to heal, and to understand and direct her emotions in a more productive way when she was unwell.

Becoming self-aware moves you forward

Educating herself was an integral part of Deborah’s journey towards wellness.

"I became aware I was living with certain issues that were affecting and interfering with my ability to move forward productively and positively,” she says. “You can’t change until you acknowledge your issues, and you can’t acknowledge until you are aware.

“Once I realised I was full of anger, which was destructive and damaging to myself and others, I took an anger management course where I learned to heal my emotional wounds and deal with my feelings in a constructive way.”

Deborah joined Youthline and went on a personal development course that allowed her to overcome her lack of confidence and low self-esteem. She’s also recently completed a four-year diploma in counselling, giving her skills to help herself and, more importantly, others who may be experiencing mental unwellness.

After successfully finding her way back to wellness, Deborah is confident of one thing: “Don’t let mental illness rule your life; there is a way through it!”

Read about Like Minds, Like Mine