1 in 5 Kiwis will experience depression at some point in their lives and Westpac Ambassador Sir John Kirwan says it’s important that we continue normalising the conversation around the illness.
As part of Mental Health Awareness Week (October 10 – 16, 2016), JK is out and about sharing his story around depression and hammering home the point that it’s not a weakness - it’s an illness.
“I spent five years thinking all the stuff that was going on in my head was my weakness, that it was me. The anxiety, the crazy thoughts – but it was the illness. It wasn’t because I wasn’t good enough or because the thoughts that were in my head were actually realistic thoughts – it was the illness.
“If I had have realised this earlier on, then I would have got treatment for it like you should with any other illness and it wouldn’t have wreaked so much havoc in my life.”
He says the greatest thing that depression gave him was the ability to discover and understand himself.
“Wellness is every day. You’ve got to do something every day. We’re quite happy to work for 10 or 12 hours, but do you look after yourself every day. It’s about finding something that you can do every day that gives your brain a little bit of a break.”
He says he’s doing well now but knows his limits.
“I know that if I keep pushing stuff that I could get unwell again. When you know that, you don’t. You stay within your happy boundaries, and I know those so it’s really good.”
JK says one of the keys is being open about where you’re at.
“If you reach out you’ll find people that have been where you’re at and they are through the other end and can give you heaps of advice.
“I know it’s difficult. There were some days I wanted to give up, but there’s two things I sort of say, 'Stop fighting it but never give up'. Relax on yourself, accept where you’re at and just look after yourself today. And when you get through today, give yourself a pat on the back.
“It’s a real day to day thing, so just concentrate on being well today, and it will pass because I’m proof.”