R U OK?
If you’ve found yourself on this blog, be ready to read some stories that I hope will leave you encouraged. This very small R U OK? Day campaign of mine started with the thought of ‘what can I do?’. Because I know and understand that we all play a part in starting this conversation, caring for people and ultimately saving lives. The statistic of 8 Australian suicides every day is way to high. And no, we cant save the world over night, but we can start a conversation today and tomorrow and the next day and the next day.
I really hope that if you’re ready this you are encouraged but also know that if you need to seek further help you can. Its ok to not be ok. And if thats you, reach out.
And to those that arent struggling at the moment, here’s some simple steps that R U OK? promotes that can help you reach out to the people in your world that you think might be struggling.
- Ask ‘R U OK?’
- Encourage Action
- Check in
Helpful recourses recommended by R U OK?
Lifeline – https://www.lifeline.org.au/ or call 13 11 14
Suicide Call Back Service – https://www.suicidecallbackservice.org.au/ or call 1300 659 467
Kids Helpline – https://kidshelpline.com.au/ or call 1800 55 1800
Written by Jodi
“Beauty in the chaos”
Shameful. Worthless. Insecure. An utter disappointment. These are all the things I had believed were the sum total of my life.
A few years ago, as a result of poor decisions I made, I spiralled into a place of deep shame and self-hatred. I felt consistently anxious and struggled to take control of my thoughts. I cried waterfalls daily. At my worst, on many occasions, I had screamed out prayers to be killed. I had lost sight of hope for my future.
But now, I am so incredibly grateful life did not end while I was in this valley.
Depression and anxiety, though painful journeys, can teach you things about yourself that you may never come to understand in life’s mountaintop seasons.
These are some of the things I have discovered:
• We are designed to live in community – When it comes to mental health, seek professional help before it overcomes you. Get around life-giving friends and family who will encourage you, but who also speak truth and keep you accountable.
• Living with gratitude helps us see the good. – So much of life is about perspective. It is often far too easy to count our flaws, yet so difficult to count our blessings. Be thankful for the good things in your world – however small you believe that list might be.
• Love is an inside job – It is an uphill battle trying to receive love if you do not have any love for yourself. This is a process, but growing in self-love is of the utmost importance.
• Pain is temporary – When you are in the middle of a storm, it is often difficult to see past the pain of a moment. But there is always a new day! Have hopeful expectation that your pain will not last forever, and that better things are ahead.
Trust me – I am not saying these things are easy. Some seasons do completely shatter you. In spite of this I believe that the gift of life, in the midst of all the chaos, is full of beauty and wonder. This beauty awaits us all, so go out, seek it, and make it!
Written by Kelsey
After battling with depression for over 20 years Lauren knows well what its like to not be ok. From the early age of just 6 years old Lauren felt that she didn’t fit in and being an intelligent young child, she knew that something in her thoughts just wasn’t right. Between the age of 16 to 21 she was hospitalised multiple times for being suicidal. When the medication didn’t work she felt hopeless, like there was no light at the end of the tunnel. Try this drug, try this drug, try a bit of this and a bit of that, it was a long journey ahead. Again at 33 years old, she went through a 3 month stint away from her children and family, spending the time hospitalised, only to come out that day with two thoughts, church or die. I asked Lauren why this is what she thought of and she said she honestly said she couldn’t explain why thats what she thought as she wasn’t bought up in a religious home in any way and she had never been to church. But for her it was the last resort. She noticed after entering the church, although confused by the preacher and the music and what was going on, that she felt a peace. Even through life struggles she continued to show up and after a few months she was water baptised, not thinking much of it or that it would make any huge difference. So much so that she didn’t think to invite her family to the occasion. And this is the part that she struggled to explain even more, that when she came out of the water that it was like she had, in her words, a ‘new brain’. It was what she describes as a miracle. And not some wish washy thing that you read, but her unreligious family could see the difference as well. And although they didn’t believe in God they couldn’t deny the change that had happened in Lauren.
Now this isn’t all to say that life all of a sudden became perfect, but she had a new hope, and new perspective, something to form her identity in so that when the wind and the waves came, she was stable in her identity in Christ.
When she reflected on her years suffering from depression her advice to others would be to focus on yourself and not worry about what people might be thinking. To not settle for second best, know your worth – more precious then diamonds and gold. And to understand that its ok to not be ok. But that the journey doesn’t stop there, that once you know you’re not ok, that you go and get the help you need. She had what she calls her A team supporting her, a GP, psychologist and a psychiatrist.
After a career of being a nurse, she is now studying to be a mental health nurse to help others get through what she got through as well.
What an amazing story. Thank you for being so open and honest Lauren. I hope you’re story encourages people that there definitely is a ‘light at the end of the tunnel’.
Written by Kelsey
Emily walked into the studio today holding the hand of her little girl Eden. After ‘child proofing’ the room we sat down and had a chat while Eden played. I was soon to find out that they had travelled all the way from Wangaratta to meet with me and that they actually didn’t have a great morning. Crying was the common theme. But as we discussed, this is real life. This is what many mums and dads face every day. So mums and dads, I first want to take my hat off to you. For the days when your life is chaotic but you keep going or for days when your life is chaotic and you’re not ok. One theme that I felt from Emily as she shared was that its important to know that sometimes its ok to not be ok. Through her meditation and mindfulness exercises Emily knows that you actually need to feel the emotions and acknowledge them before you can move on. Its a lot harder to move forward if you are constantly trying to creep around ‘what you’ve swept under the rug’. This is a big reason why asking the question ‘R U OK?’ is so important. Because in our busy lives its easier to sweep it under the rug and deal with it another day. But then when that day catches up with us we realise the pile is a lot bigger then we thought and that generally makes it a lot harder to deal with. So lets help each other not let the pile, pile up! One way that Emily has used her profession of graphic design to help others was in the mindfulness colouring book that she designed and printed. It originally started when she lost her sister in law to suicide and she found that the activity of drawing really bought her mind to an ease. And then she found that for the friends and family that she distributed it to, that it helped them as well. Her colouring book has now sold 300 to 400 copies and has made its way to marginalised and disabled women in Nepal. I think we can all be encouraged by what Emily has shared in that we can all do something, big or small, to help.
Emily’s encouragement to other parents who are overwhelmed or are struggling with the juggle of life is to take time for yourself to let go of the weight of your responsibility even just for a short time, find time for the simple things that you enjoy, find a quite space and rest in silence and last of all, know that sometimes its ok to not be ok.
Thank you Emily for sharing your story and now, encouraging others with your story as well.
Emily has offered a free download of one of her colouring pages. You can find it here
Written by Breanan
R U OK day is important to me, starting a conversation could save a life, I know this is true because it’s saved mine on a few occasions. When I was about 18 I started to feel not so much myself anymore, so after attempting to cope with it in unhealthy ways on my own I got the courage to talk to a friend about how I was and she suggested I talk to a mental health professional. So I did and I was diagnosed with depression, after a few months of being on anti-depressants and going to therapy regularly, I started to get back to my old self again.
Earlier this year I experienced Post Traumatic Stress Disorder shortly after leaving an abusive relationship. I got to a point where I felt like I would never be able to leave and that’s when suicidal thoughts started to come across my mind, but a conversation with my family about how I really was and what was really going on behind closed doors meant I was supported to flee domestic violence only hours later. After I fled, I started seeing a mental health professional again to learn how to cope with PTSD and I can say confidently that I feel more myself than I ever have and my life is looking brighter than I could have ever imagined. So please ask the people you care about how they are, and please be willing to actively listen, you never know what other people may be going through and the power conversation can have.
Written by Kelsey
After tragedy comes triumph, by walking down a long road and looking back and seeing how far you’ve come. Ysolla experienced heart breaking events in her life that effected her family in a positive and negative way. After tragically loosing her cousin to a car accident in 2011, 2 days after Christmas, and then loosing her aunty 2 years later to suicide, her whole family felt the impact and had to learn to not just face grief but to walk through it. And not to walk through it alone but together. The unexpected passing of her Aunty made it known that she was suffering on her own which ultimately lead to her taking her own life. Because of this they all learnt very quickly that asking ‘R U OK?’ was a very important conversation to have on a regular basis. Tragic things happen to all of us, its the world we live in. But as a family they now support each other more than ever. In 2016, one family member had a heart attack and two others were diagnosed with cancer. Ysolla lost her grandma, also known as ‘granny’, to a very short battle with cancer not long after the diagnoses. Described as the ‘rock of the family’, the passing of her granny took a toll. Ysolla felt not a pressure but just a need to be the strong one in her family, to try and hold everyone together. Even though she herself was breaking on the inside. Through all of this, Ysolla had her own personal mental health issues which involved incredibly low self esteem, unrealistic expectations and high pressure situations that lead her to self harming and on occasions contemplating taking her own life.
But with determination that this wasn’t the end and Ysolla sought out help. She saw a professional psychiatrist and had a support network around her of friends and a local church. After meeting her boyfriend Ryan she truly learnt how important it was to have that support network around you to get you through those tough times. And for that support network to be a genuine and intentional network that would make sure she was ok, and if she wasn’t, how they could help her get back to that place.
Ysolla’s advice to others who have a similar story, would to be to find ways to let high emotions settle, such as having a shower or getting some sleep. And also to know that there is another side to what you are going through. Even when its hard to see or feel, and even when you don’t know how long it will be to get there, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
I am so honoured that you, yes you, would take the time to read these stories.
My hope for this campaign is to share stories that can be relatable but also stories that can inspire you to start that conversation.
You don’t have to do it alone. You are worth it. Your life has purpose.
If you are struggling at the moment I urge you to reach out. You can send me a message or come into the studio for a conversation. But you can also build a network of support around you to help you in those times. Professionals, health services, family and friends.
We all need each other. We weren’t designed to do this life alone. So lets do it together.
R U OK?
Blissful Love Photography