It’s OK to admit you’re not OK

This is extremely difficult to say. In fact, it’s all but overwhelming, and one of the hardest admissions I’ve ever made. But it needs to be said.

Over the last few months, I’ve not been “OK”. Not at all.

COVID-19 has taken its toll. From the daily ritual of nervously flicking on the TV to see the Victorian rollercoaster of cases/deaths, to the lockdowns (1.0 and 2.0), to the anxiety of being without work for many months, and the torture-chamber of homeschooling my teenage twins, my mental/emotional state has been a mess. 

I’ve felt smothered by a dark, thick cloud of helplessness, gloom and uncertainty. I’ve lost a few friends during this time, and endured the surreal experience of an online/streamed funeral. A lack of exercise (no golf!), combined with “comfort eating” and general apathy has all but ruined my health, and destroyed my normally optimistic mood.

And I’ve spent more than a few nights literally crying myself to sleep.

So why am I opening my soul and telling you all this?

It’s not to gain sympathy.  I am fortunate to have a strong network of friends and family (including an amazing wife) that I’ve turned to for support (and plenty of shoulders to cry into). Heck, even my kids looked up from their videogames (albeit briefly) when they heard a tremble in my voice the other day.

The reason for my confession is simple: there are a huge number of Australians that do NOT have the support network they need right now. There are many who have lost family members, their jobs, their homes (from the Bushfires, etc) and, more worryingly, they may have lost hope. 

And I fear that many are bottling up their sorrow, and “putting on a brave face” (like I tried to do, at first) during these crazy times.

As I write this, a news report has revealed a huge increase in telephone/internet mental health sessions/requests, and a spike in people presenting to the emergency departments for urgent and emergency mental health services, notably for intentional self-harm.

Many of these people do not have (or perhaps do not FEEL like they have) anyone they can turn to.

And let’s not forget about the frontline workers treating these people. The Health Care professionals that witness pain, sorrow and death every day. And the police officers who are doing everything they can to keep us all safe, yet bear the brunt (physically, and emotionally) of increasing anger/anxiety by the very same people they are out protecting.

These people (and many, many more) are all at risk.

Depression/sorrow/anxiety and other Mental Health issues are almost “invisible”; there is no exterior “wound” to alert others that someone they care about is struggling. Anyone can be affected at any time.

And these people desperately need our help. Right now.

One of the easiest ways to help others is to simply let them know that you are there. Maybe it’s your weekly golfing mate. Or perhaps it’s someone you haven’t chatted with in a while. Whether it’s a phone call, email or even a short text message to check in with them to say “G’day…Just seeing if you’re ok?”, it’s a simple and effective way to let someone know that you care.

Checking in with a friend can also, sometimes, uncover tiny “signals” that an affected person may give off (i.e. a cry for help). So it’s important to listen…really listen…to what these people have to say.

On a larger scale, I’ve spoken to a few clubs that have made phone calls to each of their members just to check in. This is a wonderful gesture that shows members that their club cares, and can even improve the member-to-club bond. More importantly, it could potentially save a life.

Additionally, for those of you who may be experiencing stress/anxiety/depression, and feel like you need to chat to someone, there are also plenty of support networks out there:

While people outside of Victoria will never, ever be able to fully understand what we Victorians are going through, the truth is that mental health issues know no borders, and follow no timeline. They are a day-to-day problem affecting upwards of 20% of Australians every year. 

So, for any of you out there who may be feeling out of sorts—or experiencing serious mental/emotional strain at the moment, remember:

It’s not hopeless. And you are not helpless.

We can get through this together. And there is light at the end of the tunnel. 

See you on the fairways (one day, hopefully, with smiles on our faces)

Richard Fellner

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