We all want to get there don’t we?
Where? No idea!
We all have our own unique ideas about where “there” is.
A few days ago I had to fly from the east coast of Australia to the west coast for business. To do this I had to go via Sydney, and the plane from Coffs Harbour to Sydney was a small prop plane. Now I adore flying, but I’m not so keen on the lumpy, bumpy ride you get when there is air turbulence. As I was sitting in my seat, with the plane doing what felt like somersaults, my belt buckled to within an inch of its life, eyes closed and heart pumping, I realised that air turbulence is a lot like life – sometimes we have to endure the bumps to be able to soar. Surviving through the bumps takes courage. Sure, we could avoid the bumps, we could stay home, stay safe, stay in our familiar territory, but where would that get us? Well, it certainly wouldn’t have got me to Perth.
You may say to yourself “well, I don’t need to get anywhere and I don’t like flying, so I’m okay” and that’s fine if you’re perfectly happy and content where you are……. but are you….. are you really?
I suffer from anxiety, and being outside my comfort zone is a perfect excuse for it to rear its ugly head and cause my body to tense up, my breathing to become difficult and my thoughts to race. I also live with bipolar disorder, something that I have to be extremely vigilant about, particularly as change or stress, or even a change in sleep patterns can cause an increase in symptoms of mania. So why would I put myself at risk?
My answer is two-fold:
Firstly, I refuse to let my mental health challenges prevent me from living the life I choose to live. Yes, it can be scary, even terrifying sometimes, but is it worth it? Bloody oath it is (oh my goodness, I’ve turned into an Aussie – next I’ll be saying “fair dinkum”)!
Secondly I know my purpose, and that is to spread knowledge and raise awareness about mental health issues. It is to (figuratively) smash the shit out of stigma and those who create it. It is to offer hope to those who feel helpless and to create a platform for understanding and change. How can I do that if I refuse to step out of my own comfort zone, if I’m not prepared to take risks for the greater good (and for my own good for that matter)?
I went to Perth to be part of a 4 person panel in front of 200 government agency staff, where we answered questions about the impact of mental illness on the small business owner. Two years ago the thought of doing this would have filled me with dread. “What will I say?” “What if I don’t know the answers?” “What if they regret asking me?” “What if I make a fool of myself?” I would have created my own anxiety by worrying about things that were beyond my control. Now, anyone who suffers anxiety knows that it does not come from a place of rational thinking and trying to use logic to quieten its voice does not work, EVER.
So how did I get here, to a place where sitting in front of 200 people and speaking about my experiences of living with mental illness did not really phase me in the least? I got here by enduring the bumpy ride of the air turbulence and by pushing myself out of my comfort zone one step at a time using every ounce of courage I could summon. I got there by strongly believing that the “why” of the experience was of more importance than my fear. My mental illness has turned out to be a gift, it’s my way of being of service to others and making a difference.
The first time you ever get on an aeroplane, turbulence is terrifying, but the more you do it, the more you understand that it’s all part of the journey to your destination. So when you want to stay home, to stay in your comfort zone, in a place where you feel safe, think about your why and what it means, not just for you, but for the world.
What is YOUR why? I’d love to know!