‘Where did I go wrong with my son - were the words that came from my mothers mouth as a tear trickled down her face.
It was a silent moment my Mother & my manager Mel shared at my recent book launch in Sydney.
I have been speaking about my journey of mental illness & suicide since mid 2014 - it will be four years later this year.
When Mel mentioned this conversation with Mum to me, it broke me; my heart ached to think that my mum had thought it was a reflection of her, my upbringing and influence her and my father had on me.
I had not for one minute, in over 3 years considered my parents thoughts and reactions - super selfish of me and definitely could have opened the conversation with my family differently before it came public; but as I mentioned to my youngest sister Jasmine on the weekend, ‘it is those closest to me, that I thought would be most judgemental’ which I know isn’t true, my parents, my brother, sisters they love me - it was my head, the stigma within that was convincing me that nobody cared.
I have wanted to write this article since the day Mel told me of the conversation - it broke me, I knew my mum was hurting, I needed to heal that hurt - but more importantly I needed to educate mum a little to help ease her pain.
In talking with Mum, my first words were;
‘Mum I love you, I can’t thank you enough for my upbringing, for everything you sacrificed and the love and leadership you have given me - this illness I have, my mental hurt, my Suicide attempt, had nothing to do with my upbringing, how little or how much I was loved or the way I’ve been raised up til this day; what I experience is a chemical imbalance in my brain that has effect on the stability of my moods and wellbeing - a brain disease, mental illness that is Bi Polar Disorder, with suicidal ideation.
Mums reply was ‘I just thought you were like any other kid, happy outgoing who loved his sport’
The truth is, i was all of that - I was a super happy kid who got along with everyone, but I kept everything hidden away for no one to see.
Fact being, I could not have been loved anymore I am extremely lucky and grateful to be loved by 2 amazing resilient parents. My parents in fact, have shaped me to be the person I am in telling and delivering my story.
The values I carry everyday, the strength I take from the harshness of our cultural past - is the very reason for my resilience & I am able to connect and help people to heal and understand their wellbeing every single day.
Why it was so important to tell my mum this, and to share this healing of us both through this blog; is because their are countless parents, friends and individuals I meet on a weekly basis who still hold guilt and shame with their shared stories of Suicide & mental illness.
Education is key.
Mental illness is just like a physical illness - it’s just not visible for us to see. If someone suffers a broken leg, we encourage them to head to the hospital to get it fixed, yet when people are battling mentally, we ignore or hide it, lock it away so no one can see.
When we talk physical illness, we take it at face value; no one tells someone with a broken leg to ‘get on with it’
Yet with mental illness, we ignore, tell people to harden up...
It’s time we changed the language around this topic, let’s not harden up, let’s educate ourselves, our loved ones; & let’s smarten up.
I love my mum and my dad, my siblings and all my friends who have supported my journey & I can’t be thankful enough for the upbringing & journey I’ve had to get me here.
Let’s continue to heal through education, empathy and understanding
**Pic - Mum & I after I was selected for the Australian under 15 schoolboy team**