AS the beautiful Danny Frawley said leading up to his recent death, "manning up in the past was to suffer in silence, manning up now is to put your hand up".
When a loved one is farewelled as a result of suicide, it is often raw and passionate, funny and irreverent. That's simply because their life was a ride of emotions. On the outside, cherished for all their flaws, yet trapped in a rut, loathed with self-hate, despair and isolation.
They bring so many people together, yet underpinned by an immense sadness.
So far, I've managed to pick all my nails with anxiety getting through this fifth paragraph. That's because it's a story I have rarely shared with the public, but one I'm finally proud to in the hope it will encourage you to no longer suffer in silence and put your hand up.
My mental health battles stemmed from a feeling of unworthiness, realising I was gay, different and fearing what would come next surrounded by straight male friends. Completely irrational.
During high school, I was petrified of hanging with my peers at lunchtime in the fear I would be caught checking out a male classmate let alone exposing myself to gay traits. To resolve this, I did what I now regret. I hid away in the toilets for an hour, five times a week towards the end of my schooling life. Yes, I had friends and reconnected with many more in the years after outing myself.
At home, I hid away in my bedroom living the life I could but not in reality. I was scared and literally exhausted of hiding in the closet. Anxiety is fear, worrying too much and the inability to relax.
They were signs I let linger. Signs I hid as much as I could.
Noticeable signs in everyday life when I crumbled at the thought of resolving a problem. Instead of confronting a phone bill of $300 when I could have changed my phone plan and paid $60 per month. I truly just did not care. Life felt empty.
Anxiety consumed dating. Overthinking, going to bed wondering why they weren't responding to my messages. It had to be me, I must be the problem.
I was self-sabotaging my happiness, even after coming out in 2017, at the age of 26.
Mentally, living and caring became tiresome and lonely.
After years of torment, I finally sought the help I desperately needed.
I found someone who saved my life.
I found a new purpose in life. I found a new community I yearned for.
I discovered strategies to overcome the anxiety and depressive slumps. I found reasons to wake up and confront this world.
I found a new drive by focussing on my physical health, shedding 40kgs. When I could rip off the mask and be authentic, I could at last focus on being the true version I always wanted to be.
The pain briefly returned when I couldn't see an end goal to my weight loss journey. I wanted results sooner. I was obsessed with how much weight I was still to lose, rather than embracing and celebrating what I had achieved.
There is a saying that you don't look out the window to see how much wood you have cut, rather how much there is still to chop. It consumes the brain, over and over.
I put the care back into me. I put the genuine smile back reflecting in the mirror.
I wish I was able to put my hand up at high school and walk through the green walls of my local headspace.
Please, use their knowledge and passion to change the face of youth mental health in Australia.
One in five Australians are living with a mental illness right now. Help me turn one in five, to none in five.
But, numbers are just that. What we need is advocacy, sharing of relatable stories and urging struggling friends and family members to get help before it's too late.
I hope my triumph over adversity can inspire you to confront your own demons.
You are loved. You are worthy. You are always forgiven.
If you need crisis support, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14.