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R U OK vs. I'm not okay
Setting the example
A fellow Runner and Writer penned an important article two days ago. His name is Tim and he’s the Founder of Running Rare.
I won’t say too much except that his most recent article (below) was a perfect example of what our society needs; people to stand up, say that they’re struggling, and share how they’re trying to overcome it.
The example he’s setting can be the blueprint for someone else to use in their darkest hour, and it is the perfect complement to people asking ‘R U OK?’.
Because when we ask our mates if they’re okay, they might need an example of how to say they aren’t.
Well done, Tim.
This is a journal article I have been sitting on for a while, but I think now feels like an appropriate time to publish it. About six weeks ago I sat in the waiting area of my GP’s clinic feeling totally lost and overwhelmed. I was in a place mentally I didn’t seem to have directions out of. I needed help.
However, this story really begins not six weeks ago, but six years ago when I was discharged from hospital after a two week stay. My world had come to a grinding holt, flipped upside down without a moment’s notice. I left that hospital with my family, a couple sheets of information printed from a website the rheumatologist had found and a new diagnosis, Adult-Onset Still’s Disease — a condition that affects approximately 1 in 500,000. Little did I know the journey that was ahead of me.
From that point on I had no idea what my life would look like. Among a thousand questions I asked myself was what could I expect my quality of life to be like from here? In an attempt to find answers to these questions I turned to the internet. A simple search query Adult Onset Still’s Disease presented pages and pages of medical websites that more or less described the same clinical things: symptoms, medications and prognosis. But what about life and human experience? I eventually found two or three blogs written by people living with Still’s that began to provide information in a more relatable and, more importantly, human way. They didn’t have all the answers, and not all of their experiences were applicable to my own, but they did provide insight. In my search I also discovered that there was no dedicated support/advocacy program or organisation for people living with Still’s Disease in Australia (that I am aware of). It was both this lack of accessible, relatable information and the absence of a dedicated support network that I decided to make my journey public. To this day it is daunting, but I persist in this endeavour because I hope to leave some breadcrumbs, like the authors of those blogs had done for me.
Fast forward six years from the day of my diagnosis and I have my first appointment with a health psychologist today. Looking for help with my mental health has proven to have many similarities to my Still’s diagnosis — I didn’t know where to start to find appropriate information and get help. However, there were a few important influences that helped bring clarity. Firstly, the unwavering understanding and support of my wife and family. I honestly don’t know where I’d be without them. Secondly, the Running for Resilience community. If you haven’t heard of Running for Resilience I would strongly recommend you have a read of their Substack here. Within this community I found people like Matt Breen, Ben Alexander and Sam Wilson who are both normalising discussions around mental health and reaching out for help. These three individuals, among others, have been an example to me. Although we’re all facing different challenges, I have found applicable steps and insight to my own journey from all of them. There is power in honest words and authentic journeys.
The subtitle of this article is a question How do we normalise reaching out for support? I think it through sharing our journeys and opening the doors behind us. So to conclude this article I would like to highlight the steps I have taken so far in the hope that it might prove useful to you.
I reached out to my GP to get help
My GP let me know about applying for a Mental Health Plan. In short, a Mental Health Plan provides some financial assistance from the Government, through Medicare, to access professional health from a psychologist.
My GP recommended a specific health psychologist for me, but you can use resources such Australian Psychological Society to assist you in finding a potential psychologist in your area. There is also some useful information on Beyond Blue.
I will keep adding to this list as I progress along my journey. Additionally, if you have any other practical advice please leave a comment below. I know it will help me, and hopefully it might prove to be resource to someone else seeking out help.
Just. Keep. Moving.