So I went for a walk…

It has been a while since my last post, and so much has happened.

The job hunt continues, organisation and management of my awesome umpire group ramps up as the season approaches and everyday life continues.

One thing that has occurred in that time is March With Me 2017. This 116km trek is the single greatest challenge I have ever completed. Nothing comes close. Nothing.

The greatest physical challenge.

The greatest mental challenge.

The greatest emotional challenge.

What drives someone to willingly put ever fibre of their being through such a gruelling examination of strength and fortitude?

Seriously. Why, just why?

Mine is one of 320 stories that each finds in itself the motivation and desire to overcome adversity and rise above.

Each of these heart wrenching and heart-warming March With Me narratives is ultimately inspiring and uplifting.

Some, like me, walked with fierce determination for deeply personal reasons, to confront their own demons and take a step forward in their own endeavours to escape the clutches of the black dog.

Others strode forward to honour the memory of someone dear who could no longer live in their own world.

More still, for that special someone in their life who is struggling with mental health issues. They chose to show their support in quite a different way than how they express their love and support day in, day out.

Never underestimate the courage, bravery and resilience that any of my comrades on this march displayed, not only on that unforgettable weekend, but also in everyday life.

The examples of this were evident everywhere you turned…

The bloke with the busted knee and a heart bigger than bloody Phar Lap… the kids who conquered Kokoda and backed up on this hike… the bloke who inspired his uncle to walk, spent a night in hospital before a step had been taken, and then joined the walk… the lady who was determined to climb just one of the Mt Martha monsters, just one. She climbed all four hills… the father and daughter who walked the whole way together… our two absolutely incredible Love Me Love You youth ambassadors that had no right to be on their feet but would not get on the bus come hell or high water… the married couple from the bush that were side by side the entire journey and always had smiles on their faces… the eight or so teens that showed remarkable strength and resilience way beyond their years… the bloke who founded Love Me Love You walking with a busted knee… the very many selfless stars who looked outside their own trials and tribulations to instil belief in others through the fine art of conversational distraction… the multiple incarnations of Lazarus, those who were physically spent, through pain or exhaustion, yet found a way through perhaps previously untapped mental strength, rose and rose again to walk with heads held high onto North Port Oval, a suburban football ground that now holds so much more meaning to many, many people.

I could go on, and I assure you for every little anecdote you just read, there are hundreds more.

Those on the walk will know instantly who all of these people are and what they went through. Each of us continues to be inspired by each other almost two weeks later. That is pretty special. Very special.

Special too is the Love Me Love You mantra each of us wore proudly on our backs and demonstrated so clearly along the route.

No one travels their journey alone.lmly
Emotionally, there were times on the walk when I was alone. And that is OK. In fact it is good to have some alone time and reflect.

There were times I shed a tear or three; when a song I took a verse from for dad’s eulogy played its way from my iPod and into my mind, thinking of what I had endured and overcome, realising with pride the sheer enormity of what we were doing, thinking of my family and when I saw my wife and daughter at the finish. The tears came yet it was from them that I gained strength and will to out one foot in front of the other.

There was no shame in showing emotion and it was at these times that a once stranger’s hand would rest on my shoulder or an arm embraced me.

Small gestures. Monstrous impact.

I may not have stopped crying at another’s soothing youch, but that is not what the hand or embrace was designed to do. This simply and subtly told me that I was not alone.

So, my story. For the first time with a bit of brutal honesty.

I am sure you are by now well aware that I have suffered through bouts of depression and severe anxiety. I have come to the realisation that I have experienced this for longer than even I think I previously understood. And I am OK with that.

Throughout that time I have put up a façade, as have many others trying to cope with mental illness.

A façade.

OK. So, who am I?

Who am I really?

I am the gregarious, upbeat and extroverted person that is a contorted explosion of contradictory emotion beneath the layers of bullshit. Have been for sometime.

I am ego-driven and talk about myself more than I should. I seek validation from others and enjoy a little embellishment from time to time, not to impress anyone else, but to try and convince myself of my own worth. Yet the contradictory aspect of continued  self-degradation eroding that worth not-so-happily co-exist.

That is the person I have been an apologist for. No more.

This incredible journey from the playground of the rich and famous at Portsea to the no-holds-barred working class heartland of Port Melbourne has taught me many things, but it has taught me one precious lesson that I must never forget.

I do not live behind a façade.

I am who I am.

I am who I am and I should be proud of the person that I am. If nothing else, I can honestly say that Love Me Love You through March With Me 2017 has allowed me the clarity of mind to finally be proud of who I am.

I like me.

I took my first tentative steps from Portsea with a solitary friend.

I arrived at Port Melbourne part of a 320+ strong family.

I really like me.

In fact, I love me.

Love Me Love You.

March With Me is the signature event of the Love Me Love You foundation, a non-profit organisation that strives to empower and build resilience in young adults so that they may overcome the stigma surrounding mental health and other life hardships. (Just in case you might like to add to the record $25oK raised, here is my fundraising link)

I may not necessarily be in the target market, but thank you to Lance and his team at Love Me Love You, as well as everyone who shared the journey with me. Thank you all for helping me find a way clear of the clutches of despair and low self worth.

It is not over, but more than ever and for the first time in a long, long time, I feel like I am winning. I can’t tell you how good it feels to not just say that, but to believe it.

The black dog is at my heel and the skies are definitely blue.

All because I went for a walk.

We went for a walk.

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Suicide – speak up before giving up

Following is a story. It may well be fiction, yet many of us know only too well that it is borne out of an uncomfortable truth.

It is a truth we do not want to become familiar with and a truth we need to eliminate.

If there is one reason to justify my participation in March With Me 2017 it is this. If my taking part can inspire directly, or through the work of Love Me Love You, to stop even one young person from taking their own life and leaving a trail of devastation behind then it will have all been worth it.

No one person should travel their journey alone.

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Imagine this.

You come home from school one day.

You’ve had yet another horrible day. You’re just ready to give up. Finally, once and for all, give up.

So you go to your room, close the door, and take out that suicide note you’ve written and rewritten. Over, and over, and over.

You take out those razor blades, hidden from sight. You cut yourself. For the very last time.

You grab that secreted bottle of pills. You take them. You take them all. For the very last time.

Laying down, holding the letter to your chest, to your heart, you close your eyes. For the very last time.

A few hours later, your little brother knocks on your door to tell you dinner is ready.

You don’t answer, so he walks in.

All he sees is you laying on your bed. He thinks you’re asleep.

He quietly creeps back to the kitchen, not wanting to wake his best friend. He tells your mum you are sleeping.

Your mum goes to your room to wake you for the usual family dinner.

She notices something is odd. Something is not right.

She takes the paper from your hand. She reads it. Disbelieving, she reads it again.

Sobbing, she tries to wake you up. She’s screaming your name.

Your confused brother runs to tell Dad that “Mummy is crying and sissy won’t wake up.”

Your dad runs to your room.

He looks at your mother; crying, holding the letter to her chest. Sitting forlornly next to your lifeless body.

It hits him, what has happened, hits him like a dagger through the heart.

He screams. He screams and throws something at the wall.

And then, falling to his knees, he starts to cry.

Your mum crawls over to him

They sit there, holding each other. Crying.

Life will never be the same. Never.

 

The next day at school, there’s an announcement.

The principal tells everyone that you had died overnight. He tells the whole school about your suicide.

It takes a few seconds for it to sink in.

Once it does, their world and everyone goes silent. Everyone.

Everyone blames themselves. Everyone.

Your teachers think they were too hard on you.

Those mean, popular girls, they think of all the horrible and hurtful things they’ve said to you.

That boy that used to tease you and call you names? He can’t help but hate himself for never telling you how truly beautiful you really are.

Your ex-boyfriend, the one that you told everything to, the one that broke up with you? He can’t handle it. He breaks down, starts crying and runs out of the school.

Your friends? They’re sobbing too. They are wondering how they could never see that anything was wrong and wishing they could have helped you before it was too late.

Your best friend? She’s in shock. She can’t believe it. She knew what you were going through, but she never thought it was this bad, that it would come to this.

Bad enough for you to end it. To take your own life. To take your life away from her, from your family, from all of your friends.

She can’t cry. She can’t feel anything. She stands up, walks out of the classroom, leans against a wall for support and  sinks to the floor. She begins shaking violently and screaming hauntingly. Yet she could shed no tears.

 

It’s a few days later, at your funeral.

The whole town came. Everyone.

Everyone knew you. That beautiful girl with the bright smile and bubbly personality. The one that was always there for them, the shoulder to cry on. The strong one.

Lots of people talk about all the good memories they had with you, and there were a lot, a hell of a lot.

Everyone is crying. Everyone.

Your little brother still doesn’t know you killed yourself, he’s too young. Your parents just said you died.

It hurts him. It hurts him a lot. You were his big sister, his hero and his idol. You were supposed to always be there for him.

Your best friend, she stays strong through the entire service, but as soon as they start lowering your casket into the ground, she just loses it completely. She cries despairingly and she cries desperately. She does not, cannot, stop crying for days.

 

It is now two years later.

Your teachers have all quit their jobs.

Those mean girls have eating disorders now.

That boy that used to tease you cuts himself.

Your ex-boyfriend doesn’t know how to love anymore and just sleeps around with girls.

Your friends all go into depression.

Your best friend? She tried to kill herself. She didn’t succeed like you did. But she tried.

Your brother? He finally found out the truth about your death. He self-harms, he cries at night, he does exactly what you did for years leading up to your suicide.

Your parents? Their marriage fell apart. Your dad became a workaholic to distract himself from your death. Your mother was diagnosed with depression. She just lays in bed all day, as if paralysed.

People care. People really care. You may not think so, but they do.

Your choices don’t just effect you. They affect everyone. Everyone.

Don’t end your life, you have so much to live for. Things just can’t get better if you give up. They can get better if you speak up.

 

Please if you feel like this, as if there is no way out, before you do anything else, speak up and start the conversation. With anyone. Me, a special friend, family, a teacher, a coach, a doctor… ANYONE.

There are far too many young people killing themselves today. Young people with so much to offer, and with too much to leave behind.

Help can come from an unlikely source. Anyone can help you, don’t be afraid to tell someone. Anyone. It might just save your life or another’s.

#MarchWithMe2017 #lovemeloveyou #youth #mentalhealth #wellbeing #suicideawareness #suicicdeprevention #younglivesmatter

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Depression: The Confronting Moment of Realisation

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Lonely, scared and alone

A beautiful Wednesday morning.

You are in a foreign country.

With friends, but alone.

You have seen the most breathtaking monument to love ever built.

People everywhere, but you are alone.

You join the hustle and bustle of the hordes heading to work.

A horde of the masses, yet still you are alone.

From nowhere, with no warning, you begin to cry.

First a trickle, like a slow leaking tap.

Then, as you wonder why, the dam wall bursts and a torrent of burning tears is streaming down your contorted face.

The storm continues unabated for some time and you are none the wiser.

Still alone. But now you are scared too.

Months later, you realise that is the moment the black dog had really sunk his teeth into you. He had probably been there a while, lurking in the recesses of a challenged mind, waiting to reveal himself and make his mark.

For some time I was swimming happily in the mighty Egyptian river, you know the one… denial.

I was fine, what could be wrong with me?

I didn’t need to tell anyone how I felt…

Alone and lonely.

Anxious and worried.

Vague and forgetful.

Slow and weak.

Scared and afraid.

A fraud and a fake.

Useless and worthless.

How could I talk to anyone else about these feelings?

… when I could not even be honest with myself.

Those feelings repeated. Every day.

I had to do something. I had to talk.

So I talked to the only one that mattered, the only ‘person’ I needed to… that little voice in my head. The one that kept telling me that I was alright, that there was nothing wrong with me.

The incessant and annoying little voice that boomed louder than Pavarotti. Telling me to stay stum because ‘they’ would think I was a nutcase, that I had lost my marbles.

Newsflash… I was troubled in the mind  and the marbles were long gone. I had depression you stupid, ignorant voice.

It would be 4 more years, 4 more long, dark and lonely years, before I found the courage to tell my family that I was suffering from depression and anxiety.

It was my cathartic moment, one in which I am sure I exorcised some of the demons that had plagued my mind for years.

The realisation that it was OK to talk, to share my fears, my failing and my feelings, brought forth more tears.

Quiet unseen tears of relief.

I was going to be OK.

I am going to be OK.

I might even be OK here and now.

#RUOK?   #stampoutstigma   #itsoktotalk   #mentalhealth   #conversations   #suicideawareness #health   #wellbeing   #MarchWithMe2017

If you are struggling, please talk to someone. Anyone. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 155 1800, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or check out beyondblue.org.au for more resources. In emergencies, please call 000

 

It’s Time… STAMP OUT STIGMA

Cancer is an insidious disease.

It took my mother when I was a young child. I didn’t get to know my mother.

It took my father when I was a grown man. That broke my heart.

In its many and varied forms, it has taken too many and many too soon.

It eats away until there is nothing but a shell.

It strips away the dignity of even the most dignified.

It tears at the hearts of families, it robs young, innocent children of their youth, and often their life. It breaks people’s hearts.

We openly talk about cancer and have constructive dialogue about what Jack Dancer is doing to our children with leukaemia, our fathers and brothers with prostate cancer and our mothers and sisters with breast cancer or…

Cancer is not something to be ashamed about, it is not something to fight on your own.

We rightly spend billions of dollars on cancer research and the search for a cure and to reduce the pain and suffering so many face day to day.

The death rate of cancer in Australia has fallen by more than 16% in the 30 years to 2013. We should rejoice in this and continue the fight.

Mental Health issues are debilitating and devastating.

It has taken mothers from young children.

It has taken fathers from grown men.

It, too, has taken too many and many too soon.

It nearly took their father from my children.

It eats away until there is nothing but a shell.

It strips away the dignity of even the most dignified.

It tears at the hearts of families, it robs young, innocent children of their youth, and often, too often, of their life. It breaks people’s hearts.

We have kept mental health issues hidden, we have shunned those experiencing them.

We have stayed silent for so long about what mental health issues are doing to our children with eating disorders, our fathers and brothers with anxiety and depression or our mothers and sisters with bipolar disorder or PTSD or…

Mental health issues are not conditions to be ashamed of, they are not something to fight on your own.

We rightly spend billions of dollars on mental health in the search for causes, treatments and cures.

The suicide rate in Australia has risen year on year (bar one) since 2010. We should be doing more and increasing our fight.

This is not good enough.

We need to do more.

We need to Stamp Out Stigma.

This is not me putting cancer and mental health as combatants, rather I am highlighting the similarities the impacts have on us and the starkly differing perceptions we hold about cancer and mental health.

There are differences too, stark differences…

How many people are shunned because they have cancer?

Now think about those with a mental health condition.

How many people tell no-one they have cancer?

Now think about the silent sufferers of mental health issues.

One last fact… did you know that more people die from suicide in Australia each year than in road traffic accidents?

Where are the TAC style adds showing the trauma left behind by those who could no longer cope with the torment and suffering they grappled with? Where would the funding come from? What would we show? How could people watch and not turn away?

It’s time!

It is high time we stamp out the stigma associated with mental health and begin to understand it in all its forms.

Not sure one little blog post is going to make a world of difference?

It won’t.

Not on its own.

BUT, if it is just one of the conversations that are being started right now, we can work together to change attitudes and perceptions and start to Stamp Out Stigma.

AND I challenge you to do your bit… If you know someone who is suffering from a mental health condition, and you do, put your hand up and share this post with the hashtags stampoutstigma and mentalhealth (and any others you wish to add).

It’s time… STAMP OUT STIGMA

#stampoutstigma #mentalhealth #suicideawareness #health #wellbeing
#MarchWithMe2017

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The Black Dog Has Been Sleeping

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Where does the time go? It seems like only yesterday I was posting about the new year and January has left us already.

What I have found interesting is that when writing a blog about my thoughts and experiences on mental health, quite a few people seem to worry when you don’t write regularly, or when you say you are going to.

Rest assured, I am alive and pretty well.

I have about 3,273 ideas for posts running through my head at any one time and working out which to share does my head in… more than usual!

So, what do we have coming up (order to be determined on a whim)…

  • The philosophy that is helping me
  • Lessons in goal setting
  • Sharing some of my goals
  • We are writing a book
  • One Boy’s Story – my adoption story  written over 20 years ago
  • Other popular pieces from earlier blogs and more

So, I will be back soon to give you more thought provoking and hopefully helpful and/or entertaining writing.

Cheers,
Sean

 

 

Stepping in to a New Year…

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So, tomorrow is the start of a new year, full of new beginnings, a fresh outlook on life and a bright future ahead.

Yeah right. Just like that. Overnight.

Just as mental health issues impacts are different from one person to another, so too is what a new year means, or a birthday or an anniversary for that matter.

Who know what triggers are set and what happens when they are met.

Some celebrate the arrival of a new year, most do, and a lot with genuine excitement.

Others participate in the celebrations behind a façade, whilst a great many more shy away and curl up in a ball and wish the world away.

Some do the 2nd whilst wishing desperately they could do the 3rd.

Please take time out today and tomorrow to check in on a friend or family member who has a day-to-day struggle with life, or are on an unending emotional rollercoaster. They need to know we love them and care for them. Some need to know that almost every day. Always.

So what does a new year mean to me? This year,I am going to make it what I want it to mean to me.

So, before I get to the new year, I am going to take time out to reflect on 2016 with a focus on the many, many good things I achieved – if you have any please share in case I have forgotten! – and try not to cloud those silver linings with thunder and lightning and dark skies. It is not an easy task for someone who is inherently self-critical first, but I think I can do it.

My next task is to then look ahead. This year there are no resolutions; vague notions often with no end – I am going to lose weight, I am going to get fit, I am going to give up…

In place of resolutions however, I am going to look ahead and commit to a number of goals, a number of things to FOCUS on. Each of these will be specific, measurable and achievable. I suppose I might as well throw in realistic and time-based too!

I will be writing these goals down and checking in against them regularly; if to no-one else, I need to be accountable to me. I will, however, share (some) of these goals as I find that a goal shared means that I am accountable, or I perceive myself to be, to more than just myself; I find that I often need this sort of motivation to keep going, others are wired differently.

Most of these goals will be ego-centric because they are, after all, my goals. They may impact others and I need to be considerate of that but ultimately they will be designed to make me happier.

I strongly believe that if I have a number of goals to focus on, to achieve, I will be a better person, less erratic and uncertain and have greater confidence in myself as I tick them off one by one.

New goals will evolve, some may be reviewed or even discarded. And that’s OK, because they are my goals.

So, what are your goals for you in 2017? What are you going to do for you? That is the important thing – to do what is right for you.

If you want to share your goals (or resolutions) privately or for support in how to develop them from an idea to a goal, IM the Black Dogs & Blue Skies Facebook page and I can help you now, and along the way.

Next week I am going to share with you the philosophy that my psychologist shared with me and that which has changed my mindset and made a big difference to me.

Some of you I know and love, others I just love anyway. To all, no matter how you feel or what you have done, know that there is someone, many someones, close to you that care for you and love you unconditionally. Always.

Remember, check in on your friends today, tomorrow and whenever you can… Every day is R U OK? Day. Always.

Whatever you are doing tonight, I urge you all to stay safe, be responsible and always look out for your friends and loved ones. Always.

 

If you are struggling, please talk to someone. Anyone.Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 155 1800, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or check out beyondblue.org.au for more resources. In emergencies, please call 000

 

March With Me

A consistent message from Black Dogs & Blue Skies has been Never Give Up.

The latest instalment was all about giving yourself a focus.

Well, with my latest adventure I will need to have the words Never Give Up writ large in my mind, and plenty of support.

And focus.

So what is the focus of my attention for the next 11 weeks?

Walking.

On March 4 & 5, I am going for a little stroll… 116km from Portsea to Port Melbourne to be precise.

You’re WHAT!!! (Tin roof… rusted)

Trust me, I hear ya.

Why would I do that?

Why would ANYONE do that?

Focus?

Yes, and no. Yes, but it is bigger than someone’s focus. No, it is not that simple.

Neither is life simple for a young person struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, an eating disorder or other life hardships. It can be a struggle of monumental proportions, but there is help and hope for today’s youth.

Love Me Love You is a not-for-profit organisation whose mission is “Empowering young adults to reach their potential in life” and March With Me is their signature event that is growing legs every year.

March with Me brings to life the essence of what Love Me Love You strive to deliver, that “No one person should ever travel their journey alone”.

My part in March With Me, to complement the walking, is to raise funds to support the engaging and interactive programs that Love Me Love You delivers that challenge the views and stigmas surrounding youth mental health.

This is where you guys come in, and there are a few ways you can help.

  • Naturally donations are at the top of the list. Click on the fundraising link to my March With Me Everyday Hero page. I have set myself a fair challenge to raise $5k so the more supporters that commit will make all the difference – sponsor a lump sum or per kilometre, anything and everything will help.
  • Join me on the walk. There are single day and half-day options available and you can register here and you can join the Black Dogs and Blue Skies team here
  • Share this post on Facebook, via email or any other outlet that can get the word out and build awareness of how Love Me Love You is working to support young people experiencing mental health issues.

I will let you know how I am tracking on the Black Dogs & Blue Skies Facebook page over the next few months and will keep you updated during the walk before I start hallucinating.

Remember, there are some out there that struggle to just put one foot in front of the other day to day. Before that, just getting out of bed is a struggle, a frightening struggle that many do not understand unless they have been there.

I don’t want to see young people face such struggles and challenges.

Your donations will help with the prevention, intervention and education programs of Love Me Love You that empower young adults to Get Back to School, Back to Sport, Back to Life.

So, there is my focus for now, that and getting a job, and I really do hope you can help me stand up, step forward and make a difference with Love Me Love You

Never Give Up.

One hundred and sixteen. Kilometers. Walking.

Never Give Up.

What the hell have I done?

Never Give Up.

lmly-mwm

If you are struggling, please talk to someone. Anyone.Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 155 1800, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or check out beyondblue.org.au for more resources. In emergencies, please call 000

Focus, Focus, Focus.

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You sit alone.

Just you… and your thoughts.

The never-ending taunting.

Never Give Up.

Head bowed, eyes closed.

Silent tears pooling at your feet.

The lights are on, but you are in a dark place…

Never Give Up.

You want it to end, but won’t let it.

You want to see the light, but are blinded.

You want to believe, but all hope is lost.

Never, Ever, Give Up.

Many of us have been there. Some more than others. We all know that some do end it, never again seeing the light or finding that hope.

What of the others? Those who have reversed this insidious curse; at least for now. Trust me when I say I’m doing all I can right now to bring the black dog to heel and focus on the blue skies.

There is a couple of key activities or learnings that have helped guide me through and/or out of tough times. I will share one of them with you today – having something, anything, to FOCUS on.

I have found that by having a focus, something I can commit to, gives me a distraction from the negativity I associate myself with and lets me get on with living.

Sometimes when I feel like I am struggling, or when I can feel it coming on, I look to find something that will allow me to focus on matters outside of work, finances, family or whatever may be challenging me mentally. This focus may be weeks or even months, yet it may be only hours or minutes.

I tend to set myself some decent challenges and, with the exception of one in which I made some strange decisions, they have worked pretty well for me. Some of you will be aware of a few of these challenges and I won’t go into detail as it may cause unnecessary pain or embarrassment for others.

The biggest I have done, is one that I am quite proud of and one I will happily share is the coaching of the EFL Junior Umpires.

I took this role on, eyes wide shut and against the seemingly better judgement of others, a little over two years ago. I have no idea why I agreed to it, I just did.

It was one of the best decisions I have ever made.

This is something that I am very good at, very good. And I absolutely love it. To see young people achieve their goals and experience success is a great tonic, particularly when you know that you have played a role in that. If I could make a career in football/umpiring/coaching I would be almost happier than I was at 5:08pm on 1 October… ALMOST!

I still need to be careful that I don’t make it something bigger than it is and maintain it as a hobby that I enjoy and get great satisfaction from, rather than it becoming part of the problem. If I sense that happening, I will call on my network for guidance and reset or I will walk away.

As I said, the focus of your attention does not need to be big, in fact it often won’t be.

Sometimes you will be focussing sub-consciously. I can think of a few ways this might happen… reading a book – a good idea before bed to relax the mind, colouring in – it is the in thing for mindfulness (except when you cross one of those God forsaken lines!), or a jigsaw puzzle, crossword, sudoku or other game (prefereably non-screen based).

Remember, mental health and its associated challenges is unique to each of us but if we start sharing what works for us, then others may find some inner peace from that. Give it a go, start small and see how it works for you.

One other factor that can help is general lifestyle, and I will look at that, and its own inherent challenges, later in the week.

Thanks for reading and if you have anything to add to the conversation I invite your comments and feedback.

I will be back in a day or two with my next activity to focus on… and I will be looking for your support!

You are alone, but you are not on your own.

Never. Give. Up.

Fumble in the dark if you have to, but turn the light on.

Never. Give. Up.

Believe there is something better, and find some hope.

Find a focus, and… Never. Give. Up.

 

If you are struggling, please talk to someone. Anyone.
Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 155 1800, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or check out beyondblue.org.au for more resources. In emergencies, please call 000

A Tale of Two Statements

image_13941126302689.jpgI don’t want to live anymore.

I want to kill myself.

Two statements a person crippled by depression may utter.

To themselves, or out loud.

Hopefully it is the latter, and if that is how they choose to start their conversation, that is the first step; it is up to us to continue the conversation and walk with them.

One statement does not necessarily beget the other. I don’t think they mean the same thing, in fact, there can be a rather large separation between the two. Let me share my experience and thinking.

This was raised in a conversation with a person I ran into by chance following my initial post. Their child was struggling with the black dog, and had made several attempts on their own life.

I have often felt like I have not wanted to be here anymore, that I was not living, merely existing. At these times, you almost feel otherworldly, like you are having an out of body experience. You feel unable to influence your own actions and are functioning on muscle memory and a hint of brain function.

What I think is missing are the words ‘like this’. I don’t want to live like this anymore. You are trapped, it is dark and can’t see a way out.

I’ll be honest, I have imagined killing myself by driving headlong into oncoming traffic. Imagined, but I don’t think I have ever really truly considered it. Just because I don’t want to live like this does not mean I want to die.

Again, I may be lucky; even at my lowest, feeling worthless, incompetent and insignificant, there is that one tenuous thread of clarity and sanity, an almost inaudible voice of reason telling me I have something to live for.

I cling to that thread.

I listen to that voice.

Somehow, someway, I always ascend from the dark depths.

I intend to continue to keep my head up, enjoy the blue skies and hope desperately that I can avoid free-falling back into despair. Thankfully, there are a lot of people I love and care for that love and care for me that help me. More than they would know.

I want to kill myself on the other hand is another, more frightening and dangerous situation altogether. Thankfully, I cannot speak from experience on this. As I said, I have never really considered it.

Unfortunately, there are too many who want to kill themselves.

Tragically, too many follow through on… on what? A wilful desire? An ill-considered choice? I don’t think it is either. I don’t believe ending your own life is a desire, something you really want to do, rather than the only thing you can do. As for ill-considered, I think that is a judgement that sits in the minds of those left behind. As with desire, suicide is not a choice; it is the only way to escape the demons that infiltrate your mind.

We all deal with challenges differently and sometimes life circumstances are such that someone feels so completely hopeless and helpless that they see no possible way out and that life, their life, is never going to change for the better. I believe it is at this point that they move from not having the want to live, to having the want to die.

Again, too many are lost and every one of them, every single one, have left behind people that loved, and still love, them.

My hope is that we can stem the tide and that less families have to go through the trauma of losing a loved one to suicide.

How? I really don’t know. I wish I did. We all do.

Am I making any difference in writing this? Maybe, maybe not. I do know one person it is helping and if that makes me selfish, so be it.

Will anyone read this and take positive action, whether it be a person weighed down by mental illness or a family member or friend? Will someone reach out for help, or to offer it? Will anyone be drawn back from the abyss? I may never know for sure, but I honestly believe it already has made a difference so I am going to keep writing and sharing in the hope that it does, again or for the 1st time.

Next time I will share some of what I experienced and things that I find I can fall back on to rein in the black dog.

Never. Give. Up.

If you are struggling, please talk to someone. Anyone. Call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Kids Helpline on 1800 155 1800, MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or check out beyondblue.org.au for more resources. In emergencies, please call 000.

Never Give Up

never-give-up

Well it has been a little over a week since I published my first post and the reaction has been generally positive so I might have to keep this thing going.

Thank you to those who have shared intimate feelings and experiences in response to Black Dogs & Blue Skies. If this is the first time you have opened up and shared your challenges, then you have made the first positive step and I encourage you to keep the conversation going.

One thing I have noticed is the proliferation of Facebook posts asking for friends to share/copy/repost. I’m not sure if they have always been around or if it is a bit like when you’re first expecting a baby and all of a sudden you notice pregnant women everywhere.

Here is an example…

I am always around for anyone who needs a chat! May I ask, would three of my Facebook friends please copy and repost? I’m doing this to prove that someone is always listening. #SuicideAwareness

I’ll be honest, it can be confronting hearing what some people have experienced. Before asking R U OK, have a think about why you are asking and consider the array of responses and reactions that may result. Are you prepared, or as prepared as you can be, for the scenarios you may face? You don’t need all the answers, but if you can weather the initial storm, or calm, you can just be there. Lend an ear or a shoulder, be a sounding board or a rock. Just be there, and try.

You may well say or do the wrong thing, Lord knows I have; keep walking and doing.

You may look, and feel, awkward and unsure; don’t worry, this is life, not a fashion parade.

You will likely stuff up, but please, whatever you do, please don’t ever give up.

I made that promise to myself – I will never give up on myself and I will never give up on anyone I care about. I was even thinking of a tattoo to remind myself but I am not a fan of pain and needles, but it may go well with a 2016 Western Bulldogs premiership tattoo…

I will never give up.

I will never give up on the young lady who has made multiple attempts to take her own life, who currently has her head above turbulent water.

I will never give up on the courageous man who bared his soul and simply takes life one day at a time, one step at a time. You are a good man and rewards will come your way.

I will never give up on the fine lady who recognised the need to leave an inhibitive and demeaning environment before she spiralled back down into the depths for one that gave her hope and lifted her spirits.

I will never give up. Full stop.

What I will do however, is leave you with a rather interesting response I received from one ‘admirer’ following my initial post; it was a rather ironic statement questioning my sanity (cos that’s never happened before).

What was being questioned is he fact that I have started a blog around mental health issues, my mental health issues, when I am actively seeking employment. The concern was that employers may see my posts and not consider me as a result.

Despite the initial flood of indignant thoughts, it is an interesting question to ponder, and it is certainly not something I gave any consideration to.

Maybe I am naïve, but am I have full confidence in not only my capabilities, but also that I am, as I have been, strong enough to work through any demons and contribute in a very positive, collaborative and effective way to any organisation that is fortunate enough to have me on their team.

If a company is going to forensically analyse my social media and decide my mental health is a deal breaker then, to be honest, I am not sure that company fits with my core values of honesty, integrity and trust.

And, you know what… they wouldn’t deserve me anyway.

Never. Give. Up.