Bathurst Memorial Entertainment Centre (BMEC) will host a show with a difference on Tuesday night with a performance of This Is My Brave Australia: The Bathurst Show. It features first-hand accounts of local people's mental health journey. Here, three of the show's participants share their experiences.
Speaking out to be an advocate for men
I GOT involved with This Is My Brave Australia (TIMBA) in Bathurst because I want to advocate for men in distress and pain. Having been through my own grieving process, indeed still going through it, I'm aware of critical issues that men face.
One is their reluctance to talk and share about their problems and pain. Perhaps it is even an inability to talk about it. The other issue is some people's unwillingness to listen to anything that might be shared.
More importantly, I want to raise the issue of people reaching out to those in distress. I believe people should feel less afraid to reach out to people in pain or distress.
The consequences of reaching out are not as bad as people fear. These are two sides to the same coin. One side is the supply: can or will the man open up to share his pain? The other side is the demand: will people reach out to men in pain? And will they then listen?
That's why I jumped in to share my journey and the story of my late partner, Neroli Colvin. We endured and enjoyed our last 18 months together, because we were able to find joy and love amid the pain and distress.
Along the way, I've been able to delve deeper and sit with our story in a new way.
One result of that is that my own barriers to sharing, my reluctance and fears, have been greatly reduced. I suppose the more you do something, the easier it gets.
Sharing is getting easier for me because of the compassionate listening from my This Is My Brave Australia team mates. I have also benefited from hearing their stories in rehearsals.
I can hear their struggles and feel less alone. I can hear them and help them feel listened to. I can learn what life is like for other people. I have learned and I have grown through being engaged with this event and these new friends. I'm grateful, therefore, for everyone else sharing and I hope my sharing provides something similar to others.
Jock Cheetham, This Is My Brave Australia Bathurst show storyteller
Taking the chance to foucs on the positives
WHAT does anxiety look like for me?
Anxiety is the self-dialogue that manifests itself into the physical. Its feeling hot and flushed, your heart beating out your chest, your muscles feeling weak and your stomach churning.
Waking up at 3am to think about things you should have said, how you should have reacted. Having entire conversations in your head and convincing yourself that its not worthwhile doing anyway.
Throwing bad words and stock phrases back at yourself, inflicting pain onto yourself, like sticking pins in your soul so many times that you feel worthless, useless, worn out and a burden on the world.
It is quite hard to take your mind and emotions back to a painful time in your life. Our instinct is to close up tight, put it behind us and move on. It's been more difficult than I originally thought, to cast my mind and feelings back in time, but I can now see how far I have come.
The whole experience has actually been somewhat cathartic and has given me perspective. I have opened that door and looked squarely at where I have come from and can now acknowledge the gains I have made.
For the TIMBA show, our brief was not to focus so much on what challenges were had, more so to talk about the positives. Where we are today allows us to stand before an audience and give hope and shine a light on mental health recovery.
During rehearsals we have listened to the other participant's stories. I draw strength from their authenticity, their honesty and eloquence. I have found that I unwittingly start to compare my story with theirs and find my own weak and insignificant next to their much greater challenges - but that's not right.
Its not a competition of who is the most affected, after all who really wants that trophy! We are all allowed to feel the feelings we feel (a quote I heard in a B-grade movie - LOL).
Like the hashtag says #StorytellingSavesLives.
We are all in this together and by speaking out we can somewhat normalise mental health challenges.
This means when someone is struggling, they can give themselves permission to reach out for help. Removing the stigma will allow everyone to be more open and less judgemental.
Someone can get help earlier before their thoughts turn to despair and suicide, because they feel the world will be a better place without them. It will be a lifelong battle - some days will be easier than others.
You may fall over and start to descend into a downward spiral. To know that you can stop it, and that you do have the tools to climb back up from the dark hole in your mind because you've done it before...
This is powerful, This is healing, This is possible.
Sharyn Semmens, This Is My Brave Australia Bathurst show storyteller
Giving a voice to those desperate to be heard
WHEN dialogue opened up between Tim Daly, TIMBA's founder and executive officer and myself, the Sydney show I had intended to audition for was in COVID-19 hibernation.
There was one question he dropped in to the conversation that completely caught me off guard: "Why not Bathurst?"
As COVID lockdown restrictions began to ease, I found myself taking up the role of the TIMBA: Bathurst Show producer and began making phone calls which resulted in a soft hold on a date during Mental Health Month at BMEC and an audition space with The Neighbourhood Centre Bathurst.
Sitting in our Meet the Producers exploratory sessions during July, I heard such an outpouring of struggle and grief in that space that was tinged with tenacity and hope.
It confirmed for me that many in our community living with mental health challenges were desperate to be heard and needed a platform to challenge ingrained societal issues around mental health stigma.
In the first meeting that day, story after story reflected grief, anger and a longing to be heard.
Creativity came alive, as soon to be cast members, bounced around ideas of what could be done to give voice to the raw feelings aired in that room. There were tears.
At that moment I knew that this event was going to transform lives. It has been the most humbling, inspiring and personally empowering experience to have walked alongside each of the members of this incredible cast.
There have been highs and there have been lows. I have loved watching the fire catch, watching their confidence grow and watching the unique ways in which each of them sparkle.
They have been moving towards a profound moment that will touch each and every one of their lives. They take to the stage on October 20 to share with the world that there is light, even in the darkest of times, that it is OK to not be OK, that each and every one of us needs to name the things that are holding us back.
COVID-19 has thrown us for a loop, however these amazing cast members have shownthey will not back down.
TIMBA shares the stories of people that have thrived amongst the most adverse of life's circumstances. Their stories need to be told and must be heard. Bathurst, join us in breaking the stigma surrounding mental illness, one story at a time.