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25 October 2012

Christine

It’s been more than five years since I was introduced to the The Big Issue by another vendor and I’ve never looked back. I sell near the Canberra GPO on Wednesdays and Fridays from 11.30am to 2.30pm.
It’s great because it gives me a bit of extra money to put towards things I usually wouldn’t be able to afford. I don’t sell extraordinary amounts of magazines, but it’s enough to make it worthwhile.
Even then, it’s not about the money – it’s about seeing people and making them smile, even if I don’t make a sale. I’m not a great conversationalist, but it gives me confidence to have regular customers and feel accepted in the public’s eyes.
I have bipolar affective disorder and it took me a long time to get back on the right track. While a lot of people are frightened of being known as somebody with a disability, I don’t mind telling my story if it helps someone else who might be going through a tough time.
It’s very hard living with bipolar; you get highs and lows. The highs are alright – they can even be great – but the lows can take you to the point where you don’t feel you can cope. It took a long time to get on the right medication and out of the mental-health system. It was hard to be motivated and I didn’t feel confident or enthusiastic about anything because I wasn’t in control.
For someone going through a similar time, I only hope my story can help them understand that they’re not alone and there are a lot of people going through this. It can take a lot of time to get through and it’s important to get a good doctor and surround yourself with good people, family and friends. I have a great doctor and a supportive network in The Big Issue organisation.
I have a son, Shane, and daughter, Nickey, as well as four grandchildren. Although I don’t see them that regularly anymore, it’s enough just to know that they’re getting on with their lives and doing well. I’m really proud of them.
I’d also like to thank Smiths Alternative Bookshop in the city for stocking our copies of The Big Issue, making great coffee and always giving me great service. Most of all, I’d like to thank all the customers who support me and put sunshine into my day.
I enjoy selling The Big Issue because it gets me out of the house – staying at home only makes people dwell too much on things they don’t need to. People with depression need to get out into the light because, once it takes a hold, sometimes it seems like nothing can help.
I still have bad days, but now there are more good days than bad. The most important thing is that I’m in control, and that makes me feel free.

Interview by Dominic Lavers/ Photograph by Dragi Markovic
Christine sells The Big Issue at the corner of West Row and Alinga St, Canberra CBD.