I had told people in the past that I’d lost my mind, but I didn’t know what I was talking about. I’d once danced on stage with the band the Flaming Lips while wearing a giant furry koala suit. I told people “It was amazing! I lost my mind!”
I was just super excited, quite drunk, and really high. No, the day I lost my mind was something quite different indeed.
At the time I was living in California, after the first season of The Bachelor Australia had finished shooting. I was living in a foreign country and paying rent out of my savings while I tried to figure out what I was going to do with my life.
I was already feeling extra edgy because I was in the ninth month of living life without the anti-depressants that had been reining in my anxiety disorder since 2007.
Life on the meds was good, but I’d been doing well recently and was fed up with the weight gain and zero sex drive - so my doctor and I decided to try life without them.
It was nice to be skinnier and even nicer to experience sex where I actually felt something again, but I wasn’t coping. I couldn’t sleep, and I couldn’t stop the negative thinking. I’d go out for a run, and that quietened everything down.
It was on one of these runs that it all became too much. Stress about lack of work, a recent breakup with someone I was really in to, and news of my Dad ending up in ICU culminated in one horrible moment.
My brain burst open into white-hot, unstoppable, irrational fear.
The thoughts came with jolts of physical pain that would make me grunt and flinch but fortunately, I realised that something was terribly wrong and I needed to get to a doctor that afternoon I got to my doctor and started the long road back to sanity. It got worse before it got better, but thanks to the many doctors I’ve since worked with, my family, my friends and my wonderfully understanding wife I’m once again okay. I still live with an anxiety disorder that is exacerbated by a new OCD diagnosis, and I have to take medication every day to keep healthy. It’s still a balance of benefits and side effects, but this is the brain that I was born with.
I’m telling you all of this because often when people think of mental illness they picture that homeless man on the beach. They don’t think of me in a nice tailored suit counting roses and playing cupid on television. But I live with a mental illness, just like hundreds of thousands of Australians who also have a different kind of brain.