Move Your Mind - Nick Bracks - E-Book

Move Your Mind E-Book

Nick Bracks

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Beschreibung

Learn how to create new daily habits that build happiness and reduce stress In Move Your Mind, acclaimed actor, entrepreneur, and mental health advocate Nick Bracks delivers the practical tools and lessons that will help you make small, but measurable, daily changes to foster positive, lasting improvements to your mental health. Told through the author's own experiences with mental illness, this book offers a holistic approach to improving your mental health, and shows readers how to make positive lifestyle changes in areas like exercise, nutrition, sleep, mindfulness, and meditation. The book offers: * Valuable and insightful case studies of real and well-known people who took control of and improved their mental wellbeing * Key research findings from industry leaders in mindfulness, meditation, memory, mental health, psychology, and performance * Guidance on how to take small, gradual steps that lead to big changes in your motivation and inspiration Perfect for anyone who has tried to take ownership of their own mental health but lacked the time, motivation, or information to effectively make a change, Move Your Mind is an indispensable guide to creating long-term behavior changes that promote increased happiness, decreased anxiety and stress, and better relationships.

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Table of Contents

COVER

TITLE PAGE

COPYRIGHT

PREFACE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

INTRODUCTION

PART I: MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING

CHAPTER 1: MY STORY

Realising I had a problem

Getting help

Beginning to heal

Getting the word out

Fulfilling my purpose and passion

Facing fear and failure

A final word

CHAPTER 2: UNDERSTANDING MENTAL HEALTH

What is mental health?

What is mental illness?

Where do mental health and illness stem from?

Youth mental health

Why now?

Key mental health conditions

Always put your mental health first

My work in mental health

A bit about stress

A final word

PART II: HEALING AND SHARING

CHAPTER 3: OWN YOUR STORY

Why should I own it?

It only takes one person

How do you own your story?

CHAPTER 4: START THE CONVERSATION

How do we change this?

PART III: THE FOUR PRACTICAL PATHWAYS TO MENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING

CHAPTER 5: PATHWAY 1: MOVE YOUR MIND

Benefits of exercise

Creating a habit

My approach

The joy of movement

A final word

CHAPTER 6: PATHWAY 2: FEED YOUR MIND

Food and our mental health

The impact of nutrition on our mental health

Food habits in the Western world

Popular diets

My approach

Eating disorders

A final word

CHAPTER 7: PATHWAY 3: CONNECT YOUR MIND

Love and connection

Connection comes from within

My approach

Relationships

A final word

CHAPTER 8: PATHWAY 4: STILL YOUR MIND

Scientific benefits of meditation and mindfulness

Ways to meditate

Make it work for you

My five wellness tools

Internal vs external

A mindset of purpose

Scientific benefits of sleep

Sleep and mental health

Getting enough sleep

My approach: creating my own mantra

A final word

PART IV: THE THREE STAGES OF SUSTAINABLE CHANGE

CHAPTER 9: SET YOURSELF UP AND LIVE YOUR BEST LIFE

Meaning and purpose

CHAPTER 10: STAGE 1: MAKE A PLAN

Baby steps

Setting goals

CHAPTER 11: STAGE 2: DO THE WORK

PERMA™

Creating healthy habits

Resilience

CHAPTER 12: STAGE 3: CHECK IN

Observation

Facing fears

Building happiness

An equation for happiness

CONCLUSION

INDEX

END USER LICENSE AGREEMENT

Guide

Cover

Title Page

Copyright

Preface

About the Author

Acknowledgements

Introduction

Table of Contents

Begin Reading

Conclusion

Index

End User License Agreement

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‘Nick's openness and honesty about his own personal experiences, combined with his invaluable practical guidance, makes this book exactly what the world needs right now. It's like a big hug for your mental health.’

Matt Eastwood, Global Chief Creative Officer, McCann Health

‘As is the case with others who have used life challenges as a spur for personal growth, Nick Bracks used his own deep insights into dealing with mental health challenges as inspiration for helping others who find themselves in the same situation. Nick draws on his own hard-won experience as well as pulling together key evidence, insights and advice from experts from many important fields. If you are seeking a life-changing road map to guide you to a path for improving your life and wellbeing then Move Your Mind is a go-to book.’

Dr Craig Hassed OAM

MOVE YOUR MIND

HOW TO BUILD A HEALTHY MINDSET FOR LIFE

 

 

NICK BRACKS

 

 

 

 

First published in 2021 by John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd42 McDougall St, Milton Qld 4064Office also in Melbourne

© John Wiley & Sons Australia, Ltd 2021

The moral rights of the author have been asserted

ISBN: 978-0-730-39204-0

All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the Australian Copyright Act 1968 (for example, a fair dealing for the purposes of study, research, criticism or review), no part of this book may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, communicated or transmitted in any form or by any means without prior written permission. All inquiries should be made to the publisher at the address above.

Cover design by WileyCover photo: © Andrew Raszevski

DisclaimerThe material in this publication is of the nature of general comment only, and does not represent professional advice. It is not intended to provide specific guidance for particular circumstances and it should not be relied on as the basis for any decision to take action or not take action on any matter which it covers. Readers should obtain professional advice where appropriate, before making any such decision. To the maximum extent permitted by law, the author and publisher disclaim all responsibility and liability to any person, arising directly or indirectly from any person taking or not taking action based on the information in this publication.

PREFACE

I've been fortunate to work as a mental health advocate for the past decade, which came about following my own personal battle with depression and anxiety. This experience has enabled me to work with leading wellness experts, travel around the globe and speak to people from all walks of life — young and old, privileged and poor.

As I began to lift back the layers, I saw that something was seriously missing. If daily life was becoming a struggle, where was the education that would help? Where were the tools to apply for a positive mindset? Add a global pandemic with anxiety and depression at record levels, and I questioned, what could be done on a practical level?

I wrote this book to fill that gap. To help you understand mental health in simple terms, and then move beyond that with a toolkit of practical daily techniques based on my experiences, learnings and expert insights. It was important to me that this book, like all the work I do in this area, also featured insights from experts, personalities and everyday people from all over the world. There's so much incredible knowledge out there and I've gone to great lengths to seek out the top thought leaders across many fields, such as psychologists, meditation and mindfulness experts, fitness professionals, doctors, advocates, sleep experts, nutritionists, philosophers and many more. It was also important to me that I spoke to personalities and everyday people and shared their stories. We learn from stories and by hearing about the trials and tribulations of these people we can find some common ground and realise that we're not alone and that we can overcome anything. You'll read insights from these experts, personalities and other inspirational people in the ‘Insights’ features scattered throughout the book. Many of them also share their habits, learnings and motivational tools — look out for sections headed ‘Move Your Mind’.

I also share with you my own tools in the ‘Move Your Mind with Nick’ sections. The tools I share are ones I use in my own work, and they've proven successful for thousands of people around the world. If you can move your mind, you can master your inner world and live life on your terms.

I acknowledge that doing what is best for you is hard in the short term. It involves discipline and routine — things you may find confronting and challenging. While working through this book, remember that it's okay to be vulnerable. It’s okay to cry, show emotion and not have all the answers when you want them. We’re all human and we all feel things. It’s okay to fail. Often, failure teaches us the biggest lessons in life. I don't want you to be like me when I was young: no tools, no knowledge, silently suffering.

Understand that there is always help — always — should you seek it. Make sure you have good people around you who you can check in with, and no matter how difficult things are, never neglect what keeps you happy and healthy, such as getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and seeing friends and loved ones. Remember that short-term discomfort will lead to long-term, sustainable health.

Push your ego aside and value your friends, family and those you come across in day-to-day life. Nurture them and treat people how you want to be treated. It's taken me my whole life to learn that true happiness comes from within, and until you can get off that treadmill (which I still often find myself on) you won't ever find peace.

Now more than ever, in our post-COVID world, you don't need more wealth, more validation or more social media ‘likes’. You also don't need to be let down by a system that doesn't offer enough support — because seeking support can be too expensive and, ultimately, exhausting.

Like many before me, I've taken those hard-learned lessons and turned my life around. My mission is to make global change in mental health, recognising that we need to do more work as a society. I believe we need to embed education around mental health into the schooling system, into parenting, into universities and into businesses. I also think it should eventually be free, in much the same way as we can receive free treatment when we break a leg. It should be a fundamental part of what we get taught, and not just a resource for the elite few.

This book is divided into four parts. Part I sets the mental health landscape. You'll learn about the big picture: how mental health is affecting you, your children and economies around the world. Then, in part II, I break down mental health symptoms and conditions, and provide some examples of how I've worked with people on their journeys. This part of the book also gives some tips on starting the conversation about mental health.

In part III, I introduce you to my four practical pathways, which are the key to better mental health. Each one is designed to help you create preventative behaviours using real examples, tasks and stories to show you how others manage their challenges and conditions. Best of all, you can dip in and out of each one, taking what you need, when you need it.

Part IV brings it all together. It's the glue that packages up the learnings into long-term systems and habits so you can sustain the practical stuff and live your best life. You'll learn to use three actionable steps to train your mind and make lifelong changes. There are worksheets and tools you can use to put all the knowledge you collected in parts I to III into action — simply pick what speaks to you most. The worksheets can be downloaded, so you can use them again and again.

You have the power to make change yourself … now. This is a book about self-love and guiding you to work on yourself. For those of you with mental health conditions — young people, older people, children, teachers, parents and everyone in between — I encourage you to find what will work for you within these pages. Use this book as a guide, an educational tool and a motivator to find your place while learning what options are available to you. This is just the beginning; it all starts now. If you're willing to put in the work, I'm ready to show you the way. Get ready to Move Your Mind!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Bracks is a storyteller who has dedicated his adult life to creating positive conversations around mental health.

An acclaimed mental health advocate and successful multi entrepreneur, Nick has delivered 1,000+ mental health seminars around the globe, including two TED talks. This came about following his own personal and public battle with mental health and wellbeing.

Creative at heart, Nick is an actor with several films to his name and a two-year role on the well-loved Australian soap, Neighbours. Acting, along with exercise and meditation, is Nick's foundation for vibrant mental health.

Nick now spends his time advocating for mental health, speaking and interviewing, creating content and acting. His professional life and personal development are perfectly intertwined.

He lives between Australia and the United States.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

Writing this book has been harder and more time consuming than I could have ever imagined … but, like most things that are challenging, it has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. It is the culmination of more than a decade of work as a mental health advocate, speaking more than 1,000 times all over the world; a varied career across the entertainment industry, along with starting multiple businesses; a lifetime of lessons learnt, experiences had and places travelled; and, most importantly, the amazing people I have met through the journey, from family, friends, collaborators, random encounters and everyone in-between.

There are too many people to personally thank but hopefully this does it justice.

A big thank you goes to all of the personalities and experts who were generous and kind enough to lend their time, knowledge and expertise (as you will read throughout the book). I am so fortunate to be able to connect and collaborate with such talented and inspiring people from all over the world. And a huge thank you to the Mental Health Charity One in Five for the ongoing support.

I would like to say thank you to Annie Reid from Atrium Media (www.atrium.media) for her incredible support and guidance in writing this book. I feel so lucky to have met and worked with her. She is an amazing person and someone I now consider a friend.

To my close friends (you all know who you are!) — thanks for always being there for me, supporting me and being unconditional. As you will read in the book, I feel very fortunate to have such an amazing support group. And a special thanks to Vincent De Luca and his extended network for the early support in this book.

I want to say a major thank you to Wiley for believing in me and publishing this book. They have been there every step of the way and have been an absolute joy to work with. They were the publisher I always wanted to work with and I couldn't have done it without them.

And finally to my family…

To my Mum, Terry and Dad, Steve — thank you for being the best parents in the world. Thank you for being amazing role models, teaching us about values and for genuinely being the best people I know.

To my brother and sister, Amy and Will, you are my best friends and the most genuine people I know. I wouldn't be who I am without you guys and am forever grateful for the relationship we have.

And to my extended family, again, I can't express how lucky I am to have such a loving and close family who support each other no matter what.

Finally, to Rob and Bruce, my Aunt and Uncle who are no longer with us, I dedicate this book to them. As you will read, they passed away during the formation of this book and have been my rock throughout life. They supported, pushed and encouraged me in every challenging endeavour I ever took on, were unconditional in their love and support and were always there for me. This book is for them.

INTRODUCTION

I just didn't know any better.

Time stopped, just like in the movies. I could see the houses in front of me as my car was spinning, and I could hear the song ‘Under the Bridge’ by Red Hot Chili Peppers at full blast. I remember thinking quite clearly, ‘This could be the end’, and having a wave of emotions crash over me. My heart sank.

It was a cold, rainy night on 13 July 2007, on the back of a big week of partying. My parents were away at our family holiday house in Wye River, Victoria, and I had a group of friends staying over at my home in Williamstown, Melbourne. We'd been out drinking on consecutive nights and, apparently, I'd been drinking everyone else under the table that week. Always the dedicated obsessive: if I was going to drink, I was going to do the job properly.

That night, we'd been out drinking again at Seven Nightclub at a night called ‘Unlucky Thursdays’. It was our favourite and I looked forward to it all week. Drunk after another big session, I finished up and left, along with my best friend, Huw, and mates Aidan and Jason. We took a taxi and headed back to my house.

Once home, I don't know what had possessed me to get into the family Saab. Maybe I wanted to grab some food. I can't be sure. Huw, who I'd grown up with, decided to jump into the car with me. He was in a similar drunken state, and for some reason decided to lie down across the back seats of the car.

I took off, flying down the main street in Williamstown at 90 km/h in a 60 zone, screaming the lyrics to that song. Then, something clicked in my head and I realised what I was doing and what was happening in that moment, and I knew it was very dangerous.

I instantly tried to turn the car around to head home, and I remember the feeling as it happened. Everything was in slow motion and my life flashed before my eyes. It was just like you’d see in a movie. As I wrenched the steering wheel, the car hit a traffic island and started spinning out of control. I could see the houses in front of me as the car continued to spin, only stopping because it slammed into a tree, completely crushing in one side — the side Huw's head was facing as he lay down.

I was stunned, and for several moments after the car finally stopped, I sat there gripping the steering wheel and breathing hard. I ripped the cassette player out to make it stop playing.

With my seatbelt on, I miraculously suffered no injuries beyond a bit of whiplash. Dazed, I looked over my shoulder at the back seats. Huw was lying across the seats, covered in blood and dangerously still. I called out to him, but he didn't answer. Ripping off my seatbelt, I turned, shouting his name again and again to no response.

Finally, he twitched, shook his head and sat up. I was enormously relieved to discover that he was alive, and not at all surprised to find that he was completely shell-shocked.

Had he not had a reflex to jolt up, he would have been killed instantly. But somehow, he seemed relatively okay, and despite being covered in blood with gashes in his arm and face, decided to walk home, which was a few kilometres away. He hoped it would save me from getting into more trouble.

By this point I knew I was in trouble. People were running out of their houses, and I ended up asking them if I could call the police because I wanted to handle the situation myself. When they arrived, they took me willingly to the police station, from where I had to make one of the hardest phone calls of my life. It was to my dad, Steve Bracks, the premier of Victoria at the time. After I explained what had happened, his and my mum's main concern was our wellbeing. It was now 7 am and I was told my incident would be all over the news by 8 am that morning.

At 8 am, it became a national story. I couldn't leave the house for days because media were camped out the front. Bizarrely, one of the main photos that appeared was of the written-off car in a junk yard with a black cat sitting on top of it. Our night out at ‘Unlucky Thursdays’ seemed very apt.

I remember telling myself at this time that I had to make a change, that I was going to stop drinking, and had to make a plan to get myself on track. Enough was enough. I'd been given a second chance. The police who were at the scene of the incident said they had never seen one that severe where anyone had survived. I was lucky to be alive, and even more so, was lucky I didn't kill my best friend or harm anyone else.

Furthermore, I had brought my family front and centre into the wreckage that was my mind and body, and it was time to see the signals and make a change. I stuck to this for a couple of weeks, but because I was still not willing to talk openly about what had happened and seek the help that I needed, I quickly fell back into the same behaviour patterns and regularly found myself in life-threatening situations.

I think the car crash was when my bad-boy image was born. After the story came out, I found myself the centre of attention, and people were watching every move I made. As long as I was drunk, though, I didn't mind. I felt like I could get away with anything.

The weird part was that I wasn't famous for being an amazing football player or an Olympian or an actor. I'd done nothing more than crash a car. Looking back, I realise now that I was very naïve and stupid, but at the time I thought it was fun to get into nightclubs without having to pay the cover charge. I loved the approval from crowds of people I didn't even know. During this time, going out was my world.

Even then, I could see that things had taken a seriously wrong turn in my life, but I couldn't see that I had bigger issues to tackle than just the drinking — alcohol had been nothing more than a really bad coping mechanism for some serious problems.

I just didn't know any better.

PART IMENTAL HEALTH AND WELLBEING

The impact of mental health on people and economies worldwide is devastating. Approximately one billion people globally suffer from a mental health disorder, and lost productivity from untreated mental health disorders costs the global economy US$1 trillion each year.

My life's purpose is to see global reform around mental health systems and for people to prioritise their own mental health above all else.

In part I, I'll share my own challenges with mental health issues and the simple go-to I use to manage them. With the help of two mental health experts, I'll discuss what mental illness is and how we can educate young people in particular to identify their own mental health issues and to seek help. I'll also impart some solid strategies for coping with mental health challenges.

CHAPTER 1MY STORY

As a young kid, I always wanted to be the centre of attention, trying to do the most extreme acts I could think of and always pushing the boundaries. I was incredibly active, which, even as a little kid, was a way to cope with putting my overactive mind at bay. It's incredibly unpleasant to have compulsive thoughts, and trying to ignore them or push them away doesn't always work.

One of the earliest stories I remember is my obsession with Gary Ablett Senior, an iconic player in the AFL. My dream as a kid was to play AFL and he was the pinnacle, arguably one of the greatest players of all time, who played for the team I had grown up supporting — the Geelong Football Club.

I remember once heading to one of our family holiday house trips at Wye River and stopping in Geelong to visit a sports store. In the corner of the store, I spotted him — Gary Ablett — and instantly froze. My dad offered to approach him and introduce him to me, but I was so overwhelmed by the situation that I ran and hid in the change rooms, refusing to come out, not reappearing until Dad assured me Gary had left.

For the next month all I would talk about was how devastated I was with myself about passing up an opportunity to meet my hero. It ate away at me. More comically, and not long after this incident, I was in religion class at school and we were asked to draw a picture of God. Very seriously, I drew a picture of Gary Ablett kicking a goal in football.

A few weeks later, my uncle took me to a Geelong game at the then Optus Oval, a football ground. We were sitting on the forward line and in the final stages of the last quarter I saw Gary Ablett kick up a chunk of grass. As soon as I saw it, I became fixated on acquiring this piece of grass. When the siren sounded, I was over the fence, weaving through security to grab the grass that Gary Ablett's boot had kicked up. Luckily, I was able to pick up the grass before I was escorted off the ground. I carefully took it home, planted it and would water it every day. I would get up before my parents each morning, sit on the windowsill, eat a piece of this grass and pray that it would make me as good at football as Gary Ablett. If only life were that simple!

This compulsive behaviour wasn't a one-off. It manifested in many ways during my adolescence and caused me incredible difficulty in my developmental years.

As I mentioned, I quickly became obsessed with the idea of playing AFL football, to the point of training six hours a day as an 11-year-old. I don't know exactly why I felt this urge, and I didn't really question it. I didn't have the self-awareness or life experience to understand it. But it was overwhelming and strong, and I didn't feel I had a choice. I simply had to do it — like a never-ending pit that I just couldn't pour enough fuel into.

The issue was that I was incredibly shy and insecure, and this only added to my need to prove I was more capable in sport than anyone around me by pushing myself to the limit. It was a way of compensating for my combination of introversion, with a need to perform and express myself by physically doing extreme things. In doing so, I could express and give an outlet to what was going on in my mind, with sport being the manifestation.

Perhaps this was fuelled even further by having a well-known and successful father. By the time I turned 12 he had become the premier of Victoria — a position he maintained until my early 20s. I was and always have been proud of him, but I think it added fuel to an already burning fire to prove myself and achieve big things. I have no doubt I would have behaved in this way regardless, but it became a combination of nature and nurture driving my extreme behaviour.

I can vividly remember getting up at 2.30 am to exercise at the age of 12. My parents could see I was showing very unhealthy and obsessive behaviour patterns. And as with most addictions, I felt extreme shame and guilt about it and would do my best to hide things from them. Mum had to take my mini weights and equipment off me to put a stop to my obsessive training.

But that didn't stop me. I would go out into the backyard and sneak bricks into my room. I would hide them under my bed, or anywhere I could, and use them to secretly train. I would do a range of exercises for around three hours with the bricks; then, when I heard Mum get up at 6.30 am, I would pretend I had just woken up and head out for a one-and-a-half-hour run before school.

Sometimes, when parliament was sitting, Dad would get home late. I can remember being up and starting my training just as Dad was arriving home at 2 am. It was totally illogical, unhealthy and extreme, but I simply didn't know how to stop.

At this point, I was also training to become a middle-distance runner, and had become so fit through all my training for football that I would win every distance competition. After completing my 2.30 am morning training, I would go to school and go straight from there to that night's training, often tripling what my coach had set for me. For example, my night training would be a 30–45-minute warm-up jog, followed by 20 × 400-metre sprints at 80 per cent with a 400-metre jog in between for recovery. I remember getting home and being so tired that I wasn't able to even walk upstairs to take myself to bed. This behaviour went on for years.

Because of my fixation and obsession, I didn't develop socially and isolated myself from other people through my entire high school years (other than close friends I had known throughout my adolescence). I felt even more of an outcast as the level of training was clearly having an impact on my physical development.

By the age of 16, I was yet to hit puberty. I had punished my body to such a degree for so many years that I had stunted my physical development. Among many issues that this caused was a delay in my performance as an athlete. I still got the results, but on the running track and on the football field, I simply couldn't compete with 16-year-olds who had the bodies of men when I was still built like a 12-year-old.

It caused me to distance myself from others throughout my entire high school years, especially girls. I was embarrassed, ashamed and disgusted with myself for not fitting in and developing as I should have. I would pray every night, begging for my body to grow and develop as it should. It was extremely confusing and frustrating. It planted insecurities and stories in my head that I am still undoing to this day.

By the time I finished high school, my body had broken down. My extreme training had caused patella tendonitis, among other knee problems, and I had no other choice than to stop training. I tried everything, obsessively doing hours of rehab each day, but nothing could undo the damage I had done. I remember my sister telling me of the screaming and crying that would come out of my room. It was utter grief and helplessness. My vice had been taken away. The only thing I placed my self-worth on was gone. I wasn't coping and simply didn't see a future if I couldn't be a professional athlete.

By this point in time, to my relief, my body had finally started to grow. I went from being 150 centimetres at 16 and built like a 12-year-old, to nearly 180 centimetres by the time I turned 19. It seems that growth was to come late in all aspects of my life, not only my physical development, which continued into my 20s.

I had also just discovered alcohol around this time. Alcohol gave me the confidence to be myself, speak my mind, interact socially and forget my problems. But unfortunately, this only created bigger problems, as you'll read later.

Realising I had a problem

After high school, I deferred from university and took a gap year. I had no idea what I wanted to do but had been accepted into a double degree of Commerce and Health Promotion at Deakin University. The gap year was a good experience in leaving Australia and experiencing something different, but it was also problematic.

I was incredibly insecure and shy and found it very difficult to interact with others. I would spend a lot of time alone, hiding away trying not to be seen. I was able to travel around a lot of Europe with Huw (who was later in the car crash I talked about in the introduction to the book) and spent a lot of time drinking and using it to mask my discomfort with not knowing how to cope on my own. For the most part, I struggled. Towards the end of the year, my dad had his third election approaching, and due to my struggles, I decided to come home and be there for it.

I started my course at Deakin only to pull out after just six weeks. I was too depressed and couldn't bring myself to try to fit in and meet people. This only led to further alcohol abuse, where I would build my whole week around it. I wasn't working or doing anything else, just counting down the time until I could drink again.

I would be out every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night, and often many other nights, drinking myself into the ground. For me, that same compulsion that I had when it came to competing in sport would kick in. I loved the feeling of escape; I loved the complete freedom my mind gave me to fully express myself, say what I thought and show my personality. I would push myself for no reason other than to outdrink whoever was around me, fuelled by a compulsion that felt illogical but, again, that I couldn't help.

The short-term high of this behaviour would lead to incredible lows. I'd spend the week in bed, locked under the covers, afraid to face the outside world. It also led to life-threatening incidents on a weekly basis. I would wind up passing out in random places, vomiting all over myself, walking down freeways against traffic and making dangerous decisions.

Around that time, I began seeing a psychologist, and also told one of my close friends about what I had been going through. At this point I hadn't told anyone else. I was even too embarrassed to tell my parents how I felt, despite them seeing me fall apart and facilitating the psychologist. I was literally trembling, thinking that my friend would never look at me in the same way again.

But to my surprise it was the complete opposite — she understood, offered emotional support and was there for me. It was a major weight off my shoulders and was the beginning of me eventually talking to more people about it. Importantly, reaching out for the first time instilled in me a key point I regularly speak about now: the importance of having unconditional relationships.

Meanwhile, I was still dealing with issues around drinking and abusing alcohol and had major insecurities and hang-ups from growing up. One of those was around girls. I hadn't been with many girls until the age of 19, when I had my first sexual experience with someone 10 years older than me. It was a relief to have finally had the experience, but due to the social isolation and shame that I felt through my adolescence about not fitting in, I had enormous insecurity about being vulnerable or intimate with girls. I relied on alcohol to interact and turned down opportunity after opportunity to date girls who showed interest in me. I had an irrational fear that I couldn't explain and allowed it to hinder me from having the experience I wanted most: to be in a relationship.

Getting help

For years, I had been suffering and done too little about it. I would come up with every excuse possible to avoid being vulnerable and confronting these issues. I knew that things would not magically get better, but I was afraid of my own shadow and too scared to do anything about it. I was also becoming more self-destructive and didn't see a way out; nor did I want a way out as I felt I had nothing left that I cared about.

It got to a point where I couldn't leave my bed even to do something as simple as walk downstairs and wash the dishes. I was almost catatonic. I couldn't hide the severity of what I was experiencing from my family either, and finally my mum intervened. She dragged me to a psychologist to get the help I so desperately needed. I was now 20 years old.

It was during my first session with the psychologist that I found out I was severely depressed. Even after all I had been through, it still came as a shock. I saw depression as something I was stronger than and thought it was embarrassing for a man to fall victim to such a thing.

But this feeling very quickly turned to relief as I was shown examples of people who had been through similar things and had come out okay at the other end. I began to understand why it was happening to me, to be able to own up to my story and then start to move beyond making plans and begin to make changes.

I found this incredibly liberating. When you're in such a state, often no amount of reasoning or logic will change your mind. You feel so overwhelmed that the thought of facing the future is simply untenable to you. I felt like my life was over and so riddled with emotional pain that no words could describe what it felt like.

Now, it really scares me to think back to those times where I had lost all hope. But equally, I'm thankful that I experienced them and forever grateful I have such a close-knit family and friends who love me. I know now that if I hadn't experienced all of this, I wouldn't be able to develop the same level of empathy for others who were suffering.

It also taught me to never judge, to always listen and never compare two situations. Everyone has their own story, and everyone's suffering is relevant under their given circumstances. The key is taking action before things become bigger and bigger problems.

Beginning to heal

As part of my healing, I enrolled in a Business and Entrepreneurship course at RMIT University. After so long out of university and not working, I needed some purpose and something to focus on. The psychologist was instilling in me the importance of taking baby steps forward, so I liked the sound of starting my own business. But there was a hurdle: I was expected to do 15 oral presentations in the first semester as part of the assessment.