September 10, 2019

Kirsty's Story

A lesbian woman's experience of mental health and substance use treatment, recovery and staying well

ACON is partnering with NDARC and the University of Sydney on a study that will build our understanding about the experiences of LGBTQ people around receiving treatment or support for alcohol, drugs and mental health.

If you have accessed treatment for alcohol or drugs and mental health, we would like to speak with you about our study. Participation is entirely confidential and anonymous and everyone who participates will be reimbursed for their time.

We spoke with Kristy about her story and her experience of accessing support for mental health and substance use. 



Kirsty’s Story

I grew up just west of Sydney on a farm, I was quite isolated out there and I didn’t have many friends.  I am a lesbian woman and growing up I experienced a lot of bullying and harassment associated with my sexuality.


In high school I was bullied for being gay, several people that I was close with were gay too and they experienced a lot of bullying as well.  I experienced significant distress in relation to my mental health as a result of the trauma that I endured growing up.  Around that time, I was socialising with people who were using drugs and so taking drugs (initially pot and later speed and ice) was the way that I learnt to cope with my pain.


My son was born when I was in my 20s and I have always been a good mum. After my son was born, I was living in Sydney, I was going to work and being a mum, but I continued to use drugs.


About ten years ago I made the decision to reach out for help. This was a very difficult decision for me, but I knew I had to do it for the sake of my son.


First, I told my parents about the difficulties I was experiencing with ice and shortly after I made the decision to move away from Sydney and change my social circles.  Although I had moved away from Sydney, I continued to use drugs and I didn’t get any professional help.  It wasn’t until I met my current partner that I got professional help for my mental health and drug use.


My partner has been an incredible support to me, she helped me get a diagnosis of bi-polar and has supported me to speak to a GP who helped me to access a subacute mental health unit. Waiting for two weeks to be treated in a subacute unit was one of the most difficult times in my life, I wasn’t sure if I would pull through. I was scared to go to the subacute but I’m glad that I did.


Throughout my recovery I have relied on the support of peer workers. There was one worker who was amazing. She’d had a similar life experience to me, she had a young family and had in the past used drugs to cope with mental health distress. Speaking with her about my life and having her be able to relate so well with my experiences helped me feel less isolated. Having her to simply say ‘yes I understand, I know where you are coming from’ made me feel heard and it gave me a lot of hope.


I am doing well now. I have lots of support from both my family and friends but also from health providers. Small things like having a coffee at my favourite coffee shop and taking my dogs to the dog beach help me to stay well.


I’m now working as mental health peer worker.  I love my job, I love being able to share my experiences to help others who are in a similar position to I am especially interested in supporting fellow LGBTIQ people; when I was accessing treatment for my mental health, there weren’t any peer workers from my community available to me. The peer worker who I worked with was fantastic, but I think that I would have benefited from working with someone who could also identify with what it’s like to experience homophobia and harassment.


I know how hard it can be to reach out for help and support associated with mental health and drugs but if you are going through a difficult time, please ask for help. I was scared about reaching out, I was scared staying at the subacute unit but really getting support was the best thing for me.


Please see our services directory for more information about LGBTIQ inclusive AOD services.

If you live in Sydney and are interested in participating in research that will help us to know more about the experiences of people who are sexuality and gender diverse (LBGTQ) we would like to speak with you about our study. 

Please contact us to find out if you are eligible to participate by emailing or text or call 0420571197.