Self Care - A Priority

Working in the field of suicide Prevention and wellbeing, I have learnt that it is vital to pay particular mind to my own wellbeing. A quote from my original short film The Enemy Within, 'I have to keep my own cup full, so I can help others too' rings loud and clear every time I feel myself starting to get a little tired and rundown.

IMG_7349.JPG

This past week particular, was a meaningful time in the road for me. I have been feeling a significant cultural 'pull' dragging me toward the red centre of the country - Uluru.

Uluru is one of, if not the biggest tourist destination in Australia but to our Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people it is much more than that. To many of our people it is known as the 'heartbeat' of our country, Mothers heart.

During my life there have been more than one occasion where I was supposed to travel to the 'heartbeat' but looking back there have been certain 'road blocks' put in the way.

There was a time I was supposed to go for work related time & another occasion I broke my thumb playing football and required surgery pulling me out of the trip. I believe everything happens for a reason, and it wasn't my time until now.

If I were to travel back then, I would not have been equipped mentally to understand the cultural significance of the land mark and I don't believe I would've enjoyed the spiritual beauty as much as I have this trip; this is where the opening paragraph of this piece comes in.

IMG_7454.JPG

I have been rather busy of late, pretty much traveling from one community to the next, delivering my story of survival through a suicide attempt, and living my life with fairly severe mental illness.

I always have play particular close attention to my wellbeing because what I do, telling my story of suicide attempt survival and he daily struggle of living with Bi Polar disorder & suicidal ideation; it takes a toll. The long days and constant travel takes not only a physical toll but a mental toll also.

Being in Uluru the last week, there was a spiritual feel in the air; one of power & soft beauty. Being able to watch the sunset and the amazement of the colours being projected across the evening skyline & the sunrise as the sun brings to life the colours of the landscape, is truly something I'll never forget.

I have come back to NSW to continue my tour not with an empty tank, but a heart and soul full of spirit & softness ready to again help more people achieve their wellness; I can only do that if I am well within myself.

Remember to take care of you as your number one priority, because without helping you, there's no helping anyone else...

JW 

IMG_6143.JPG

A voice tells me to end my life, every single day

I have lived with this for as long as I can remember - since I was just a kid...

Every single day I face an attack on my brain. Thoughts planted into my mind, convincing me I am not worthy to live any longer; I am worthless and that I should end my life.

I could be driving down a freeway, a voice tells me to swerve into oncoming traffic, to jump from my car, jump in front of cars when walking along a busy street - all this on any regular day.

I live with paranoia - that everyone is thinking negative thoughts about me, wanting me to fail & waiting for me to stuff up - this is the main reason I don't let people into my close knit circle.

I have very few friends & find it near impossible to trust; anybody!!

Despite all this, I have lived my entire life, fighting this illness to not get the better of me. There are tough times, when I want to give up, but I find that 1% I need to grip onto life. Some days I'm a mental wreck, aggressive, and short fused; these are the days I must fight hardest to beat the demons and find that inner me, the real me who's peaceful, loving and kind.

Their have been days where I'm a sports star, a profiled community member, days when I am traveling Australia, the world helping others, days where my life looks perfect..

There's also the days when I'm a poor family man, not the Dad I should be, and hardly a friend to anyone..

But believe me I'm trying my best. Not only am I trying my best to be a good man, Dad, Fiancé, family man & friend - the one thing I'm trying my hardest to do....

 

Is stay alive....

It May Battle Me; It Won't Beat Me

IMG_6146.JPG

What I learnt about Dylan Voller

I first heard the name Dylan Voller, like most Australians; when his treatment in the Dondale Detention Centre was aired on the 4 corners program late 2016; what I saw was a kid who was acting out with behaviours that would've initially led him to incarceration; behaviours that most would deem unacceptable - not me!!

What I have learnt in all my years of working with youth and adults is that, what traumas have occurred to lead this child to acting out the way he does. I also have learnt that everyone is a victim of a past or current trauma; that acts as either a cover or protection mechanism, that enables us to act out or behave the way we do.

IMG_5943.JPG

It is clear cut Dylan is a survivor or some horrendous trauma; all be it, physical, emotional and mental - over many many years.

Dylan didn't do very well at school, he was incarcerated for a lot of it in his early teens, so for this young man to be as articulate and emotionally strong as he is, is a credit to himself and his 'street smart' intelligence.

I've learnt that Dylan threatened suicide many times during his incarceration and he also self harmed, working in the field of mental health, this screams mental and emotional trauma to me. The one major tool I have been taught in my suicide Prevention training is that 'if someone is making a threat of suicide or self harm for attention' then that's what they need, ATTENTION - attention that, something much deeper is going on than the actions on the surface; it is like a cry for help - so why aren't we giving this help???

I sat through Dylan's hearing at the Royal Commission today (Thursday 20th April) and to hear the defence lawyer continually question this already vulnerable & still quite traumatised young man about his truths about whether he was 'lying' about wanting suicide (or the thought of) or self harm, I felt was completely uneducated and even harmful of the fact it would most certainly bring up certain traumas again. This went on for almost the final hour of which I sat through.

I understand the representative had a job to do in trying to find holes in Dylan's statements and behaviours, but with suicide & traumatic mental health, we are talking about life or death. The more we know about trauma & genetics is that, trauma can impact or stay in an individuals genetics for up to 5 or 6 generations - my point being is, if Dylan Voller is lucky enough to build a resilience to what he has endured over the past 8 or so years, the trauma he has been exposed to, will stay within his genetics for up to another 6 generations....

Do we not have a responsibility to this kid, or any kid for that matter as a society, to help heal trauma to affectively heal the young person???

We can't lock these kids up and abuse them, physically, emotionally or mentally - we need to work on the trauma, get to the route of what's going on and treat that.

What Dylan Voller did to land himself inside the walls of detention is beyond our control right now, but it is In my personal opinion; that we act to help rebuild a young person who has been a victim of many, many traumas.

What any person does as an act to land themselves incarcerated, is an outcry of another trauma, a behaviour referring from a past traumatic experience.

Let's find that trauma, & heal it - not build on it to create further problems.

Good luck young brother, Dylan I hope you grow and become a young leader as you have every right to be

Learning & Connection

By the time I will have posted this; it will be read in the past tense, I wrote this when I was out bush in central NSW, with no signal on my phone, social media & pretty much cut off from the outside world.

I am laying in an open swag, under the stars with nothing but the sounds of nature. It's more than what I wanted, it's what I needed.

The bush is my university, where I learn the most & learn mostly about myself.

I was coming off a fairly tough week & had come to some realisations have been navigating me through the path life. Getting away from the bright lights and connecting to myself is what I needed.

As you know I struggle with horrific Suicidal ideation, but my biggest healer, my medicine, is connecting to country, Mother Earth and my culture.

As I sit around the fire this evening, staring deep into the flames; the head noise eases and I am back to my safe place.

Sitting and sharing stories, learning from respected uncles learning about the old ways and how they will help mend a united future, & the reassurance of how love respect & sharing is the key to unity.

I ask myself, why wouldn't anybody want that? Surely everyone wants a caring love and respect for all???

My wellness has been great the past month or so but I hit a hurdle, these hiccups can hinder us, or help us - I'm determined to have mine help; to learn and to grow..

Each bad day, I find gratefulness and I find a lesson; on how can I learn from it.

I'm learning from those bad days, and in learning from those bad moments, I find strength.

In learning, and growing, you realise you can do it - no matter how many times I feel myself slip back down, it's never as low as it once was - in that I'm reminded me of my strength and willingness to forgive the day, and rip in again tomorrow.

 

As I always say - it tries every single day;

 

It May Battle Me; But Won't Beat Me

 

JW

IMG_0036.JPG

The daily battle that continues to build my resilience

As the plane taxied toward the runway I glance out the window and see our First Nations Aboriginal flag flying proudly in the wind; for a second it takes my attention away, and almost like a sign; don't panic, the old people, my ancestors have my back.

It's back, my heart beats ferociously, where I can physically see the movement against my shirt; with that my mind begins to race again.

Lately, it has been every time I get on a flight, do I begin to have these mini anxiety attacks where I am short of breath, struggle to breathe and like there is a net around my heart n lungs slowly squeezing the breath out've me.

I begin to practice what I preach, mindfulness. I slowly rub my index finger and my thumb together bringing my mind back to present. My mind is frantically running through every possible worst case scenario I can think of; I scan the female flight attendant, up and down to see if she could be possibly concealing a gun to plot a terror attack, I am seated in the very front seat of the plane so I am constantly peering over my shoulder as if the passenger behind me will try stick a knife into my neck at any moment. A little shake of my head, as if to bring me back to reality.

The next thought is, as if I am facing my own death with the plane crashing. Will my family know that I love them? Will I get to hug Court & the kids again? What will my funeral be like? Will anyone even come?

Again, I am to breathing deep, 4,7,8 inhale 4 seconds hold that breath for 7 seconds and then exhale for 8 seconds.

I am terrified, tears begin to well in my eyes, but in the surface I look calm as can be, cool as a cucumber; but on the inside I'm a nervous wreck, gasping for air and clinging to life.

The reality is, none of this is real, none of these thoughts can hurt me and hopefully the plane doesn't go down and I can live another day.

These are the tricks my brain plays on my almost daily. I know I can't control what goes into my brain, but I know and as I breathe through it; I CAN control the outcome.

This happened to me today, everything that you read above went through my mind whilst I was on the plane from Dubbo to Sydney. Whilst doing my 4,7,8 I literally sat and counted the 'seconds hand' on my wrist watch for 17 minutes during the flight. That's 1,020 seconds (yes I can count that high) and I would of went longer if I had to & if that's what I had to do to bring my heart rate down and my head back to present. That very step is what directly contributes to my resilience.

I am now sitting at Sydney airport, waiting to board another flight, this one longer - to Perth. Will it happen again? Who knows but I know I have the tools to get through it...

Many might ask, but why would you put yourself through that sort of mental chaos by living a life that involves many flights? I mean, I've travelled to 5 states in Australia & 30 states around USA delivering The Enemy Within - 100s of flights, why continue to do it?????

Yeah I love doing what I do, but there really is only one answer - helping people, helps me. By helping other people in my travels, I am helping myself.

 

One day at a time;

 

It May Battle Me; It Won't Beat Me

IMG_0036.JPG

2016 Lessons & Living

As always I would not be able to do anything without the love and support from my family; 2016, What a year.

The year kicked off with a huge bang firstly being nominated as the Wagga Wagga Australia Day Citizen Of The Year. Being nominated was a great honour as it was for me to be nominated, I had 60, 000 years of ancestry pulling me another direction. 'How could I turn up to a ceremony honouring the Australia Day Citizen Of The Year, when its all but common knowledge our people could never celebrate a day where our ancestors and loved ones were massacred & started a frontier war that have seen our people raped and battered from pillar to post?

I was in 2 minds but I thought it would be respectful to turn up and honour my nomination for suicide Prevention & mental health awareness.

IMG_0031.JPG

When I was announced winner I was blown away; under my suit I was wearing a a sleeveless shirt with a dreamtime print. I had splashed ochre across my arms and face, went up to deliver my acceptance speech.

This should've been the headlines, instead my decision to not stand for the national anthem earlier in the night, a silent protest and something I had been doing for almost a decade previous.

The Australian Anthem, written by a Scotsman about England, had no representation or mention of our countries first people, my people. I won't honour an anthem that doesn't honour our ancestors.

This received nationally spread media attention and I even were to debate wih a local politician who came out and demanded I give back the award outve disrespect.

It the few weeks furore that caused, the positive was that many Non Indigenous people had not known the history of the anthem or the date that is celebrated Australia Day. All in all I had received immense racial backlash but I will always stand firm with my beliefs and the fact that more people were educated of the issue our people face on this date proved a positive.

Early in the year I travelled to New Zealand as one of the head Keynote speakers at the World Indigenous Suicide Prevention Conference.

I found this an amazing experience as I got to mix with other First Nations people from throughout the world.

The common theme was that First People's throughout the globe have been facing a crippling crisis with our people and Suicide. In Australia our men are 6x more likely to die by suicide & our women 7x. From this conference many ideas were shared and all cultures across the globe came up with outcomes and goals to work toward in our home countries. I met friends who I consider family and keep in regular contact.

IMG_2610.JPG

Ever since I was a kid I would watch television in awe at the thought of America and everything that happens in the big apple. I got the opportunity to meet Kevin Hines through my close friend who later became my manager/organiser, and had agreed to take part in filming of Kevin's doco Suicide The Ripple Effect.

Through close conversations I began to develop quite the relationship with Kevin and his wife Margaret and was asked and agreed to firstly join the rest of #TeamRippleAus at mental health conference NATCON in Las Vegas but then tour alongside Kevin and then on my own throughout USA. Inside the space of 9 months I toured and spoke in 30 states delivering my messages of wellness and the practical methods that have kept me well and alive for all of my life. Not only was I touring around rural and regional Australia, The Enemy Within was now international.

During my travels I have physically flown my Aboriginal flag at the White House in Washington DC, in New York at the world trade centre memorial, Las Vegas Blvd and the very place where my not close friend (brother) Kevin, attempted to take his life, the Golden Gate Bridge.

IMG_1105.JPG

My personal favourite in all my travels throughout USA was my time at Standing Rock, Nth Dakota.

It was like an obligation to travel to Standing Rock in support of the Native Americans as we consider native people across the world as all one Native people, our brothers and sisters (family).

IMG_4019.JPG

Standing Rock saw a gathering of Native people and many Non Indigenous people protesting (protecting) the planned pipeline running through natural water supplies.

I had an amazing time shared love, respect and humility with our native brothers and sisters from across the waters.

In all my time in NZ & USA in working with Native people - In 2017 will see me shoot a documentary on what I believe will be the answers to rid suicide. An exciting adventure that I hope one thing comes out of it, plays a part in helping people find hope and want to survive.

IMG_2869.JPG

In wrap I would like to thank all the amazing friends I've made, the people I have helped and the ones who have helped me. In particular Kevin & Marg Hines & Lauren Breen. Living with mental illness isn't easy, but it's those who love and support you and help you up when you are down that help make these dreams become reality. You 3, we met as friends, I now consider you family - thank you.

If 2017 is anything like last year, I'm in for a ride.

Yindyamarra Marrumbang - Respect, Love & Kindness

Alcohol - Not Good, Just The Bad & Ugly

This time of the year is synonymous for people having a good time.

I'm never against having a good time, however why is it that amongst every social event there is enormous amounts of alcohol??

Personally, I am approaching 11 years of sobriety, almost 11 years without alcohol as I recognised it was destructive in my life. Alcohol turned me into someone I never wanted to be.

The one major thing I've noticed since my sobriety, is the negative destruction alcohol causes in communities this time of year.

Alcohol is often talked about as positive in regards to the easy community get together - 'let's get together and celebrate over a few beers' but for me, the negative far outweighs positive.

There have been 2 significant deaths in the 2 communities I've been living in, Wagga & Dubbo, of over the past few weeks. Both deaths have rattled the communities and were both very differing circumstances; one, a young man ran outside of a local watering hole to witness a fight and was king hit from the side killing him. The other, a local sportsman and larrikin who died by way of suicide.

The Christmas period just around the corner, the time of year to be with loved ones - we find two families absolutely shattered. I ask myself, could these situations have been avoided??

Both deaths very different, yet both seemed to have the common theme of alcohol present in the situations of story. If both young men weren't out partying, if both had not consumed fair amounts of alcohol, would two families be spending Xmas with their full family, rather then mourning a death?

Of both deaths I'd seen, a status on social media saying; 'let's get together for a few beers to send ..... off'

& of the other - a relative of the family had told me of his arrival to the wake - 'why do we see everyone at a wake of a funeral, smiling, even laughing, having beers - what's to celebrate or be happy about'??

He's exactly right - what is there to celebrate about death?

Alcohol is the cause of so much destruction in our communities, I really urge people to love and look after those close not just this holiday period but every day. Let's, as a community move away from applauding people, laughing at people who are so intoxicated that they make silly decisions - drink water between drinks; there are no prizes for being the drunkest, loudest or most stupid - alcohol is a leading catalyst for many accidents and in many cases deaths.

 

If you are going to drink, be responsible - best case; don't drink!!!

 

The 2 boys who passed recently - Rest Easy Boys ❤️️

IMG_0243.JPG

The Suicidal Battle, I Dont Tell Many About

Behind everyone's smiles, there's always some kind of battle - Be kind 

Behind everyone's smiles, there's always some kind of battle - Be kind 

Can you imagine driving down a highway doing over 100km/h - and having voices and thoughts in your head that are so loud, so deafening, to the point you can't hear the conversation going on around you, the music playing on the radio - you know it's not real, but it doesn't take away the impact it has on you. Screaming at you telling you to jump. Would you get to the point where you open the door and jump????

Fill you in on a secret - that was me 3 nights ago (Sunday) and that's exactly what I was about to do. But I know they aren't real, they aren't reality.

Although forging what outsiders would deem a fairly successful life with sports and other ventures, I am plagued with chronic suicidal thoughts - not that I want my life to end; I have a great life & so much to be thankful for, but end it because that's the only way to make the mental pain go away, when I am in the grip of darkness.

I had not been having these thoughts for about 4 weeks, & since I'd been out bush on cultural obligations. Middle of nowhere, away from the city lights, the noise & demand of what society brings us. When I head bush, it connects me even stronger to the old people, my First Nation cultural ancestors. For almost a month I was rid of the pain and torment of the Depressional demons & suicidal ideation.

You see, I'm diagnosed with Bi Polar disorder, which is an alignment issue with the chemicals in my brain, causing me to have extreme highs & extreme lows. Managing this disease has became easier to me over time, with education on only the brain and what effects it but also myself, on how why & what triggers these episodes.

I am a highly functioning person, living a normal life with Bi Polar disorder, there are many who aren't. I live a normal life, live with purpose, helping people & love my family & friends.

So why now, why come back after I thought I was doing all the right, positive actions to keep them at bay?????

My lesson in all of this is, not to be complacent and let go of the things that keep me well. My cultural values has been the biggest influence in my recovery, and it's not that I let go of my cultural beliefs and practices, I've actually increased certain practices; it is the other values I hold close that I must stay strong and connected to.

Out of every tough situation I take, a lesson out of it & find gratefulness & compassion - everybody acts the way they do for a reason, weather we agree or not I always try to treat with compassion. Gratefulness, always try to find gratefulness in every tough time we have. Always be grateful of the situations, circumstances, & encounters we have as they all play part in our greater journey.

My suicidal ideation is a big part of my life, it may be forever but I'm guessing that's because I had not had it for almost a month, were the reasons I was hit so incredibly hard & realistic 3 nights ago. All I know is that, I'm grateful to be alive every minute of every single day, because it can all be taken away in an instant.

I thought it would be important to share, as from the outside looking in my life may look amazing and great; my post is here to show you it ain't all sunshine & rainbows - but I learn from every thunderstorm in the midst of the hail, lightning, fire & rain.

Yesterday learnt to tell those close, & that gave me the courage to write about it further more.

Each day I am alive, I learn - I'll learn today & everyday & ill continue to improve the person I am! 

Today I am back on top, attempting to helping many around the globe stay alive.

 

It May Battle Me; It Won't Beat Me

Culture keeps me strong 👣 

Culture keeps me strong 👣 

Controlling Anxiety - Opinion Piece

**Opinion Piece**

Joe Williams - The Enemy Within

Joe Williams - The Enemy Within

As a First Nation Wiradjuri man from

Australia - I've learnt the major value our old people benefited from was having no EGO.

Ego is the root of many evils & the more I've looked into & the more I've learnt about our old people, is that by living with minimal to zero ego played a big factor in why there was no thing such as Anxiety.

Anxiety is triggered by thoughts - thoughts about the future; not necessarily deep into the future but many occasions the direct & immediate future.

See, our old people (ancestors) lived with purpose. I can hear everyone saying 'well I live with purpose too' but do you Really?? Our old people lived by tasks, from day to day, often hour by hour, moment by moment, there was no concept of time; so they just got on with the task at hand - and they did this by living present.

If the family was hungry, they caught food. If they didn't collect food - the family went hungry or food was shared between families. If it rained, you get shelter & if it were cold you build a fire.

There was an expectation that all was shared, so there was never a 'what if/futuristic' thought put into the mind which causes Anxiety. 'What if I don't catch some food, my family will go hungry, if they're hungry my family will starve, if they starve they will die, if they die I'll be classed as someone who can't feed their family, if I can't feed my family I'm not classed a man, if I'm not classed a man, I am shamed and outcasted, if I'm shamed then I won't be excepted etc etc etc

These thoughts are all powered by EGO. Ego is the thing that spirals our mind. To a point, where it gets out of your control. The experts call this an Anxiety or panic attack.

Whether you think you have ego or not, you actually DO - it's just a matter of how much you have...

When your ego is smashed or you feel let down - you reflect. Right in that REFLECTION MOMENT you have a choice; dwell on the past situation, which triggers depression; or spiral over the 'what ifs' by looking into the future; or you can stay present and work forward by learning how and why you got there in the first place.

Every single decision in life we make, is yr responsibility. We may have instances where certain actions cause us hurt - but again, we have a decision to make whether to dwell on that situation or learn from it and move forward.

Again our ego plays a significant role in how we respond. We can, show compassion learn & GROW as an individual or we can get stuck, dwell on the NEGATIVE and let your ego get in the way of healing..

I believe - if you live with little to no ego you will see drastic changes in your anxiety levels bought on by opinions.

Worrying about opinions of others is a huge contributor to anxiety attacks - by letting go of ego, this will minimise also..

As many of you know, I am not a practitioner, or professional in this field. I am an advocate and sportsperson - but it's worked with me and many of those who reach out to me to help with anxiety levels. I was someone who struggled with intense anxiety, but with hard work I now live with it, and manage it. 

Why wouldn't you try...

Culture keeps me strong 👣 

Culture keeps me strong 👣 

Racism; Is yours, mine & all of our business

With many communities around the country recently celebrating NAIDOC week we hear so many positives, that one would be in climbed to think that the country we are all so proud to call home; is moving forward together harmoniously.

I would like to shine some light on 2 particular incidents that was bought to my attention in the midst of NAIDOC week

 

image.jpg

One, where a First Nations woman was laughed at & mimicked during a particular welcome to country & traditional dance performance. Laughed at & ridiculed to the point where she was reduced to tears & felt so uncomfortable she had to leave the venue.

The event was one held by NSW Tafe, however I must make clear that the people alleged to be involved in the racial remarks were in attendance as part of the audience & were NOT actual workers within Tafe system - The other, was again a First Nations woman who was laughed at & turned away by her boss because she wanted her work place to celebrate NAIDOC week; a work place that is a Childcare centre which has First Nations Aboriginal young people in attendance & also as part of the staff. The staff member was told, if you would like to celebrate it, you organise it - with little to no support from the Non indigenous executive & staff & whilst expected to carry out her regular duties as per normal .

Here we have just two examples in two vastly different locations, where we see our people confronted head on with racism. We see one example where a young lady was traumatised so severely that I personally received a phone call at 1am crying in hysterics because she was so upset of the way she was treated during the discriminative ordeal.

Both examples a sign that we have much further to go on the road to a quality.

The young man who made such comments isn't the only guilty one when talking the terms of bigotry & discrimination. The man in question was surrounded by a small group of friends who both giggled & smirked at the comments. It is in my view that those friends who not only smirked or found it funny are just as much to blame as the perpetrator of the racism & discrimination, for they had ample opportunity to step in & put a stop to such behaviour. We can't put a stop to racism by only having people of colour speak out about it. Racism is everybody's business.

I feel the second example has a much broader effect!

The Childcare centre who chose not to support there staff by celebrating NAIDOC week could have have a much greater role in the national reconciliation process. By celebrating NAIDOC week they intern are supporting there staff, supporting there First Nations students & educating the broader community of non indigenous people about the hard times of the past, present & the richness & depth of aboriginal & Torres Straight Islander culture; the longest living continuous race on the planet. A chance to highlight to the Non Indigenous students how special our culture really is.

In final, I'd like to thank the many 10's of thousands of people of all race across the country who celebrated & are learning with us during NAIDOC week; but these two examples are just two are many we see everyday in our communities. We must continue our fight together, both First Nations & non indigenous to build a brighter future for our generations to come.

 

JW