Are there are positives in the suffering? Gifts hidden in the pain?
My life unravelled with a manic explosion on Broadmeadow train station in Newcastle. I thought I was Jesus Christ incarnate ready to save all of mankind. The psychosis morphed into clinical depression. At my lowest point, suicidal, I cannot claim to have been embracing the notion of the whole shebang being any sort of blessing.
Now I regard the year my world broke as the greatest thing to have happened to me. Before Broadmeadow, my life was so terribly out of balance, in every area, that mental illness was nearly inevitable. I was taken to James Fletcher Psychiatric Hospital. Placed in lock-down. The diagnosis was delivered: Bipolar I Disorder. Life would never be the same again. I assumed it meant life would be worse.
Incredibly, despite all the bumps, bruises and scars inflicted, it's been better. I would have throttled you for suggesting a single upside when my 12-year (and counting) dance with mental illness began but shock and horror, it's proved to be indisputably true. The greatest challenges, adversities and hardships have sparked the most significant periods of personal growth. There have been so many positives as to be countless.
Don't get me wrong - it's traumatic and the fight continues. Some of this I wouldn't wish on anyone's worst enemy. I've done all the soul-searching: Why me? Why anyone? What is the meaning of all this? The turning point came when I realised I had the power to change. My thoughts, decisions and actions used to go unchallenged. They were made without consideration for the consequences. If someone else suffered as a result of what I did or said, well, that wasn't my problem. Responsibility refused to be taken for outcomes unless, of course, they were favourable.
A life lived so recklessly and selfishly deserved to result in chaos. In the fallout, I needed to be honest about the way I was living. I could keep my life hectic, stressful and dysfunctional - or go the opposite way and start listening to what my soul was really crying out for: peace, happiness, self-respect and the most powerful emotion of all, hope. Change was possible. It was possible!
I have survived but so many others with a mental; health issue are tempted to give up. I know it because I was there, too. I write this book because I want them to know that I, and so many more people in our increasingly educated society, understand. You're depressed? I know how you feel, buddy. I've tumbled into pits of depression so severe that I never thought I would never climb out. You're suicidal? I've been in the deepest, darkest, ugliest places you can imagine, but here's the moral to my story: I have clawed my way free. Which means you can, too.
Craig Hamilton is known to many people. He has for many years been a high profile sports presenter on the ABC.
With the many and varied interests and activities Craig pursues in his life, he is one of the 800,000 Australians who each year suffers from the insidious illness, depression.
This book, A Better Life, which he has written with Will Swanton, not only acknowledges his own illness and how he manages it, but it tells the stories of others in an uplifting way.
It tells how some people have managed their illness, to live as normal and fulfilling a life as possible.
Reading A Better Life will give encouragement to many, and I hope, to men in particular.
Craig's journey has been a challenging one, but one he deals with in such a way that he is able to live a very busy and active life.
Because Craig deals with his illness openly and publicly, we asked him to become an Ambassador for beyondblue some 3 years ago.
Craig travels the country speaking at public meetings and to the media, helping to raise awareness of depression.
By speaking out, Craig is helping others, particularly in encouraging them to seek help.
Craig's assistance to beyondblue has been invaluable, and this book is another wonderful contribution, to those, who like him, suffer depression.
I thank Craig for his efforts for beyondblue and commend this book to you.
The Hon. Jeff Kennett AC
The National Depression Initiative