Jeffs was born in Ballarat and grew up there in the 1950s and 1960s.
She graduated from La Trobe University in the 1970s and came to terms
with her sexuality as part of an alternative family. She has lived with
schizophrenia for 39 years.
has published five volumes of poetry and a memoir. Much of her writing
has been about exploring her madness and its challenges but she has
also set her sights on the mad world, the even madder world of midweek
ladiesí tennis and her family.
has been a very public advocate for those living with schizophrenia for
many years presenting a human face for this often misunderstood
condition. She lives with her friends and animals in a place where it
is Christmas every day.
collection The Mad Poetís Tea Party is to be released in 2015 by
In 1976, I was
diagnosed with schizophrenia, the most
enigmatic and controversial mental illness.
It was tantamount to a death-sentence. There was no presumption of
concept of recovery. It was seen that, with every psychotic episode, I
further into unreachable madness from which I would never recover.
I was 23 and my trajectory was one of a downward spiral: from
dole, to sickness benefits and the final descent to an invalid pension.
on the scrapheap of society, a society that was accustomed to hiding
the mad in
loonybins, places for the unwanted cast-offs, the embarrassments to a
that cared only for those who achieved.
It was an ignominious fall from grace as I descended into turbid
then, there have been many meetings with my madness, it's pall hung
over me in
a shroud of discontent and delusional fantasy I was unable to share
I am a relic from the old days, the days of long incarcerations in
that resembled little villages where one was contained in a
which revolved around being mad, being medicated and having most of
The saying in those days was: never let yourself be put in a loonybin,
never get out. And it was true. One would be in hospital for months, if
I have lived feeling that hope had abandoned me. Where does one find
the mire of deep distress?
For some, it is seeing the way others deal with their hopelessness. For
it is the simple act of kindness from a nurse in a hospital setting,
kindness of a stranger, the kindness of family and friends.
Relapse and hospitalisations can cause hope to haemorrhage. Just
getting out of
bed is an act of hope. How do we hold hope when it so easily falls
I donít hold hope, I fumble it.
Sometimes, I am able to grasp its powerful force and soften my despair,
ebbs and flows. Holding hope in our hearts helps us to face the world.
hope, we turn away from the world. Perhaps we are here to witness each
affirmation of hope and, in doing so, reflect on our own strategy to
Words can barely convey an experience so remote and profoundly personal
"madness". Yet, words are powerful tools, and in my writing I seek to
do the impossible; to illuminate for everyone what it means to have
to describe those strange and bizarre times when a cruel monster
itself into my psyche and I become the morbid dreamer.
I only have words and they have taken me on journeys beyond anything I
known and to places I never knew existed. In my poetry, I aim to move
tears and make a stern God laugh.
I bear witness to my mad comrades and write poems that celebrate our
Sandy Jeffs has
schizophrenia and all its moods for over thirty years. She is a SANE
and community educator who speaks to schools, universities and
about what itís like to live with a mental illness. She has been
widely and is a prize-winning poet.