As the newest TalkLife team member I thought I’d say hello and tell you a little more about myself. It’s been quite an interesting journey for me before joining TalkLife, but don’t worry I’ll only include the interesting stuff.
Growing up in Australia in the 70’s and 80’s, to parents with extreme marital difficulties to say the least, I got an early education into mental health with my mother being quite unwell. When my dad finally separated from my mum, I was 15 years old and instantly became the man-of-the-house, charged with taking care of my mum. My little sister ran away from home, engaging in all sorts of risk behaviours of drugs and sex. As I was now responsible for the welfare of a very unwell mum, I couldn’t engage in typical teenage behaviour, instead I needed to be home on time, responsible and reliable. Years later, through prolonged sessions of therapy, I was correctly identified as a ‘parentified child’, where the child adopts the role of the responsible parent and the parent the opposite. This was quite a lot of responsibility for a young man trying to juggle school, a girlfriend and sport. I’m proud to say that I managed to handle this and finished my final exams getting the best marks in the school, although it was tough – I was bullied throughout high school for being a ‘nerd’.
Upon leaving school I became a Christian and studied for a brief period in the ministry, to become a Baptist Minister. I also married my school sweetheart at this time, aged 22. At that age I thought I knew everything, how wrong I was.
Well, I didn’t survive the biblical studies for very long, being a constant questioner and found my way to more traditional studies of philosophy and psychology. It was here that I found that psychology was fascinating to study, particularly neuropsychology, so I graduated with honours and made my way to the world of work. I worked exclusively with people who were severely injured in motor vehicle accidents, who sustained acquired brain injuries. The work was exhausting and upsetting, seeing people at their lowest and most injured, unable to walk, speak or remember someone’s name for more than 30 seconds. I recall feeling drained at the end of the days, so sorry for how my patients ended up that way and how excruciating it was for their families to see their son, father, husband, daughter no longer the person they once knew.
From there I worked in a variety of clinical environments, always assessing and making recommendations for injured people, as well as some time as a Policy Advisor in the Australian public sector, before moving to management in the healthcare industry. Since then I have always managed health care professionals, from Doctors, Nurses, Psychologists, Occupational Therapists, as I found that I had more to give to teams of healthcare professionals than individual patients.
In 2006 my wife and I made a decision which dramatically changed my life, to leave the comfort of Australia, to go the UK. London was incredible, cosmopolitan, exhausting, fascinating. We travelled so much, using London as a base, exploring Europe and the Middle East.
Unfortunately, leaving the comfort and support network of friends in Australia, our 12 year marriage dissolved within a year of living in London. It was a painful time, learning to be on my own again. Who was I? What did I like? What did I want to do? For the previous 12 years all those decisions were joint-based with my wife. I literally had to invent an identity for myself, which is tougher than you think. I had some support from new friends who endured my middle of the night texts, where I was anxious and desperate to know that things would be ok. I was away from family in Australia, so my support network was very limited. I also didn’t want to burden new friends with my overwhelming sense of fear and anxiety about the future. I wish there had been something like TalkLife back then.
Throughout 2007 and 2008, I started to learn who I was, taking time out from work to travel across North America and the much of the Middle East. I explored different cultures, tried things I’d never tried before, did stuff that my ex-wife would never have approved of, and for the first time, really started to feel that things would be ok, that I can take my time to find my new place in the world, live anywhere I wanted and do anything I wanted. It was scary and exciting. To this day I continue to travel, most recently through much of India.
Since then, I’ve held some amazing jobs working with insurers and health & wellbeing companies, always looking to improve the lives of injured or unwell policy holders, motorists, employees, members of the public. I’ve been exposed to some great corporate thinkers who proved to me that you can run a company, make profit, and treat injured or unwell people extremely well and that the benefits of getting it right can be massive.
And so I’ve found my way to TalkLife. It’s the most amazingly supportive community and I can only say that I wish there had been something like it when I was being bullied at school and again when I separated from my wife. My role will be to connect TalkLife users with counsellors and therapists. This will be for users who may benefit from even more support than that provided already. This new service is called TalkLife Connect – which will be launching soon. I think its going to be amazing, we are going to break all the barriers of traditional therapy by allowing users to instant message with a therapist in their own time, at their own pace, without needing referrals from doctors, without a confronting face to face session. The service isn’t free though and is only going to be available to over 18’s, but will be ground breaking.
Reflecting on what I thought I knew at age 23, compared to what I know now age 43, having travelled so far and experienced so much, I know that there’s still so much to learn, so many more mistakes to make, people to help and places to go. London is still home, but the world is my doorstep. Oh and I’m mad about road cycling too, forgot to mention that!
If you or someone you know is in crisis, and potentially at risk of self harm or suicide, it is important to seek professional help NOW. Click here for links to emergency help.