YOUNG, successful and attractive, Samantha Brunskill appears to lead a storybook life.
But beneath her bubbly exterior lies a mind at war with itself.
Ms Brunskill is living with bi-polar, a condition that sees her mood oscillate between euphoric highs and paralysing lows.
The Wagga 22-year-old has spoken out about her battle with the mental illness in a bid to raise awareness and help break the stigma surrounding it.
Five years ago while at boarding school in Sydney, Ms Brunskill was diagnosed with bi-polar after a period of intense stress.
In the ensuing years, she has been forced to confront both the life-altering condition and the prejudice that accompanies it.
“When I was first diagnosed, I googled ‘people with bi-polar’ and no public figures were openly speaking about it,” Ms Brunskill said.
“There’s definitely fear of the unknown for people.
“Some people get tears in their eyes when I tell them about it, as if I’ve got some sort of curse.”
She admitted even some close to her advised her not to speak about her illness publically.
Undaunted, she has vowed to be the national face of bi-polar awareness, recently named as ambassador for the Ian Parker Bipolar Fund, an organisation aimed at raising funds – and awareness – for the condition.
Ms Brunskill, the general manager of Wagga’s Brunslea Park, has already helped raise $20,000 for the fund, with $1000 from each block sold at Brunslea donated.
She said the condition could manifest itself in a number of ways.
“Some days, I just want to jump out of bed and embrace the world,” she said. “I have lots of energy, lots of ideas. I’m prone to taking a lot of risks and can be very manic.”
But the higher the highs, the more inevitable the crash.
“I can go for weeks on end where I don’t want to speak to people, I want to isolate myself,” she said. “It’s sometimes hard to get out of bed; I have no motivation to do anything. You disconnect from yourself and the world. It’s like your mind turns on itself. It’s extremely difficult because I have this bubbly persona and people expect me to always be that way.”
Ms Brunskill said she had learned to manage the condition through exercise, therapy and medication, offering a message of support for others with bi-polar.
“Although the highs and lows are very frightening and sometimes destructive, society needs to understand that sometimes people are fighting a battle underneath their persona,” she said. “People with bi-polar can embrace the better parts of having this illness and overcome them. It’s exhausting to have to be so aware of your mood and adjust to it, but you can manage it.”
- If you need help you can call beyondblue 1300 224 636, Lifeline 13 11 14, Kids Help Line: 1800 551 800 or Sunflower House 6931 8770.