“I didn’t deliberately set out to withdraw into myself when I first became ill, but it manifested that way. Even today, there’s still stigma associated with mental illness, and back in the 1980s it definitely wasn’t something people spoke openly about.
“I was embarrassed and thought what I was feeling was a sign of weakness. Not only did I not want anyone outside my immediate family to know what I was living with, I was telling myself I was a failure, and that perpetuated the lack of connection to other people.
“My thinking was that my self-esteem was already shot, so why would I risk battering it further by sharing what I thought was a weakness with other people? Plus, I felt like I didn’t deserve to have friends and that people wouldn’t want to spend time with me anyway.”
Taking a different path
“In 2005, I had a bit of a lightbulb moment. A routine visit to my GP revealed that I had a very serious heart condition. Essentially, I was a walking time bomb without even knowing it. Days later I was in hospital recovering from open-heart surgery.
“Up until then, I’d worked very hard to try and cure my depression and anxiety on my own. My wife and three children have always supported me, but in my mind, I felt it was my problem to fix. It was a lonely road. There were times when I didn’t know if I wanted to be here anymore. Lying in hospital after my surgery, I realised that I was in fact very glad to still be here. I’d been given a second chance and I realised I was going to have to change my strategy.
“Acknowledging that my mental illness was something I’d need to learn to live with and manage rather than ‘cure’ was a turning point for me. It was very much baby steps, but for some reason that change in mindset started to connect me to people again.
“Five years later, my daughter ‘outed me’ at my 60th birthday party. In her speech, she shared what I’d been living with for decades. It was probably the thing that made the single biggest difference. It helped me reflect on how many years I’d been holding onto things without letting anyone in.
“My daughter’s speech probably explained to a lot of people in my social circle why I hadn’t been great company over the years. And, in hindsight, I needed someone else to give me permission to talk about it – which my daughter did.”
The power of connection
“During my journey to feeling better, I witnessed a Beyond Blue speaker talk and I left feeling that it was very powerful stuff. I felt better just having listened to someone talk about their own experiences – connecting in that way made me feel like I wasn’t alone.
“Today, I’m a Beyond Blue speaker myself. I’m also a member of a few different committees and I write a monthly newsletter for my local community. I’m well because I’m able to connect.
“If I could tell my younger self one thing, it would be that if someone reaches out with a connection, accept it. I pushed back because I didn’t want to admit I was struggling, but I now understand those connections could have been a shortcut towards feeling better.
“Anxiety and depression shouldn’t be a life sentence for anyone. I thought it was at one point, but I don’t feel that way now.
“Recovery isn’t easy, but you may be able to get there more quickly if you maintain connection. Don’t suffer in silence and alone like I did for so many years.”
Beyond Blue and Australia Post are working together to encourage more people in Australia to connect to support their mental health and wellbeing. Australia Post is also a proud partner of Beyond Blue’s Speaker Program. Watch David’s story about why connections matter to him below. To learn more about how Beyond Blue and Australia Post are working together visit www.auspost.com/mentalhealth
The Beyond Blue online forums are a great way to connect with people online in a safe and anonymous environment. Discussion topics cover anxiety, depression, suicide, and a range of other life issues. Anyone in Australia can participate in discussions, connect with others, and share their experiences with our community.
If you need assistance visit Beyond Blue’s support services. Our mental health professionals are available 24/7 on: 1300 22 4636. Click here for a web chat (3pm-12am AEST). Alternatively, contact us via email (responses within 24 hours).
For immediate support call Lifeline on 13 11 14 and in an emergency, always call triple zero (000).
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