Mental health issues have been a silent, undiagnosed battle my entire life until my mid 20s. Today I call myself an anxiety and depression survivor. I have been both blessed and cursed to have an open, heart-on-sleeve nature. I have always discussed mental health to the discrimination of friends, peers and employers. It is always a gamble I am willing to take, believing – knowing – that I had nothing to be ashamed of. The gamble was one I often lost living in isolation with friends deserting and employers discriminating.
So, when I started JoElla Marketing, I had two clear choices: Embrace my story or hide my story.
This year I had the opportunity to help beyondblue with their “Get to Know Anxiety” campaign in March. I decided to embrace the opportunity of telling my story because for the first time I had no employer to be accountable to. By campaign launch day in May I was a nervous wreck about how open I was being, but I figured if business networks found the You Tube clip I would deal with it. By day’s end I had been interviewed for three TV news stations. My story was no longer hidden! I decided it was time to embrace my story even further and posted my video on my business Facebook page. The support was so overwhelming it brought tears to my eyes, literally. I have since become a beyondblue Ambassador and public supporter of RUOK?Day. I proudly wear my beyondblue blue wristband everywhere, proudly so, and will be spending time assisting with de-stigmatising mental health in society. So why have I done this? As I mentioned above, I have suffered the discrimination of mental health in business. Now, as a business owner, it is my opportunity to lead by example and stand up proudly and say I have suffered and survived. It is an illness, nothing more or less. I understand I can be confronting in business forums talking candidly about my work, but my dream is that one day people will see mental health as the health issue it is, no different from diabetes, cancer or breaking a bone. And the only way this will happen is if people aren’t ashamed to talk about it. And people are starting to talk more openly with family and friends, but I rarely hear anyone talk about it in business. I have the strength to do it, so am happy to now play that role because if I make someone think twice about discriminating against an employee or prospect because of anxiety or depression then it’s worth it.
Mental health is part of my story. It doesn’t define who I am personally or as a business owner, but without the lessons I probably wouldn’t have had the strength and courage to do what I am today.
I am proud to have survived and be now officially part of beyondblue’s message of “Hope, Resilience, Recovery”. Good motto for business while I think of it! If you need help, please go to beyondblue or call Lifeline 13 11 14.