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.

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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

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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.