Today is world Mental health day. Its also one month since my first blog post about my Rottnest channel swim endeavour and my own mental health story, so, i felt it was fitting to write my first update for those following along…
Firstly, a bit more about what today is all about.
Since living overseas for 10 years and returning, I’ve noticed a huge increase in government awareness campaigns surrounding mental health and programs to improve the wellbeing of our country in this area. In 2015, more than 3000 Australians took their own lives and it remains the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44. This tells us all the efforts are necessary and need to stay ongoing.
The gap between people that are educated or experienced and understand mental health struggles, versus those who do not, is still vast. This very week someone close to me told a gathering they were studying to become a councillor to which one lady in the group replied “Uggh! Why does everyone need to whinge about their problems, we’ve all got problems, some people just need to get over it”. I don’t have any ideas myself to improve this divide but i look forward to more and more people being aware and understanding, hopefully, some of what i write helps this.
This past month has been full of ups and downs for myself. My training was spot on for 2 weeks and not so great for the rest. I did my longest continuous swim of 3km which felt great and ventured to a new outdoor pool to include some vitamin D at the same time. The people at Perth City swim club are a close community with many having known each other for dozens of years and yet they are very friendly and inclusive of new faces. A few of the sessions i just wasn’t in a place to engage in small talk so i stayed off to the side, the thought of putting on a mask and acting “normal” felt exhausting and yet i would love to be right there in the centre of conversations getting to know these adults i share so much in common with. It can feel very frustrating sometimes to feel low when there are minimal environmental reasons to explain it. That’s what anxiety and depression are, a combination of your genetics and environmental factors. Some people have extremely strong issues that are purely genetic and ever present in their lives no matter how rosy and great things may be going. Others may only experience an issue during a very challenging and stressful season of life.
While we were in Kalbarri for a week i attempted to swim in the Murchison river, although i didn’t do very much in terms of kilometres, i’m glad i did something. The first attempt was just to the other side which was a bit nerve racking as i saw no one else was “swimming”. I felt some panic over the lack of visibility, the hot/cold patches of flowing water and boat engine sounds. To sit with those feelings, work on spotting and focus on a smooth efficient stroke was a great experience. The nest day i swam from one jetty to the other and back again for 2.2km, i was so proud and excited i planned to double it the next day, and, maybe more in the week. The next 3 days i mentally gave up for one reason or another and ended up doing less than 2km each. I feel it was the combination of poor nutrition and alcohol that made it harder to get in the right frame of mind to push on. That is a trap i regularly fall into, the fog lifts and i feel motivated, energised and excited to feel like me again. Often times it doesn’t last and i rollercoaster up and down, finding ways to be steady and develop healthy routines is extremely helpful. I’ve not prioritised the things i know improve my mental state and have suffered for it. The difficulty, i find, is that you aren’t fully aware just how much extra fog your dealing with until you deal with it! Nasty little trick that one.
I’ve since removed alcohol and hopped back on a better nutritional protocol to shed the winter blanket (aka, the extra 10kgs. yikes!) and reminded myself this is a marathon not a sprint. I also signed up for 4 events leading up the the Rottnest swim with the first in 8 weeks! aarrgghh! A 10km swim in the ocean at Rockingham. I will get a sense of the qualifying time and where i am at that point which will only motivate me because ill either qualify (or get close) and realise its totally possible, or, struggle for a few hours and get my butt kicked into gear to put more energy into a real attempt to be successful . Always look for the positive!
I will have the donation link up and running in the next few weeks for anyone wanting to support this endeavour through a charity I’ve selected, LIVIN.org