Unspoken Conversations are the topics that are often swept under the carpet, whispered amongst the closest of friends and bitched about by many. I want to create awareness about difficult things that people face in life; grief, mental health, money, illnesses, family troubles, relationship difficulties and putting yourself first. I want to tell the truth about things that really matter.

Saturday, 20 December 2014

I Love my Red Hair; a Poem for my Niece

If there's one thing that I can teach my niece it would be to love and accept her red hair. Born a blonde I've copped my fair share of jokes, but at the end of the day I just laugh and use it to my advantage and blame things on my silly yellow hair!

So to all rangas out there, embrace your red hair, it's what makes you unique!

And to Meeks,  I wouldn't change a thing about you my precious little girl.

When people see me they stop and stare;

"Why little girl, what gorgeous red hair".

"Oh and check out those curls, they're gorgeous too,

I'd love to have hair, just like you."

"It's just hair," I say, "it's only a small part of me,"

"Some call me ginger, carrot top and ranga" but I don't worry.

When people ask if I have a temper I say look out!

And I giggle and laugh because there's no need to shout.

I'm a little girl that was born without a care,

And oh how I love my pretty red hair!"

Love always,

Aunty Kirsty xxx

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Facebook; Why I'm Culling My Friends List

It was a thought provoking and passionate discussion over a few too many wines the other night that got me thinking about the role that Facebook plays in my life.

"Hi, my name is Kirsty,  and I'm 100% addicted to Facebook. The first thing I do in the morning and the last thing that I do at night,  is scroll through my news feed,  checking out the goss and I'm even known for taking my phone on the toilet for a good old facestalk".

But why? Why is it that admittedly, I spend my "spare time stalking?" What is it that I'm looking for or hope to find? Do I really have 500+ friends?

Why did I join Facebook in the first place?

Well....I joined because;

-I saw the potential to share my life, photographs and adventures with my friends and family.

-It's cheaper then sending picture messages.

-I could stay connected to my friends overseas.

-It was a great platform to share my blog with a wider audience.

In an essence, I loved Facebook because I saw the potential that it had to strengthen the relationships around me, especially as we all started going our own ways and could no longer pop around to each others houses to share stories and photos over coffee.

But somewhere along the way my view of Facebook has been tarnished and I couldn't pinpoint why until recently.

I actually think that Facebook is starting to do an injustice to relationships.

What on earth do I mean by that?

Well, once upon a time the only people who knew about your overseas adventures,  latest renovations and purchases, excitement about your child's achievements,  and shared the intimate details of your life were your closest friends and family.

And how did your closest friends come by this information?

You'd arrange a catch up date soon after you'd touched back down in Australia to whip out your slideshow of overseas photos, pop open a bottle of champers,  and elaborately share the details of the time you got lost in Rome, or the disgusting snails you ate in Paris, or when you almost got ran over by the crazy motorbikes in Saigon.

Or as soon as your baby pulled themselves up on their own two feet you'd pick up the phone and tell your best friend, stoked that your child has reached a new milestone, and you'd laugh about hiding everything within arms reach and the craziness that comes with independence.

Now, how many times when you catch up with someone and they begin a conversation with excitement and emotion about the journey they've been on do you find yourself saying, "yeah I know,  I saw it in Facebook" to which the person goes "oh yeah" and the conversation turns to something else?

What are we missing out on here?

Connecting emotionally with another human being?

Do we make as much effort to see our friends and family now that we're "so connected on Facebook" or do we feel as though we "see them enough" and "know what's going on in their life" because they pop up in our news feed?

Do you still arrange to catch up with friends when they return from their holiday to hear about the stories,  excitement and adventures they faced on their trip that can't be captured in photos and tag lines on Facebook?

What are we missing out on here?

But it also got me thinking that perhaps it's not just our close friends who miss out on "emotionally connecting with us" and being fortunate enough to share our lives with us, that maybe it's also impacting our ability to create lasting relationships with other people?

What do I mean by this?

Well, when once upon a time we would've stopped in our tracks in the street to catch up and say hi to someone we hadn't seen in ages, now do we just walk on by because we already "know what's going on in their life" because we've seen it on Facebook?

Are we jumping to conclusions and closing ourselves off to meeting new people and engaging in conversations because we already know about their life?

What are we missing out on here?

Engaging in conversations and making the time in our lives to stop and say hello because our newsfeed keeps us up to date?

I've come to the conclusion that I value getting to know someone face to face,  rather then feeling like I know them through their newsfeed updates.

I've come to realize that the reason I love seeing the photos of my close friends lives popping up on my facebook is because I know the story behind the photograph.

I know the person isn't taking the photos to brag about their life, or to create a false pretension for what's really going on behind the scenes,  I know that I can laugh, cry, empathize and pray for my close friends when photos, quotes and "news" pops up because I have a relationship with that person off of Facebook; Facebook only helps to strengthen my love for that person because I get to share photos and stories that are otherwise more expensive and difficult to share when you live away from each other.

So I've decided that I'm going to cull my Facebook friend list to only those whom I have a relationship with off of Facebook, so that if by chance I see you in the street and I haven't spoken to you in ages, I'll stop and say hello and hear about your life from you; and it'll give our relationship a chance to become personalized.

So don't be offended if you don't make the cut, take it as a compliment that I want the opportunity to get to know you past the pictures you post in my newsfeed.

Don't forget that if you love my blog you can stay connected by searching for regular posts online!

And to my close friends, I look forward to sharing my life with you xx

What do you think?

Look after yourselves and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Everyday is an Opportunity

Everyday is an opportunity to make a change,  turn an "I wish" into a "can do" and make a difference.

What are you going to do today?

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Monday, 3 November 2014

Anxiety; It's Different This Time - Two Months On

I have come to some sort of understanding with my anxiety; a change of thinking that I know will help me in the future.

I used to fear anxiety; loathe and dread the feelings that would consume my body and mind making the simplest of tasks challenging conquests.

But something has changed; I've learnt to accept that anxiety is an emotion, yes an extreme emotion, and often an unpleasant one, but as with all feelings I know that this one will come and go throughout my life and is not a permanent fixture.

I know the signs to look out for;
-loss of appetite
-heart racing
-hot flushes
-inability to sleep
-loss of confidence
-inability to concentrate
-ruminating negative thoughts

I have more  self awareness. I know my own body and I know when I'm becoming run down, tired and stressed. After seeming somewhat on top of things for four years since my depression, I've learnt that I can't become complacent with listening to my body, as alarm bells were ringing this time around wayyy before the anxiety kicked in, I just chose to ignore them and kept battling on.

I've learnt that it's okay not to feel happy and in control all of the time; it doesn't mean that your life is spiraling down the drain, it's just your bodies way of saying hey you, what do we have to do around hear to be heard; we're making your heart race, preventing you from sleep, sending your brain round and round in circles - listen up?!" Unfortunately were becoming less resilient to feelings of sadness because we only ever see happy images on our screens. Sadness, like happiness, will come and go through out your life - no one is happy and in control all of the time.

I've learnt to listen to my body.

I've learnt that I'm not invincible; even with my new found assertiveness since becoming sick, my self awareness and my knowledge and understanding of anxiety,  that sometimes,  just sometimes it can still creep up on you.

I've learnt that anxiety doesn't always lead to depression (this has been a HUGE breakthrough for me and one that I am so grateful for). I've learnt the difference between the feelings of anxiety and the feelings of depression. Even though anxiety is crippling, and makes day to day life tough, there is still hope when you have anxiety that tomorrow will be better, there's still glimpses of happiness and moments when you don't feel anxious and you still feel very much alive. Depression is completely different, well the depression that I suffered felt completely different to the anxiety that I have just experienced. 

In a strange way I am grateful for the things that I have learnt this time around as I now have the belief in myself that I can manage the feelings and make them go away without needing expert help, medication and spiraling into a great depression.

I am enough.

I am proud to say that two months on, I am completely anxiety free, and I did it all by myself, just little old me.


My best advice for others out there suffering would be to;

-Do a little research about what anxiety is; knowledge is power and understanding the feelings you are experiencing makes you realize that they are normal, and can be controlled.

-Have some tools in your bag for managing your anxiety; different things work for different people. This time around the "stop sign" really helped for me (whenever a negative thought what enter into my head I'd picture a stop sign - it helps your mind to recognize that it's a negative thought and to try and replace it with something more helpful).

-Don't be afraid to take some time off of work; you're not a failure, you're not ruining the company, and you're certainly not going to be fired, you're just recognizing that your body is stressed and needs some down time.

-Make time in your day for exercise. I'm  the worst person to preach exercise as I'm often caught thinking about it more then actually doing it buttttt after hearing that 30 minutes of walking, 5 times a week is equivalent to a low antidepressant I stopped making excuses. If you're experiencing negative thoughts then it's better to be thinking outside with the distractions of the natural senses rather then being curled up in a dark room; you have to create opportunities for happy thoughts.

-Be honest with how you are feeling with those around you - they won't think differently, they'll just want to help.

-Seek medical advice.

What has anxiety taught you?

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Saturday, 1 November 2014

Marriage is a Verb

Definition of a verb; a verb is a doing word. Examples of verbs include; a physical action, a mental action or a state of being. 

A good friend once told me that "marriage is a verb not a noun." While I don't have years of experience on my martial resume,  one year is enough to know that this might just perhaps be the key to unlocking an ever growing and fruitful happiness between two people who joined lives with promises to stand strong in the face of life's woes and wins.

While marriage is one of the most beautiful things that you can ever share with another person, the act of being married doesn't necessary make you happy; it's the continual effort and selflessness that you must show another person to understand and respect their love language and goals so that you can both achieve mutual happiness that builds the foundations of a strong relationship.

There is no doubt that there will be times when you can't wait to snuggle in bed and share your day with your partner and there's times when you'll leave a clear message that the couch is his place of respite for the night with a carefully laid out pillow and doona (okay so pillows and doonas clearly ripped off one bed in haste and frustration and dumped on the couch! )

They'll be times when you're both on the same page working towards a joint goal and other times when you almost feel like you're living separate lives as your energy is used to achieve personal goals.

There's times when you'll feel like a little kid in a candy store giggling over calling each other husband and wife and times when you'll have to stop and remind yourself about what made you fall in love with the person in the first place.

Just like any relationship,  they'll be times when you feel inseparable and times when you just want some god damn space before you lose your shit and start throwing things creating World War 3.

So what holds a marriage together? How can two people,  despite their differences,  faults, personal goals, fights, flaws and passion, makes a relationship last?

Is it love?

Is it commitment?

Is it communication?

Is it respect?

Is it gifts?

Is it actions?

Is it quality time?

Is it physical attraction?

I'm no expert but I think that a strong marriage is determined by something more than love....

Two people can be totally insatiable with each other, yet they might not function as a couple.

Two people can share a bond, a journey and a life time together but they might not feel loved and happy.

Two people can respect, communicate and shower each other in gifts but might not feel loved.

So what is it the "key" to happiness?

Marriage is a verb not a noun; maybe it's as simple and as complicated as putting effort into understanding each others needs and wants so that both people feel loved.

I can not recommend the book The Five Love Languages enough; it seriously saved my relationship when we first moved in together. Understanding that there are 5 different ways to show people that they are loved, and working out which love language your partner is so that you can change your behavior, thoughts and feelings to ensure that your partners "love tank" is full, is just one way that our actions can help to create a strong marriage.

Yes, people enter into marriage for life, but it is still a choice to stay with that person; you owe it to your partner and yourself and do everything in your power to make the foundation of your life; your marriage,  as strong as it can possibly be, so that your love is forever a verb (growing, understanding, evolving, loving) and never a noun.

What do you think?

Do you have any secrets to a successful marriage?

You can buy the book here;


Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Monday, 27 October 2014

Public Speaking - Stepping Outside of Your Comfort Zone



There's something so invigaroting about stepping outside of your comfort zone and achieving something that you didn't think was possible.
The adrenaline that pumps through your body, fueling your nerves and keeping you on your toes, makes you feel so alive, pumped and determined to challenge your safe zone.
After all, we'll never grow if we don't plant the seeds for change.
It's up to us to have the courage to take that leap of faith, even when our hearts are racing, palms are sweating and knees are shaking!
For me, it's public speaking, that turns someone who can usually talk a leg off of a chair into a blubbering mess.
But it's a strange relationship that I have with speaking infront of a crowd of people - kind of a love/hate bond that we share.
While I battle my own personal anxieties and make the conscious effort to breath, shatter self doubt and challenge my thoughts in preparation for my speech, there's no greater high then after you've delivered a presentation to a room full of people who seem to really appreciate your thoughts.
I once went to a professional development course that made me challenge the use of the word "nervous" and to instead, replace it with "excited and stimulated", as this generates positive connotations in your mind - and helps to ease the uncertainities.
So I practice it before I ever have to give a speech "I am excited and stimulated about sharing my experience with mental health to help other people" - and I say this over and over again in my head.
I find it funny when I confess to people that I don't feel comfortable speaking infront of crowds. For some reason people think that because I'm loud, bright and bubbly that public speaking must come easy to me - and they often brush it off by saying "you'll be fabulous." Sometimes I think if only they knew!
It makes me wonder how many people out there suffer from the same nerves that I do when speaking to crowds, and how well they are at hiding these feelings.
I, for one, have realised that I can't speak without notes. Infact, once I even wrote out the whole script with *look up at crowd*, *smile*, *breath*, *slow down*, reminders throughout, and then worried that mid speech I'd blurt them out and look like a real dork. Could you image?
"Hi, my name is Kirsty and four years ago I suffered from depression and anxiety *smile* *look up at crowd* *continue slowly* haha!"
Sometimes I can convince myself that I'll be okay, but the minute my name is called and I find myself staring down the barrel of peoples faces intently listening to my every word, I feel my heart start to pound, and I can feel my lips moving but I don't really know what I'm saying! It's a pretty crazy feeling!
But as many people keep telling me, practice makes perfect, and while the thought of public speaking makes me cringe, the determined side of me isn't willing to give into some uncomfortable feelings and fear to stop me from sharing my passion.

After all, if we never step out of our comfort zones then we will never know what we're capable of acheving!
Do you have any tips for public speaking?
What have you found works to calm your nerves?
Does imaging the crowd naked really work (haha)?
Look after yourself and those around you,
Kirsty xxx

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Stress is a Wasted Emotion

We all do it,  some more then others, stress that is.

But when we pause to think about what stress actually achieves for us, we quickly find that all it really does is stop us from finding a solution, creates frustration and anger and leaves us feeling pretty darn flat and puffed out.

But whether we like it or not, it's normal to stress. Our lives are busy, there's financial pressures, big decisions to make, finding time to squeeze everything in, feeling accepted and healthy, looking after ourselves and others and some days,  just finding the effort and energy to put one foot in front of the other with a smile on our dial can be cause for stress.

So how can we manage stress in our lives?

We can find positive outlets for pented up anger and frustration or just time to breath and think by dedicating 30 minutes a day towards exercise. Yup, 30 small minutes can do wanders for your physical and mental health, and is much more beneficial then stewing in bed, or pondering life's challenges on the couch; it creates a time and place for positive thinking and  there's just something therapeutic about being outside in the fresh air and natural sunlight that helps to ease your worries.

Changing our attitudes in certain situations can help to ease stress; ie instead of being nervous for a job interview you could replace the negative adjective word nervous with excited and stimulated, which can change your whole mindset about the experience. Often just realizing that our attitude may stink at certain times, can be enough to jult us into finding ways and selecting thoughts and actions that can help us through tricky situations with a more positive mindset.

Challenge your thoughts and stresses; is it really worth stressing over? What can I be doing that's more effective then mulling over these thoughts?  Is my life really that bad? What do I have to be grateful for?

Look for solutions to your problems; often this gives you the control that you've been craving in your life; knowing that perhaps a few small changes can increase your overall happiness and quality of life can be empowering.

Return to basics. Yup, that's right, forget about busy schedules and cramming something into every minute of your waking hour and turn your focus to sleeping, eating, exercising and relaxing.  It really can be as simple as that!

Do something about it. Sound harsh? Well really, you're not achieving much by sitting around and ranting and raving, so if it's more money that you need -re look at your budget, more sleep - cancel an appointment,  more challenges - speak to your boss about bigger responsibilities,  more quality time with your partner - book in a date night - believe it or not, you can either choose to bitch and moan or create opportunities for change!

Contribute to something bigger then you. What does this mean? How can this reduce stress? Sometimes we become so focused on our own lives and worried about social media that we close our lenses to much bigger problems in our society. Chances are, you have a home, you have a full belly, you're loved and you're as healthy as you're willing to make yourself be, so perhaps other stresses aren't as big a deal as we make them out to be. When you can turn your focus and energy to creating positive changes in society,  or contributing to something that benefits other people,  then you might just be surprised how your overall outlook and appreciation for life changes for the positive.

Stress truly is one of the most wasted emotions that we can feel. Yes it's normal, and even okay to stress about things because it means that you care and you worry about yourself and others,  but allowing stress to control your life, actions and happiness is something we should try to avoid.

How do you control stress in your life?

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Monday, 13 October 2014

Dreams Really Can Come True

For the first time in my life I am left speechless; pondering how I am meant to express my sincere gratitude, happiness and disbelief at making a real life dream come true.

Yes that's right, something that I had conjured up in my wildest imagination as a vision for promoting mental wellbeing in my local community has been bought to life by the overwhelming support of a fantastic committee of 4 amazing ladies, the support of a local non for profit organization and the generous donations from local businesses.

To say that I am blown away, filled with hope, love and inspiration is a complete understatement.

Making my dream a reality has taught me that no goal is too big, and no dream unattainable, if you are willing to voice your ideas, reach out to networks for support and invest time and energy along with a positive attitude to shift your ideas from your mind into action.

So what is the big goal that I achieved and just how did I go about it?

I had a dream to create a gala dinner full of fun, colour and frivolity that would bring together people of all ages and backgrounds in my local community to raise awareness and funds for mental health.

My brain must of looked like a computer screen with pop ups dinging every 2 seconds as ideas filled my head but I had no idea where to start, who to talk to, how on earth I was going to finance the event, if anyone would even be interested in attending, where to have it, and just how I'd manage bringing it all together while working full time and juggling life's demands.

I did however know that I had this burning desire to share my idea with others in the off chance that someone out there might be keen to share my enthusiasm and vision and to jump on board to make it happen.

My opportunity arose during mental health week in 2013, when, after working with Emma Pedler to share locals experiences with mental health on ABC Open, I mentioned that my next big dream would be to create a gala dinner.

***note to anyone else with an idea but you're not sure where to start; local radio stations, newspapers and services have huge networks of people in your local area and may be able to point you in the direction of like minded candidates to jump on board!

I very nervously remember writing an email to a list of potential committee members given to me by Simone Gilliam from Country Arts SA,  introducing my grand idea with as much passion and excitement as I could cram into an email in hope that someone out there would respond.

And then I waited, hoping and praying.

With 24 hours I had a reply from a lady called Angela Cordon, who worked for Country Health.

I couldn't believe my luck and for the first time I realized that maybe, just maybe, this dream had the potential to be filled.

All of a sudden there was this amazing momentum and energy around my idea. I remember Ang saying that "sometimes we have to through our ideas up in the air and if it's meant to be then something will stick" and wow, I must have lucked out as things starting to stick like glue and before I knew it, I was meeting with Penny Will, another local lady keen to create awareness about mental health over coffee to share ideas!

Wow; my head was left spilling and I felt giddy; I must have been walking around with an almighty big spring in my step; this was really going to happen!

But wait,  it was all well and good to have a gala dinner but where was the money going to go that we raised?!

That's when we met Joanne Clark from West Coast Youth and Community Support.  As soon as I met Jo I knew that this was the service that had captured my heart. I was blown away with their generosity and commitment to offer support to everyone who knocked on their door in search for hope. Being a non for profit organization meant that every cent counted to be able to offer support to those in serious need. With a 11 to 12 week wait to see a psychologist on the Eyre Peninsula, I saw this service struggling to fill the demands of local community members who just needed zome reassurance that everything would be okay, to be able to speak to someone who truly cared and to be pointed in the right direction towards the help they so desperately needed. That's when we devised the plan for a Mental Wellbeing Program that would reach out to communities in the hope of providing the information,  support and contacts for services so that we could create a mentally fit Eyre Peninsula.

I soon realized that this dream of mine was going to be bigger and better then I ever could've ever imagined.

Yes, I think there were times where I lliterally pinched myself waiting to wake up for my amazing dream!

We knew that we wanted to hold a gala dinner and we knew where the funds were going to go but we still needed financial support to help make our dream fly.

That's when Bendigo Bank came on the scene. Now I for one am incredibly nervous when it comes to public speaking but when we were invited to speak at the banks joint meeting I knew that it was too good of an opportunity to pass up. While I fumbled my way through a speech with our vision I could see their faces light up and soon after,  we were notified that both the Cummins and Port Lincoln Bendigo Banks were keen to sponsor our vision.

These generous donations meant that we could definitely deliver a 3 week wellbeing program in Cummins, Tumby Bay and Port Lincoln in both the schools and community and gave us the confidence and reassurance that all of our hard work would be rewarded; we were just so grateful that they believed in what we were trying to achieve and could see the real benefits for our community.

***Banks, local councils and services are a great place to start for funding, particularly community banks like Bendigo Bank, who promise to commit some of their profits back into benefiting the health and well being of the community.

Before we knew it we had the theme "Life's a Circus", and our advertising campaign went into full swing.

***It's definitely worth investing time and money into advertising and/or approaching a designer and printing press to create professional posters and materials as this will help to give your event the edge that it will need to entice people to come along! I'm sure you'll be surprised at the generosity of these people!

We created a Facebook page to promote the event, contacted local radio and news stations and newspapers and within just over a week the event was sold out!

Sold out; yes we had to pinch ourselves! We were all so chuffed!

We then created sponsorship and donation letters that were sent out to pretty much everyone we could think of in our local community looking for auction items to be sold on the night as a form of revenue for our Mental Wellbeing Program.

We could not believe the generosity of local business owners and individuals who jumped on board to support our cause.

Fast forward a solid 6 months of planning and what we have is a sold out "Life's a Circus Gala Dinner" supported by people of all ages who were greeted by dancing clowns,  balloon balls and a red carpet, seated beneath a red and yellow high top ceiling, while being entertained by Jazz it Up with lead singer Sarah Lloyde from The Voice and a memorable performance by comedian and expressionist Jo Zealand, while eating local delicacies by Kris Bunder from Del Giornos,  bidding on silent and live auction items and dancing the night away!

While we are still finalizing funds, we're hoping to crack our target of $20,000 raised towards qualified counselors delivering information sessions in our local community.

The realization of what we have achieved truly blows me away and restores hope in me that there are still people out there with so much generosity with their time and finances who are equally as passionate about making a real difference in society.

For those of you who have followed my blog or know me personally then you're aware that mental health has impacted my life in a big way, and that just 4 years ago it was I who struggled with the debilitating illness that is depression. If anything, I want to give hope to people out there that there is a life after depression. I truly believe that my mental illness has enriched my life because it has ignited inside of me a passion to help others and to appreciate all of the little things that otherwise would've gone by unnoticed. By sharing our stories we create opportunities for change,  and hopefully events like this gala dinner and programs similar to the mental wellbeing one that we re about to venture on, will help to save lives and enrich our communities with the knowledge, understanding and tools to live a mentally fit life.

Please believe me when I say that no dream is too big, and that you too, can grab life by the balls and give it a good shake up!

I could not have achieved my dream without some very special people who supported me 100% of the way; so to Angela Cordon, Leonie Green, Penny Will, Ashley Lawrie, Jo Clark, Simone Gilliam, Emma Pedler, Rotary, Cummins and Port Lincoln Bendigo Banks, Life Without Barriers, Medicare Local,  Emma Forster, Sarins, local businesses who donated auction items, the glamorous guests on the night, raffle ticket purchasers and everyone else in between (I'm sure I have forgotten somebody), thank you for helping to bring my dream to life.

Just remember that you too, can create the opportunity to bring your dreams to life. Sometimes the hardest step is having the courage to voice your idea to others,  but once you do, you might just find yourself surprised by the support you'll recieve; you never know what might stick!

Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxx

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Helping Our Community Become Mentally Fit; A Mental Wellbeing Program


I'm very proud to live in a society whose minds are being opened to the seriousness of mental health.

Once upon a time if you were suspected of suffering from a mental illness you were locked away in an institution, isolated from other people as if your disease was contagious.

beyondblue. Depression, Anxiety - logo
Now, thank goodness, times have changed and organisation's like Beyond Blue have opened up an arena for discussion and support for those who seek solace and clarification amongst the confusion of their thoughts and feelings.

With society becoming more aware of the signs and symptoms of mental illnesses, the focus amongst campaigns has now changed to preventative measures to try and keep people mentally fit.

So here I am today, proud to announce a very exciting project that I have been working on with a fantastic group of inspirational women called the Eyre Peninsula Mental Wellbeing Program which is our way of contributing to a mentally fit community.

What, who, why, when, how I hear you say?

Well with the increased knowledge about mental health, we wanted to create a community forum where people could feel confident to seek help, ask questions, receive clarification and understand what it means to be mentally fit.

We know that many people are left asking;

What does it mean to be mentally fit?

 How can I look after my mental wellbeing?

 How do I p
revent mental illness?

 What is depression and anxiety?

 Where can I go for help if I'm struggling with my mental health on the Eyre Peninsula?

And we also know that one way or another, we are all affected by mental illness....

So what we can do about this?


We can create a Mental Wellbeing Program.

This program has been created by local people for local people to help answer these questions and to empower the local community with the understanding and tools to help create a mentally fit Eyre Peninsula.

 Often when we think of mental health we instantly think about mental illness, but this program aims to flip mental health on it's head and to instead, look at ways that we can keep mentally fit to help both ourselves and others to prevent the onset of depression and anxiety.

The Eyre Peninsula Mental Wellbeing Program aims to create awareness about what it means to be mentally fit, why it's important and to provide practical ways of looking after our mental wellbeing.

The program will also highlight local services and resources that are available to people in the community to reach out to for support if they happen to find themselves or others struggling with mental illnesses and aims to give them the confidence to access these if need be.


Fortunately for our committee, we have had so much support from our local community, including very generous donations from our local Bendigo Banks. This money, as well as the money raised through raffles, auctions and a gala dinner, will fund qualified counsellors from West Coast Youth and Community Support, to be able to provide information sessions in 3 local communities; Cummins, Tumby Bay and Port Lincoln.

The program will kick off with community forums run in these 3 towns in late October (straight after our "Life's a Circus Gala Dinner") so that we can hear the voices of the local people to see what information they'd like to learn about through the program.

Information sessions will then follow in early 2015, in both schools and the wider community. These sessions will be free, and are a great way to empower the community with the knowledge, understanding and tools to look after one another.


There are so many reasons as to why I believe that a Mental Wellbeing Program will be beneficial for my local community. While we are so lucky in Australia to have a Government who provides community support and funding, often, through lack of resources, they can only fund services that cater towards helping people who are mentally unwell. We were therefore determined to provide a program that looks more at promotion, prevention and early intervention of mental health to maintain a community with a healthy mental well being.

Below is a list of 10 benefits and aims of the program;

1. To try and reduce the number of deaths related to depression (country men are most at risk of suicide according to statistics).

2. To encourage people to talk and think about mental health.

3. To motivate people to look after their mental wellbeing.

4. To highlight local services that are already doing a wonderful job in our communities but can often remain hidden unless you know where to look for help.

5. To provide basic counselling and strategies for people who are already suffering (there is a 10-11 week wait to see a psychologist on the Eyre Peninsula).

6. To bring a local community together towards a united goal; to keep mentally fit.

7. To create connections and networks for carers, sufferers and the general public with local services and each other.

8. To bring the services to the people (often many of the organisations involved in mental health awareness are NGO's or Government funded, who simply do not have the resources and money to be able to deliver extensive programs to country areas).

9. To help reduce the stigma surrounding mental health so that people in the community feel comfortable seeking help and speaking openly about how they feel.

10. To create a mentally fit and aware Eyre Peninsula.

I am so excited about this project and can see the real potential that it has to not only help save lives but also to improve the quality of life of people living on the Eyre Peninsula.

Watch this space and 'like' our facebook page for more information.

Have you ever been along to community forums for mental health?

Why do you think it's important that we speak about mental health more openly?

What do you think the benefits of a mental wellbeing program would do for your local community?

Look after yourselves and those around you,


Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Depression; Which Personalities are Most at Risk?


When we think of depression, often we think of being sad but how many times have you heard people saying "I can't believe they ended their life, they were always seemed so bright, bubbly and happy go lucky," without realising just how much a smile could hide?
This mask of perceived happiness is what makes depression a silent killer; often you can't tell that the person is suffering an internal battle because they appear to be happy - but as we learn throughout life - appearances can often be deceiving.
The recent death of Robin Williams; the comedic hero who graced our screens as many different characters who we fell in love with, is just an example of one such person, who, perhaps to us "outsiders" seemed to "have it all." His death by depression came as such a shock to society because we couldn't see his pain -we'd just grown to love him as the "funny guy" on tv.
The shock of his suicide got me thinking about what personalities are most at risk of ever suffering from these debilitating illnesses.
A recent conversation with a good friend  really hit home.
For those of you who don't know me, I'm a bright, bubbly, loud, life loving, go getter who loves to be challenged, never shuts up and would describe myself as a generally optimistic - glass half full type of girl.
So when I was diagnosed with depression, it shocked a lot of people - "but she's not sad - she's always so happy!"
When this particular friend asked her father, a qualified mental health nurse, "guess which one of my friends has recently been diagnosed with depression?" he instantly replied " Kirsty, " much to her bewilderment; she just couldn't believe that out of all of her friends, he'd chosen me, the one that she almost thought was least likely to ever suffer.
When she asked him why he thought this, he said that often it's the least likely people that we think, that usually have depression. It's the one's who do always seem happy, who are high achievers, perfectionists, full of energy, very active and social butterflies who can often secretly be battling their own demons and negative ruminations.
Yet when we think of depression we think of sadness - so why does it occur to some of the "happiest people" out there?
One memory from my illness would be trudging up to a computer lab after I'd just seen my psychologist. Unlike previous bouts of anxiety, my psychologist knew that something was different this time, and suspected that I was also suffering from depression.
I couldn't quite bring my head around the idea of admitting, or accepting that me, yes I, had been labelled with thisillness, so of course, being the nerdy perfectionist that I was, I needed to do my research.
So I logged into the computer and jumped on to the Beyond Blue website searching for answers - was what I feeling really depression?
I remember my eyes welling up with tears as I started reading the causes for depression, thinking me oh my, I was a train wreck waiting to happen.
As I worked my way down the list, I realised that I pretty much ticked every box in the "personailities at risk" descriptions;
"Personality – Some people may be more at risk of depression because of their personality, particularly if they have a tendency to worry a lot, have low self-esteem, are perfectionists, are sensitive to personal criticism, or are self-critical and negative" (http://www.beyondblue.org.au/the-facts/depression/what-causes-depression)
What my bubbly personality hid was a girl inside who had little no faith in her own abilities. Before this point in my life, I had never really thought of myself as a perfectionist, but when I thought about it, I really was - it was 100% or nothing and I would spend so much energy and time making sure that everything was bang on, running to schedule, grammer free, structured, t's crossed and i's dotted, that I didn't realise that what I was seeking was "perfection" (what mind you, perfection is I'm not sure - but I thought I could find it!)

I would overthink every situation, worrying about whether I'd said the right thing, or made the right decision, and I would cringe at the thought of personal criticism because in my eyes it was just that, criticism and never constructive.

But these are the character traits that often, only those closest to us really see, and can be hidden quite easily through a confident front; I guess that's why a bubbly personality can be deceiving.

It made me realise that perhaps I had my perceptions about mental illness all wrong - perhaps it's the happy, confident, high flying, "seem to have it all together" people who we should be keeping a caring eye on.

Stress can play a huge role in our lives whether we like it or not, opening up the potential for unmanageable stress to trigger off chemical levels in our brain that are linked to mental illness. Everyone suffers different kinds of stress in life from financial to relationship stress, work related anxieties, and health issues - and one things for sure - mental illness does not discriminate.

So what I've learnt through my experience, and my research, is that anyone, at anytime can be at risk, and suffering myself has created an inbuilt radar that monitors not only my stress levels, but picks up on the vibes of those around me.

Often it is the least likely people whom we think - that are suffering.

My biggest advice for anyone out there is to take particular note to behavioural changes in the people in your life - if someone who is usually bright bubbly and outgoing stops answering your messages, declines invitiations to socialise, and just generally seems "off" then it's definitely worth asking them how they are going, and actually making the time to stick around and listen to what they have to say.

If on the other hand, someone who is usually an introvert starts going out and partying, dabbling in drugs, taking unnecessary risks and doesn't quite seem themself, then this can also be viewed as "someone at risk" of pain and suffering on the inside.

So which personalities are most at risk of suffering from a mental illness?

According to Beyond Blue, it's people just like me - the bright bubbly, life loving optimistic ones!

Maybe not the people who you think?!


Look after yourself and those around you,

Kirsty xxxx


Monday, 1 September 2014

Mental Health Awareness; We're Organising a Gala Dinner!

The amazing team of passionate people behind the Eyre Peninsula Mental Wellbeing Program. From back: group members Angela Cordon, Ashley Lawrie, Rotarians Mike Munro and Adrian Glover, Leonie Green, Jo Clark from West Coast Youth and Communty Support, Kirsty Traeger and Penny Will. Thanks to the Port Lincoln Times for this photo via http://www.portlincolntimes.com.au/story/2452735/flipping-mental-illness-on-its-head/?cs=1500
I have something really exciting to share with you!
As many of you would know from reading my blog, four years ago I suffered from generalized anxiety and severe depression. My experience created a passion inside of me to do everything in my power to talk honestly and openly about my illness to show people that depression and anxiety can happen to anyone, at anytime, and that it's okay to accept that we're not always coping, to try and prevent so many people from losing their lives to the illness.
My awareness campaign started right here, in this very forum; my blog.
I have never felt so alive and so fulfilled as what I do when I write, and I share my story.
It was after I had worked with ABC Open to share local sufferers stories during mental health week that I mentioned to Emma Pedler, a local radio host and legend, that my next big dream for mental health awareness was to create a gala dinner that was full of fun, colour and festivities to put mental health in the spotlight and to start the discussions on the importance of keeping mentally fit.
ABC Open
Emma, being the amazing person she is, gave me her list of contacts and support and sent me on my merry way with a smile on my dial believing that I really could make this dream a reality.
It just so happened that another local girl, Penny Will, had also contacted Angela Cordon, the local Country Health Mental Health Experts by Experience Officer, wanting to increase the promotion, prevention and early intervention of mental health at the same time that Rotary had elected a new president with a vision to put resources into local mental health awareness and bam; the recipe was starting to be written for the big shebang of a gala dinner.
The next big thing to decide was where was the money going to go that was raised at this fantastic event?
So over a cup of coffee we linked into West Coast Youth Services and the inspirational Jo Clark came on the scene. Jos team of counselors offer individualised support to kids, young adults and their families who are going through tricky times in their life. What blew me away is that they have a policy that they offer support to everyone who knocks on their door, even if it's providing comfort that there's help out there and pointing them in the right direction.
We discussed our vision with Jo to run a Mental Wellbeing Program in 3 local communities; Tumby Bay, Port Lincoln and Cummins, both in schools and the wider community, that would point people in the direction of the local services available to reach out to for support, what it means to be mentally fit, what signs to look out for in yourself and others for the early onset of depression and anxiety, how to help yourself and others, and just speaking openly about mental health so that people can open their minds and understanding to the seriousness of these issues.
We were determined to send out the message that looking after your mental wellbeing is something that we all need to take responsibility for – it affects everyone, but hopefully, with the tools, understanding and services at our disposal, we can help to save the lives of the people we love and care for while improving our own quality of life.
Fast forward 10 months, and add on two extra super supportive and active committee members (Ashley Lawrie the creative mastermind and finance guru and Leonie Green from CarersSA) and what we have created is a "Life's a Circus Gala dinner" that captures the seriousness of the illness in a lighthearted, fun filled night full of delicious food, comedic humor, dancing, auctioning and dressing up!
I'm so superly excited about the event. Tickets only went on sale just over a week ago and already they have almost all sold out! that's close to 250 people keen to come along and support our cause!
Bendigo Bank have also kindly jumped onboard to donate a very generous amount of money which means that a 3 week mental wellbeing program will run in Tumby Bay, Port Lincoln and Cummins, run by the qualified counselors at West Coast Youth Services.
The money that we raise from the raffle tickets and gala dinner will then go towards extending this program with even more information sessions, counseling and the ability to interconnect local services to deliver sessions so that we can create a mentally fit and aware community throughout Lower Eyre Peninsula.
I'm so incredibly grateful for the support and generosity of my local community to help me bring my vision to life.
Life really is a circus and if we can all learn how to keep mentally fit then we can help ourselves and others to juggle the expectations of life so that we can all live happily and healthily.
If you want to know more about this project, please like the "Eyre Peninsula Mental Wellbeing" page on Facebook.
Just remember that if you're passionate about something, then you can make anything happen.
Look after yourselves and those around you.
Kirsty xxx
Selling raffles tickets outside of my local bakery!