Anne Ho uses her fingers to gently massage around her eyes, forehead and the rest of her face before putting a gentle pressure on the top of her head.
This technique is just one of the things she’s discovered can help her sleep when she feeling stressed and uptight.
“Another trick I learned from being in and out of mental health wards is shading. I just take a piece of paper and a pencil or any pen and start drawing small circles or any shapes then shade those shapes, if I do it slowly and gradually I start yawning.”
Anne, who was born and raised in Hong Kong, was in her early twenties when she experienced her first breakdown.
“A whole lot of stress had accumulated and It was the start of a cycle that has repeated ever since. I was first diagnosed with schizophrenia, and later bipolar. For years I would go through periods of extreme highs and then paranoia when I felt like people were after my family.”
After her fourth relapse Anne moved to New Zealand. She enrolled in some free courses in creative writing, art and drama.
“It gave me my confidence and self-esteem back and led to me starting a Bachelor of Arts at Auckland University. It took me nine years to complete, but at 57 years of age, I did it. Graduating with a degree was a dream come true.”
Since then Anne says she hasn’t stopped learning, or self-actualising, particularly when it comes to her mental wellbeing.
“I have to put in a lot of effort to keep myself well and over the years I have discovered the things that can make a big difference to how I feel and cope through difficult times.
“Writing Chinese calligraphy is one, taking notice of the shape and movement of the clouds, getting plenty of fresh air and walking in nature, playing ping pong, painting, dancing, writing poetry – the list goes on.”
Now she wants to share her strategies and techniques to help others.
“I have a real heart for helping people and I feel like I can connect well with those who are going through similar experiences.”
Anne has published a book called ‘Tree’ which she hopes will give others the determination, drive and will to take better control of their mental wellbeing.
“It begins with three brave women who journey from China to New Zealand in 1939. Based on a true story, it traces the women's history and follows it through to their descendants. It explores despair and mental illness as well as joy and renewal.”
Anne says life has gone from feeling impossible to enjoyable, but there’s still significant challenges to overcome.
“There’s a lot of stigma around mental illness. I’ve had mental health nurses tell me I can’t recover and my own family don’t want anyone to know because it will bring shame.
We come to this earth to live each of our lives as equals. There is no need to discriminate, no need to stigmatise, no need to look down on others who are different, we are all humans each living our own unique life.
I’ve learnt to turn these adversities into my strength. I do not expect immediate results. At each setback, I learn. I’ll never stop learning – that’s what life is about. ”