After being diagnosed with anxiety, depression and Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and attempting to take his own life, Tony turned to Beyond Blue. He wanted to learn everything he could about his mental health conditions. Now, in an extraordinary gesture of gratitude and care for others in the future, he has included a gift in his Will to Beyond Blue.
Following an 11-year stint in the British Army with postings in multiple theatres of armed conflict, UK-born Tony emigrated to Australia 30 years ago. He met his then wife, who was an Australian, in the UK and in 1991, together with their nine-month-old daughter and their family labrador, they settled in Sydney.
Tony has lived with anxiety and depression for many years and more recently was diagnosed with PTSD as a direct consequence of his time in the military, more than three decades ago. He thinks anxiety was bubbling away below the surface for a long time.
“In hindsight, I’ve definitely suffered from anxiety since I was a child,” he says. “Now I’m more aware of mental health, I can see it runs through my entire family. My mother suffered with depression, her father had anxiety issues which I see now because I can recognise the behaviour and one of my sisters suffered with an eating disorder. It’s sad, but it really very much is a family thing.”
His marriage separation a few years ago was a trigger and Tony became extremely unwell.
“My life just totally imploded,” he says.
“I did attempt to take my life but thankfully nothing came of it.”
“My ex-wife works in healthcare, and she could see I had problems with my mental health. She kept telling me to do something about it, and I didn’t. I was in high-stress work in the city, it took a toll on me. I was socially distancing, I was cancelling social and family activities at the last moment, inward-looking, introverted and just struggling with my life and that’s partly why we separated. She’d had enough.”
Tony admits that he pushed away the people he loved and lost his relationship.
It’s only afterwards you realise the impact it has on those people who love you, and who you love, and that I had to take responsibility, nobody else was responsible for my health. It prompted me to learn more about my mental health.
Tony accessed information and resources about mental health from Beyond Blue. Together with support from his psychologist, he began to understand his anxiety, depression and PTSD, and how to manage it.
“When I’m having a bad time, usually my brain feels like mush, I feel grey, I tend to become isolated. It’s fatigue, tiredness, rumination and just generally feeling yuck,” he says. “But what I’ve learnt is that there’s no cure for my mental illness, it’s with me for life, it’s chronic and it’s me. It’s just part of me. I know if I’m feeling terrible one day it’ll pass and try not to beat myself up about it.”
A natural introvert, Tony possesses remarkable insight into himself and a discipline to encourage himself to get involved in things that he knows are good for him. He volunteers his time to a local charity for the homeless and he is treasurer for the local historical museum.
“I still struggle with social and community activity but I know I need to do it. It is too easy to isolate myself. All those tendencies I have about being anxious, they’re still there, they haven’t gone, there’s no magic solution to anything that I’ve got. I just have to deal with it.”
Tony also found rock climbing to be a lifeline during his recovery after his suicide attempt.
“Rock climbing was one of my huge recovery mechanisms when I was really sick,” he says. “Indoor and outdoor climbing really helped me recover. I joined an indoor climbing gym and it was so good for me, because when you’re stuck to a wall or rock you can’t think about anything else.”
Living in the Blue Mountains now with his partner of six years and three rescue dogs, Tony keeps busy helping his partner with her business and doing things he loves – trail running, bush walking, rock climbing, working outside on his bush block and reading. He’s even teaching himself Latin (which he says is going very slowly)!
Sadly, he had to return to the UK recently when his father died, and it was this event that prompted him to think about leaving a gift in his Will to Beyond Blue.
“I never thought about leaving a charitable bequest gift in my Will until my father died and I was managing his estate,” says Tony.
“He’d not only left money to a number of charities in his Will, but I also discovered he’d been regularly donating to them.”
“That was a light bulb moment for me as I’d never really thought about this before. My Will needed updating and that’s when I suddenly thought I’d like to recognise some of the charities that mean something to me in my Will. So, I did. It was as simple as that.”
Tony says the charities that he supports all have a direct meaning to him.
“Mental health is not well understood, there’s still a stigma around it. I strongly believe that Beyond Blue helped me when I was really sick, and I hope that my legacy gift to Beyond Blue will make a life-changing difference to Australians in the future by helping them have access to resources and 24/7 support.”
Tony’s gift will help create lasting change, protecting everyone’s mental health and improving the lives of people affected by anxiety, depression and suicide into the future.