I used to want to rule the world. It wasn’t my fault. Tears for Fears told me to do it.
You see, I was born in 1976, so all of my formative pop-culture references are from the 1980’s and 1990’s. It was 1985. I was 9 years old – young and impressionable – and Tears for Fears were declaring that ‘everybody wants to rule the world’. And I wanted to rule the world. Badly.
I spent the next decade indulging in big dreams yet I never took action. I could sit here and blame everyone else however, at the end of the day, I know it was my own fear and insecurity that held me back from doing the creative things I wanted to do with my life, like being a pop star or being an author.
Once I had a complete nervous breakdown at the age of 35, followed by a few years of debilitating depression and anxiety, everything changed. I no longer have the fear I used to. Why? Probably because I’ve stared into the abyss and once you’ve done that, nothing seems as life-threatening as it once did.
I no longer want to rule the world. Today, I want to change it.
I want people to understand mental illness. I want people to understand that, in any given year, at least one in five people – 20% of the population – will experience a mental illness. These figures are based on Australian data (ABS). It’s thought that it’s one in four in the UK and USA.
When I told my employers about my mental illness, I was treated initially with kindness then, after a short time, with contempt. I needed support and understanding – instead, I was bullied into accepting a role at a lower grade and a lower salary. I was in a high-profile and senior role in the organisation and I was being told I had to accept a new role which would pay $35k less than I was earning. There were three main reasons for my initial mental health issues – work, family and financial – and I was severely in debt, to the tune of almost $100,000, because I had been spending beyond my means to try to suppress my depression. Needless to say, being told I was about to lose $35,000 a year from my salary sent me into a nose-dive of depression.
I’m not sharing this part of my story to paint my ex-employer (I resigned shortly after) in a poor light. Their karma is their karma. Nor am I trying to gain sympathy for my plight by painting them as an evil organisations – I was earning a six-figure salary and there were a lot of expectations on me in return for that salary. It was what it was. I was broken and that job became the straw that broke the camel’s back. I think it’s important to take ownership and never to lay blame at the feet of others, because all you can truly control is your own thoughts, feelings and behaviours. You cannot control how others behave towards you.
I am sharing my story because I want others to gain a glimpse into the way it feels to be discriminated against because you are suffering from a mental illness. It’s awful. It’s debilitating. And in some cases it leads to failed suicide attempts, and in some other cases it leads to successful suicide successes.
I no longer want to dominate the pop charts like I once did. I know in my very core that I experienced depression for a reason, and that reason was to help others. I know that I am here to make a difference and I know that I’m doing that now through the work I’m doing to shine a light on mental illness. I’m making a difference every time someone reads something I’ve written about my own struggle with depression and anxiety. I’m making a difference every time I help someone to make a breakthrough. I’m making a difference every time I help someone to think differently about mental illness.
I’m not here to rule the world. I just want to change the world. Nothing major. And do you know what? I am going to change the world. Because I’m going to continue to get people talking about mental illness and I’m going to continue to help people to dispel the myths surrounding mental illnesses. Anyone can end up experiencing a mental illness. Anyone.
That’s how I’m going to change the world. Why don’t you join me? #MentalAsAnyone