Under the Influence - Reclaiming my childhood

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Under the Influence is the story of my childhood. It provides an insight in to the reality of being the son of an addict, paranoid schizophrenic, chronic hoarder and drug dealer. 

Throughout my whole life, my dad dealt. Like himself, his clientele were poor and mentally unstable. These people were desperate, malnourished and volatile. From a child’s perspective, they seemed to have only one goal - acquiring their next high. Growing up in this environment had a profound impact on my life and world view. I have seen some of the best and worst that humanity has to offer. 

In telling the story of my father, I am really telling my story. Not just what happened, but the impact of those events, my changing state of mind, as well as my lived experience with mental illness.

Recovery has been a long and continuous journey. There have been many ups and downs, close calls and near misses. Of everything that I have tried, artistic expression has been the most therapeutic. Drawings and painting quickly evolved into prose and poetry as I discovered that words were, for me at least, the best form of expression. This has since turned into a book.

I began writing about my childhood, my father and how I am affected by those events even to this day. Sometimes I would write from memory, often however I was just a channel. It felt like my inner child was talking to me, expressing itself for the first time.

My style is messy and personal, jumping from emotional first person accounts to detached observation and back again. What I am presenting here is the result of years of therapy, healing and growth. I hope that readers will get something positive out of my work. I want to encourage discussion of mental illness, trauma and its effects.

If you are reading this, and can relate to my story I want to tell you the following:

“There is a light at the end of the tunnel and despite the confusion, fear, anger and sadness that you are feeling, it will get better. Remember you are not at fault. Please reach out and seek assistance. I know that the world can seem like a hostile and cold place, but trust me, there are people who will care, you are not alone."

Increasing mental health awareness is a primary goal of mine. As education and understanding within society increases, outcomes for people with mental health issues will improve. I hope that my work will help to encourage the development of healthy dialogues between friends and family, as well as within schools and the work place. Reducing the stigma of mental illness will enable people to seek help when they need it.

Releasing my story is a way that I can connect with people. To let them know that they are not alone, that there is help available and that people care. Often when one person starts talking, others are encouraged to do the same. 

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Do you or someone you know need support?
Beyond Blue: Support action and advice for depression and anxiety - 1300 22 4636
Kids Help Line: Support for young people for a variety of issues and concerns - 1800 55 1800
Crisis Chat: Online, text based crisis support - link 

Zachary Phillips

Writer, podcaster, teacher, mental health advocate, motivational speaker and martial artist.
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uthor of "Under the Influence - Reclaiming my Childhood"  Read now
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