“I was part of something bigger than just me.”
It’s a strange thing, mental health. It can get off track when you least expect it. When everything seems to be going right.
If we’re going by external signs, my life’s going great. I’m a physically fit 40-year-old mother of two beautiful girls. I connect with nature every day in my job as a wildlife ecologist which makes me feel close to the Earth. I help other women transform their lives in my work as a fitness trainer. I exercise regularly, whether that’s walking or running outside in my hometown of Adelaide.
Despite all of that, depression started making its way back into my life.
I’ve had chronic depression since I was 14. I went undiagnosed until my late teens and the condition has followed me into adulthood. When I first found out I had depression, it was at a time when people didn’t talk about mental health. People would literally walk away from me when they found out what I was going through. They just didn’t know what to say or do. They didn’t have the tools or the education to know how to help. I was isolated and I was completely terrified.
Since then, I’ve learned what I need to do to care for my mental health. There are some non-negotiables. I have to prioritise my own needs by walking in nature and connecting with women. I have my own goals, which I train hard to achieve. And I ask for help when I need it.
When I was feeling dark just a few weeks ago, I knew I needed support. I wanted to talk to someone who wouldn’t judge me and who could help me make a plan. I picked up the phone and I called Beyond Blue’s 24-hour support service, like I’ve done many times before. I call them when I’m feeling wobbly. Speaking to a professional, who wasn’t going to judge me, was exactly what I needed in that moment.
Every kilometre I walked with my team, I was reminded that I was part of something bigger than just me. On the trail, women were talking and laughing with each other, sharing their stories and their experiences with mental health, and remembering the people they’d lost.
I was walking for my best friend who took her own life 10 years ago. She was the one who helped me in my recovery and I miss her all the time. I thought of her on the day as I walked and ran on the rugged Fleurieu coastline. Rain was expected to fall from dawn until dusk. We were all waiting for the downpour, dreading its arrival. But the weather stayed away until we crossed the finish line. Only then did we feel the sprinkle of rain on our faces. I think she probably had a hand in that.
I am now an ambassador for Coastrek and raising money for Beyond Blue means the world to me. Community and exercise are so important for my mental health and I know first-hand what Beyond Blue’s support services can do for someone struggling. We walk not just for ourselves. We walk for everyone who deserves hope.
Registration for Sydney Coastrek 2020 is now open. Sign up for the 60km, 30km or 15km events and help raise money for Beyond Blue. Or join us in Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide in 2020
Need to talk? Call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636