We always say “check on your mates” and I am guilty of this as well, however after hiding my own issues from people closest to me I can say this does not always work.

Let’s go back to November last year when I was first going through my issues, no one knew except my partner and two others I reached out to for some help.

I kept it this way as I was embarrassed and didn’t want anyone knowing what I was going through.

I ended up spending a month in the hospital over Christmas and New Years, and no one had a CLUE I was in there. I managed to appear as if I was still out living my life and working. Mates would call or message me asking to go out and I would just tell them “sorry, I have to work” or “I am busy”. I felt bad about lying to my mates as they were just wanting to catch up.

I have a really good mate that was in the process of packing up his life and moving to the Middle East, this is a man I consider a brother and is one of my best mates. He had no idea what was going on and was constantly asking me to catch up before he goes, to come and play a round of golf etc. While this was happening I felt so bad that I wasn’t being honest with him, I eventually came clean and told him where I was. He was in shock and had no idea. He came to visit me in the hospital and we sat there for hours having a good chat about things and life. He did not judge me – he did not say one bad thing about the situation. He was just there being the good mate he is.

I honestly wish I was more open about struggling from the start, the pressure you put on yourself keeping it a secret and hiding it from your family and friends is awful.

People can be mean and we have this stigma out there with how everyone “should” act and even more so in males, we are taught that we need to be tough alpha males and not show our feelings.

My family had no idea I was in hospital either, and I kept it that way for some time, even after my release I was not telling them a whole lot. They were under a lot of other stress and pressure at the time with the bushfires we had here in Adelaide.

My mum’s farm was right in the middle of it all and it was an extremely tough time for all involved. So I didn’t want to add anymore stress to the situation.

We say check on your mates…

I do check on mine, fairly often as well.

But it’s easy to put on the fake smile and pretend to be happy.

Last year when I found out a brother tried to take his own life, I was shocked as we catch up really often and chat, we are completely open with one another about our struggles and I feel we really help each other out when we do talk.

However I had no idea he was suicidal and that he would attempt to take his own life. Thankfully he failed and he is doing a lot better now, but this just goes to show how easy it is to hide the fact you are struggling.

I have had countless lads reach out to me over time as I have always been someone they can reach out to for a chat – without the fear of judgement or running my mouth about them. I am extremely grateful they see me like this.

However…

There have been so many lads I have served with over the years that have openly admitted to me they are:

• Hurting both physically and mentally • Struggling with life • Struggling with Defence • Struggling with their relationships • Struggling with their Families • Suicidal

The list goes on and on, but the most common words that follow these conversations are “Please Don’t Tell Anyone”.

It is as if they are ashamed of it, my question is Why?

Why do we have to hide the fact we are struggling?

Why do we as a society have to care about what people think?

Why do we have to feel the need to always try and justify ourselves to others?

Why do humans feel the need to bully others and have opinions?

I know there are those out there that will have an opinion of myself and hey that’s ok, if you would ever like to sit down and have an adult conversation I am happy to do so. I am not going to change and hide the fact I struggle, the more I open up the more people reach out to me and tell me they are going through the same issues.

To all those that know me personally and have for some time I can tell you all right now you will know some of these lads that are hurting, you will know each other, you have served together both on Ops and In Australia, you have spent weeks and months on end sleeping right next to some of these lads, you are probably right now talking with these lads face to face or on messenger or even on the phone.

Just take a moment to sit back and think about that for a second.

Some of the strongest dudes I know have openly admitted to struggling, these are current and ex serving men ranging from your regular ADF to Special Forces Soldiers, to local and federal Police, Correctional Officers, Fire Fighters, Private Security operators, people working in the Immigration networks, Paramedics, Nurses and so on.

We all go through our own battles daily, you never know what someone is going through. Yeah they might look like they have it all together on the outside but you don’t know how there mind is ticking over, what they are thinking, what is going on in their home life, what is going on in their job.

So it is all well and good to say check on your mates and I will continue to say that, however I feel the real big thing we need to change is the fact that IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK!

Lads you need to start being open about your struggles and know that you are not alone in this. Your mates wont judge you and your family will support you. If they don’t, cut them away as you do not need that negativity in your life.

I know this is all easier said than done however this is coming from someone that continues to go through this on a daily basis and I am learning more and more as I go.

So share this post with your mates if you feel they will get something out of it, you never know who needs to read this today.

We need to get this message out there that

IT’S OK TO NOT BE OK.

Cheers

Wally

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