ONE: Welcome! And Other Such Pleasantries

Kids, I’m going to tell you an incredible story – the story of How I Met Mental Clarity

Ted Mosby (I might have changed wording) (I definitely changed the wording)

The year was 2015, in a galaxy fa- actually no, it was in this one. I am sitting in an unfamiliar office, a 3 hour commute from home. I’m staring blankly at the gentle face of the blonde woman in front of me, who appeared to be in her mid-forties. She’s sitting on the other side of the desk, talking to me in a soft voice. I’m taking in bits and pieces of what she’s saying, but my mind is wandering. I’m processing what I’ve just been told, I’m conscious that my back is a little sweaty, when did that start?

2 years of study full-time at university, moving back home to work, continuing my degree part time, it all was beginning to look like it had been in vain. My path to becoming a police officer had hit a brick wall, a really big one.

The psychologist is picking up that I’m beginning to get distracted by the news of my rejection, so she kindly gets me to summarise back to her what I’ve just been told.

“Tim, you’ve got all the makings of a really talented police officer, but we have some concerns for your mental health. I don’t want to approve your application just yet because I feel that you’re at a risk of experiencing psychological trauma on duty if you are not equipped with the appropriate coping mechanisms. I’d love to see you back on that waiting list in the near future, but before we can do that I’d like to recommend you see a psychologist, discuss these feelings and thoughts you’ve been having.“

Welllllllllll shit.

I had absolutely no idea what she was talking about. What thoughts? What feelings?

The reality was, the data collected from the police psychoanalysis had revealed that I was displaying behaviours synonymous with those who suffered from severe depression and anxiety. I knew nothing of these “behaviours”, but none the less I took their advice and sought to speak to someone. I was skeptical, I felt fine, I was just an ordinary kid.

In the years following, I would undergo a significant decline in my mental health as I began to uncover, with the help of a professional, all of the stresses, concerns and anxiety triggers that I had managed to suppress as far back as my early teen years. Turns out I’d be sipping depresso martinis for some time, without even knowing it.

I was guided through a journey of understanding, to figure out where these negative feelings, where this poor self-image was coming from. I started developing strategies to manage panic attacks, to become more self-aware of when I felt the bark of the “black dog”. I educated myself on how best I deal with things, how best I will manage the inevitable highs and lows of life, until eventually my black dog was tamed. He still barks from time to time, but I learned to discipline him, and to give him treats when he behaved himself. I felt I finally had control.

And that’s when she came into my life. Standing in the doorway of my office at the bar I worked at, I look across the room at a young woman sitting alone, waiting for my boss to conduct a job interview. My jaw hit the floor, and I said a quiet prayer to every god there was; God, Buddha, Zeus, Ra, Luke Skywalker, please give her a job.

Fast forward a few months and we grew close, eventually “her and I” became a “we”. But two incredible years of highs and lows later, we had to admit to ourselves and to each other that this wasn’t healthy anymore. That she had a lot of demons she was fighting, that I tried everything I could to help her, that it triggered old behaviours within myself. It had taken its toll on me, on her, on us as a couple. We parted ways, I was broken. Physically, financially, spiritually and emotionally, I had nothing left in the tank.

The two biggest setbacks in my life, my career and my relationship, led me here, both physically and spiritually. I went back to the basics, I started eating properly, I started exercising more regularly, I put my head down and worked, I booked my first solo overseas venture to Egypt. 12 months to the day since that trip and I sit here in my new life, typing away. I had packed up everything, quit my jobs, said goodbye to my family and friends, and jumped on a plane. Just in time to settle in before a global health crisis cancelled sports (I weep forever), I had moved to the other side of the world and stepped foot in Europe for the first time in my life.

I tell my story because my setbacks, my “failures” opened windows of opportunity that I jumped through, head first. If I wasn’t rejected from the police force, I would not have stayed in my home town. If I didn’t stay in my home town, I never would have met her. If I had never met her, I would not have booked that trip to Egypt, I would not have befriended a kind Englishman (who absolutely cops the banter from this outspoken Australian like a CHAMP), I would not have moved in with him in Malta. But that’s not the only reason why I tell my story.

My experiences and my struggles with mental health as a young man opened my eyes to just how prevalent the “toughen up” culture is. I want to break through that stigma. If I can help one person, no matter who they are, regardless of gender, sex, culture, religion, sexuality or identity, then I have done what I set out to achieve. If this helps one person to reach out and talk to someone, to seek help when they need it, then I have done what I set out to achieve. I want to normalise depression, anxiety, bipolar, PTSD, OCD, any mental health illness, because they affect so many of us, so much so that sometimes we don’t know we have it. When I was younger I had no idea.

So consider this site a source of two things;

  1. Let this be home to the lessons I have learned on my journey with mental illness. I hope that some of my content resonates with you, even if it be only one line, and that it offers you the opportunity to check in on yourself. I hope you come to the realisation that whatever you are experiencing isn’t “weird”, you’re not a “freak”, you’re a human being with valid feelings and emotions. I hope this encourages even one person to open of communication with loved ones or professionals.
  2. Let this be home to my experiences abroad, and remind you that life is what you make of it, that the only thing standing between you and your grand ambitions is your decision to chase them.

Above all else, may this take the edge off and normalise topics of discussion that were once considered taboo or awkward. Because they shouldn’t be, not when they affect hundreds of millions of us around the world.

May we grow old, look back on our days and may it bring us joy.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

Tough times never last, but tough people do

Dr. Robert Schuller

Mental Health

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