On my little writing journey now for a month and I am cooking up a few ‘drafts’ at the same time. As an idea or memory pops into my head, I make a ‘start’, a placeholder really, just a title and/or bullet points maybe a few notes (story backlog hah!), then as the new week looms I choose (prioritise, focus on) one to finish, ship Tuesday, retrospect and iterate.
I was just looking at the work in progress (WIP) and what I have published thus far (including the subtle brain washing in this story so far) and decided to park the agile themes this week and write about something else…what a relief I hear.
Something a little closer to home, a personal story about living with depression, can’t be any closer.
If you know me, I am an open book, heart on the sleeve, my Father loved politics and yearned that I studied the law and enter politics. My inability and lack of desire to play that game were evident then and right up to this day.
I don’t sugarcoat things and sometimes I could to my advantage, in a polite and moral way, but I play a different game. Honesty, openness and authenticity is not unique to me and I by no means am a master, but it’s the core of how I operate. So this is a refreshing story for me to finally share, maybe it won’t surprise anyone who knows me.
The reason for doing so, other than my own self interest, I hope becomes clear.
It would escalate quickly, a simple reflection, interaction or event, turns to worry, generates anxiety, spurns negative thoughts, an undesirable mood. This is shit, let me hide, let me disappear.
Come on Cheech (friendly slang for Francesco), just brush yourself off, up you get, smile, be positive, strong, tough and focus on those results!
Well some results that matter, came for me about four years ago, diagnosis…clinical depression. At the time I thought it would pass quickly, change of lifestyle, some medication, professional and family support. It also made sense in terms of feelings, situations, choices I had made in the past, so I had just reached a tipping point and thankfully am lucky to have had the ability to recognize that and seek help.
It’s not something I had broadcasted (until now), I was not necessarily ashamed (well a wee bit, especially in a professional sense) and shared with people around me if it was appropriate, but all in all, I continued to function, to survive and thrive — and sometimes all at the same time.
Some brave, proud and awesome achievements have occurred in these last four years, mostly through connectedness, generative relationships and a sense of purpose.
“Do you what you believe in and believe in what you do” — one of the mantras that help me.
We had built a new home, I had changed jobs twice, was working extremely long and hard on a very challenging and critical project, young child, yada yada yada, the illness doesn't care, like most diseases, there is no discrimination. Nice quality when you look at it that way, may as well be nice, I need to live with this dude.
As I have found, it doesn't pass quickly, if at all, but one day at a time, you work on it, collaborate, learn, adapt and iterate (whoops…agile!).
I now realise some of the best and worst days are behind me and some are yet to come from both sides of the ledger.
There are triggers, which I recognise better than before and there are choices I make around lifestyle — diet, exercise, work/life balance, where I give and receive energy from the people around me, the latter so important and a factor in me finally answering, NO, I am not OK a few years back.
At the time, I didn't think much of it, my close friends, family and GP and other help at hand, along with some medication, which when the dark cloud lifted I dispensed with quickly, only to find it was too soon for me and resolved to be patient and persist.
I know I can do more around my lifestyle and thankfully late last year, I did, so when the shit really hit the fan in 2020 on a number of levels, I was ready for it and proud of how I have come through, the now is grand and the future is looking bright again.
This weeks, R U OK? day was a reminder for me though, not to be complacent for myself or others. The ironic phrase “the cobbler’s children have no shoes”, has surfaced around me recently, maybe even landed on me! So shifting the pendulum back in my favour is timely, as we don’t know whats just around the corner.
Sharing here with you to hopefully raise and bring you beyond simple awareness as the wonderful R U OK? day and campaign week draws to a close. Everyday, I hear and see real stories of people losing the battle with depression, suicide, addiction, domestic abuse, the list goes on, I am fortunate, then you realise, it can change in an instant, so (as my Dad would say) it’s important to look after number one, but look after everyone else also.
I know from my own observations, especially in the past, when I asked or was asked ‘howyagoin’, being an Aussie bloke, the normal response is generally along the lines of ‘bonzamate…howyewgoin’ — even when it ain’t necessarily so.
So ask the question R U OK? Ask it again, ask it another way, check in and observe whats happening with your loved ones, people around you and yourself. Its very normal and common not to be OK at some or many stages of your life, it’s better than OK to say, NO I’m not and start the crucial conversations. The intervention required may take a variety of different shapes and forms, no matter how small or large, all significant, then iterate. (couldn't help myself sorry Samuel L Jackson!)
Dr K and all my other mates, love youse all, especially you Bussi.
“The truth is very simple, take the journey of life, enjoy, be true to one’s self, explore, find yourself, act and believe in your destiny. Nullabor Traveller will see you on that journey” — written on a whiteboard at Coodlie Park, Farm Retreat, Port Kenny (third Nullabor crossing, first with Nullabor Traveller, 2005)
A conversation could change a life | R U OK?
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