Every single day, I have a process, I have the same process that I go over in my mind; not a plan, not any goals as such - more so a process of thought patterns and practices, that keep me alive!!
Now for most, that may seem a bit of an outlandish, over the top statement; 'That Keeps Me Alive' well I'll be honest, it does!!
For many who see me from the outside as, the guy who speaks from the heart regarding many uncomfortable topics or does a few things to do with sport and for charity...
On from a physical perspective; it's mostly right - but me, Joe Williams, there is much more on an emotional & wellbeing level.
I know, that without these little practices I refer to every single day - I would end up losing my life!! How do I know, because I've walked that fine line between life & death of suicide countless times. I still have suicidal thoughts, weekly.
Early 2015, a little over 12 months ago I ended up back inside the walls of a mental health hospital ward (my first was on the back of a suicide attempt in 2012). This time I was lucky enough that I realised I had been on a fairly severe down hill spiral and Id luckily reached out for help. A few nights in that ward was the best thing for me.
when I was released from my 2nd stay in a Mental Health ward, 3 years apart, I realised the first stint wasn't a matter of personal circumstance - this mental health thing I've been dealing with, was pretty serious.
So every single day since, on opening my eyes I put into practice these simple, yet extremely valuable practices into my life.
One thing I have learnt, I'm grateful to be alive. Every single day I open my eyes, I have a chance to make impact on someone's life.
Not only the fact I am alive to tell my story, I have 4 beautiful children, gorgeous supporting fiancé, we live in a beautiful country, rich with spirit, ridden from war & poverty & I belong to the longest living culture on the planet, Wiradjuri mob of the Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander people; what's not to be grateful for.
With approximately 15 years of competing as a professional athlete (NRL & Professional Boxing) many would assume that exercise and fitness is a natural thing that would come to me. Well it doesn't & unless I have a goal or something to work towards I struggle with any type of motivation to want to train. When preparing for a fight, I have no problems in running 10km every day, but when I'm not I honestly struggle for the motivation to walk across the road fast...
However the one thing that keeps my mental health in check is when I'm exercising. Every morning I wake, I plan out my day of exercise. When we exercise, the brain releases natural endorphins almost like a mild antidepressant. Not only are you training the body, but more importantly the mind. It has been proven that 23 minutes of non stop physical exercise produces enough endorphins equivalent to 12hrs of positive brain health - 26 minutes, twice a day equals 24hrs of positive brain health.
The recent statistic, gives me enough reason to stay fit and healthy - not or vanity, but more importantly my
I am medicated for my Bi Polar & Depression. I know that if I abscond from taking my prescribed medication, I am again walking that fine line of management & extreme thinking.
Both times when I have ended up in the Mental Health ward, it was a time when I was neglecting taking my medication. Those times, were physically disturbing and mentally scary. I now have support bases set in place so I am always remembering to stay on track with my medication. My fiancé Courtney has been my main support with this as she constantly reminds me to be taking my medication - with my memory not the greatest due to boxing, I find it extremely hard to remember if I have taken my medications for the day. Most times I don't realise until it is too late, with chronic head spins a major side effect to not taking my meds. It is always important to have such support networks in place. Courtney has seen me at my worst so she knows it is not a good space to be in.
Ny no means do I encourage people to seek out medication without consulting your medical professional. Medication works for me, it may not work for all people.
I have always had extreme trouble with sleep - one piece of advice my father gave me was; train so hard that all you want to do when you get home is sleep. I wish it were that easy.
I have have tried many different relaxation techniques and the one thing that helps me is meditation. Being able to completely centre the mind and escape from anything external in the world has been a real key with managing my sleep patterns better. My entire life I have been someone who can function through an entire day on 3hrs sleep. The older I get however I am realizing sleep is hugely important to thinking straight and a lot more clear during a long day of particular mentally draining work. Maintaining a healthy nutritious diet is also one of the major factors in managing stable sleep patterns. Reducing sugars and caffeine in my diet and particularly towards the laters the later half of the day.
How I came to believe it is best to always show compassion is by reading the quote
'Everybody we meet, is fighting a battle we know nothing about'
It is so true, everybody acts a certain way, for a certain reason - every single person I meet, interact with every single day, I treat with this level of compassion. No matter the circumstance, how harsh they may treat me, they are doing for a reason I know nothing about. The last point leads me into my next and probably most valuable lesson I've learnt to live with everyday.
My year 6 teacher in primary school Mr Peter Rogers, one of his classroom principals was Humility. It wasn't til much later in my life did I learn the true values & true meaning of how to be humble.
Delving deeper & deeper into into our beautiful loving Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander culture, one of the ancient core values is Humility. To be able to admit when you're wrong, turn your back on circumstances that may cause you personal trouble, have the pride & dignity to lend a helping hand. The most important attribute I have learnt from humility is to be able to put others before my own personal needs, for no other further gain but to be a decent person. This is one of the true reasons I believe I have learnt how to best manage my Mental Illnesses. I am always going outve my way to help other, lend a hand - because that's what a good person does.
I have learnt, the harder I work on helping, the luckier I become - call it luck, fate, what ever you like but I truly believe, when you put others before yourself - the rest falls into place; exactly the way it should. Not always the way we want it to, but it all falls into place exactly the way it is supposed to!!!
If I am to live a long healthy, sustainable life, I have recognized my Mental Health & Wellbeing has to be a priority. It is these simple actions, keys, mindsets, attitudes - that will enable me to continue to do so.
Gratefulness, Exercise, Medication, Sleep, Compassion & Humility are the big reasons:
1. I am still alive
2. I manage my Mental Health on a daily basis.
This enables me to not only be a better person in communities, but a better father to my 4 gorgeous children, a better fiancé to my partner Courtney & most importantly - stay alive!!
By implementing these small yet effective steps in your life - you too can not only stay alive but strive to be a better you!!