Said's Story

Said shares what it was like growing up with a mum battling schizophrenia and how he was able to overcome his own struggles with substance misuse and suicide.

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Substance Misuse
25 min read
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Said's story

Said grew up with a mum battling schizophrenia and parents who didn’t know how to speak about mental health.

He has done a lot of work healing childhood trauma and openly talks about falling into the wounded caregiver role.

He shares how he held on to hope with his suicidal ideation and struggles with substance misuse.

Now, he teaches others how to manage boundaries and turn their sensitivities into superpowers as a Team Leader for Lifeline Digital.

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Darcy Milne (0:00)
We acknowledge the lives lost to suicide and recognise those who have survived suicide attempts and those who struggle today or in the past with thoughts of suicide, mental health issues and crisis situations. We acknowledge all those who have felt the deep impact of suicide, including those who love, care and support people experiencing suicidality and those experiencing the pain and bereavement through suicide. We respect collaboration with people who have a lived or living experience of suicide and mental health issues and value their contribution to the work we do.

Said (0:32)
I mean, obviously, I'd seen sunrises before, but it's like that one was just for me. You know, it was like the whole universe put it there just for me in that moment.

Darcy Milne (0:43)
Welcome to Holding on to Hope, a series that shares the stories of everyday Australians that have experienced moments in crisis and found a path to support. Whilst all the story shared of hope and inspiration, at times, you may hear something you find triggering. If you or someone you know needs crisis support, please phone Lifeline on 1311 14 Text 0477 1311 14 or visit for Lifeline chat service, which is 24/7.

Ruben Mackellar (1:17)
Hello, and thanks for joining me. I'm Ruben McKellar and I'm a telephone Crisis Supporter at Lifeline. I'm one of the voices you may hear if you call for support. In this episode, I'll be speaking with Said. Said grew up with a mum battling schizophrenia and parents who didn't know how to speak into mental health. He has done a lot of work, healing childhood trauma, and openly talks about falling into the wounded caregiver role. Said held on to hope through his own struggles with substance abuse and suicidal ideation. Now he teaches other empaths how to manage boundaries and turn their sensitivities into superpowers as a team leader for Lifeline Digital. He is here today to share about speaking up on his mother's behalf, and how he held on through his own struggles with suicidal ideation. Hi Said, thank you so much for joining me.

Said (2:10)
Thanks for being and I'm really honoured to be here. I feel like it's a huge responsibility to share my story. So really appreciate it.

Ruben Mackellar (2:18)
The first question I'd like to ask you is basically like to invite you to share whatever you're feeling comfortable in doing so about your upbringing.

Said (2:26)
I'm not really sure where to start I guess. My mum got postnatal depression after I was born. And that eventually led to a psychotic episode. And it really just depends on the lens and the cultural experience. She very much had a psychotic episode. And that developed into schizophrenia. So I grew up in a pretty kind of broken environment, I guess, between my dad, and you know, the woman that he was with, who's basically my stepmom, she sort of raised me. And then I would spend time at my mom's place. And I suppose, like, that's been growing up and going through the things that I've been through personally, and also like watching my mom go through life, like all of the different types of medication that she's been on, and the different types of experiences and also like how I've been able to see the different layers of her experience of life. That's a huge reason why I take this advocacy stuff so seriously. I struggled to find the right words for it but it's almost like she can't advocate for herself very well

Ruben Mackellar (3:32)
Finding out that your mum had schizophrenia, and at the age that you were, are you able to share for us, you know what it was like finding it out. But in those initial stages, what were the feelings that you were going through at that time?

Said (3:46)
When I was in counselling, in middle school, I had to like, that was basically the last time that I told an adult what you know about my life. My dad and my, my family, we moved over to Australia when I was about seven. And it was like, maybe four or five years after that I had gone back to visit and I've been back every year to visit. And this one year in particular was just really, I'm not sure what had changed for her. My whole life she was on enough medication. You know, she was on antipsychotics at the time. So she would basically go from being a zombie to being her. And when I say her, I mean, just someone struggling to deal with waves of emotional, just torture basically. She would hear the voices of her loved ones saying awful things to her. And so often in conversations, she would be half with me and half basically fighting off people in her mind. And that then as I said, that was like normal for me growing up. And I remember how much she resented the medication because it just wiped her out. It just made her into a total zombie. So, despite the voices, and I still have all these fond memories of like, you know, we'd watch horror movies together and stuff. And I remember I told my dad that I never wanted to go back to NZ and I grew up carrying that like guilt and avoidance, I guess. It felt like it was my job to protect her, and to protect, you know, my dad and his partner, the woman who raised me as well. And yeah, I just had this really, really bad relationship with the way that I felt, basically, all the way through my teenage years. And, yeah.

Ruben Mackellar (5:21)
I appreciate you sharing that because having to bring up trauma from the past can be tough to deal with, but it does bring understanding and a unique perspective to what's happened. Can you tell us about a New Year's Eve where you experienced one of your darkest moments?

Said (5:36)
I was about 19, I think. Pretty sure 19 or 20. And I was out with like, just a group of mates a bunch of guys, we live together, we were roommates. And we did a lot of drugs, and basically just been on a pathway of destruction, lots of self-harm, and lots of like, self-medication, I guess. It was New Year's Eve, and we were in Brisbane, they have these big firework kind of celebrations along the river. It gets packed, you know, like, it's like shoulder to shoulder, and my mates were having a blast, all of them, were just loving it and soaking it all up. And I remember how just isolating it felt like surrounded by everyone was celebrating, you know, there was like, strangers were hugging and like, dancing and laughing and stuff. And I was just like, not even a ghost, like, so disconnected. And yeah, so after the fireworks, the group of my mates, they, they just kind of, you know, they sort of sped up and they sort of walked on and I just let them I guess they didn't want to, and then I couldn't bear. It just felt like oil, it felt like oil that I couldn't wash off, that I couldn't rub off my skin, you know, just felt so uncomfortable being around them. Like from where we saw the fireworks, there's this cliff face that kind of goes towards this bridge, you know, that goes to into the sea. And I remember walking past a bunch of police and they'd shut down the bridge. And there were a bunch of cops standing there. And like, I don't know whether it was real. In retrospect, I can't tell whether this was real. But I swear I heard them snickering when they saw me, and they said something to the effect of like ''oh, well, you know, there's the next one will be fishing him out or whatever.'' That's tomorrow's problem. And I don't know whether that was my frame of mind or that that's how it felt like it felt like the whole world could see that I was disgusting, that the whole world saw me the way that I saw me, I was going through my memories. And I was going through the people in my life. And I was trying to think of people who were like, I was trying to prove myself wrong, almost like, and I was looking through these memories, and I couldn't find any and that's not to say that I didn't have them because I know that you know now, after I've done all this healing and stuff, I know that I was really blessed, you know, heaps of love and happiness and laughter in my childhood, along with all the other drama and pain and trauma and everything else. But I tried and I literally couldn't find it. I basically made up my mind when I heard those police for at least what I thought was, you know what I heard I just basically made up my mind. And I just figured, well, this is it. They've got a rail on that bridge. Now, actually, I've got a like a seven foot rail. I remember it happened like, two years later, I found myself sort of standing there and you know, looking at, looking over the bridge and, and I didn't know, I was certain that I was unlovable. And I was certain that there was nothing in life for me that I couldn't connect, and that I would never have that connection again. But somewhere there was just this doubt. Like, maybe there was this tiny voice of doubt, like maybe I was wrong, or maybe. And I remember I was standing there. And I had, I was decided I had this thought that I thought well, as bad as things are, it doesn't get any worse. If I still feel this way, I might as well just do it tomorrow. I eventually found myself on the other side of the river actually looking at the same river and looking at the cliffs from the other side. And there's this beautiful Botanical Gardens in Brisbane. And I had this acceptance that the world is cold, and the universe is cold and it's lonely. And I kind of just sat in that. It was like I'd always felt alone. Ever since I was a kid I'd always felt this awful, dreadful loneliness, but it was almost like I'd stopped fighting it and it didn't like I wasn't struggling to be lonely. I just accepted it and I felt it and then where that park bench sits the sunrise is on the other side. And I was sitting there looking at the sunrise and looking at the light on the water. And I was just struck by the sheer beauty. And, I mean, obviously, I'd seen sunrises before, but it's like that one was just for me. You know, it was like the whole universe put it there just for me in that moment. And yeah, and I remember thinking that, like, this is what it's about them. If life is lonely, and the universe is cold, and cruel and miserable, and we are born alone, and we die alone, then this is what it's for, it's for finding these moments, it's for making the light, it's for finding out how we can make that light and how we can like, that's the thing about being a person, you know, that's what's so special about being a person is that, like, we get to share that, we get to do something about that. And I mean, it wasn't straightaway, you know, it was like a long journey out of that pit with plenty more drug abuse, and terrible decisions and, and lots of stuff. But that was basically the turning point.

Ruben Mackellar (10:53)
What got you to being in that place at that time on New Year's Eve, from your mental health side of things, and what it was like for you after that night or overnight, I should say experience, and your first step in getting help for the issues that you were facing at the time?

Said (11:09)
I didn't even know the emotional walls that I was living with. And I had this one person who was just a friend at the time, and we ended up becoming lovers eventually down the line. But as we were sort of just getting to know each other, she had this way of like, just listening, I think that's the big thing that my parents just didn't know how to do. They didn't know how to just simply listen. They were wracked with so much guilt and pain and hurt that there was this constant pushing of their need for forgiveness or their need for their agenda of some kind. And I can see as an adult, what they were dealing with, and what they had to go through in order to get to that point. And I and I have been able to forgive them and, but as a kid, it's such, and this was the first person in my life who really just truly listened. And there was this one time where we were, we were watching a movie or something. And we were sort of we'd always pause it and have big chats, you know, and like, sort of break down our ideas and all these sorts of things. And we paused it and we were talking and she had this way of just like making it feel fun, no matter how deep or, or serious or like heavy our conversation was getting. She was like Dora the Explorer, you know, she was like backpack, like hardhat like torch like, let's go this is gonna be great. She and that's like how it felt to. Yeah, and I've never had anyone like that. It was always like this big, heavy. You know, I was always worried about how I made people feel. And I was always like, you're right. So there was this one time we were talking and I shared a little bit about my childhood and about my parents breaking up and my dad and the woman who raised like my stepmom, they broke up after we came to Australia. And I was sharing about that. And she was like, oh, yeah, that's not your fault. And I was like, yeah, I know. And so we kept talking. And she's like, No, really, that's like, when your parents or your dad broke up and everything. That's not your fault, but. And I was like, yeah, like I know, of course, I was like, hey, yeah, of course, it wasn't my fault. Just like No for real. Say, shut up. It's that was not your fault. She sat there with that. And just, I'm not even exaggerating. For the first time, since I was maybe 14, I burst into tears. And she just sat there with it and wasn't afraid and didn't need to turn away. She just could see it. And it was like I had never seen anywhere near it my whole life. I had never seen that I was carrying this. And after that I actually started crying. I could like, we would watch a movie and I would just be crying. And I'd be like, this is unbelievable that I had been self harming for years because I couldn't really let go of all of this pain. It was like living with tears, like living on the verge of tears all the time. So yeah, now all of a sudden, I was just crying. That was the biggest thing for me. It was like somebody showing me that there were people out there who could genuinely listen, and I didn't have to be so controlled.

Darcy Milne (14:11)
We hope you're enjoying this episode. If you're not ready to speak to someone, but we'd like more information, curated resources and personal stories to support your journey, please visit Now back to the episode.

Ruben Mackellar (14:27)
And how special is that? You know, considering what we both do for Lifeline how important it is to literally just listen, I know we tried to connect but just being able to listen to someone and to be there and to almost hold their emotions at that time. It's really quite special and for your case, getting to experience that for what it felt like the first time for a number of years. It goes to show how much emotion it can have and that feeling inside of you. I've certainly experienced that in certain situations where things have become overwhelming and when I've reached out to people I often feel like, it's just easier to throw a solution at you than just actually being there. And sitting with you and being there for you, and really just listening. And that experience for you, I'm sure is probably aided you being able to do that in return for people and with your work with Lifeline, do you feel that that was your sort of first step in terms of being able to seek help?

Said (15:19)
It was, it was after that I started learning about counselling and psychology skills. I got really, really curious about like, trying to figure it out, trying to figure out like, what was the magic, like, what was the magic sauce there. The thing that kind of blew me away at the time was that I didn't know that I had been living in this. Well, I had no idea that I had been living there. And then one day to climb out of it. And of course, as I said before, like, you know, there was a lot of tripping and stumbling and falling back down into there. For a long time it was it's easy to tell the story and show the scars. But the experience was very different, life felt different. After actually being able to open up it was like, You know what, I've got this friend one time, he described to me what it was like to put on glasses for the first time. And it brought tears to my eyes listening to him tell the story about how he was a teenager. And he didn't even know that he had a problem with his eyesight until he put on his friend's glasses one day, and he realised that he was nearsighted. And all of a sudden, he could see that the trees had leaves and that every single leaf had its own sunlight and detail. And that's pretty much how it felt like emotionally, it was like I was able to actually feel, it was like I got access to this whole different layer or, or like flavour of life.

Ruben Mackellar (16:42)
When you put those examples in, when you try and take them in, you do realise because I know myself, I've put on different people's glasses, especially when they prescription and do have that experience. But again, it does make it crystal clear mind upon if there is any optometry pan in there anyway? Or what steps did you take to understand yourself and your mother's condition better? Can you tell us about that?

Said (17:02)
I started reading a lot, I spent a lot of time on forums. That's where I found a lot of support groups and things like that. And even just conversations that people were having where it did a lot for me to see that a lot of what I was going through was really normal. Because I remember in high school, everyone around me was very consistent. And I was not. And that was really difficult to see how, like people were the same day in day out, it was just the same person. That was really difficult. And as I started learning bit by bit, a little bit more about mental health and a little bit more about support and a little bit more about schizophrenia and what it means. And I went to study psychology, I ended up dropping out. But it was when I was studying psychology that someone mentioned, eventually you might want to go to Lifeline as a part of the placement or get some life experience kind of thing, applying these skills for real instead of just kind of theorising and I was like, yeah, that's that's a great idea. And I remembered, like, it occurred to me that when I was really young, I'd heard about Lifeline. And somehow, it had never crossed my mind again, I was about 14 and I was like oh wow, I love talking to people who are you know, really struggling? That sounds great. And then skip forward. I was like 24, or 25 or something before I came across it again. And I was like, Oh my gosh, it's a thing that exists. And then so yeah, after I dropped out of psychology, I figured Oh, well, I may as well still go and volunteer. Because it sounds like what kind of person I am to say that it sounds like fun. But there it is. It sounds like fun to go and support people and learn how to support people.

Ruben Mackellar (18:38)
What sort of supports do you draw on that help you when you're having a difficult time, you know, your non-negotiables your self-care coping strategies or methods? You know, what do they look like? And what are they for you?

Said (18:49)
Yeah, that's good question. And I think the hard part about answering it is that like, it's different now than it was when I needed it the most, right. So now I have all of this stuff in place. You know, I sleep well, exercise, I eat pretty clean, all of this stuff. But if you had told like 21-year-old say that that's what his life would be in like nine or 10 years, he just wouldn't have believed you. Just like no chance didn't have the stuff. I I didn't have the right things in place in order to ever even consider having the kind of stuff that I have now. So what really helped me back then through the pitch black times was I played a lot of Minecraft, honestly. And it was just an escape. And it really helps to just be able to play and not worry about anything else and just play. And at the same time I had this habit of every day I watched one TED talk, and no matter how dark it got, and no matter how miserable I was, or yeah, no matter how bad things got, I always made sure that I watched a TED talk every day and that was how I discovered Brene Brown's TED talk on vulnerability and on shame. And yeah, those two talks like I must have watched them so many times. It was like a year after I had even been watching them that I'd actually dawned on me why I was watching them like that I had this problem with being vulnerable. I had this problem with opening up. Back in the pitch black times. I mean, there were times when I also had substance problems and things like that. So self-medicating and the TED Talks and video game.

Ruben Mackellar (20:20)
There you go. Minecraft. That hasn't been, yeah, that hasn't been surface for a while, it still comes up on my Facebook reels every now and then for people making crazy and weird things on there. To skip to the now and just to you know, quickly list those non-negotiables. You mentioned clean eating, other obvious non-negotiables that you do you know, what are the some of the things that you do now, that help you through?

Said (20:50)
The main one is that I write, that's my absolute non-negotiable. I write if not daily, as close to daily as I can. So I have an hour. And I had to learn this the hard way. Basically my current partner, we have done a lot of healing together. Marissa, my partner now and there was this one very stern conversation that we had one day where she sat me down and she was like, Babe, on days that you don't write I don't want to be anywhere near you. Okay. From now on, that's just at the start of your day, no excuses. And I was like, Alright, sure, that sounds good. I've kept a lot of journals. And I find that writing is a way of really slowing down my thoughts. And for someone who overthinks and someone who just sadly has super empathic, I take on everything around me. And I often get overwhelmed. And it's difficult to process in the moment. So by slowing down with a pen and paper, it was really uncomfortable to start writing when I first started, but I'm glad about it, because now I'm obsessed, you know, right all the time. And it helps helps a lot.

Ruben Mackellar (21:51)
If you could tell your 16-year-old self anything, what would it be?

Said (22:00)
I would just try to listen to him. I don't even know what I would be able to say. But the only thing that I would try to say is that I want to listen and that whatever he wants to say or even if he doesn't want to say anything, and I would just be there, I would try to just be comfortable. I did have one friend actually who really helped me get through things during middle school when I first started self harming and was pretty angsty, basically, for lack of a better way of putting it. And he had this way of just not really being bothered, you know, he was just not bothered. He was like, it was okay, it was okay for me to be upset. And it was okay for me to be beating myself up and, and it was totally okay for me to just be in the space that I was in. He wasn't uncomfortable with it. He wasn't like crack jokes and change my state or anything. He was just happy to be with me and just be present with me. And it's a superpower. I look for it. Now I look for it in people. It's a total superpower. And it's one that and now I even help people develop it. You know, it's a superpower that can be learned. That's the craziest thing is that like, it's totally a skill that we can learn just like driving or like, whatever. So yeah, if I could just try to sit with them and listen to them, see what I could do to crack them open basically, and get them to share something.

Ruben Mackellar (23:07)
What's next for you at the moment with where you are?

Said (23:09)
I have a lot that I want to do. And I guess I'm really just focused on staying centred through the ends, the ups and downs of life. And at the moment I write, and I'm trying to do this whole thing telling my story, like even this conversation really was preparing for this conversation was a real eye opener for me thinking about how do I make my story into this thing that's appropriate and helpful. And hopefully, you know, like, can offer something that someone could use. And that's pretty much what's next for me, I want to learn how to step into this whole advocacy space and really speak for my mom and speak for people like my mum who struggled to speak for themselves. And also for me, that's how it was for me when I was younger was that I defaulted. I always defaulted to reassuring everyone around me and being strong. And now that I can see that now that I've got sort of that clear vision of what that looks like I can see how there's a lot of stuff that if more people knew that it was just the skill set, I think the world would be a very different place.

Ruben Mackellar (24:20)
Awesome Said and I hope for the both of us that we get to finally meet face to face. But be that you know, we stay on the service for as long as we can and continue to give back. It's awesome what we do and self gratifying ourselves here as we're speaking but, you know, I hope that for both of us, we continue our service and do what we can thank you so much for sharing your story with us side and I really appreciate it and hopefully our watchers and listeners do too.

Said (24:43)
Thanks, Ruben. Thanks so much for having me here.

Darcy Milne (24:48)
Thanks for listening to Holding on to hope the podcast. Lifeline is grateful to all holding on to hope participants for choosing to share their personal lived experiences openly and courageously. In order to offer hope and inspiration to others, your act of kindness makes for a better world. And remember, if you or someone you know needs crisis support, please phone Lifeline on 1311 14 Text 0477 13 11 14 or visit Help for Lifeline chat service which is 24/7.

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