Just a heads up. This episode features a personal story of mental health and contains themes of suicide. If this brings up distressing feelings for you, please contact the Beyond Blue support service.
If you fail, then that's because you are useless because you don't deserve to succeed. Because you have nothing to offer other people. Whereas if I succeeded, it would just be a case of, ‘well, that's what you're supposed to do. You’re supposed to succeed. You don't get rewarded for that, because that's what you’re supposed to do.’
Welcome to Not Alone. incredible stories from everyday Australians talking about their mental health to help you with yours.
This episode is about turning down the volume of that loud critical voice in your head.
Like the rocky headland upon which the waves break. The waves constantly crash, but, are, laid to rest. Now it’s… I'm butchering the quote. Let me let me find it for you.
This is Jake. He's interested in stoic philosophy, is pretty good with an analogy and was once awarded Melbourne's deepest voice.
So the Melbourne's deepest voice award was radio competition back in 2011. I thought, yeah, I've got this lock. Got this locked, so I texted my brother. He's like, hey, you've got this lot. Dial the number busy, hang up, read all hang up, read all hang out read all managed to get through. So it came down to me and some American bloke. He said something along the lines of a really like old mates. But I think I preferred Jake's Australian accent.
Let's take it back a few decades to the northern suburbs of Melbourne in the 90s, Jake grew up one of three boys, and a bit of mischief was never far away.
So growing up, I was super energetic, super playful. love getting out of the house. And I'm really glad that I grew up before technology was as prominent as it is these days. I spent a lot of time around at friend's houses, sleepovers down at the park as well across the street. Yeah, I mean, just super outgoing, super energetic love being the class clown, which I still maintain to this day, I'd rather be the centre of attention, as long as I'm making people laugh. So the class clown real dynamic was very prevalent growing up. And I got kicked out of class quite a few times. Nothing malicious just for being a rat bag.
But life became a lot more complicated for that rat bag kid. Shortly after starting primary school.
My parents separated when I was six. So my dad moved out. So it was just me and my brothers and mom. I guess it wouldn't, I wouldn't so much say anger was a byproduct of that it was more just a case of confusion. You're just not quite sure. And you don't really understand. I mean, I really miss Dad. I was only six up till 11. So you know, your parents at that age are God in your eyes. So not having one of them around. You don't really understand. Especially being that age, you don't really understand separation, you don't understand why they why they've gone and stuff like that. So credit to mom, she was never in any way negative about that. She would do our best to answer any questions that we had, but she wouldn't ever be derogatory or in any way demeaning, or speak ill of him in any capacity. So looking back, I would say that's was, I guess, a lot more important than I thought of at the time.
Still dealing with his parents separation, Jake was about to experience an even greater loss.
When I was 11 dad was killed in a workplace accident. He was a truck driver, driving back from Mount Gambier at the time, I think was about two o'clock in the morning. And from what we were told his trailer was clipped by a car he lost control and drove off the edge drove off the bridge. He and his fiancee at the time were killed on impact.
My brothers and I found out about it the next morning and yeah, I'd say you know if you're looking for a turning point in someone's life that's that's definitely one of them.
There was a part of me that was still growing up and still wanted to, you know, be involved in everything and experience everything and and learn everything and then there was a part of me that was very withdrawn.
I'm very, I guess traumatised is probably the best, best way to describe it.
This tug of war played Jake, as he tried to process the loss of his dad.
It's a strange thing when you are a child you make, they call it kid logic. So you connect to two seemingly preposterous points. But using that kid logic, you managed to connect the two together, we never really found out who was responsible for having a date. So when you're 11 years old, and you're traumatised by something like that, you just immediately look for someone to blame or something to blame.
And because we never really had someone to blame, I blame myself. So my kid logic was that all this bad stuff started happening once I came into the picture. So I felt, you know, incredibly guilty, I felt extraordinary self loathing, I was like, This is all my fault. If I just hadn't come along, then you know, my brothers, that mum and dad would probably still be together, Josh and Jeremy would still be, you know, happy, happy go lucky kids just growing up, I just wanted to take myself out of that picture.
So a lot of that anger really manifested from being afraid.
Jake carried these feelings of guilt, anger and shame through his teen years. There'd be times when he'd be the life of the party, doing what he loved to do, making people laugh.
But then there were darker times, times when he was alone, when an inner voice began to criticise everything he did, and every part of who he was.
Because that was gone, I really needed some kind of paternal, you know, father figure, I really needed someone to emulate someone to sort of guide me through a bunch of stuff that I just wasn't confident in or just didn't understand. So I developed a sort of surrogate father in my own head, there was a real taskmaster, and it was just impossible to ever, please. So it was really a case of pushing crap uphill, all the time. And it was often the case a lot more frequently that I had fallen short. And I would just take myself to task for that.
The feeling of self loathing, and I guess, guilt, it feels like everything that you do, you don't deserve. Every thing that you do, everything that you accomplish, everything that you especially receive, and a given is a crime.
You haven't done anything, a to deserve it and be to be worthy of receiving it.
At that point, it's really hard to like experience things and to welcome experience into your life. So you know, making friends sharing experiences with your family, really trying to achieve things. It just feels like you. We shouldn't even be here in the first place. So what right do you have to it?
And eventually, it became too much.
My lowest point came, I was 18. At the time, I was at a friend's house for New Year's, we were just having a few beers, celebrating the new year rolling in, and I probably had a bit too much to drink. I tried to take my own life. I would almost certainly say that was my lowest point.
Why am I here? Like what's the there's no real point to it. I feel guilty all the time. I hate myself. And if I have to put up with this for another 50 years, I'm not interested.
When you're in that kind of headspace, you don't remember that and think, oh, I should probably you know, do something about this. That's just the norm. That's just normal behaviour.
Because you've been thinking about it for, you know, 5, 6, 7 years straight, either once a day or once every other couple of days.
That question, Jake asked himself, why am I here, as confronting and scary as it was, it sparked a turning point in his life.
It was around 2022 There were a couple of things that started happening that really made me sort of move into seeking help. I'd been around just as long without that as I had been with him. And if I didn't have pictures, I wouldn't even remember what he looked like.
And I thought, well, if I'm going to be around for another 4050 years, I don't want to be around like this. And I was starting to notice the effect of how I was feeling was having on mum. And, you know, she was really starting to question her own ability as a mother.
When you know nothing could be possibly further from the truth. Mum was absolutely amazing.
My oldest brother, he was seeing a therapist because he was having, you know, issues of his own. And I remember saying to him, you know, is it helpful or do you find that it's it's making this issue any better? And he said he was, it was definitely helping. And I asked him whether or not I should, you know, go somewhere. And he said, you know, if you think you need help, and you probably need help.
So, you know, I took that advice, I went to my GP that was sort of like the third thing in those ducks in a row, you know, turned 22, Mum blaming herself, and then my brother, you know, having that attitude was a was the turning point where I thought, I'm gonna go get this under control.
Jake's first step after the GP therapy. And while more hard questions were headed his way, he was ready to find the answers, no matter how gruelling, the emotional toll would be.
It started with me with my therapist asking me, you know, why do you think you need to be here? And then you have to sit there and think, Well, why is it that I need to be here? Why do I feel like I need to come and talk to someone? Because I haven't I have an issue, obviously. But do I want to get better? Do I want to manage this? Why am I here?
And the thing about therapy is you go there to have a conversation, you're not going there to be interrogated, you're not going there to be investigated. If you don't want to be there, it'll turn up in the conversation, and you won't get anything out of it unless you have an honest conversation. I know that scares a lot of people. But I was at the time, I knew that I was essentially broken.
And my attitude was, I'll come in, crack me open, pull me out of the table. And let's just fix this. So having that attitude helped me to, I would say recover. But it's more a case of with depression, it's more of a management. And I know talking is very scary. But you know, I didn't talk about it for 11 years, and it was much harder.
The initial pain of opening up might be extraordinary. But after that, it's all downhill. It's all just altitude, just cruising.
My strategies for managing my mental health these days, there's the micro and the macro. So the micro is the day to day things like regular exercise. A good sleeping schedule is severely underrated. As you can tell by my complexion, I don't get enough vitamin D these days. So trying to increase that checking in with yourself, you know, 510 minutes a day just sort of zoning into and listening to yourself, you know, how am I feeling? Where's my head at the moment.
One micro was particularly helpful. Putting pen to paper.
It was suggested to me by my therapist, as a method of flushing out however, you were feeling at the time you write down, when you're writing down in a journal, you are trying to paint a clear picture enough that you can understand it. So you're taking a concept and you are trying to get every word in place in relation to the sentence every sentence in place in relation to the paragraph. So it forces you to think through what you're thinking about. And phrase it exactly how you mean it to come across. So it takes your ideas, and it helps you to solidify them so that you understand what you're feeling. And you can communicate that with yourself. So I found that extremely beneficial.
And but it has to be honest. So you can lie to other people, you can lie to your spouse, your family members, your friends, but you can't lie to yourself. And if your full crap detector is wide in, like most people's is, it's a very honest way to get through to get to an answer that you're looking for. And those answers will almost certainly not be the ones that you want. But they're the ones that you need.
It wasn't just his own journaling that helped Jake heal. He also connected with someone else's journal, one that was almost 2000 years old.
I started reading up on stoic philosophy, which was, you know, famous throughout the ancient Greece, ancient Rome. And I read the meditations by Marcus Aurelius, which was the personal diary entry of many believe was the last great Roman Emperor.
And it was his personal journal. So it was never meant to be published, but he's very honest with himself in it, where he'll sort of like have a conversation with himself.
And he'll try to remain in perspective, like he's, you know, life is temporary. The universe is something of grand scale that will never truly understand, but you have an important place in it. What I like most about stars or stoicism or stoic philosophy is that it really does try to encourage in you an ability to look after yourself, to understand that there's a lot of things that are out of your control, and that's okay.
Through therapy, his family, his friends, his micros and his macros, Jake has learned a lot about himself.
I have learnt that it is more important for me to try to justify what's happened. And make sure that some good comes out of it. There is nothing more important than that.
If you want to find some kind of meeting that you need to justify the things that happen to you can get upset about them, you know, why me? Why is God done this to me? Why is the world done this to me, or you can, for lack of a better term, copy it on the chin, try to make something out of it.
You know, this happened to dad, and this happened to us so that I can help someone else feel this way.
I feel like I have a responsibility to do that and a duty. As part of the community as part of as part of this society.
I've learned that I can be really hard on myself. And definitely that I don't cut myself enough slack. But I'm also worried that if I do cut myself some slack, then I'll just get lazy.
I've learned that I love making people laugh, it is one of the most infectious things that I can think of. And I've learned that having a dog is also helps just get through the days, helps get through the weeks and helps get through the months.
And that negative taskmaster in Jake's head, well, his relationship with that voice is a little different now.
The voice will always be in my in my head telling me you know, just quit just give up. You've had enough this isn't worth it. It's now my responsibility or it always has been my responsibility to tell it notes. We're gonna keep going.
That voice is still there. I'm just better at telling it to get stuffed.
We want to say a huge thank you to Jake for sharing his story with us. We've covered a range of mental health issues and if anything has been upsetting for you, please contact the Beyond Blue support service on 1300 22 4636. We've also listed a number of resources in our show notes. This podcast was recorded and produced on Wurundjeri country and we pay respect to the traditional owners of these lands.
Thanks for listening to Not Alone.