I’m pretty lucky, I had 27 years with 4 grandparents. By 28, I’ll still be lucky with 2.
July 14th, my anxiety was spiking as I was scheduled to sit my first law exam. Mum came home, tears in her eyes, I said “what’s wrong?”. She said “I don’t know if I should tell you”. “Just tell me”, I replied.
I would hope most of you are aware of the current same-sex marriage (SSM) postal vote; to be more specific, a plebiscite. A non-binding survey, used to gauge the position of the Australian electorate. The last national plebiscite was in 1977 to determine what our national song would be. The only other national plebiscites were in 1916, and 1917 regarding military service. Considering our current level of technology, the fact that this is neither mandatory, nor binding, as well as costing roughly $122 million, the question of why ‘bother with a plebiscite?’ is a reaction many have had.
Adam Schwartz was just 10 years old when depression took hold of him for the first time. He can remember describing the feeling to his mother, saying his heart was ‘black’ and his body ‘full of anger’.
“It was a huge weight off my shoulders. For so long I had felt like my depression was a choice,” Adam explains.
Today is International Nurses Day. A day many of us wouldn’t know about.
I owe a lot to the nurses I’ve crossed paths with. In fact if any of us have ever had to experience the medical world and walk into a hospital either for ourselves, or a loved one, we owe more to the nurses we crossed paths with than we realise.
More gratitude, more appreciation, and more respect.
Graduating university; a significant achievement for some, an inevitability for others, and an impossibility for many.
I never imagined finishing university. Actually, that’s not entirely true.
Growing up, especially during high school, university was an inevitability for me. After all, that’s what you do, you go to high school, finish your exams, go to university and get a degree, and then get a job. That’s what we are taught to do, that’s the way the education system is structured. I never imaged any other path was realistic, let alone actually possible.
Valentine’s Day, the day of love, can actually sometimes suck (and not in a good way).
In my world, it seems that everyone is in a serious relationship these days, or getting engaged or married, or having babies. Their Saturday nights are now date nights, Sundays are couple adventure days. A night out ends at 10, occasionally midnight, let alone anything later. Social media is of their romantic getaways, or anniversaries. Time they once had is very much limited. Things have changed.
My hardest moments come around the same time each and every year. Ironically they fall during the happiest time of the year, the time we apparently all look forward to most. The time between pre-Christmas and post New Year’s Eve is meant to be one of celebration, happiness, sharing, drinking, eating, and joy.
It’s usually the time when friends, family, and loved ones come together to smile, laugh, reminisce, and switch off from their usual routines. Throw in a birthday to top it all off, and it should be the happiest time of the year.
So what happens when you aren’t happy during the happiest time of the year?
Most of us think we know how to communicate. After all, we spend a large amount of time talking to other people, sharing stories, asking questions. Yet wherever I go, the topic most commonly raised is communication.
How do I talk to the person I care about? What do I do when they don’t want to talk to me? How can I start the conversation? What advice can I give?
Communication is possibly the hardest skill to master for many of us. Fortunately, it’s a skill we can always develop.
I received a call this afternoon from a friend of mine. She read my post about the importance of listening, and followed the links that provided tips on how to have a conversation about someone you’re concerned with. After asking “are you okay?” she was met with an “I’m fine”. When it was pushed, it was met with aggression.
She asked me:
“What can I do? How can I get someone I care for to acknowledge something isn’t right?”
Photos can do a lot of things. They inspire, educate, shock us, and make us think. They capture beauty, evoke fear, happiness, sadness, hope, and love. They can be a mirror of what society values, and what we would rather ignore. They can capture what words simply cannot; after all, as the saying goes – “a picture is worth a thousand words”.
So what do pictures have to do with mental health?
When I was asked to speak to years 5 and 6, from a local primary school about their mental health and wellbeing, I had no idea what to expect. However, what I took away from that day is something everyone needs to know.
To give some context, a few months ago I spoke to the year 10 students from a local high-school, as well as their teachers. Something I have done many times before. One of the people there that day was the assistant head of the senior preparatory school. Knowing all too well the situations of his students he knew that something like this was needed for them.
I’ve always loved animals, all creatures big and small. From as early as I can remember simply being around an animal made me feel at peace. As a kid, being at the zoo or on a farm was my version of heaven. Although I can understand why people shudder in fear around some animals, I’ve never really understood people who can’t stand any of them.
Despite this love of all things animal, there has been one animal that has had the greatest influence.
I’ve always found myself in the company of women, strong women, smart women, successful women. Women have been the cause of some of the greatest lessons I’ve ever learned. They have been a huge influence on my character, beliefs and values. Women are some of my best and longest friends.
I owe women a lot. After all, I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the women in my life.
November, for us in the southern part of the world summer is only around the corner, while up north the chills of winter are creeping in. Christmas decorations are starting to make their early appearance in shopping centres, and upper lips are starting to gain more and more hair as the days go by.
It's the glorious time of year that can only be known as Movember, and I finally got my act together and set up my page.Yay for organisation!
As part of the ABC's Mental As programming, Jessica Bineth interviewed both mum and dad, to help give a parents perspective on my depression. It also sheds light on how a mental illness can affect more than just the sufferer.
"He called me into his room very upset one morning and said, 'mummy my heart is black, my body is full of anger and I wish I was dead'."
Mental illness is often an uncomfortable topic for many as people have a lack of understanding or cannot comprehend. It is essential to share the facts and talk openly about experiences in order to equip others with knowledge and fight the stigma attached to mental illness that directly impacts on those affected.
“I told mum my heart is black, my body is full of anger and I want to die”
For both young people, the key to survival was finding the courage to tell their parents the truth about their feelings — and then trying several mental health professionals until they found one who ‘clicked’.
I'm fortunate to be alongside 11 other amazing young people who have openly shared their stories, not just amongst friends, but to a national audience. For some, this may seem like a dream, however for others, it's the complete opposite; even acknowledging it within themselves, or being open with their loved ones can take years, let alone being ready to share with the country.
It is a true reflection on the recovery, strength, and wellness of all these individuals.
Every now and then I ask my friends from overseas what they’ve learnt from the ‘eloquently rich and diverse’ Australian language since they arrived.
Generally, there are the uniquely Aussie (this is one of the words!) phrases such as bogan, drop bears, and Maccas. We also try to shorten as many words as possible by adding an ‘o’ or ‘ies’ to the end; arvo, servo, vego, sunnies, boardies, mozzies, etc. A mate can be a best friend or a complete stranger, and of course the most valuable lesson is realising that thongs are something you wear on your feet.
We shared our insights to the general question 'Will the Kids be Alright?'. In the hour we managed to cover teenagers, technology, well-being, parenting, relationships, and communication. As it was a writers festival we all related back to our respective books. Arne's new book The Making of Men, Joanne's Love in the Time of Contempt, and my mum, i wish i was dead.
Coincidently, the previous week I was invited to be a guest lecturer at the New South Wales Institute of Psychiatry. I was there to mostly share my insights into what it is like as a young person going through the medical system with a mental illness, and to eventually receive electro convulsive therapy (ECT).